Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker

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Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker
Batman Beyond - Return of the Joker poster.jpg
Home Video release poster
Directed by Curt Geda
Produced by Alan Burnett
Paul Dini
Glen Murakami
Bruce Timm
Screenplay by Paul Dini
Story by Paul Dini
Glen Murakami
Bruce Timm
Based on Characters 
by Bob Kane
Starring Will Friedle
Kevin Conroy
Mark Hamill
Angie Harmon
Dean Stockwell
Teri Garr
Arleen Sorkin
Tara Strong
Mathew Valencia
Melissa Joan Hart
Music by Kristopher Carter
Edited by Joe Gall
Production
company
Distributed by Warner Home Video
Release dates
  • December 12, 2000 (2000-12-12)
Running time 73 minutes
(Edited)
76 minutes
(Uncut)
Language English

Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (also known as Batman of the Future: Return of the Joker in Europe and Australia) is a 2000 direct-to-video animated film featuring the comic book superhero Batman and his archenemy, the Joker. It is set in the continuity of the animated series Batman Beyond, in which Bruce Wayne has retired from crime fighting, giving the mantle of Batman to high school student Terry McGinnis, and serves as a crossover with The New Batman Adventures. As in the TV series, Will Friedle and Kevin Conroy star as Terry McGinnis and Bruce Wayne, respectively. Mark Hamill, who played the Joker opposite Conroy in Batman: The Animated Series and The New Batman Adventures, returns in the title role.

Before its release, the movie was heavily edited to remove scenes of extreme violence, and some dialogue was altered, thus creating the "Not-Rated" version of the movie. The original version was subsequently released on DVD following an online petition to have the original version released. It received a PG-13 rating from the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) for violence, the first animated Batman film and from Warner Bros. Family Entertainment to do so.

Mephisto Odyssey and Static-X contributed the song "Crash (The Humble Brothers Remix)" on the film's soundtrack, along with a music video directed by Len Wiseman featured on the DVD.

Plot[edit]

In Neo-Gotham City, the Joker mysteriously resurfaces after having disappeared 35 years ago,[1] taking over a faction of the criminal gang Jokerz. On his orders, they steal high-tech communications equipment. Despite the intervention of Terry McGinnis (Bruce Wayne's successor as Batman), the Joker escapes. Bruce insists that the Joker must be an impostor, claiming to have witnessed the Joker's death after their last battle. Unwilling to let Terry face the Joker—impostor or not—Bruce demands that he return the Batsuit. The Joker attacks Bruce in the Batcave, leaving him for dead. Terry, after fending off an attack from the Jokerz, finds Bruce near dead from the Joker's trademark toxin, and quickly administers an antidote, tending to Bruce with the help of Barbara Gordon.

At Terry's insistence, Barbara reluctantly tells him what really happened to the Joker. Decades earlier, after Nightwing (Dick Grayson) moved to the adjoining city of Blüdhaven to fight crime on his own, the Joker and Harley Quinn kidnapped Tim Drake, Dick's successor as Robin, disfigured him to look like the Joker, and tortured him for three weeks, at which point Tim revealed Batman's secrets. Although the Joker attempted to make Tim kill Batman, Tim (because a trace of his former self remained) turned on the Joker and killed him before suffering a mental breakdown. Batman and Batgirl (Barbara) buried the Joker's body deep beneath Arkham Asylum, while Harley fell into a pit while fighting Batgirl and was presumed dead. One year after the incident, Tim was successfully rehabilitated, but Bruce forbade Tim from being Robin again, blaming himself for what happened and vowing to never again endanger another young partner. Tim eventually settled down with a wife and family, and a career as a communications engineer.

In the Batcave, Terry's investigation leads him to deduce that Tim must be working with the Joker. The equipment the Jokerz have been stealing can be combined to form a machine that can take control of any satellite, including an orbiting military satellite with an automated defense system, and fire it at will. Terry thinks only a communications expert of Tim’s caliber can build it. Although skeptical, Bruce sends Terry to question Tim. The Joker, who confirms that he and Tim are working together, lures Terry into a trap.

