Western Animation: Batman: The Dark Knight Returns
"You try to hold me back, but you're weak... you know it in your soul... you're nothing but a hollow shell... a rusty trap... the time has come."
A film in the DC Universe Animated Original Movies line, based on the comic of the same name. Batman has been retired for ten years, alcoholic and consumed with grief after the death of Jason Todd. Superman, still as young and handsome as ever, has become little more than an icon, answering to the government and trying to stay as neutral as possible. Commissioner Gordon is weeks away from retirement, The Joker has been silently locked away in Arkham for years, and Two-Face is about to be released back into the world with a brand new skin. In Batman's absence, and in the midst of a killer heat wave, Gotham City is overrun with crime, plagued by a monstrously violent gang known as The Mutants. After encountering a Mutant gang in the alley where his parents were murdered, Bruce Wayne resurrects Batman, aided in his renewed crusade by Carrie Kelley, a 13-year-old girl who becomes the new Robin. Defeating the Mutants, though, turns out to be child's play compared to what Batman faces next...The cast of voice actors includes Peter Weller (RoboCop) as Batman, Ariel Winter (Modern Family) as Carrie Kelley, Wade Williams (Prison Break) as Harvey Dent/Two-Face, David Selby (Dark Shadows) as Commissioner Gordon, Michael McKean (Laverne and Shirley) as Dr. Bartholomew Wolper, Michael Emerson (LOST) as The Joker, and Mark Valley (Human Target) as Superman. Many of the tropes in the original comic apply to the film.The movie is split into two parts. Part 1 (trailer) was released Sept. 25, 2012. Part 2 (trailer) then followed up on Jan. 29, 2013. A deluxe edition with both parts was released on October 8th, 2013.
Tropes demonstrated in this film include:
Abnormal Ammo: Batman uses rubber bullets to incapacitate the Mutants at the dump without killing them.
Aborted Arc: What did America do after Russia launched a Cold Bringer? Never brought up again.
Action Girl: Carrie Kelley, a 13 year old girl who decides to fight gang members and psychopaths as Robin.
Some of the harsher language and more disturbing scenes from the comic are either removed completely or toned down e.g. in Part 2, the cotton candy stand is shown at the fair with the Joker handing it out to a bunch of boy scouts shortly before Batman arrives. However, in the comic, it turns out that it was poisoned. Carrie is traumatized when she finds the bodies of the kids. This didn't get shown in this version.
The Joker has no involvement in Two-Face's scheme and remains comatose until after the Mutant Leader's defeat.
The homoerotic undertones of Joker's fixation on Batman are still present but reduced considerably.
Adaptational Heroism: Well, more like Adaptational Not-So-Much-A-Jerkism; the character of Byron Brassballs is still a Jerk Ass but is toned down so that he only accidentally causes the blind man to fall onto the train tracks, rather than intentionally pushing him as he does in the comic.
Arrow Catch: Superman catches the arrow that Green Arrow shoots at him during his showdown with Batman. Problem is, it's a KryptoniteTrick Arrow that proceeds to explode in his face.
Art Evolution: The drawing in the film is a little closer to the other DC animated universe adaptations while retaining some of Frank Miller's style, and leaves out the scratchiness of the original comic's artwork.
Ascended Fangirl: Carrie Kelley, who dresses up as Robin and tries to fight crime on her own, only to become Bruce's real sidekick.
Asskicking Equals Authority: The Mutant Leader is feared and respected by his army because he is the strongest among them. Likewise, Batman inadvertently gains authority over the Mutants by defeating him.
Commissioner Gordon, who's turning 70, and takes down a much younger Mutant who had the drop on him with a machine gun.
Alfred must be in his mid-to-late 80's, yet he's still carrying on his butlering duties, and performing life-saving surgery on his boss when the need arises.
Ollie Queen, AKA Green Arrow, is presumably at least the same age as Batman and is missing an arm but still kicks ass.
Superman is also around the same age as Batman, despite not looking it, and is still as powerful as ever... until he takes a nuke to the face...
And less sympathetically, the Joker too.
