YMMV: Batman: The Dark Knight Returns

aka: The Dark Knight Returns

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns: The Comic

  • Alternative Character Interpretation: The Dark Knight Returns and The Dark Knight Strikes Again presented Batman as a dangerously-obsessed, deeply-disturbed, paranoid, control freak who is possibly a mentally ill Sociopathic Hero as opposed to the stalwart Caped Crusader of the Golden and Silver ages and the Adam West series. This interpretation is touched on Depending on the Writer and sometimes it is the basis for whole story arcs.
    • Superman is also an ineffectual tool and government stooge.
    • Another issue of interpretation is whether he became a man the night his parents died, or if he never truly grew
    • Did Batman really beat Superman through brilliant planning and foresight, or was he just lucky that Superman had taken a direct hit from a nuke recently? Though most people seem to forget Batman needed a "walking hospital bed" just to get around at the time as well.
    • Many seem to think that Carrie is the daughter Bruce never had.
  • Fanon Discontinuity: Lots of people like to imagine that The Dark Knight Strikes Again doesn't exist. Though Word of God confirms that All-Star Batman & Robin, the Boy Wonder is this book's prequel, plenty of fans are happy to ignore this.
  • Franchise Original Sin: The book helped destroy the notion of Batman as a light-hearted camp character but he is noticeably more of a Blood Knight and borderline psychotic than even most other "serious" interpretations of the character. This part of the character is unfortunately ramped Up to Eleven in the two Miller Batman books above where the character is practically insane.
    • Another case is Miller using heroes besides Batman, notably Superman. Though accepted here, in later works, Miller displays a tendency to present heroes more powerful than Batman as utterly incompetent and ineffective.
    • This story also serves of the origin of the infamous Prep Time argument, with many Batman fanboys claiming because Batman beat Superman in this storyline, he can theoretically beat anyone.
  • Foe Yay: Batman and The Joker. Very explicitly for Joker's side.
  • Genre Turning Point: Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen ushered in the Dark Age of comics.
  • Harsher in Hindsight:
    • The depiction, manner and philosophy of the Mutants are frankly eerily similar to the more abusive "Anonymous" cells online. This is referring to the steal-your-identity-and-send-you-death-threats type of Anonymous and not the image board type of Anonymous.
    • Two-Face trying to destroy Gotham's Twin Towers with a bomb, seven years before the same thing was attempted on the real Twin Towers with a car bomb. Later on, a 747 crashes into same said towers, destroying them and setting Gotham on fire. Fourteen years before the same thing happened in Real Life.
    • The scene where a disturbed gunman shoots up a movie theater is disturbing in light of the shooting at a Colorado screening of The Dark Knight Rises.
      • In the wake of the shootings, a panel from TDKR depicting Batman breaking a gun in half gained popularity on the 'Net.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight : This came decades before the meme actually started, but take a look at this quote:
    Mutant Gang Member: (after being attacked by a bat) It's just a Goddamned bat.
  • Ink Stain Adaptation: The story is not canon, but it has influenced the Batman mythos ever since it came out. Many fans like to think that Batman can beat Superman just because of this non-canonical story.
  • Magnificent Bastard: The Joker. His intent is to drive Batman to finally kill him and then be hunted down by the cops for crossing the line. Instead, Batman only breaks his neck enough to paralyse him. So what does Joker do? HE TWISTS HIS NECK THE REST OF THE WAY ROUND AND FINISHES THE JOB, ensuing that Batman will indeed be hunted down by the GCPD.
    • Batman himself qualifies in how he manipulates Superman into their confrontation entirely on his terms.
  • Older Than They Think: The Swastika pastie woman who attracted so much disbelief in All-Star Batman & Robin, the Boy Wonder.
  • One-Scene Wonder: The tech in the space station, who appears for a grand total of ten panels, and in doing so gives important exposition regarding the Coldbringer nuke that wipes out power on the Eastern Seaboard and prompts the plot of the final act, is used to demonstrate the apathy of the news media on "technical details" and also delivers arguably the most poignant lines regarding nuclear fears of the era.
    Dan: Still, my last thoughts will be a prayer for you, for humanity...and for the planet Earth. Nothing could stop the Russians from emptying their silos at us now. We'd have no defense, no way to retaliate. The one hope we have is that the decision to murder billions has to be made by a human being. (emphasis added)
  • Seinfeld Is Unfunny:
    • Having Batman and Superman forced into a battle to the death was far more shocking to audiences in 1986 than it ever could be today, since, up to that point, the two had always been portrayed as the best of friends. Since then, the stark contrast between Superman's idealism and Batman's pragmatism has become an essential part of their character dynamic, and it's traditional to depict them as complete foils who have difficulty trusting one another.
    • Likewise, the revelation that Jason Todd was murdered before the events of the story held a lot more weight when the book first came out, since the character's death hadn't yet happened in the regular comics (A Death in the Family didn't come out until 1988), and the idea of Robin being Killed Off for Real was still unthinkable to most readers. Now that Jason has since died and been resurrected as a badass Anti-Hero with his own series, hearing Batman angsting about his death can cause some eye-rolling.
    • Divorced from its cold war context, Superman fighting the Viet Cong can seem very silly and on the nose to modern day readers.
    • The "grim and gritty" aspect is a lot less noticeable today, especially after The Dark Knight Saga.

