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Western Animation / Batman: The Dark Knight Returns

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"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."
The Batman.

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns is a film in the DC Universe Animated Original Movies line, directed by Jay Oliva and 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 & Shirley) as Dr. Bartholomew Wolper, Michael Emerson (Lost, Person of Interest) as The Joker, Mark Valley (Human Target) as Superman, and Maria Canals Barrera (Wizards of Waverly Place) as Ellen Yindel. 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:

  • The '80s: The film goes out of its way to not update the setting of the comic. 70-year-old Commissioner Gordon fought in World War II (he would be over 100 today), Ronald Reagan is President, the Soviet Union is still very much around, television and other technologies match up with the time period, and the film even uses 80's style synth music in a lot of cases.
  • 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.
  • Adam Westing: Conan O'Brien as talk show host Dave Endochrine.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness:
    • Gordon's assistant, Officer Merkel, undergoes a variant of this: he's The Faceless in the comic (where his face is always framed in the shadows), but in the movies his features are visible, and he's one of the more conventionally handsome characters.
    • The Joker, while he isnít portrayed as a full out stud, is much more explicitly designed than the comic version to be a clean cut, groomed man with a presentable appearance and muscular physique in comparison to other counterparts where he is bony, wrinkled, and hideous.
  • Adaptational Badass:
    • The film version of Carrie is proficient in acrobatics even before teaming up with Batman. She even attempts an Eye Scream on the Mutant leader.
    • Downplayed with Batman himself, as some of the issues he has in the original comic such as him not being as stealthy as before are left out while the movie makes some of his fights more flashy, if with more emphasis on his skill rather than his strength.
  • Adaptation Distillation:
    • 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.
    • Batman's internal Private Eye Monologue is removed, with some pieces becoming actual dialogue.
    • 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.
    • Carrie glomping an injured and completely naked Bruce was also left out.
    • Much of the commentary on Batman is left out in order to keep the plot moving straight, some of the kept commentary also serves to gradually wake the Joker from his coma in the first part.
  • Adaptational Dye-Job: Downplayed with The Joker. His hair is still green like in the comic, but the green is noticeably a lot paler and washed out looking compared to the comic, which depicted his hair as bright green like most incarnations of him, making him look older as a result (which works in this story's case).
  • Adaptation Expansion:
    • Batman's climactic fight with Superman in Part 2 is much longer and more epic than in the comic book.
    • The Joker's rampage is also given a bit more detail.
    • Batman's meeting with the general is also longer than in the comic, where the general only appears in a page and already dead.
  • Adaptational Heroism: Downplayed with the Sons of Batman. They're still nominal heroes who are only on Batman's side due to him defeating the Mutant Leader, but thanks to Adaptation Distillation and much of the news commentary being left out, some of their more heinous actions from the comic, such as chopping off the hands of a shoplifter and shooting a member of one of the Mutants' offshoot gangs, are not present in the film.
  • Adaptational Modesty: Bruno is wearing full pants, rather than assless chaps like in the comic.
  • Adaptational Nice Guy:
    • Well, more like Adaptational Not-So-Much-A-Jerkism; the character of Byron Brassballs is still a Jerkass 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.
    • Many of the news anchors come across as somewhat more impartial and empathetic than in the comic.
    • Batman himself is also softened by the lack of his internal monologues, making him come across as more pragmatic rather than than him also reveling on the pain he inflicts on criminals.
  • Adapted Out: Some characters, like two insane and violent Batman copycats who attract media ire and Louis Gallagher from the Press Department of the G.C.P.D. and politician liaison with the city hall of Gotham City, do not appear in the film. Dr. Ruth Weisenheimer does not appear on David Endochrine's show but is mentioned.
  • Age Lift: In Batman: Year One, Stan Merkel is a seasoned GCPD detective (presumably in his thirties or forties) when a twenty-something Bruce Wayne begins his career as Batman. Here, Merkel is in his twenties or thirties during a period where Batman is in his fifties.
