Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2 (2013)
"The Batman has returned after a 10-year absence. The Gotham authorities want to arrest him. An old foe wants a reunion. The Feds want the Man of Tomorrow to put a stop to him."
Batman is one of those characters that despite what medium he happens to be appearing in, it's gonna be a blast. Comics, novels, live action movies, animations, and even games, the Bats has a way of making people want more and enjoy getting it. This movie is actually the second part (as the title would apply) in a pair, the earlier of which I had watched some time ago before I started doing these little reviews, so I feel at least a little bit awkward when it comes to doing this one. In that respect, I'm grateful that they both feel a bit functional as stand alone things - that is to say I enjoyed this one even forgetting most of the last movie (as I have a terrible memory span). Enough about me though, you came here to learn about the movie didn't you?
Bruce Wayne (Peter Weller) is getting old. After disappearing for 10 years, he has decided to bring his crime fighting persona Batman back to the forefront of crime fighting to once again help Gotham deal with progressively more dangerous threats (this all happened in the last one, but handled in a bit of a recap at the start of this film in the form of TV news broadcasts). The actions of Batman's return have caused a new gang to form, brandishing the Bat's symbol on their faces, handing out vigilante justice to crime bosses that would make the punisher proud. Gotham is in just as bad a state as ever. Pressure from local politicians has lead to the president discretely sending Superman (Mark Valley) to go have a "talk" with the Batman and persuade him into retirement.
The main characters are those two right there. Yes, we get to see a new female Robin (Ariel Winter ) and watch as Gordon (David Selby) passes the position of Commissioner on to a newcomer who wants to arrest Batman, and even get a run in with Green Arrow- or Oliver Queen (Robin Atkin Downes) as he is referred to throughout this movie. Of all these characters we run into however, the only ones that really make a large difference in screen time outside of the two "man"s would be resident loony the Joker (Michael Emerson), who directly affects the plot. The next bit is going to be hidden behind a spoiler block, so if you want to know more about the plot you'll have to read that, otherwise we will continue on to the next topic.
The one thing that isn't negated, however, is the massive amount of Electro-Magnetic Pulse that knocks out all of electricity in Gotham. Gotham, as a result, goes full on panic mode with nearly every resident turning into looting disrespectful crazy folk. Batman rides (on a horse) in on a meeting of the Bat gang, telling them that they are now his personal army, and are going to help him enforce the law (very Judge Dredd-esque speach ending in "I AM THE LAW!"). Through this, everyone ends up getting some sense knocked into them (sometimes literally), and the city ends up being one of the only cities in the USA that isn't in total and utter chaos.
Instead of being happy for Gotham, the president get's mad over Batman making him look bad, and sends Superman in to kill him. A very, very climactic battle then happens, and quite frankly you'll have to watch to find out the rest.
As far as the animation goes, it has a very Frank Miller vibe to it, with proportions often being exaggerated to some extent (Batman's bulk, for example, is about the size of 3 normal guys), but also gives the feel that certain characters have more of an importance to them. Colorful when it needs to be, but also more than happy to feel as though everything is dulled as though an old filter was applied (particularly the batman himself), it also manages to fit the entire mood I can only assume was meant to be set during the course of the film. As far as the animation in it's literal sense, I can successfully say that it's fluidity never once made me think it was not so - modern animation tends to be smooth and well done like this, and this movie is in no way an exception to the amount of polish it holds in this sense.
The voice actors do a pretty good job playing their characters. There's a couple times when characters sound remarkably similar, and if it wasn't for the person talking being on screen I'd be confused as to who was talking, but that's relatively minor. Batman has that typical near-monotone sound to him, which is familiar to fans of other animated batman flicks, although some emotion definitely comes into the voice during specific scenes that really helps to add to Batman as a human being. Joker although he was done well seemed to lack some of the charm of his past incarnations (specifically the Mark Hamill versions). As a whole though, pretty good performances across the board.
Sound quality, on that note, also came across quite impressively. Through the entire course of the movie, I not once found myself in a situation where one character was harder to hear than others, or being deafened by background music or sound effects and needing to turn it back up when characters talk. That's pretty big, as when doing an animation you lose a lot of the subtle little emotions that can be broadcast through body language naturally (unless your animators are really putting 150% into the movie), so any given line being missed due to audio presentation could have a major affect on the experience. Music, although I'm sure it was there over the duration, doesn't seem to have stuck with me at all, serving pretty much as scene enhancement at best.
Overall, I'd say that if you happen to be a fan of Batman, you should check them out. It's an interesting spin over the normal outings of the movie-side Batman provisions, even if I prefer personally to think that old man Bruce hands over the reigns to crazy future-kid Batman Beyond style. It's a bit dark, and the art style might be a little off for some who aren't fond to the mass of Batman in this (he does look incredibly stocky), but trooper on through that and you will find a pretty deep rendition of Batman and some of the psyche therein.