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns: The Film

  • Angst? What Angst?:
    • Jason Todd was a good soldier. He honored Bruce.... but the war goes on.
    • Bruce doesn't seem too upset about Alfred's death.
  • Animation Age Ghetto: Averted.
  • Awesome Music: The soundtrack is epic. For example, this is the music that plays on the first night that Batman returns after a decade of absence.
  • Broken Base:
    • The fanbase likes to debate over whether or not the edit to the hostage scene was justifiable (edited to where Batman disarms his opponent as opposed to shooting her dead). Supporters argue that it 'fixes' Batman's character, detractors argue that it bowdlerizes the scene, doesn't fit Frank Miller's characterization of Batman and dilutes the effectiveness of his Bond One-Liner. Even more, some people don't realize that Word of God stated Batman didn't kill that Mutant in the comic despite being a shoulder shot with a really big gun.
    • The Broken Base got even wider on the release of the second part. Opinions go from Even Better Sequel, okay, an inferior, to a horrible film compared to the first part. And let's not get the flak it gets for how Superman is portrayed, as well as the Cold War era propaganda and Ronald Reagan's portrayal.
  • Complete Monster: Age has not dulled The Joker's Ax-Crazy tendencies. Joker was catatonic for a decade until Batman returned, which snapped him out of it and resulted in Joker going on a massive killing spree. Joker kills his therapist with a broken coffee mug and then kills a studio audience at a talk show with poisonous gas. He then tries to sell poisoned cotton candy to kids at an amusement park. After Batman foils that scheme, Joker takes a gun and begins to shoot random civilians at the amusement park. After Batman defeats Joker in combat, Joker commits suicide and attempts to frame Batman for his death. One of the most disturbing scenes does everything but state that he raped Selina Kyle.
  • Designated Villain: Superman, of all people.
  • Faux Symbolism: The first time in Part 2 when Clark meets with Bruce out horseback riding, an eagle lands on Clark's arm. A few moments later, it takes off and seizes a defenseless mouse in front of Clark's feet.
  • Foe Yay:
  • Harsher in Hindsight: The film expands on Joker's shooting spree in the Tunnel of Love which can be very, very unsettling in the wake of the Aurora shooting.
  • Moral Event Horizon: In-universe, this happens when the mutants murdered a kidnapped child.
  • Narm:
  • Squick:
    • At one point when Batman is "dealing" with a crook you can hear the guy's bones cracking and grinding.
    • "You do have rights... plenty of them. You're also bleeding to death."
    • Likewise, Batman breaking the arm and leg of the Mutant's leader might make you cringe, provided you're not cheering.
      • The leg on the other hand, even if you are cheering.
    • Again, the Joker when he breaks his neck.
      • Not to mention the Joker has a batarang sticking out of his eye during the last two-thirds or so of their fight.
  • Strawman Has a Point:
    • Regardless of their portrayal as weak and unable to do what is necessary, many of the pundits are absolutely correct when they say Batman is an outlaw and they're not far off the point when they say he must bear some responsibility for groups acting in his name. And creating a culture that is both heavily dependent and admiring of a disturbed outlaw with no hesitation in using brutal violence is hardly an idea worth supporting.
    • Later on, when Gotham is hit by a nuclear EMP, people who are on the streets scavaging/looting/both are suddenly confronted by the Mutants. They start fighting, only for Batman and the Sons of Batman to tie them all up and only let them go if they want to co-operate with each other to protect the city. The one man who objects is portrayed as a whiner, but it's perfectly reasonable to not want to ally yourself with a bloodthirsty gang of murderers and resent being lumped together with them just because you fought to protect yourself.
    • The Joker's psychiatrist is portrayed as delusional and the film implies he is at least partially responsible for The Joker's massacre. While he may be naive, it is hard to fault the Doctor for attempting to reach The Joker and help him deal with his psychosis (You know, that thing psychiatrists working with the Criminally insane are supposed to work towards).
  • Tough Act to Follow: Peter Weller as Batman is sometimes compared unfavorably with Michael Ironside, who voiced Batman in a Dark Knight Returns-based segment of The New Batman Adventures.
  • What an Idiot: The mayor tries to negotiate with the mutant leader in a jail cell and gets his throat torn out. The deputy mayor goes on TV and says he too is willing to negotiate, despite what happened.
    • The whole plan to get the Joker a TV appearance.
  • What Do You Mean, It's Not for Kids?: Parents would have learned from The Dark Knight and the Arkham games that just because it's Batman it's not exactly suitable for children. The two part movie is in the running for the most graphic portrayal yet, at times even going further than the original comic.
  • The Woobie/Jerkass Woobie: Harvey Dent.
    • Bruce is also an Iron Woobie, since he's still carrying the pain of losing his parents and the burden of his mission on his shoulders, yet he also enjoys doing what he does (a little too much).

Alternative Title(s):

The Dark Knight Returns