Last month, I entered a contest sponsored by SuperHeroHype for a chance to win a ticket to the West Coast premiere screening of the latest DC Universe animated film, The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1. Last week, an email arrived in my in-box, from one "Alfred Pennyworth". it said:
Warner Home Video, MTV Geek and The Paley Center for Media proudly present the World Premiere of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1, the highly anticipated next entry in the ongoing series of DC Universe Animated Original PG-13 Movies.
Congratulations! You have been approved for one ticket to attend the West Coast premiere on Monday, September 24 at the Paley Center for Media (465 North Beverly Drive in Beverly Hills).
Now to be candid, I wasn't really too hopped up on this movie. I'm a huge Batman fan, and this was an adaptation of a highly-praised graphic novel that I read as each of its four issues were first published. It's influenced Batman stories written since its 1986 debut and Batman films from Batman in 1989 to this past summer's The Dark Knight Rises.
I've never been to the Paley Center, but I have seen Q&A panels that have been held there for the TV shows Glee and Castle. I assumed it would be in the same screening room. My email from "Alfred" said to arrive no later than 5:45 p.m. I got there by 5:30 p.m. There was a line outside, but I soon learned a good portion of the line included Media who were allowed in twenty minutes before us. We finally got in after 6:00 p.m. Off to the side was a glass-walled room where we could see all of the Media grouped, assuming waiting for their individual chances to interview the evening's VIPs: voice actors Peter Weller (Batman/Bruce Wayne), Ariel Winter (Robin/Carrie), and Peter Selby (Commissioner Gordon), director Jay Oliva, writer Bob Goodman, voice casting director Andrea Romano, and producer Bruce Timm.
I left briefly to move my car from one parking lot to the one across the street. The first structure I found charged nothing for the first two hours and then $3.00 each 1/2 hour afterwards. But both lots I found offered a flat rate of $5 if you enter after 6p. Since the one across the street closed at midnight, not 9pm like the first, it was well worth the car re-parking drama. (And the event didn't end until 9:45p!)
I entered the screening room and was surprised at how small it was. Looked so much larger in the Q&As I'd previously seen. It had about 120 seats. The two front rows were reserved as were much of the back four rows. Estimating there were only about 40 or 50 of us in line out, I realized just how lucky I was when I won my free ticket!
There was one brief announcement just after 7pm when the screening was scheduled to start to let us know that they were just finishing up with the Media portion and would begin running the movie soon. A marketing rep from Warner Bros. finally greeted us and acknowledged some folks from the Paley Center before the screening started. The lights were lowered and a short promo for the Paley Center played as the panel VIPs snuck in to take their seats in the front rows.
The movie was amazingly great! The pacing, tone, voice casting, sound design, musical underscore and animation were all perfect! And I laughed out loud with the rest of the audience a lot through the movie. Most times they were with the movie. But there were a few, rare moments when the details in the original novel didn't play as well in a movie. The big, hulking Batman running effortless across a wire between buildings being one of those scenes. But the fight scenes were bone-crushing and well choreographed. There's a lot of firepower in the story, Batman battling a mob army armed with all sorts of military weaponry - automatic machine guns, grenades, bazookas - and seeing it acted and sounded out was incredible! And there was a moment when I teared up. I grew up watching Batman and Robin and reading about their adventures together. When Batman is introduced to his new Robin after a dicey battle that went wrong, I don't deny I got really choked up!
As the credits rolled at the end, the sound was dialed down, the curtains were drawn closed and the lights came up. It was at this time that the VIPs were introduced as they took their seats at the front of the screening room for the panel discussion. And we were all allowed to take pictures, just without using any flash.
Some of the things revealed:
• The lines in the second scene between Peter Weller and David Selby were taken about a month apart. But viewing the film, you'd never have guessed that.
• I did not know Peter Weller was a professor. He has a Masters in Renaissance Art and considers comic books an American art form. He said he grew up reading Batman comic books and was happy that he got the chance to add to Bob Kane's legacy.
• I did not know that David Selby was in the original Dark Shadows series.
• I did not know that Ariel Winter is some famous sitcom star. But since I don't watch Modern Family and missed watching the Emmys over the weekend, I can be forgiven. :) I also thought she was darn cute, but then later found out she's 14.
• Peter Weller praised the film score and complimented the composer personally when he was told that the composer, Christopher Drake, was in the audience. He told us the music was inspired by the types of scores that came out when The Dark Knight Returns was first published in the late 80's. So it was done analog, including having to locate old, out-dated synthesizers to use on the recordings.
• Bruce Timm told us the voice actor cast to play the Son of the Batman,Yuri Lowenthal, brought him a photo of himself to show to Timm. It was from 1986 of Lowenthal dressed up for Halloween as a Son of the Batman, straight from the graphic novel.
• Of the voice cast there, Peter Weller was the most vocal and enthusiastic about how great the film was.
• One surprise visual gag in the movie is discovering a bookshelf in a shop with familiar DC Comics titles for sale on it. Director Oliva was asked about that and he said it was his idea, because that's how he remembered comic books displayed when he started reading them. He emailed his staff for suggestions of DC titles to show there from the late 1980's, and DC came back to him with clearances on the ones he could use.
• The cast have already done their recordings for The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2.
• Bruce Timm and the DC Marketing guy who hosted the panel strongly hinted that a release combining Parts 1 and 2 together is in motion. They said to watch for their 2013-2014 release slate to be announced during the New York Comic Con in October.
• Peter Weller is friends with Frank Miller. Asked for what he thought Miller would say about the movie, Weller basically said Miller would just be pleased we were talking about him.
• Bruce Timm said it wasn't very easy to come up with the final character design style for this movie. Studying the original graphic novel, they found that Miller had drawn Batman differently throughout the whole novel. But they did notice that when in combat, Batman was drawn leaner than when he's standing still and can made to appear like a giant of a man.
We were told that anyone asking good questions would received a gift. Damn if I didn't raise my hand every time. But I just didn't get picked. Looked like winning questioners received either an autographed The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1 poster or an autographed Blu-ray of the movie. Here are the rest of my photos from the evening. Can't wait for "early 2013" to come around to see Part 2.
All About Me
A fan of Star Trek, Star Wars, Harry Potter, Batman, comic books, Blu-rays, Disney, soundtracks, taking pictures, theatre and...Barry Manilow!