Around the time that the forthcoming The Dark Knight Rises went into pre-production, Warner Bros. and the newly rechristened DC Comics Premiere Movies (formerly DC Universe Animated Original Movies) announced that the next two direct-to-video animated features starring Batman would be based on two of the greatest stories of the Caped Crusader ever told. Late last year Batman: Year One made its debut and was greeted with warm praise from critics and fans who had been apprehensive about how the classic comic book miniseries would translate to animated movie form. The second of the two Batman animated projects is by far the most eagerly-anticipated of the DTV Bat-films, considering that it is an adaptation of what is routinely referred to as the greatest Batman tale of them all.
The Dark Knight Returns, the groundbreaking 1986 miniseries that took Batman in a bold and startling new direction and became one of the hallmarks of modern comic book storytelling, will provide the basis for the next animated Batman movie. The original series took place in the future where an aging Bruce Wayne, now 55 years old, emerges from retirement as Batman to rescue Gotham from the clutches of a rampaging street gang called the Mutants. Soon not only does he find himself battling crazed punks, but also the supposedly rehabilitated Harvey Dent, his oldest archenemy the Joker, and even his longtime ally Superman, now an agent for the U.S. government.
In a bold departure for Warner Bros. and DC’s animation department, the four-issue series written and drawn by the mercurial Frank Miller (Sin City, 300) will be adapted into a two-part epic feature that will be released to Blu-ray and DVD several months apart. You can check out images from the two movies here below.
Recently the studio made public the two-part movie’s voice cast, and while there are some interesting and familiar names among the cast list its the actor chosen to voice Gotham City’s masked vigilante that is sure to inspire the greatest confidence in this project from fans. Peter Weller, best known for playing the cyborg policeman RoboCop in three movies (the later two were written by Frank Miller oddly enough, although his scripts were altered heavily during production) as well as The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai and the upcoming Star Trek 2, will be providing the raspy vocals for Bruce Wayne and his iconic alter ego. Ariel Winter of the hit ABC comedy series Modern Family has been cast as the voice of Robin, who in this story is a 13-year-old girl named Carrie Kelley. Wade Williams (Prison Break) is voicing Harvey Dent/Two-Face while comic actor Michael McKean (This is Spinal Tap) also joins the cast as Dr. Wolper, the psychiatrist who releases the Joker from Arkham Asylum to reign unholy havoc on a Gotham already on the verge of an apocalyptic collapse. David Selby of the original Dark Shadows soap opera as well as well as David Fincher’s The Social Network has also signed on for an as yet-unspecified part, though it’s possible he could be playing Commissioner Gordon.
The part of the Joker has not yet been cast and it’s still unclear if the movies will feature appearances from Superman, Selina Kyle, and Oliver Queen, a.k.a. Green Arrow, all of whom play integral roles in the Dark Knight Returns miniseries.
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns is directed by Jay Oliva, a storyboard artist on Zack Snyder’s upcoming Man of Steel as well as a segment director on the recent DC animated feature Green Lantern: Emerald Knights, from a screenplay by Bob Goodman (Warehouse 13). The movies are executive produced by DC animation veteran Bruce Timm.
Release dates for the two movies are not set in stone yet but Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part One should premiere sometime this Fall, with Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part Two hitting stores in early 2013.