  • The Ageless: Like in the comic Superman, due to his Kryptonian heritage.
  • The Alcoholic: Bruce becomes one during his retirement, in order to stay retired. He stops drinking the moment he becomes Batman again.
  • Anti-Hero:
    • Unlike the comic where Batman is an Unscrupulous Hero, he is much closer to a Pragmatic Hero in the film, spending less time enjoying the carnage he unleashes on criminals.
    • The Sons Of Batman are Nominal Heroes like in the comic, though.
  • Anti-Villain/Hero Antagonist:
    • The main role of Superman in this film.
    • The general is also one in Part 1, he only sold the weapons to the mutants because the government wouldn't pay the treatment for his dying wife.
  • Arrow Catch: Superman catches the arrow that Green Arrow shoots at him during his showdown with Batman. Problem is, it's a Kryptonite Trick 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.
  • Artistic License Ė Law: Batman would not be considered a murderer in any stretch of the imagination for killing The Joker in the middle of one of his killing sprees, yet Ellen Yindel and the news media regard him as one.
  • 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 Leads to Leadership: 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.
  • Attempted Rape: The first crime stopped by Batman after his return.
  • Audible Sharpness: When the Mutant Leader uses his sharp nails, they make this sound.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: Joker's final scheme was successful because he finally made Batman lose control and very nearly break his one rule and when it's made clear that Batman only broke Joker's neck enough to render him quadriplegic, the disappointed villain decides to trick the world into thinking that Bats really did cross the line... by using the last of his strength to break his neck completely. Joker's death means that the cops would hound him and eventually try to kill him. Either way, Joker wins.
    Joker: I win. I made you lose control, and they'll kill you for it. See You in Hell!
  • Bait-and-Switch: To Gordon, twice:
    • The first time, he's assaulted by a Mutant, and then they both get into a gunfight seen from outside the store. Cue the news reporting Gordon's death...mistakenly saying he was shot, when in fact he shot the Mutant dead.
    • The next time, he is heartbroken to see his home up in flames, believing his wife succumbed to the fire. Cue his wife appearing behind his back, and they hug.
  • Batman Grabs a Gun: Batman disarms a Mutant holding a hostage by shooting the gun out of her hand with a machine gun, damaging her hand in the process. This is the first and last time in the two films where Batman deliberately fires a gun with real bullets at another person and he does it to save the life of a baby. (This "fixes" the sequence in the comic where it looks like Batman shot her dead even though his Thou Shall Not Kill rule is later invoked several times.)
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Gordon gives release papers to one of the thugs related to a robbery who couldn't be involved in the theft, the catch being that he didn't asigned him protection and that Batman is back.
  • Big Bad: Ronald Reagan is depicted as incompetent to the point of malice, and responsible for the crime wave due to abolishing 99.9% of superheroes.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Bruce leaves no trace of his existence behind, Alfred dies from a stroke, and Ronald Reagan is still around. However, Bruce is still alive in the shadows but unable to do crime-fighting himself due to his weakened state, though now he leads and trains a secret legion with stray Mutants and the Sons of Batman with Carrie and Oliver in order to keep Gotham City safe from the shadows, promising to Superman that they'll try not drawing too much attention lest they deal with Superman under presidential orders.
  • Bloodier and Gorier: Quite possibly the darkest and most violent DC Universe Animated Original Movie until Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox. In fact, at times it's even bloodier and gorier than the comic as the deaths of Gotham's mayor, Dr. Wolper, and TV host David Endochrine are more graphic than in the comic.
  • 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.
  • Bowdlerise:
    • 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 Monopoly Montages 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 transgender (though even then it could have just have been an insult from the store owner). Here there is no suggestion.
  • Break Out the Museum Piece: The 10+ year old Bat tank.
    Batman: Still purrs... like it was yesterday.