"You have gotten old!"
The Bad Guy Wins: Joker's final scheme was successful because he finally made Batman lose control and break his one rule and his death means that the cops would hound him and eventually try to kill him. Either way Joker wins.
Bomb Disposal: Batman has mere seconds to disarm a bomb planted by Two-Face, but instead of a Wire Dilemma he merely destroys the timing circuitry by spraying it with liquid nitrogen.
Bottomless Magazines: Averted. Several characters are seen reloading their weapons, or otherwise running out of ammo. However, many of them still fire way more ammunition than their guns can actually contain before running out.
The adaptation removes or changes some of the most offensive lines from the original; for instance, the black man interviewed in one of the News MonopolyMontages talking approvingly about how Batman was kicking butts the cops wouldn't? In the original, he was hoping that Batman would go after the "homos" next, not his landlord.
The deaths of the kids eating the poisoned cotton candy are not shown.
In the comic, there were strong off-handed comments that Bruno was a post op transvestite (though even then it could have just have been an insult from the store owner). Here there is no suggestion.
Gordon's comment about how Bruce used to sip ginger ale while making everyone else think it was champagne "in the old days" is a reference back to the first time they met in Batman: Year One.
In Jim Gordon's house, there's a wall photo that depicts him and his family as they looked in the animated adaptation of Batman: Year One. Since the previous film was also done by the same production company, it's an acknowledgement of continuity between both animated films.
Joker kills Wolper by slitting his throat with a broken mug (as apposed to the neck snap in the comic), similar to how he killed one of Black Mask's body guards in Batman: Under the Red Hood.
The Cavalry: Batman rides in on horseback with his army of followers to stop a pitched battle between the people of Gotham and a gang of escaped criminals in order to keep order in the city. Justified because of the EMP blackout from an airburst nuke that shut down everything, including vehicles.
Comically Missing the Point: News anchor Lola Wong makes a flippant comment that she doesn't know what to wear, due to the nuclear winter covering North America after the Soviets released airburst nukes.
Cool Guns: Several. The MP40 and Mauser C96 are the weapons of choice for the Neo-Nazis led by Bruno, while the Joker uses a two-tone Glock with chromed parts. General Briggs also attempts to pull a ceremonial M1911 with gold trim and engraved grips on Batman.
Crapsack World: At the beginning of the film, Gotham has slowly become this since Batman's original retirement. Crime is out of control. In addition to the normal thieves, rapists and murderers having relatively free reign due to a now impotent police force, the new Mutant gang is murdering men, women and children For the Evulz with the intent to take over the city and impose their own violent, blood-soaked despotic rule. Everyone else lives in fear for their lives. Finally, Bruce can take it no longer and decides that Gotham will get better because he will force it to.
Create Your Own Villain: Discussed by Wolper concerning all of Batman's rogues. Apparently his mere presence propagates a social disease that creates costumed psychopaths.
The Mutant Leader delivers one to Batman in their first confrontation. Batman tried to match strength with strength and failed to even put a dent in the leader while nearly being killed himself.
Subverted in the final fight with Superman in the second film. Supes could have ended the fight before it even started if he'd had no scruples about killing Batman as quickly as possible. Superman regarding Bruce as a friend, having a no-kill rule, and being somewhat weakened by other events turned the fight into a fairly evenly matched Pummel Duel.
Darker and Edgier/Lighter and Softer: By distilling and expanding on the source material we have scenes such as taking out the Mutant leader's rape threat and limiting Byron Brassballs' assholishness, and others like the Joker's massacre and Robin more directly killing made more graphic.
Alfred: If it's suicide you're after, I have an old family recipe. It's slow and painful. You'd like it.
Death by Irony: Dr. Wolper, the most vocal person against Batman and driven to prove that it is actually Batman's actions that cause the problem, is killed by Joker who was supposed to be his evidences. He also was killed by having his throat slit by a coffee mug, rendering him unable to talk.
Defiant to the End: Superman practically begs Batman to stop fighting because he doesn't want to kill him. Batman responds by mocking Superman for the entire fight.
