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 byCurt Geda
Screenplay byPaul Dini
Story by
Based onDC Comics characters
Produced by
Starring
Edited byJoe Gall
Music byKristopher Carter
Production
company
Distributed byWarner Home Video
Release dates
  • December 12, 2000 (2000-12-12)
(edited version)
  • April 23, 2002 (2002-04-23)
(uncut version)
Running time
  • 73 minutes (edited version)
  • 76 minutes (uncut version)
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish

Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (also known as Batman of the Future: Return of the Joker outside of the United States, The Return of the Joker, Batman Beyond: The Movie or The Batman Beyond Movie in the working title) is a 2000 American direct-to-video animated superhero mystery film produced by Warner Bros. Animation and distributed by Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. It is the third film in the DC Animated Universe and is based on the animated series Batman Beyond.

Return of the Joker features the DC Comics superheroes Bruce Wayne (Kevin Conroy) and Terry McGinnis (Will Friedle), as they try and unravel the mysterious return of the former's archenemy, the Joker (Mark Hamill). Following the Columbine High School massacre, the film received heavy edits that delayed its release from a Halloween 2000 to December 12, 2000. An uncut version was subsequently released on DVD in 2002, to generally positive reviews.

Plot[edit]

A new faction of the Jokerz gang—consisting of Bonk, Woof, Ghoul, Chucko and the Dee-Dee twins—attempts to steal high-tech electronic equipment, but they are intercepted by Batman (Terry McGinnis), the protégé of Bruce Wayne. The gang reports back to their leader, revealed to be the Joker, who was Bruce's nemesis and had supposedly died years ago. The Joker kills Bonk for defiance and to intimidate the other members.

Later, the Jokerz attack a press conference commemorating Bruce's return to Wayne Enterprises and the Joker reveals himself to Bruce, who insists that it cannot be him despite evidence to the contrary. After fending off the attack, Terry demands information from Bruce and Gotham City Police Department's Commissioner Barbara Gordon, the former Batgirl, but neither gives him answers. Eventually, Bruce orders Terry to return the Batsuit so he can investigate and confront the Joker on his own despite the limitations of his age. However, the Jokerz attack Terry, nearly killing his girlfriend Dana Tan, while the Joker poisons Bruce and his Great Dane, Ace—revealing he knows Bruce was Batman and that Terry is his successor.

After Terry saves Bruce's life with an antidote, Barbara finally explains the Joker's disappearance albeit reluctantly; Four decades ago, sometime following Dick Grayson's departure from Gotham City to Blüdhaven, the Joker and Harley Quinn kidnapped his successor Tim Drake, then Robin, while he was on patro, inflicting three weeks of torture and brainwashing on him to learn Batman's secrets. When Batman and Batgirl found Tim, he was altered by the Joker's chemicals to match him, albeit as a miniature version. A fight ensued, during which Tim turned on and killed the Joker, suffering a complete nervous breakdown, while Harley fell down a ravine and was presumed dead. After he recovered a year later with help from Wayne family friend, Dr. Leslie Thompkins, Tim was forced into retirement, severing his ties with Bruce and left to make it on his own in life.

Terry visits Tim, who voices bitterness towards his past as Robin but denies any involvement in the Joker's return. Terry's next suspect is Jordan Pryce, a Wayne Enterprises executive who hates Bruce, but he only finds Pryce guilty of conspiring with the Jokerz to have Bruce killed. When the beam of a directed-energy weapon strikes Pryce's yacht from above, Terry rescues Pryce before turning him in to the police. In the Batcave, after realizing the Joker only destroyed the Robin costume, Terry recalls Tim's grudge against his old persona and deduces he must be involved; cross-referencing Tim's expertise as a telecommunications engineer with the Jokerz' thefts, Terry and Bruce discover the stolen equipment can create a jamming system to seize control of a laser-armed military satellite.

When Terry goes to face Tim, he triggers a trap set by the Joker, who he then follows to an abandoned candy factory after surviving further attacks from the satellite. Subduing the Jokerz with Ace's help, Terry confronts the Joker, who reveals he encoded himself into a microchip built with genetic technology hidden behind Tim's ear—allowing him to survive his death by turning Tim into the Joker's replicate, who is on the verge of completely taking over Tim. With the satellite, the Joker plans to kill Bruce and Terry's loved ones before destroying Gotham City. As they battle, Terry uses one of the Joker's joy buzzers to destroy both the weapon and the microchip, saving the city and freeing Tim as the Joker finally meets his end.

Following the Jokerz' arrests, Barbara hides Tim's unwitting involvement to protect him with the Joker declared dead in the factory's explosion, while the Dee-Dee twins are bailed out by their grandmother—an elderly Harley Quinn, who survived her fall and reformed. Bruce makes amends with Tim and Barbara while Tim recovers in the hospital, during which Bruce and Tim acknowledge Terry as worthy to carry the mantle of the Bat.

Voice cast[edit]

Production and release[edit]

The Joker's death in the unedited version of the film (top) compared to his death in the edited version (bottom)

The film was initially put into production after the cancellation of Boyd Kirkland's Batman: Arkham, the intended sequel to Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero.[1] When Bruce Timm and Glen Murakami were given the green-light to produce a Batman Beyond feature-length film, they decided to use the extra time to answer questions pertaining to the time period between Beyond and the rest of the DC Animated Universe.[2] Will Friedle, Kevin Conroy, and Mark Hamill reprised their roles as Terry McGinnis, Bruce Wayne, and the Joker, respectively, while Dean Stockwell and Angie Harmon joined the voice cast as Barbara Gordon and Tim Drake. Arleen Sorkin returned as Harley Quinn, a role she originated in Batman: The Animated Series.[3] The animation was outsourced to TMS Entertainment in Japan, however, Timm and his crew also used TMS as an outsourced pre-production unit, as a result, TMS also storyboarded almost half of the film in addition to doing the animation.[4][5] It is also the first Batman direct-to-video animated film to use digital ink and paint.

