Frank Miller wrote two comics in the late 80s that have resonated through the comic world since released. The first was The Dark Knight Returns (1986), which portrayed Batman as a retired hero that comes back to conclude justice on several villains (no holds bar justice). The second series was titled Batman: Year One (1987), which followed the first year of Bruce Wayne's life as the caped crusader.
After viewing Batman: Year One it's definitely clear that we need a DVD version of The Dark Knight Returns because this one was damn good.
The story depicts Bruce Wayne’s return to Gotham City in his first attempts to fight injustice as a costumed vigilante. The playboy billionaire chooses the guise of a giant bat to combat crime, creates an early bond with a young Lieutenant James Gordon (who is already battling corruption from inside the police department), inadvertently plays a role in the birth of Catwoman, and helps to bring down a crooked political system that infests Gotham.
Unlike Superman or other type of superheroes that gained their strengths through alien power sources, Batman has always been that superhero that has had that raw edge about him since he has no powers; just some true grit. Frank Miller does a spectacular job with playing off that motif and creates a very raw, very real world for Batman to survive. Miller's story doesn't pull any punches, as you see Batman's painful failures, as well as his friend Jim Gordan's introduction into a corrupt system of cops. Batman is shot, stabbed and broken in his early attempts at stopping criminals until he gets a firm grasp on his mission, and his way of 'dealing' with people. Miller's Gotham City is a beautifully corrupt sandbox for the young Batman to play in, as he puts together the perfect antagonists in Commissioner Loeb and crime boss Carmine Falcone for the hero to take on. Miller's progression with Batman is slow and steady, but necessary in pace. He wanted to carefully craft the perfect character and make them more than just a comic book hero. By adding these two bastards to stop Batman, and adding several obstacles (including a corrupt police squad) that make Batman's fight more difficult, he really helped to shape what Batman's purpose truly is in Gotham City. The majority of comics out there on Batman can't seem to grasp this sort of depth, and this sort of powerful criminal establishment that our hero has to take on.
What's more impressive about Miller's ability to make one dimensional characters much deeper than they should be is how he uses our two protagonists. By the end of the film, when both Gordon and Batman are on the same page you'll feel the same satisfaction knowing that each character was built properly parallel of each other. Not only is this balanced storytelling (they literally end up on the same page without a hitch), but it also shows how much thought Miller put into crafting both characters to make sure by the end of the film you fully understood that they were working with each other; not against each other. Had Miller fallen short of the character development then the relationship that Gordan and Batman would have been tarnished, and the entire story might have been ruined. But by spending time explaining that each was struggling to find their identity, and, more importantly, finding the 'right' thing to go after was vital. Miller crafted both characters meticulously and ended up with what he wanted, and needed.
Are there any issues with this film? The only issue I can see is mistakenly showing this to anyone under the age of 10-years old. There is foul language, sexual references and plenty of brutality. This is very much PG-13, so parents beware if you're looking for something to occupy your kids because this is not it. This movie was crafted from the original comic book, which was also a bit 'older' in taste. Warner Premiere did a fantastic job of translating what Miller had created in his comic, so much that his brutal material was brought over as well. Again, it's not for kids, but it had to be done to be respectful to the original story. This is my only caveat, but it's a valid one.
Batman: Year One is a great example of not only fantastic storytelling and character development, but also an example that Frank Miller's work is still sought after and respected; even after nearly 25 years. With that said, I want to see The Dark Knight Returns done the same way.
Anyway, as for what you get on this DVD set, here's where you're looking at in terms of special features:
• Sneak Peek at Justice League: Doom, the next DC Universe Animated Original Movie
• DC Showcase Animated Original Short – “Catwoman”
• Featurette –“Heart of Vengeance: Returning Batman to His Roots”
• Two bonus episodes from "Batman: The Animated Series"
The Catwoman feature is interesting, as you don't get to see her a lot in Batman: Year One. She's a great character, especially the one that Frank Miller created. The preview is nice, but the real beef here is the Heart of Vengeance: Returning Batman to His Roots. You get some great perspective about how Miller brought Batman back to where it started. Plus, you get to see his wonderful influence on Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins. They pulled a lot of elements from Batman: Year One into Batman Begins.