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday: Discussed during the final showdown between Batman and the Joker:
    Joker: I never kept count.
    Batman: I did!
    Joker: I know, and I love you for it!
  • Call-Back:
    • 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 opposed 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 Call Knows Where You Live: The demonic bat vision which continually haunts Bruce, until he can't take it anymore.
  • Casting Gag:
  • 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.
  • Challenging the Chief: Exploited by Batman to break the Mutants' spirit by destroying the Mutant leader in front of them. Unfortunately, a segment of the Mutants start emulating him after this and become the sociopathic "Sons of the Batman".
  • Color-Coded Secret Identity: At the start of the film, Bruce's racing car is all black, as is his racing jumpsuit. In a blink-and-you'll-miss-it moment, you can also see that Bruce's crash helmet has horns like a certain cowl he used to wear.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Batman as always. He defeats the Mutant Leader in their second fight by luring him into a mud pit so itíll slow him down, cuts him just above the eyes so the blood will blind him, targets his bandaged nose and nerve clusters in his deltoid to take out his arm then headbutts him, breaks his arms, then his leg and finally viciously beats on him while heís down.
  • 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.
  • Comic-Book Movies Don't Use Codenames: Superman is never addressed by his superhero identity, only as Clark, "school boy" or "...him".
  • Compilation Movie: Both parts were later rereleased in 2013, the same year part 2 was released, as one whole movie.
  • 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.
  • Cool Shades: The Mutants' glowing futuristic visor things.
  • 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. In the Joker's case at least this is true, as he only revives from his comatose state on hearing that Batman is back.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle:
    • 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.
  • Cyber Punk Is Techno: The score mixes the styles of gritty 80's action movies like The Exterminator and Hans Zimmer's The Dark Knight Trilogy score. And it is glorious.
  • 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.
  • Deadpan Snarker:
    • Even in old age, Alfred's still got it.
      Alfred: If it's suicide you're after, I have an old family recipe. It's slow and painful. You'd like it.
    • Bruce over what happened to Green Arrow.
      He was all torn up about it too.
  • 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.
  • Delegation Relay: Played with when politicians from the President, the Governor and the Mayor appear to be passing the buck on the Batman issue. However the audience already knows that the President has asked Superman to warn Batman off.
  • Dented Iron: When Bruce takes up the mantle of Batman once again, ten years of retirement shows its effect on him when he can barely pull himself up a rope and his joints start to ache.
  • 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?
  • Dies Differently in Adaptation: Dr. Wolper gets his throat slit by The Joker with a broken coffee mug rather than getting strangled by Bobby.
  • Disc-One Final Boss: Batman starts out fighting the Mutants, a gang of thugs out to take over Gotham. He defeats their leader at the end of Part I. Part II opens with The Joker awakening from a catatonic state and going on a rampage, dying halfway through. After that, Superman, the Hero Antagonist, becomes the True Final Boss after being sent by the government to defeat Batman.
  • Dies Wide Open: The Joker goes out this way, laughing until the end.
  • 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.
  • The Dreaded:
    • As he used to do in his Glory Days, a big strategy that Batman employs for his return is to terrify criminals and Mutants who have so far been enjoying a free reign of mayhem in Gotham.
    • Selina Kyle is absolutely terrified when the Joker appears in front on her.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: Carrie poses as a Mutant in order to gather the gang at the location of the second fight between Batman and the Mutant leader.
  • Driven to Suicide:
    • General Briggs shoots himself after Batman confronts him for selling weapons to the Mutants.
    • Two-Face tries to blow himself up with the two biggest skyscrapers in Gotham after being consumed by his dark half.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: Carrie gets brushed off by the people she saved from an attempted mugging.
  • Dumb Muscle:
    • Batman accuses the Mutant Leader of being one.
      Batman: We're all slow when we're thigh deep in mud... and you're not too bright.
    • Rob and Don, at least in Bruno's opinion.