After escaping, Terry tracks the Joker to the abandoned Jolly Jack Candy Factory. After fighting off the Jokerz, he finds Tim, who transforms into the Joker before his eyes. When the Joker kidnapped Tim, he secretly implanted a microchip built from cutting-edge genetics technology (revealed later to have been stolen from Project Cadmus) into Tim’s brain in anticipation that Bruce may kill him in retaliation. The chip carries the Joker’s consciousness and genetic material, allowing him to transform Tim into a clone of him at will, eventually becoming strong enough to permanently control his body. The Joker prepares to fire the satellite to kill Terry's girlfriend Dana Tan, his family and Bruce before destroying the city, but Terry sets Bruce's dog, Ace, on him. Terry knocks the Joker's joy buzzer into the controls, destroying the beam's guidance system and causing it to head to the factory.

The Joker attempts to escape, but Terry seals the factory. The two fight, but the Joker is a formidable opponent since he possesses all of Tim's extensive training from Bruce when he was Robin. Terry improvises by taunting the Joker’s obsession with Bruce, sending the villain into fury to put him off balance. The fight ends when Terry, having covertly retrieved the Joker's joy buzzer, delivers a shock to the Joker's neck, destroying the chip and reverting Tim to his old self, destroying the Joker forever. Terry escapes with Tim and Ace before the satellite destroys the factory and the satellite-jamming device. The satellite is deactivated and floats into outer space.

Later, while visiting Tim in the hospital, Bruce acknowledges to Terry that he is worthy to carry the mantle of Batman. The film ends with Terry donning the Batsuit and flying off into the heart of the city.

Cast[edit]

Behind the scenes[edit]

  • Both Jordan Pryce and the Joker were played by Mark Hamill, furthering the idea that Pryce was a red herring, as the character not only resembled the Joker, but shared his voice actor, as well. The technique was performed in Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, with Carl Beaumont sharing the voice and build of the Phantasm (who is, in reality, his daughter Andrea).
  • Ghoul was played by voice-actor Michael Rosenbaum, who did several voice-acting characters for the Batman Beyond TV series, as well as playing the Flash in Justice League and Lex Luthor in Smallville. In the recording studio, he would often do a Christopher Walken impression, and the character was modeled on Rosenbaum's Walken impression.
  • Harley Quinn was originally set to be killed in the flashback sequence. However, a short scene near the end of the movie, just after the climax, features an older woman who resembles Harley releasing her twin granddaughters (Delia and Deidre Dennis) from prison. When the old woman scolds the twins about their actions, one of them replies: "Shut up, Nana Harley!" Producer and screenwriter Paul Dini included this scene in the script because of his displeasure at being asked to kill off what he felt was one of his biggest contributions to the Batman mythos. Producer Bruce Timm chose to retain it because he felt it provided some necessary comic relief.
  • After being shot, Bonk's corpse originally was to be seen in the background twitching throughout the rest of the scene, but the producers were asked to leave it out early in the film's development.
  • In the "Our Family Memories" video, Joker's apron was originally going to say "Kill the Cook", rather than the final's "Kiss the Cook", and the table was supposed to have surgical tools rather than the final's bagels, plungers, and cream cheese.
  • Paul Dini makes a cameo appearance during the first few minutes of the movie.
  • The Jolly Jack Candy Factory, the Joker's hideout, is a reference to American comic book artist Jack Kirby, who, during his early Marvel Comics days, was known as "Jolly" Jack Kirby.