De-power: The attempted nuking of Corto Maltese, the resulting nuclear winter (and a kryptonite arrow) bring Superman down to a level that Batman can defeat just long enough for him to gloat before having a heart attack and dying. Or did he?
Doesn't Like Guns: Batman has gotten over this to the point where he's comfortable launching a barrage of machine gun fire on the Mutants without comment, so long as they're nonlethal rubber bullets. In Part 2, where he's forced to use an actual gun to detonate an explosive, he hesitates, is visibly shaking, and tells Joker's burning corpse to stop laughing.
Don't Make Me Destroy You: Superman makes it clear from the start of their fight that he really doesn't want to fight, let alone kill Batman, and spends the entire fight practically begging him to stop and just give up.
In the final scene of Part 1, the Joker wakes up from his decade-long coma.
Joker: Bbb... Bb... Batman... darling!
In Part 2, Batman is on the run after defeating the Joker, and then a flight of Soviet airburst nukes shut down all electrical power in the country and chaos ensues. Subverted in Gotham where Batman unites the gangs into a police force to maintain order during the crisis.
Funny Background Event: Carrie's stoned parents talking in the background. The best exchange occurs while they're watching a news report about Gordon surviving an assassination attempt by shooting his assailant.
Dad: What a downer. Seventeen years old.
Mom: Macho cops. Just like Chicago. Remember Chicago?
Kid: You're the Joker, right? Batman's gonna kick your ass! Joker: He's gonna have to go throughyou first!
Gory Discretion Shot: Semi-Averted. Abner is still seen getting his head chewed up by the roller coaster gears, but his girth hides the actual damage inflicted. All we see is his blood and Carrie's horrified expression.
Gotta Kill Them All: The Joker's only goal once he escapes is to kill as many people as he possibly can before Batman stops him. He does this to torment Batman and try to get him to completely lose it and kill the Joker outright—and comes pretty damn close too.
Green-Eyed Monster: The reason the government wants Batman dead, because he is able to keep order where they can't.
Guns Are Worthless: As in the comic, Batman says this to the vigilantes who have joined his cause and promises to teach them to use his weapons and methods instead.
Handicapped Badass: Oliver Queen aka Green Arrow, missing his left arm and still probably the best shot in the world.
Hates Everyone Equally: Bruce is a total misanthrope towards nearly everyone, save for Alfred, Carrie Kelley and Selina Kyle. Even Jim Gordon informs Ellen Yindel after his retirement that he and Bruce no longer talk.
Gordon: Were you a friend? Clark: I think so. I honestly couldn't say. Gordon: Sounds about right.
Honor Before Reason: Batman abandons the safety of his tank to fight the Mutant leader directly, as in the comic. He justifies it to Alfred, saying that he needs to do it in order to know that he's still the goddamned Batman.
Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: The hulking Bruce Wayne as Batman and the tiny Carrie Kelley as the new Robin.
Hulk Speak: Many of the Mutants, particularly the Mutant Leader.
Leader: I call you coward!
Hypocritical Humor: One of the people being interviewed about crime in Gotham goes about on a long speech of how they should use a diplomatic approach and reeducate the Mutants back into society. He then immediately adds that he would never live in the city.
I Am the Noun: When all electricity in Gotham gets shut down and there is chaos in the streets, Batman IS the law.
Identical Stranger: Ellen Yindel, Gordon's replacement, looks like an older Carrie Kelley.
I Got You Covered: Oliver Queen and his kryptonite arrow turn the tide for Batman in the final battle.
I'm a Humanitarian: The Mutant leader regularly makes speeches on how he'll eat his victims, and later rips out the mayor's throat with his bare teeth.
Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Given his line of work, Batman is an expert at moving and dodging in ways which cause gun-wielding opponents to miss, and Robin is a small, fast target. However, the extent to which Batman gets away with being under direct gunfire gets ridiculous later on, with entire SWAT squads firing at him whilst he is thigh-deep in water at a range of less than 10 metres and missing.
