While it’s a stretch to believe Warner Brothers will ever adapt Frank Miller’s iconic The Dark Knight Returns into a live-action feature, Warner’s animation wing decided to take a crack at it with Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 1. Warner Bros. Animation has done a decent job at adapting some of the more popular DC Comics stories that wouldn’t necessarily translate into live-action, and The Dark Knight Returns: Part 1 continues the trend.
True to form, Warner Bros. held a red carpet premiere for the animation picture and we were there to talk to director Jay Olivia and producer Bruce Timm about what it was like to adapt the classic story of an older Bruce Wayne coming to terms with who he is. Here’s what they had to say:
As a director, what did you feel you could bring to this story?
I wanted to stay true to what Frank Miller had done in the comic, but I wanted to make it contemporary. We’ve seen everything in the Tim Burton films, in the [Christopher] Nolan films, and I wanted to bring it all full circle. I wanted to have the same kind of storytelling from the eighties, so to speak, but I wanted to bring the fight scenes and the action that I’ve brought to the DTV’s I’ve done in the past.
What were the challenges of adapting this to an animated picture?
One of the challenges of adapting it was understanding what Frank wanted in a particular panel. It’s not like you can pick up the phone and call up Frank Miller and ask him what he was thinking. What I had to do was ask my crew ‘what do you remember from that sequence?’ Then we’d look at it in the comic and we’d try to find this happy medium of what we remembered and what was actually in the comic, and then seeing what Bob had written in the screenplay, and trying to find what people liked about any moment. How do I build up to that? I didn’t want to do just a verbatim of the comic. I didn’t want to replace the comic, I wanted it to add to the enjoyment of what the story was.
Why did you pick this Batman story to adapt?
It’s the king of the hill! It’s the uber-Batman story.
What was it like to adapt this into two animated films?
It’s so famous and so iconic with comic book fans, and it’s been around for a while so fans have had the chance to read it over and over and over again. I’m sure when the movie plays they’ll say ‘Oh they changed one word of that line right there!’ But that’s ok. The challenge was coming up with a visual style that recalled the comic that felt like it had Frank Miller’s DNA in it, but at the same time needed to be simplified. A lot of it was in the casting as well. If we didn’t nail the casting, it would have been a big goose egg.
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 1 is available now on DVD, Blu-ray, and Video-On-Demand.