Connections to the television series[edit]

  • In the Batman Beyond episode "Joyride", the Jokerz used the Joker's remains for their initiation ritual. A deleted scene in the movie would have involved Bruce Wayne checking these remains to ascertain whether or not the original Joker was really dead. Wayne finds the body suspended over the Arkham Operating Theatre with a note pinned to the chest reading "I know".
  • Enhanced versions of the Jokerz seen in Return of the Joker later appear in the Justice League Unlimited episode "The Once and Future Thing: Part II—Time Warped", thanks to the actions of supervillain Chronos. Terry is killed by the Jokerz but Green Lantern and the original Batman manage to subdue Chronos and put things right, therefore restoring Terry and returning the Jokerz to normal.
  • In continuity, Return of the Joker appears to be set after the Batman Beyond episode "King's Ransom", where Paxton Powers is arrested, leaving Wayne-Powers up for grabs. However, the film could take place after the entire series, because none of the plot elements are followed up, and no mention is made of the Joker or Tim Drake during the third season until the Static Shock episode "Future Shock" and the Justice League Unlimited episode "Epilogue". Producer Bruce Timm has reportedly stated that the events in the flashback take place at the end of the current DC animated universe timeline, which is after the Justice League Unlimited series finale "Destroyer", but before the Batman Beyond series premiere "Rebirth". However, Batman, Batgirl, Robin, and Harley Quinn all retain their The New Batman Adventures designs, while the Joker appears in his Static Shock and Justice League design.
  • In the Justice League Unlimited episode "Epilogue", it is revealed that the genetics technology used by the Joker have been stolen from Project Cadmus.

Re-editing[edit]

"That's not funny..." The Joker's death in the uncut version (PG-13).
The Joker's death in the edited version of the film (Not-Rated).

The movie was initially released amid the backlash against violence in movies and video games aimed at children that followed the Columbine High School massacre, in which Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 12 students and one teacher before committing suicide on April 20, 1999. As a result, the movie was substantially re-edited shortly before release on December 12, 2000, to reduce the violence. Many of the changes were controversial, particularly those made to a key scene in which the Joker is killed. The original unedited version was eventually released as "The Original Uncut Version" on April 23, 2002, three days after the third anniversary of the massacre,[2] following an online petition to have it released.

Following are scenes that were changed in the edited-for-content (unrated) version:

  • References to death and killing were removed from character dialogue, leaving most of it implied. For example, in the edited version, Commissioner Barbara Gordon's line at the end of the flashback, "We buried the Joker deep beneath Arkham," was removed to avoid any reference to death and burial of the dead.
  • The opening fight sequence was trimmed, cutting a second Dee-Dee kick and a taser attack explaining Batman's subsequent vision malfunction. Also removed was a 360-degree fight sequence in which Batman fends off the Jokerz one by one.
  • White flashes were added to the action sequences. Additionally, repeated punches were mostly trimmed to one punch.
  • After the opening credits, Bruce Wayne throws a batarang that beheads a wax statue of Two-Face in the Batcave. This scene was cut and only shows the batarang's return to Bruce.
  • After Bonk yells at the Joker that his time is over and he is a fake, the Joker replies, "Ah, brave new world ... that has such putzes in it." "Putzes" was changed to "Yutzes" in the edited version, since "putz" is a Yiddish word that also means "dick" as well as "fool".
  • Bonk was not shot with Joker's flag-spear gun, but instead was given a dose of Joker laughing gas, taking his implied death off-screen. As a result, the following loyalty oath sequence was cut.
  • Blood was removed in the edited version.
  • The scene in which Joker cuts Batman with a knife, then stabs him in the leg, was in the uncut version, which explained how Bruce got his limp and why he needed his cane for support,[3] although he walks normally, without the limp, prior to retiring as Batman in the episode "Rebirth". In the edited version, Joker punches Batman, though the knife can still be seen in the Joker's hand and the hole it made in Batman's costume is still visible.
  • After the Joker attacks Bruce in the Batcave, when Terry returns to the cave, he finds "Ha! Ha! Ha!" painted on the ground. In the uncut version, it has a blood red color. In the edited version, it had a dark purple color.
  • In the uncut version, one scene has Batman throwing a knife he uses to cut himself free from the red strings at the Joker. In the edited version, the knife was removed, but the sound of the knife cutting through the strings can still be heard and the hole it makes in the curtain can still be seen.
  • The Joker's death scene was heavily edited. In the original, Tim fires the Joker's "BANG!" flag/spear gun at the Joker and the projectile pierces his heart, killing him.[4] In the edited version, the gun is full of Joker gas and Tim does not use it. Instead he pushes the Joker into a room with hanging electrical wires and two tanks of water. The Joker crashes into one, and the wires slip down. The Joker runs forward to get Tim, but slips and turns on the wires, electrocuting himself.[5] In addition, the setup lines were changed. In the original uncut version, Joker tells Tim to "make daddy proud, deliver the punch line". After the edit and the changing of the gun from a spear gun to a Joker gas gun, the line became "make him one of us", which is also his new "last words".
  • During the scene where Batman and Batgirl go searching for Robin, the uncut version shows Batgirl questioning two women about Robin's whereabouts. In the edited version, it is a man and a woman. This scene may have been edited because the women were implied to be prostitutes.
  • When the Jokerz visit Pryce on the Wayne Enterprises yacht, a suggestive scene in which one of the Dee-Dee sisters lies on a bed was cut from the unrated version.
  • Seatbelts were added around characters in vehicles. There were no seatbelts in the original version.
  • When Terry visits Bruce's dog Ace after the Joker's attack on Wayne Manor, Ace is watching a Bugs Bunny cartoon called Hare Ribbin'. A character in the cartoon repeatedly shouts "I wish I were dead!" This audio was cut from the censored version.
  • In the "Our Family Memories" segment of the film, the uncut version depicts the Joker pulling out electrical cables to torture Robin. This brief sequence is cut from the censored version.
  • Joker's line, "I'll begin with how I peeled back the layers of the boy's mind," in the uncut version is changed to "I'll begin with how I affected young Robin's makeover" in the edited version.
  • As Joker is about to destroy Wayne Manor with the satellite beam, he asks Terry "any last words for the old Batfart?" "Batfart" was changed to "Batcoot" in the edited version.
  • During the scene where the elderly Harley Quinn bails the Dee-Dees out of jail, her clothes are different colors. In the original version, her clothes are blue and purple. In the edited version, her clothes are red and black like her original jester outfit.

Soundtrack[edit]

Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker Soundtrack
Soundtrack album by Various artists
Released October 17, 2000
Genre Rock
Length 38:13
Label Rhino Records
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 3/5 stars[6]

Released on October 17, 2000, the soundtrack to Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker contains music composed by Kristopher Carter, as well as two tracks of music featured in the direct-to-video film.

All songs written and composed by Kristopher Carter. 

No. Title Performers Length
1. "Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (Main Title)"   Kristopher Carter 02:10
2. "Industrial Heist"   Kristopher Carter 03:48
3. "Meet the Joker"   Kristopher Carter 02:47
4. "Joker Crashes Bruce's Party"   Kristopher Carter 01:19
5. "Terry Relieved of Duty"   Kristopher Carter 01:54
6. "Nightclub Fight / Terry Rescues Bruce"   Kristopher Carter 04:39
7. "A Trap for Tim"   Kristopher Carter 01:26
8. "Joker Family Portrait"   Kristopher Carter 02:05
9. "Arkham Mayhem"   Kristopher Carter 03:31
10. "Batman Defeats the Jokerz"   Kristopher Carter 01:36
11. "Joker Meets His End (Again)"   Kristopher Carter 04:21
12. "Healing Old Wounds"   Kristopher Carter 02:03
13. "Crash (The Humble Brothers Remix)"   Mephisto Odyssey (feat. Static-X) 03:26
14. "Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (End Title)"   Kenny Wayne Shepherd 03:02
Total length:
38:13

Critical reception[edit]

Return of the Joker received critical acclaim. It held an 86% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a 7.7/10 on IMDB, the eighth highest for any Batman movie.[7]

