ByWilliam Cloud, writer at
If's there's a fandom, there's a good chance that I'm a part of it. On Instagram: @thewillcloud On Twitter: @thewccloud
William Cloud

Considered one of the greatest Batman comics and animated films of all time, The Dark Knight Returns is perhaps the grittiest, darkest story of the Dark Knight. For those unfamiliar, it's set in an alternate 1980s, at the height of the Cold War. 10 years before, Batman retired after the death of Jason Todd. But, because of the massive violence in Gotham, the Caped Crusader is forced out of retirement at the age of 55. He brings back order to his city, but brings the watchful eye of the government down on himself. As Part Two begins, the government is preparing to send Superman to stop Batman from "heroing", with whatever means are necessary. The Joker, who has been in a catatonic state for years, wakes up at the mention of Batman, and begins to wreak havoc. And that is the premise of Part Two of the Dark Knight Returns series. Now, let's begin with a live-action fan-casting of the animated film, starting with the Caped Crusader himself:

Batman/Bruce Wayne:

Voiced by Peter Weller (Star Trek: Into Darkness, Dexter, Star Trek: Enterprise, 24, Robocop [1987], and Odyssey 5), Bruce is in his late 50's, and is quite the Clint Eastwood. In short, stay off his lawn. Frank Miller's Dark Knight is much darker and stern than previous versions of the Batman, and honestly, very few actors have the look, acting chops, and voice for this role. But, there is one in particular who fits the bill very well. His name is:

Josh Brolin

A fan favorite for the Dark Knight, Brolin (known for The Goonies, No Country for Old Men, Men in Black 3, and Guardians of the Galaxy) is quite a proficient actor, having played everything from a young Tommy Lee Jones to President Bush. And, he is no stranger to superhero movies, as he currently plays Thanos in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Another movie of note is Jonah Hex, where he played the scarred anti-hero. Jonah could basically be compared to an Old Western Batman. Now, the film was quite the bomb, but, it showed that Brolin was capable of playing an anti-hero along the lines of the Caped Crusader. He has the voice, the build, and the acting ability to play the complex character that we see in the film.

The Joker:

Michael Emerson (Lost, Person of Interest) voiced the Clown Prince of Crime. This Joker, like all the characters in this film, looks as if he's on steroids. Tall, broad-shouldered, and not scarred by acid, this Joker has class, and pizazz. He's also got a drier wit than most Jokers. While Heath Ledger played a psychopathic terrorist, and Jared Leto seems to be playing a cartoon character, I feel like there's one guy with the right stuff to play this iteration of the Joker:

Matt Damon

Bear with me on this. Damon is one amazing actor. His filmography includes Good Will Hunting, Saving Private Ryan, Ocean's 11, 12, and 13, the Bourne Series, True Grit, Interstellar, and the upcoming film the Martian. His roles run across the spectrum of characters, so his versatility is not in question. Honestly, he's not my first pick for the role either, but, after conferring with a friend on the subject, I think that he could pull off the Joker of TDKR.

Superman/ Clark Kent:

Yes, you saw that picture correctly. That's Superman with a bald eagle on his arm. Mark Valley (ER, Boston Legal, Fringe, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, and Crisis) played the iconic role in the animated movies. This is an older Superman, who has dealt with the tragedy of war. Though his body hasn't aged, the man inside has. He's stern, and without the passion that we normally see Kent exude. So, forget Henry Cavill. Forget Brandon Routh. We're going with:

Ben Affleck

Yes, I know he's Batman, and yes, I know that he was Daredevil. Because of that film, he ought never be allowed in another superhero film again. Yes, I'm being sarcastic. Affleck isn't my favorite actor, but, he's improved over the years, and has been in some critically acclaimed films such as Argo, Runner Runner, and Gone Girl. Then of course there was Good Will Hunting and that Jack Ryan film...yes, the man has made some stinkers, but, he's got the look and feel of this film's Superman, and, he's got the butt-chin, for crying out loud! That should be enough to give him the role. Seriously though, Affleck fits the look of Clark for this story, and I think does have the skill required.