      Bruno: [to store clerk] Those two morons don't have a brain between 'em. So I'm gonna give 'em yours. All over their suits.
    • Batman calls Superman out for being little more than a stooge doing the government's muscle work.
  • The End Is Nigh: Bruce walks by two men holding these signs early in the film.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: The Mutant Leader has a beastly, gravelly voice.
  • Eye Scream: As in the comics, Joker gets a batarang lodged in his right eye.
  • Face Death with Dignity: As in the comic, Alfred accepts his stroke that way after blowing up Wayne Manor.
  • Femme Fatalons: When Abner (the Joker's henchman) has Robin pinned down, she uses her nails to claw his face.
  • Fighting Your Friend: Superman really doesn't want to fight Batman because he knows how ridiculously mismatched they are and doesn't want Bruce to die. Bruce knows too, and just doesn't care.
  • Firearms Are Cowardly: Batman rallies the former Mutants into the Sons of Batman Gang to bring law and order back to a riot-filled Gotham City. While he does, he goes out of his way to forbid the use of firearms owing to his own Doesn't Like Guns stance, deeming them the weapons of cowards, and saying that the Sons must rely on their brains and fists to take back the city.
  • For the Evulz:
    • The Mutant Leader rips the mayor's throat out with his teeth because he can.
    • This is the motivation for the entire Mutant gang. They loot and kill because to them, it's fun.
  • Friend to All Children:
    • Batman still has this trait to him. Despite the child screaming and about to be killed by Mutants, once in Batman's arms he went quietly to sleep.
    • Batman cares for Carrie Kelley rather like a surrogate daughter, holding and comforting her after she nearly falls to her death.
  • From Bad to Worse:
    • 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?
    Dad: Not really. I was tripping the whole time.
  • Fun T-Shirt:
    • Dr. Wolper can be seen in a Superman shirt, and later an anti-Batman shirt.
    • Trish from the News wears a shirt that says "This And Brains Too".
    • Two Mutants wear shirts saying "my name is ROB" and "my name is DON".
  • Future Slang: The Mutants' slang, mixed with a bit of Hulk Speak.
    Rob: You see, Don? Batman nasty. Leaderís bagging.
    Don: Leader billy berserk, Rob. He peg Batman, you see.
  • Genius Bruiser: Batman, who uses both strength and smarts to finally take down the younger and fitter Mutant leader.
  • Good Is Not Soft: Par for the course for Batman, however it is highlighted particularly when he throws a batarang directly into the Joker's eye, indicating that he really wants to make him suffer. Naturally, Batman losing all restraint pleases the Joker.
    Joker: Are you out of your mind!?
    Batman: I'm through playing, Joker!
    Joker: Be still, my heart.
  • Go Through Me: Inverted when the Joker takes a kid hostage.
    Kid: You're the Joker, right? Batman's gonna kick your ass!
    Joker: He's gonna have to go through you first!
  • Gory Discretion Shot:
    • The climax of the fight With the Mutant Leader cuts away before Batman can fully extend an applied kneebar and break the Leader's leg, only showing the rather disturbed reactions of the Mutants watching the leg get broken.
    • Semi-Averted in Part II. 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.
  • Grandfather Clause: Batman using regular hook-and-lines on a few occasions instead of his Grappling-Hook Pistol, in order to preserve memorable scenes from the pre-Grappling-Hook Pistol era comic.
  • 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.
  • Hero with Bad Publicity: Boy. Batman does a lot of help for Gotham, but the GCPD completely goes against him the moment Gordon retires and Ellen Yindel takes over, with her first order being apprehending Batman. It doesn't help that the Sons of Batman look like thugs trying to spread his word.
  • High-Altitude Interrogation: When a mook proves reluctant to talk, Batman removes the man's blindfold to reveal he's holding him over the edge of a skyscraper.
  • Homage: Superman chasing the missile may be a reference to Superman: The Movie.
  • 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.
