The Dark Knight Returns is probably the most anticipated movie of the summer for me (by that I mean that I’m actually aware it is coming out this summer!) and in preparation for this huge event, I decided to be a good student and do some studying beforehand; that is, I rewatched Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. Interestingly, I would have switched my ratings of the movies now (5 for #1, 3 for #2); Batman Begins felt like a typical comic book movie, while TDK felt more epic and I appreciate the characterization of the Joker more now (although probably would give it 4/5 instead of 5/5).

After cramming the movies, I watched The Dark Knight Returns last Friday in UltraAVX. This was my first time seeing something in UltraAVX and I was not too impressed. The seats/legroom was better, and the reserved seating was good; but I didn’t really notice better video or sound. There is a price differential but considering how often I go to see movies, it wouldn’t be burning a hole in my wallet.

I avoided the spoilers for most of the week before I saw it, but did hear that TDKR was not that good (as its predecessor), and I tend to agree. The problem I had in all three movies is that Batman seems to be a vehicle being carried through the movies. Sure, he has the benefit of miraculous technical capability, and the uncanny ability to be in the right places at the right time; but these things are unbelievable and exist only because of our willing suspension of disbelief – nothing explains these as core Batman “powers”. In the comics, Batman is seen as a master stratagem and in control of the situation (i.e., the villains are playing into his hands); and we don’t really see this in the movies. Commissioner Gordon just reacts (sometimes foolhardily) to the situation, as does Batman. It is only the Joker who exhibits this characteristic and is one of the reasons that TDK was so good (I think there are shades to this in TDKR once we find out the final villain, but their effect isn’t visualized like the Joker’s is).

Without a Joker as a foil, The Dark Knight Returns is not as strong a movie. It’s not as fun to see a villain whose strength is Batman’s obvious weakness. It’s more interesting to see a villain beat the hero using their strong points – like how Doomsday outmatched Superman in strength. In fact, my comparison from my TDK review is Iron Man, and I think that analogy is apt; Batman has as much technical superiority over his combatants as Iron Man.

It wasn’t a bad movie, it was just not as good given the expectations of Nolan and the precedent he set with The Dark Knight. I’d rate it three out of 5 stars.