Improbable Weapon User: In the final battle with Superman, Batman uses everything he can think of at his disposal, including a sonic pistol, Gotham's entire electricity output focused into Batman's gauntlets, two massive wheels ripped from a steam roller, a wrecking ball, a concentrated acid spray in the eyes, a sticky bomb that can blow a decent sized crater in the ground, kryptonite gas, and finally Batman's own fists and boot heels.
Informed Deformity: After the surgery that fixes him, Harvey actually believes that he's completely deformed on both sides of his face.
Kick Them While They Are Down: Batman has effectively beaten Superman to a pulp in the final battle with a little help from a Kryptonite arrow and has him down on the ground. Superman can see Bruce's heart is failing and warns him that he's about to die. Bruce's responds by giving him a swift kick to the face.
Commissioner Gordon. Every time he questions whether he is doing the right thing, he reminds himself that he is doing it to keep his wife safe.
Ellen Yindel eventually becomes one when Gotham is nearly reduced to a World Gone Mad from an EMP blackout with mass looting and violence, and she sees firsthand how much of a force for good Batman really is.
Every authority figure trying to maintain law and order except for Batman and Gordon. Even Superman of all people.
The new police commissioner Ellen Yindel starts out this way, choosing the Inspector Javert stance with regards to Batman's activities. Once she sees him making a real positive difference by keeping order in Gotham during an EMP induced blackout, Yindel gives up pursuing him and becomes a Knight in Sour Armor like Gordon before her, accepting that the Dark Knight is "too big" to judge.
Leave Behind a Pistol: Batman does this to the General after said General confessed to him that he sold the Mutants weapons because the military would not pay for the treatment for his dying wife. Batman just leaves the gun on the desk and walks out saying "Nice way to end your career". As Batman makes his way down the hall, a gunshot can be heard.
The Lopsided Arm of the Law: The GCPD (and Mayor's staff) say that they're overwhelmed with crime-to the point of trying to negotiate with The Mutants even after one Mayor is killed by their leader. Batman reappears? They brand him Public Enemy Number One (even deciding that taking him down is a higher priority than hunting down The Joker) and deploy SWAT teams freely. And when the Coldbringer nuke explodes and Batman is a mayor factor in stopping Gotham from devolving into the lawlessness that affected the rest of America, the Government sends in Superman (with a hefty amount of National Guard support) to kill him, collateral damage be damned.
Meaningful Background Event: When Carrie Kelley first puts on the Robin Costume in her room, we see a costume store bag on the floor, explaining where she got the outfit, and numerous medals and trophies from gymnastics competitions, explaining her abilities.
Movie Multipack: It was initally divided into Part 1 and Part 2, though it was later released with both movies combined into a deluxe edition.
Mutual Disadvantage: In Batman's final fight with Superman, both are suffering from their own disadvantages; Superman is weakened from taking a nuclear blast to the face, along with the lack of sunlight from the fallout, and Batman is 50 years old using Powered Armor that while able to lift and swing around dozens of tons of weight, is still not enough to do any lasting damage to Supes.
The rookie cop catch a glimpse of Batman and said "Did you see that?". A line first spoken (also by a cop) in the beginning of "On Leather Wings", the first episode of Batman: The Animated Series, and the first entry of the DCAU.
The rookie's eldest partner has a sort of Irish accent, like Chief O'Hara.
Neck Snap: During their showdown, Batman snaps the Joker's neck just enough to paralyze him, and the Joker finishes the job himself.
New-Age Retro Hippie: Carrie Kelley's parents, while not seen, sure sound this way every time they talk.
Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: The police are camped on the roof of the building hosting the Dave Endochrine show in order to capture the Joker if he tries anything. Batman goes to the building also with the intent of stopping the Joker. After gassing 206 people, the Joker escapes because both Batman and the police become occupied with fighting each other on the roof.
No Swastikas: Averted with Bruno, but still toned way down from the comic: not only doesn't she have the assless chaps that show off her Swastika-covered buttocks, but Rob and Don's armbands don't have Swastikas on them like they do in the comic.
Noodle Incident: Oliver Queen lost his left arm in unspecified circumstances, but he strongly implies that Superman tore it off because he wants some payback against the "schoolboy".