  • Horrible Judge of Character: Dr. Wolper. Despite everything Joker says pretty much spouting "I'm Evil" and clear Crocodile Tears, Wolper fully believes that Joker is the victim and Batman is the bad guy.
  • Horseback Heroism: With requisite Rearing Horse.
  • 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.
    • Carrie's parents comment how Batman is a fascist, complaining how Batman beating up thugs is getting support where their marching doesn't get any credit. The father then immediately asks his wife to give him some pot and to make sure they locked the doors.
  • 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 meters and missing. Ironically, Joker, who has a batmerang lodged into his right eye, can effortlessly kill a bunch of people further than 10 meters.
  • Improbably Quick Coma Recovery: The Joker, despite having been catatonic for years, recovers his reason the moment he starts hearing about Batman again, this is Downplayed however as his awakening is shown to happen in a gradual manner across the span of first movie.
  • Improbable Weapon User: In the final battle with Superman, Batman uses everything he can think of at his disposal, including X-Ray seeking missiles, 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.
  • Inspector Javert: Commissioner Ellen Yindel.
  • Insult Backfire: In their second fight, Batman puts down the Mutant Leader's attempts of trash explaining what each of his techniques are meant to do.
  • Invisible President: Averted with Ronald Reagan openly making use of Superman.
  • Is That the Best You Can Do?: During the final battle between Batman and Superman...
    Superman: If it isn't me, it'll just be someone else!
    Batman: Really? Who do they send after you?
  • I Surrender, Suckers: Superman asks Batman to come quietly and offers a handshake. Batman accepts, electrocuting Superman with Gotham City's entire electrical grid.
  • I Was Quite a Looker: Selina. Where we all can recall her from Year One. Best summed up by the Joker.
  • Jiggle Physics: Bruno.
  • Karma Houdini: Ronald Reagan gets away with his orders.
  • Kick Chick: Carrie, whose outfit and fighting style really shows off her legs.
  • 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.
  • Kid Sidekick: Carrie Kelley, a 13 year old girl who decides to fight gang members and psychopaths as Robin.
  • Knight in Sour Armor:
    • 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.
  • Lantern Jaw of Justice:
    • Unlike his comic counterpart, Bruce has an enormous one.
    • Superman also has his trademark chin.
  • Large Ham: The Mutant Leader.
  • Lawful Stupid:
    • 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 General Briggs after Briggs 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.
  • Lethal Chef: "If it's suicide you're after, I have an old family recipe..."
  • Light Is Not Good: Joker wears a white suit to assume a good appearance of being cured, but he is still the a sociopathic monster as always.
  • Living Weapon: The U.S. government uses Superman as one.
  • The Lopsided Arm of the Law: Averted in the first half, as Batman helps the GCPD deal with the Mutant Gang and the rest of the criminals while Gordon does his part. Downplayed after Yindel ascends as Commissioner and Batman is branded Public Enemy Number One, while still keeping The Joker in the same rank of priority, only ranking him higher when the Joker kills himself in a way which incriminates Batman. And then played straight when the Coldbringer nuke explodes, where Batman is a major factor in stopping Gotham from devolving into the lawlessness that affected the rest of America, and the government sends in Superman (with a hefty amount of National Guard support) to kill him for making them look bad.
  • Major Injury Underreaction: Joker's only reaction, after getting hit in the eye with a batarang, is to ask if Batman is out of his mind.
  • Man Bites Man: The Mutant Leader sinks his teeth into Batman's shoulder in their first fight, and rips out the Mayor's throat with his bare teeth later.
  • Manipulative Bastard: The Joker has Wolper completely wrapped around his little finger.
  • 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.
  • Mook Carryover: Rob and Don, the 2 Mutants who worked for the Mutant Gang and its leader now work for the Joker and Bruno.
  • Mook Horror Show: The film highlights this aspect of Batman as his inner dialogue in the original comic is left aside.