Nisha Gopalan of Entertainment Weekly praised the uncut version of the film, in particular how it "sheds light on the dark, obsessive relationship between the villain and his vigilante counterpart."[8] Gerry Shamray of Sun Newspapers said that Return of the Joker "would have made a great live-action Batman movie."[9] Ryan Cracknell of Apollo Guide called the film "an animated masterpiece."[10]

Peter Canavese of Groucho Reviews called it an "energetic and unsettling Batman adventure," adding that it "provides a memorable showcase for Hamill's celebrated take on the Joker, and allows both McGinnis and Wayne to see action and face emotional challenges."[11] Michael Stailey of DVD Verdict gave the uncut version a score of 92 out of 100, calling it "a taut, high-impact film" and "a must-buy to Bat-fans and animation lovers alike."[12]

Garth Franklin of Dark Horizons had a mixed response when reviewing the uncut version, saying that "the script is pretty solid, the animation superb, and the voice performances all work well," but added that "the Terry character's personal scenes aren't anywhere near as engaging [as the scenes featuring the Joker or Bruce Wayne], and the investigative subplot doesn't work as well as it should."[13] Jeremy Conrad of IGN gave the uncut version a score of nine out of 10 for the movie itself, six out of 10 each for video and audio, and eight out of 10 for extras, adding up to an overall score of seven out of 10.[14]

Accolades[edit]

Award Category Subject Result
Annie Award Best Animated Home Entertainment Production Won
Directing in a Feature Production Curt Geda Nominated
Writing in a Feature Production Paul Dini Nominated
Glen Murakami Nominated
Bruce Timm Nominated
Voice Acting in a Feature Production Mark Hamill Nominated
DVD Exclusive Award Best Animated Character Performance Won

Comic adaptation[edit]

While the comic based on the movie was largely uncensored, the page depicting the Joker's death had to be redone to match the movie. The rest of the comic, however, was not altered, and the remaining story refers to the Joker being shot, as opposed to electrocuted and killed.[15]

The comic includes several scenes that did not make it to either versions of the film. Two examples are:

  • During Bruce's visit to the remains of Arkham Asylum to find clues as to the Joker's return, he unknowingly is followed by Terry. The Joker's body is hanging from the ceiling, with a written note on his body saying "I Know". Storyboard drawings, however, do appear as deleted scenes, which were present in both versions of the DVD as part of the special features.
  • Batman's interrogation of the Penguin in the flashback was cut from the movie due to time and pacing concerns, as confirmed in the commentary.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Dini, Paul (2000). Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker: The Official Screenplay. New York, NY: Watson-Guptill Publications. p. 71. ISBN 0823077179. 
  2. ^ "Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (Video 2000) - Release Info". IMDb. Retrieved 2013-09-10. 
  3. ^ Dini, Paul (2000). Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker: The Official Screenplay. New York, NY: Watson-Guptill Publications. p. 91. ISBN 0823077179. 
  4. ^ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EGd1BSw767k
  5. ^ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cux_R_DQsoY
  6. ^ AllMusic review
  7. ^ "Batman Beyond - Return of the Joker". Rotten Tomatoes. Archived from the original on 22 October 2009. Retrieved 2009-10-23. 
  8. ^ Goplan, Nisha (May 10, 2002). "Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (The Original, Uncut Version) Review". Entertainment Weekly.
  9. ^ Review by Gerry Shamray, Sun Newspapers of Cleveland, 7 February 2003
  10. ^ Review, Ryan Cracknell, Apollo Guide, 24 July 2001
  11. ^ Review, Peter Canavese, Groucho Reviews, 15 February 2005
  12. ^ Review, Michael Stailey, DVD Verdict, May 27th, 2002
  13. ^ Review at the Wayback Machine (archived June 28, 2007), Garth Franklin, Dark Horizons, December 12th 2000
  14. ^ Conrad, Jeremy (April 23, 2002). "Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (Uncut)". IGN. Retrieved September 4, 2013. 
  15. ^ ROTJ Page Comparison

External links[edit]