An earlier conversation between Bruce and Clark all but confirms this; Clark claims he didn't want it to go that way, but "[Oliver]... made it necessary"
No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup: Batman suggests that Superman is the most powerful and irreplaceable weapon that the US Government has (and the only person who is really capable of stopping Batman), which is why Batman puts so much significance on defeating him.
Superman: If it isn't me it will just be someone else. Batman: Really? Who do they send after you?
Parental Neglect: Carrie's parents are this. It is quite obvious they are too high to care what their daughter is up to. In fact they aren't even mentioned again after she becomes Robin. It is all but stated that Bruce took her in. A scene cut from the comics shows one even asking "didn't we have a kid?", suggesting they were not even aware that she existed.
Near the beginning of Part 1, Bruce gives one to himself in the only preserved piece of internal monologue from the comic where he accuses himself of being pathetic, hollow and incomplete unless he embraces the bat once again.
Practically everything Batman says to Superman in their final fight.
Reckless Gun Usage: The Joker shoots in all directions while Batman chases him. If he aims at all, it's to hit as many people as possible before he runs out of bullets.
Joker just spent the last 24 hrs killing at least over 300 people. The police are more upset that Batman killed him (which he didn't).
The Russians just launched a nuke that sent the US into an early winter and knocked out all of the power for a good few months causing untold amount of deaths and damages. Their first order is to kill Batman for showing them up since he has actually kept order in his city.
Nearly all of the anti-Batman Talking Heads are portrayed as fools like Dr. Bartholomew Wolper, Trolls who just rave Batman is a fascist stomping civil rights, or Hypocrites with no real plans of their own to deal with Gotham's rising crime rates.
One of the people being interviewed gives a long speech about how we should strive to reintegrate criminals, and not revel in their misery, before scoffing that he would never live in the city.
Sticky Situation: Batman throws a pellet filled with an expanding, sticky substance straight into the Mutant Leader's face at the end of their first fight.
Bruce: He'll still be weak, between the nuke and so little sunlight. Just how weak, we'll see when he finds my first surprise. Carrie: Yeah but, how long do you expect to last against... him? Bruce: Long enough. Carrie: Boss... I'm trying to get the plan here. I mean, you gonna die tonight or what? Bruce: Figure I will.
Too Dumb to Live: The Joker's reformation is so obviously fake that anyone with half a brain could have seen through it. What do the authorities do? Allow the Joker on a famous television show without any armed escorts near enough to stop him if he tries to kill anyone. Three guesses as to what happens.
The mayor locks himself alone in a tiny room with the behemoth that is the Mutant Leader. He clearly knows it's a bad idea, but thinks he has to because "that's what the polls say."
Ungrateful Bastard: Despite Batman's actions against the Mutants, many Gotham residents keep on saying that he's a nuisance or worse.
Understatement: The President describes the Soviets as "mighty sore losers" when they launch a nuclear strike against the United States.
Vampiric Draining: Superman is severely weakened to the point of near-death by a nuclear blast. He crashes onto an island with a raging storm from the nuclear fireball above blocking out the sunlight which heals him and gives him his strength. He grabs a flower and literally drains the solar energy stored in the surrounding plants and trees, causing them to wither and die.
A rare female one with Bruno, with only Swastikas painted over her breasts.
We Win Because You Didn't: Batman's strategy with Superman is to beat him as soundly as possible using every trick he has, and then die so that Superman can never turn the tables and win (as he inevitably would).
Wrong Genre Savvy: This is Dr. Wolper's character. Everything out of his mouth is just out there, with one of his statements being he thinks Batman is the sociopath and Joker is just a victim. Saying how wrong he is would just be an Understatement.
Lana Lang: That's the biggest bunch of bull I have ever heard.
Violence Really Is the Answer: Politicians and psychologists who try to deal with crime through negotiation or rehabilitation are portrayed as hopelessly naive. Batman's incredibly violent methods spur an immediate drop in crime rates, and it's presented as a good thing when he inspires a wave of vigilante violence in his wake.