  • Movie Multipack: It was initially divided into Part 1 and Part 2, though it was later released with both movies combined into a deluxe edition.
  • Mugging the Monster:
    • Early on, a couple of Mutant gang members try this on Bruce. They leave without attacking because "he's into it", even as he starts trying to goad them into it.
    • In Part 2, Bruno tries Shooting Superman.
  • 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.
  • My Country, Right or Wrong: Superman agrees to take out Batman because he's agreed to submit himself to human authority, no matter how flawed it is.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • The rookie cop catches 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 DC Animated Universe.
      • For that matter, the rookie cop bears a resemblance to Terry McGinnis.
    • The rookie's eldest partner has a sort of Irish accent, like Chief O'Hara.
    • Three songs of the soundtrack share their name with three of the four comics of the original miniseries: The Dark Knight Returns, The Dark Knight Triumphant and Hunting the Dark Knight.
  • Neck Snap: During their showdown, Batman snaps the Joker's neck just enough to paralyze him, and the Joker manages to finish the job himself by turning his head further.
  • 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 Celebrities Were Harmed: Like in the comic, the President (while not named) is, for all intents and purposes, Ronald Reagan.
  • No Swastikas: Averted with Bruno, who still has her swastika-shaped tattoos over her breasts, but still toned way down from the comic: not only does she not have the assless chaps that show off her also-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 it's strongly implied that Superman tore it off, as 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?
  • Not So Invincible After All: Batman proves this about Superman in the opening stages of their battle by making the Man of Steel bleed.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Carrie has a a couple of these:
      • When Bruno spots her and starts shooting at her.
      • When she catches that Superman knows Bruce is still alive.
    • One of Two-Face's goons is terrified to find out that the bombs they're using to extort the city are real and counting down while he's in the blast range, saying it was supposed to be a bluff.
  • Older Hero vs. Younger Villain: Batman vs. the Mutant Leader.
  • Old Cop, Young Cop: Two of the first people to witness Batman's return to crimefighting are a gray-haired cop who has met Batman in the past and his rookie partner, who admits that he never believed Batman was real before now. The older cop slows down their car to watch Batman take down the criminals he's pursuing and then shares a friendly conversation with him, while the younger man tries to arrest Batman along with the crooks.
  • Old Soldier: Many of these heroes just won't (or can't) retire:
    • Batman, who's now in his late 50s.
    • 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.
    "Oh don't tell me you're gonna fall asleep before we finish! You have gotten old!"
  • One-Man Army: Superman's fight against the Soviet forces attacking Corto Maltese really drives this home.
  • Only Six Faces: The Mutants have a lot of members that look very similar to each other. All of the Female Mutant members look and dress exactly the same, even when Carrie was disguised as one. Averted with Rob and Don, who are later shown to have normal faces when robbing the liquor store.
  • Orange/Blue Contrast: The cover for the part 1 DVD is blue, while the cover for part 2 is orange. The films reverse this, with Part 1 mostly using orange colors due to having many sunset or torch-light scenes, while Part 2 uses a dark blue color scheme due to most of the film taking place during a nuclear winter.
  • 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.
  • Perilous Old Fool: Alfred accuses Bruce of being one.
  • Police Brutality: Played with. The rookie cop strongly objects to Batman's clear use of excessive force, but his older partner brushes him off.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: Batman's Private Eye Monologue is removed, with some of the more important or famous lines shifted into actual dialogue, and multiple scenes are reworked or relocated to help each film have a Three-Act Structure.
  • Production Foreshadowing: An animated version of Batman fighting the Mutant Gang in the city dump was featured in the Batman: The Animated Series' episode Legends of the Dark Knight, 14 years before members of the same team went on to produce these films.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: "I EAT! YOUR! HEART!"
  • "Psycho" Strings: When Joker wakes up.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: Bruce realises this is the only victory he can achieve against Superman.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
    • 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.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: The Mutant Leader has glowing red eyes.