Robin/Carrie Kelly:

In this non-canon story arc, Batman doesn't have a sidekick, so Carrie Kelly decides to help the Dark Knight out. Batman eventually accepts her and trains her. She's sassy, with a good sense of sarcastic humor, and was voiced perfectly by Ariel Winter (Phineas and Ferb, Sofia the First, and Modern Family) At first, I would've said Emma Stone for the live-action role, but...since she might be playing Robin in Dawn of Justice anyway, I'm going with:

Jena Malone

Known for playing teenage girls from dysfunctional families or difficult situations (according to IMDB), she's shown just how good she is as an actress in films like The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, and Mockingjay Part One, as well as Sucker Punch and the TV show Dakota. Now, if you've seen her play Johanna Mason, then you'll know that she can play a no-nonsense, sarcastic character, and that's pretty much who Carrie Kelly is. Another key component to playing superheroes is the physicality (something that was painfully evident in George Clooney's run as Batman), and Malone has the physical traits needed for a masked, or sunshaded vigilante.

Commissioner James Gordon:

David Selby, known for many and diverse soap operas and TV movies, voiced the aged police chief. Gordon actually retires in the first part of the series, at the ripe old age of 70. He plays the important role of one of Batman's only friends, and actually acts as a sort of tragic character. We see him sort of wasting away as he watches his city fall apart. Now, Gary Oldman played this role nigh perfectly, but, he's just a little too young for the part. So, I've decided to go with:

John Hurt

John Hurt is one of my favorite actors, and he has been in the business for decades. Films such as the Elephant Man, Alien, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and a brief run as the War Doctor on Doctor Who grace his filmography. He has a grit and a realism to his roles that is perfect for an aging police commissioner, but he still shows a soft, loving side. Again, perfect for Gordon. Big heart, tough exterior.

Alfred Pennyworth:

Alfred, the always faithful butler, who even in his old age has enough snark and British humor to fire quips at Bruce. Voiced by Michael Jackson (not the singer, but a voice actor known for his work on other DC animated films), he, per usual acts as Bruce's moral compass, and shirt-mender. Much like Gary Oldman is synonymous with Gordon, Michael Caine is Alfred. But, this is set with all the characters as much older, so...I'm going to go with:

Christopher Lee

93 years old and still churning out movies, Christopher Lee is one of the most proficient actors of all time. His 207th film will come out next year, and his numerous roles range from Sherlock Holmes to Dracula to Saruman. While he usually plays villains, I just sort of see Lee as a real-life Alfred. Mild-mannered, sharp wit, and someone that you wouldn't want to tangle with. In many ways, Lee would be able to share the emotions and experiences that Alfred has gone through.

Edit: Sadly, Sir Christopher Lee passed away yesterday, as many of you know. Now, he was often cast as a villain, so, I think I'm going to leave this role just the way it is. I know it's no great homage to the man, but I just wouldn't want to see anyone take his place.

Bonus casting! Green Arrow/Oliver Queen:

Though only a small role in the film, Green Arrow does fire the Kryptonite arrow that does take down the Man of Steel, so it would be very difficult to leave him off the list. Voiced by well known actor Robin Atkin Downes, there is only one man who can play this elderly archer, and that man is:

Jeff Bridges

'Nuff said. Bridges is a highly underrated and overlooked actor, who has starred in films such as Tron, Tron: Legacy, the Big Lebowski, Iron Man, the Giver, True Grit, and Seventh Son. He's a great actor, has the look and personality, and is used to not having all his body parts available to him.

So, what did you think of my fan-cast? I hope that you at least found it entertaining, and at best found yourself longing for this film. Something that I didn't notice till after I finished the list is the fact that three of these actors (Damon, Bridges, and Brolin) all starred in the movie True Grit, and we all know of the Affleck/Damon bromance. That would not hurt the chemistry of this film, I would argue. Any suggestions or changes that you would make? Let me know in the comments. And, in all the years to come, in your most private moments...I want you to remember...wait...sorry, got carried away there.


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