Return of the Joker was originally set for release on Halloween 2000, but, following the backlash against violence in children's media that resulted from the Columbine High School massacre in April 1999, the creative team was forced to make edits that delayed the film's release until December 12, 2000. The most dramatic change was the method of the Joker's death: rather than being shot and killed by Tim Drake, he is instead electrocuted after becoming tangled in water tubing. Two years after the film's initial release, and following online petitions, Warner Home Video released an uncut and unaltered version of Return of the Joker, with more violence and some altered language, as well as the Joker's original death scene.[6][7] While the 2000 release was rated PG, the uncut version was the first animated Batman film to receive a PG-13 rating from the Motion Picture Association of America.[6]

Tie-in media[edit]

Music[edit]

Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker Soundtrack
Soundtrack album by
Various artists
ReleasedOctober 17, 2000
GenreRock
Length38:13
LabelRhino Records
Professional ratings
Review scores
SourceRating
AllMusic[13]

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 tracks are written by Kristopher Carter.

No.TitlePerformersLength
1."Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (Main Title)"Kristopher Carter02:10
2."Industrial Heist"Kristopher Carter03:48
3."Meet the Joker"Kristopher Carter02:47
4."Joker Crashes Bruce's Party"Kristopher Carter01:19
5."Terry Relieved of Duty"Kristopher Carter01:54
6."Nightclub Fight / Terry Rescues Bruce"Kristopher Carter04:39
7."A Trap for Tim"Kristopher Carter01:26
8."Joker Family Portrait"Kristopher Carter02:05
9."Arkham Mayhem"Kristopher Carter03:31
10."Batman Defeats the Jokerz"Kristopher Carter01:36
11."Joker Meets His End (Again)"Kristopher Carter04:21
12."Healing Old Wounds"Kristopher Carter02:03
13."Crash (The Humble Brothers Remix)"Mephisto Odyssey (feat. Static-X)03:26
14."Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (End Title)"Kenny Wayne Shepherd03:02
Total length:38:13

Critical reception[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes, 100% of critics gave the film a positive review based on 10 reviews, with an average rating of 8/10. The site's critics consensus reads, "This feature length entry in the Batman Beyond mythos sends off the Mark Hamill-voiced Joker in thrilling fashion, hitting the same caped crusading peaks of the original series."[14]

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."[15] Gerry Shamray of Sun Newspapers said that Return of the Joker "would have made a great live-action Batman movie."[16] Ryan Cracknell of Apollo Guide called the film "an animated masterpiece."[17]

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."[18] 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."[19]

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."[20] 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.[6]

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, Glen Murakami, and Bruce Timm Nominated
Voice Acting in a Feature Production Mark Hamill Nominated
DVD Exclusive Award Best Animated Character Performance Won

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Backstage - Rejected/Unproduced Series & Movie Pitches". The World's Finest. popgeeks.com. Retrieved 5 February 2021.
  2. ^ Dini, Paul (4 February 2021). Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, The Official Screenplay. New York, NY: Watson-Guptill Publications. p. 6. ISBN 978-0-8230-7717-5. Retrieved 5 February 2021.
  3. ^ Riesman, Abraham (5 February 2020). "The Hidden Story of Harley Quinn and How She Became the Superhero World's Most Successful Woman". Vulture. Retrieved 5 February 2021.
  4. ^ The world's Finest - Batman Beyond: Return of The Joker
  5. ^ The world's Finest - Batman Beyond: Return of The Joker
  6. ^ a b c Conrad, Jeremy (23 April 2002). "Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (Uncut)". IGN. Retrieved 5 February 2021.
  7. ^ Meenan, Devin (14 July 2020). "10 Differences Between The Censored & Uncut Versions Of Batman Beyond: Return Of The Joker". Comic Book Resources. Retrieved 5 February 2021.
  8. ^ "Backstage - ROTJ Adaptation". The World's Finest. popgeeks.com. Retrieved 5 February 2021.
  9. ^ "Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker Release Information for Game Boy Color". GameFAQs. Retrieved 2013-05-11.
  10. ^ "Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker Release Information for PlayStation". GameFAQs. Retrieved 2013-05-11.
  11. ^ "Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker Release Information for Nintendo 64". GameFAQs. Retrieved 2013-05-11.
  12. ^ "Batman Beyond: The Return of the Joker by Michael Teitelbaum". Goodreads. Goodreads, Inc. Retrieved 5 February 2021.
  13. ^ AllMusic review
  14. ^ "Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (2000)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Archived from the original on 2009-10-22. Retrieved 2021-10-07. Edit this at Wikidata
  15. ^ Goplan, Nisha (May 10, 2002). "Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (The Original, Uncut Version) Review". Entertainment Weekly.
  16. ^ Review by Gerry Shamray, Sun Newspapers of Cleveland, 7 February 2003
  17. ^ Review Archived December 23, 2007, at the Wayback Machine, Ryan Cracknell, Apollo Guide, 24 July 2001
  18. ^ Review, Peter Canavese, Groucho Reviews, 15 February 2005
  19. ^ Review Archived May 25, 2008, at the Wayback Machine, Michael Stailey, DVD Verdict, May 27, 2002
  20. ^ "Review". Archived from the original on June 28, 2007. Retrieved September 2, 2016., Garth Franklin, Dark Horizons, December 12th 2000

External links[edit]