  • Robot Kid: "Bobby" and "Mary", the flying, Joker venom-spewing, doll-shaped timebombs seem to have personalities of their own.
  • Roof Hopping: Carrie's self-imposed training regimen so that she can become an effective Robin.
    Carrie: Didn't suck!
  • Samus Is a Girl: Bruno, Don and Rob's new boss who also works for the Joker.
    Liquor Store Owner: Bruno? Who's he?
    Rob: (Laughes) Bruno is a she.
    Don: Ha. Big she. Kind of my nasty.
  • Secret-Keeper: Superman figures out Batman is still alive. Carrie is clearly terrified when she realizes this, but Superman just winks and walks away.
  • See You in Hell: Just like in the comic book, the Joker says this right before he twists off his own neck in such a way that it looks like Batman killed him.
  • Sequel Hook: Joker wakes up.
  • Significant Haircut: Bruce shaves off his moustache, apparently without even realising he's done so.
  • Shaming the Mob: Gordon and Batman do this to get the public fighting fires instead of each other.
  • Share the Male Pain: Not a groin attack, but the mutants clearly react this way when Batman breaks their Leader's leg.
  • Shock and Awe: In the climactic fight, Batman opens by electrocuting Superman with a gauntlet wired to Gotham's entire electrical grid.
  • Shooting Superman:
    • "Bruno" tries it, with predictable results.
    • Carrie does this as well, but she fares a little better since she is using a tank.
  • Shout-Out:
    • There are four comics on the stand in the convenience store where Gordon shoots the 17-year old Mutant: Swamp Thing, The Sandman, Watchmen, and V for Vendetta.
    • The Tim Burton Batmobile from Batman (1989) makes a cameo as a weight Bruce uses to test his suit of Powered Armor out on.
    • Also there are some comics in the comic stand like the Justice League of America.
    • In the beginning when Bruce is on the racetrack, his racing helmet has a very distinctively shaped visor, considering he is voiced by Peter Weller this is likely intentional. In his encounter with kidnappers in part 1, he punches one fist through the wall, then the other, appearing behind an armed crook. Another nod to Robocop.
    • The criminals that Batman chases in his first encounter with the cops mention a "Turk" who boasted of killing Batman.
    • The first track of the movie is titled Gotham City, 1986; a probable reference to the opening track of Blade Runner: Los Angeles, 2019.
    • During Batman's initial strike against the mutants, one of them accidentally drops a grenade near others in a similar manner to one of the Persian magicians in 300.
    • The fear gas induced hallucination of Batman seen by one of Two Face's henchmans is similar to a combination of Diablo's original and Prime Evil forms, this also works in another level as Diablo is also known as "The Lord of Terror".
  • Show, Don't Tell: As part of the change of mediums, Batman's inner dialogue is left behind while his fights are more fleshed out than in the original comic.
  • Significant Wardrobe Shift: News anchor Lola Chong is always seen wearing the same pink dress until after the nuclear bomb causes a prolonged winter with fewer heating utilities, at which point she starts wearing a long-sleeved shirt and vest.
  • Skewed Priorities:
    • 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.
  • Slasher Smile: Carrie gets one when she is Shooting Superman with the Bat Tank.
  • Slave to PR: The mayor insists on having a private meeting to negotiate with the Mutant Leader because the polls show that the people think he should, even though he is clearly terrified and not much of a negotiator.
  • Soft Glass: Averted when Batman throws a mook through a window, then gives him a choice between bleeding to death from the resulting injuries or Batman taking him to the hospital if he talks.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Dr. Ruth Weisenheimer, only because she doesn't appear on David Endochrine's show along with Joker and she isn't mentioned between the victims.
  • Spiteful Spit: Although the Joker's death shocks him, Batman still spits in the face of his Arch-Enemy after his death.
  • Split-Personality Takeover: Played with.
    • Two-Face appears to have been taken over by his "dark side", only to have a death wish because of it.
