Now THIS is more like it. I was a little more lukewarm on the first part of the two part The Dark Knight Returns animated adaptation, but this second part, adapting the latter half of the original Frank Miller mini-series, not only adapts my favorite parts of the story, it does it with such style and gusto, I found myself rewinding scenes multiple times to watch them over and over.

For fans of the original The Dark Knight Returns, you know what’s in this half of the tale. For those unfamiliar with the story (do such people exist?), in part one, Batman has come out of retirement and taken Gotham by storm. He’s taken down the leader of the largest gang in Gotham, the Mutants, and taken down Harvey Dent/Two-Face. What’s next? Well, seeing that Batman has come out of retirement has inspired his greatest enemy, The Joker, to come out too. Not only that, the President wants Batman taken down, and will ask his #1 guy, Superman, to do it if he has to.

The fights portrayed in Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 2 are iconic – the Joker/Batman and Superman/Batman fights, as written and illustrated by Frank Miller, are the stuff of legend, and quite possibly the single most recognized fights in all of comics history. They’re the main chunks of issues 3 and 4 of the original mini, AND they’re done so well in this movie, I can’t possibly imagine anyone being able to do them better.

I heard Kevin Smith talk about the movie in his latest episode of Fatman on Batman, and the way he gushed about it, I figured he was going overboard. There’s no way the film was as good as he said it was. I have to admit…it really was. The Dark Knight Returns Part 2 is quite possibly the best possible adaptation we could have gotten from the source material. It pulls no punches – everything you remember is still here, and to a certain extent, they actually go further. Nazi pasties? Yup. Dead kids? Yup. The brutal Joker fight? Actually MORE brutal in the movie. I rewinded three times to watch Joker shiv Batman just because I was that shocked by it.

Are there changes to the story? Yeah, die hard purists will find some of the additions unnecessary, but I thought they really added to the story. To a certain extent, seeing the story in motion actually improved on some of the scenes from the original, and that’s saying something.

Bonus features on the disc include a first look at the upcoming Superman: Unbound flick based on Geoff Johns’ Brainiac storyline in Action Comics, as well as featurettes on The Joker, Superman vs. Batman, and translating the comic to the screen, all worth checking out, and equate to just about over an hour of bonuses (heck, almost as long as the movie). Definitely worth the purchase and, to a certain extent, actually makes me like Part One a little more. I’d be curious to see the films pieced together (really, the films play out as four separate episodes with clear breaks anyway).

Highly recommended.

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