Batman : The Dark Knight Returns Part 1

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It doesn’t go quite as deep as Christopher Nolan’s live-action film trilogy, but the latest animated ‘Batman’ film definitely skates on a more profound, more complex ramp than say.. those abominations Joel Schumacher directed back in the late ’90s (the only thing deep in “Batman Forever” and “Batman & Robin”, respectively, were the shades of grey embossed within the bat nipples on the title characters suit).

And anyone that’s read the “Dark Knight Returns” graphic novel by Frank Miller won’t be surprised to learn that.

After all, the inked offering is likely the most seminal and ostensibly meaningful addition in the Bats comic canon.

These Warner Premiere (a WB spin-off label about to wind up their efforts, for the most part – they’ll continue producing animated superhero offerings through the DC label) efforts fixing on DC’s stable of superheroes – namely the ones that have featured bulky icons Superman and Batman – are actually all quite broadly appealing, and rather deep offerings though. Sure, kids will enjoy them, but flicks like “Superman vs The Elite” and “Superman/Batman : Public Enemies” have also been produced with the adult fans in mind too (maybe even more so). There are themes, messages and even moments in the stories that will definitely make out with the emotional core of the big kid out there.

Like the four-part literary offering of the same name, the two-part “Returns” film may find its greatest admirer in the adult. With its underlying themes of aging, regaining and rediscovering once’s self-worth, as well as bouncing around reminders that there’s good and bad in all of us (there’s lots of grey areas) , the movie’s definitely playing in a different league than most toons.

In short, it’s the tale of an elderly Bruce Wayne who, years after hanging up his Bat suit, decides to slip the suit back on for another go-around. He’s reluctant, largely because of his age and some bad memories (namely the death of Robin), but there’s a horde of bad guys out there – including Two-Face – aching to make trouble. Unfortunately, the authorities aren’t too keen on about Batman being back on the job.

Like Nolan’s “Dark Knight Rises”, there’s some interesting questions raised in the flick, for instance : Gotham’s constant questioning that maybe Batman is just as much a villain as the rogues he chases. After all, says one head-shrink in the film, it’s Batman who brings these nutters out.

This first part sees Batman primarily go to war – alongside new ‘Robin’, Carrie Kelley – against a bunch of mutants. The better stuff, the skirmishes between Batman and a returning Joker, can be found in the next chapter.

Featuring some beautiful animation, a great voice cast (including RoboCop himself Peter Weller in the title role), and a pulsating music score, “Dark Knight Returns Part 1″ is a mini epic for kids big and small.

DVD Extras : A couple of featurettes and some additional toons.