    • Bruce Wayne meanwhile swears off crime fighting following Jason Todd's death, only to become so disgusted with the world a decade later that he's consumed by his Batman persona again.
  • Stand Your Ground: During the blackout, a group of citizens who find themselves facing Mutant gang members who escaped from jail don't back down, but pick up axes, fire extinguishers, and the like to fight back with before Batman arrives. Of course, the citizens are looters themselves, so it isn't exactly a Black-and-White Morality situation.
  • Stealth Hi/Bye: When Batman disappears in the middle of their conversation, the veteran cop grins and says, "Oh yeah, now I remember."
  • Stealth Pun:
  • Strawman Political:
    • 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.
  • Stoners Are Funny: Carrie Kelley's parents.
  • Suicide Mission: Bruce sees his final fight with Superman as this, so he makes it a Suicide Mission on his own terms.
    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.
  • The Tag: In the final scene of Part 1, The Joker wakes up.
  • Tank Goodness: This version of the Batmobile, as in the comic.
  • Take That!: The Council of Mothers protesting Batman is a jab at One Million Moms.
  • Thanatos Gambit: Happens twice from two different characters. The first time is played utterly straight while the second time is decidedly less so.
  • Therapy Backfire: Dr. Wolper. His "help" drove Dent to be consumed by his dark side, and then gets him gruesomely killed by the Joker.
  • Three-Act Structure: The structure of Part 1, with each act being separated by Bruce having a new confrontation with his vision of a demonic bat.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Carrie and her friend Michelle.
  • 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."
  • Two Decades Behind: The movie retains the comic book's 20 Minutes into the Future of The '80s setting, despite being made 30 years later.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: Despite Batman's actions against the Mutants, many Gotham residents keep on saying that he's a nuisance or worse.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: One of the Sons of Batman's TV messages appears on the TV at Arkham Home, and mentions Batman within earshot of the Joker who listens and awakens from his coma, which eventually causes more havoc in Part 2, such as the fairground shootings.
  • 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.
  • The Voice:
  • Walking Shirtless Scene:
    • The Mutant Leader.
    • A rare female one with Bruno, with only Swastikas painted over her breasts.
  • Weak, but Skilled: Bruce, time has worn down much of his strength, but it never took his skills as a hero, this is further highlighted in his second fight against the Mutant Leader.
    Mutant Leader: What was that?!
    Batman: Just the right cut above the eye, the kind that bleeds.
  • 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).
  • Wham Line: At the end of Part 1.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Ellen Yindel disappears after Batman retakes Gotham during the blackout. Her last appearance is a blink and you miss it where she is at Bruce's funeral.
  • Would Hit a Girl:
    • Batman hits one female Mutant in the face with the end of a rifle, and shoots dozens more with rubber bullets from inside his Bat Tank. In the second part, he also hits Bruno and Ellen Yindel.
    • The Joker also hits—and kills—several women in the second part.
  • Would Hurt a Child:
    • The mutant gang are explicitly referenced to have killed an entire family, children included, during the introductory part of the film; later, a group was discussing repeating the deed after they get the ransom for a kid they abducted before Batman intervenes.
    • Joker, as he happily gives out poisoned cotton candy to children.
  • Wouldn't Hurt a Child: One of the few things the Mutants didn't do... until recently.
  • 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.
  • Verbal Backspace: The President is sending Superman to fight for American interests...err, freedom.
  • Villainy Discretion Shot: The scene with the poisoned children was cut from the video; only the Joker passing out cotton candy is shown.
  • 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.
  • Your Television Hates You: Bruce keeps getting either crime reports or the movie that was playing the night his parents were murdered.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Batman The Dark Knight Returns 2012


TDKR Joker

After being in a coma for 10 years, Joker shows that he has not changed one bit by killing an entire studio audience.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (23 votes)

Example of:

Main / CompleteMonster

Media sources: