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Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker

Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (also known as Batman of the Future: Return of the Joker) is a 2000 American direct-to-video superhero mystery 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 sequel to both Batman: The Animated Series and The New Batman Adventures. As in the TV series, Will Friedle and Kevin Conroy star as Terry McGinnis and Bruce Wayne, respectively, and Mark Hamill, who voiced the Joker opposite Conroy in Batman: The Animated Series and The New Batman Adventures, reprises his role. Animation services were done at the Japanese animation studio, TMS Entertainment.

Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker
Batman Beyond - Return of the Joker poster.jpg
Home video release poster
Directed by
  • Curt Geda
Produced by
Screenplay byPaul Dini
Story by
  • Paul Dini
  • Glen Murakami
  • Bruce Timm
Based on
Starring
Music byKristopher Carter
Edited byJoe Gall
Production
companies
Distributed byWarner Home Video
Release date
  • December 12, 2000 (2000-12-12)
(edited)
  • April 23, 2002 (2002-04-23)
(uncut)
Running time
  • 73 minutes (edited)
  • 76 minutes (uncut)
Country
  • United States
LanguageEnglish

Before its release, the film was heavily edited to remove scenes of intense violence, and some dialogue was altered, thus creating the "Not-Rated" version of the film. 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.

PlotEdit

In 2040, the Joker resurfaces in Neo-Gotham City after disappearing decades ago, taking over a faction of the Jokerz gang,[1] and committing break-ins to steal high-tech components.

The Joker attacks a press conference commemorating Bruce Wayne's return as CEO of Wayne Enterprises. Bruce insists that his nemesis, whom he fought as Batman, died after their last battle. He warns his successor Terry McGinnis that the Joker is out of Terry's league, and Terry begrudgingly retires as Batman. At a nightclub, he and his girlfriend Dana are attacked by the Jokerz, revealing that the Joker knows Terry’s identity; simultaneously, the Joker ambushes Bruce in the Batcave, poisoning him with his trademark toxin and injuring his guard dog, Ace. Bruce is hospitalized with the antidote, and Terry retrieves the Batsuit, convincing Commissioner Barbara Gordon to explain the truth surrounding Joker's disappearance.

Thirty-five years ago, after Dick Grayson moved to the adjoining city of Blüdhaven to fight crime alone as Nightwing, the Joker and Harley Quinn kidnapped Tim Drake, Dick's successor as Robin.[2] Batman and Barbara, then Batgirl, were brought to the ruins of Arkham Asylum three weeks later to discover Drake had been tortured by the Joker, who uncovered Batman's secrets and disfigured Drake into a child-like version of himself – Joker, Jr., or "JJ", much to Bruce and Barbara's horror. Batman attacked the Joker while Barbara faced Harley, who fell into a mineshaft under Arkham and disappeared, while Drake overcame his brainwashing long enough to kill the Joker before suffering a mental breakdown. Barbara's father, Commissioner James Gordon, promised to keep the events secret, burying the Joker's body, but Harley's body was never found. Tim was rehabilitated by Bruce's family friend, Dr. Leslie Thompkins, but Bruce forbade him from resuming his vigilante role and vowed never to endanger another young partner. Tim left on bad terms with Bruce to make a new life for himself.

With two leads on who the Joker could be, Terry questions Tim, now a top-level communications expert, who denies any involvement with the Joker and declares he had grown sick of his past life as Robin. Terry meets with Wayne Enterprises' operations manager Jordan Pryce, who resented Bruce for reclaiming the company. On the company yacht, Terry overhears Jordan admit to hiring the Jokerz and giving them access codes to steal equipment, but learns the gang intends to kill Jordan on the Joker's orders. Terry rescues Pryce before the yacht is destroyed by an orbital military satellite, giving him to the police with his recorded conversation with the Jokerz. Returning to the Batcave, Terry examines the damage left by the Joker. Realizing the Robin outfit was ripped apart but the other costumes left unharmed, he deduces that Tim is working with the Joker. Analyzing the stolen components per Tim's expertise, Terry learns that the Joker has created a satellite-jamming device to hijack military satellites and strike ground targets at will.

Tracing the Joker to the abandoned Jolly Jack Candy Factory, Terry discovers that Tim is the Joker, who reveals that after kidnapping Robin, he implanted him with a microchip built from cutting-edge genetics technology, infused with the Joker's consciousness and genes, gradually transforming Tim into a Joker clone. The Joker explains his plan to destroy three targets by satellite: the hospital where Dana is recovering; Terry's home with his mother and brother; and Wayne Manor, where Bruce is. Despite the Joker’s extensive knowledge of Bruce's tactics, Terry improvises with own street fighting techniques and taunts. Using the Joker's own joy buzzer, which inadvertently redirected the military satellite to target the factory, Terry destroys the Joker's microchip, reverting Tim to his old self and destroying the Joker permanently. The pair escape the factory as it and the satellite-jammer are destroyed.

With the Jokerz mostly imprisoned, the twins Dee Dee are bailed out by an elderly Harley, who is revealed to have survived the fall decades ago. Bruce and Tim thank Terry for saving their lives, acknowledging his worth to the Batman mantle before reconciling in Barbara's presence. Donning the Batsuit yet again, Terry flies off into the night sky.

CastEdit

ProductionEdit

The film was put in production after the cancellation of Boyd Kirkland's Batman: Arkham, the intended sequel to Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero, as well as the planned third Batman: The Animated Series feature film.[1] It was produced during the second and third season of Batman Beyond, and aired as part of the third season, specifically after the episodes "King's Ransom" and "Untouchable", although in fact, the movie's events could have happened even after "Unmasked", the show's series finale, as there is no reference to the previous two mentioned episodes. Something interesting to note is that the show's recurring character Maxine "Max" Gibson is inexplicably absent from the film.

The design of the Joker in the film was the second revamp of physical appearance, after his redesign in The New Batman Adventures. This design was later used in the episodes "Injustice for All", "Only a Dream, Part 1" and "Wild Cards" of Justice League and in the episode "The Big Leagues" of Static Shock.[2] According to the DVD commentary, Joker's new design was based on an illustration of Hannibal Lecter from the novel The Silence of the Lambs. The design of the character of Chucko was inspired in a clown costume of Eric Radomski, while the character of Ghoul's design was loosely based on The Scarecrow, one of Batman's original foes. The character of Woof was created as a tribute to Bud and Lou, the pet hyenas of The Joker in Batman: The Animated Series. Dee Dee's original designs were also very different from the final ones, resembling very much the classic disguise of her grandmother Harley Quinn.[3]

Besides the main cast of the TV series (who returned to reprise their roles), the producers also cast Michael Rosenbaum, a voice actor that voiced many characters in Batman Beyond, as Ghoul, one of the Joker's Jokerz. The others were voiced by other DCAU voice actors. According to the DVD commentary, Rosenbaum modeled his voice on that of actor Christopher Walken. Rosenbaum's performance ended up leading the producers to gave him the role of The Flash in Justice League. Dean Stockwell was cast as an adult Tim Drake, being inspired by one of his earliest roles in The Boy with Green Hair when he was a child actor, while casting director Andrea Romano played young Tim when he was Joker Junior. Mark Hamill, apart of reprising his role as the Joker, also voiced Jordan Pryce, a red herring character, in the film, in order to deceive the public about the new Joker's true identity. Tara Strong, who voiced Barbara Gordon/Batgirl, was first credited as Tara Charendoff, her maiden name. For the scene of the old Harley Quinn, Bruce Timm originally wanted to cast an old actress for the role, but at the end, he decided to maintain Arleen Sorkin in the role.

In the early drafts of the film's script, Joker's sidekick 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 Dee Dee (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. The Hyperion-class Satellite idea was taken from Katsuhiro Otomo's sci-fi film Akira. The Jolly Jack Candy Factory, the resurrected 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.

Many scenes written in the film's original script, like one featuring The Penguin being interrogated by Batman at the Iceberg Lounge during the flashback sequence in order to discover the whereabouts of The Joker and Robin or one showing the Jokerz being arrested by Barbara Gordon and the Gotham City Police Department, were deleted due to time constraints. Woof even had a line in the original script, but it was cut.[4] The scene in which Bruce listens to records taken from The New Batman Adventures episode "Holiday Knights" was originally planned to retain the episode's animation, but at the end it was edited to replace the Joker's old appearance.[5] Even although many scenes were deleted from the final cut, some planned scenes were storyboarded but never made. For example, it was originally intended that after being shot at the film's beginning, Bonk's corpse 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. Another deleted concept was that 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, but it was changed due being too gruesome.

Re-editingEdit

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 released amid the backlash against violence in films 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 film was substantially re-edited shortly before release on December 12, 2000, to reduce the violence. The original unedited version was eventually released as "The Original Uncut Version" on April 23, 2002.

The following are scenes that were changed in the edited-for-content 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 returning 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 means "dick" as well as "fool". However, the subtitles for the DVD of the edited version still use "putzes".
  • 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 due to the loss of his knee's cartilage and why he needed his cane for support,[6] 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. 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. In addition, the setup lines were changed. In the original uncut version, Joker tells Tim to "make daddy proud, deliver the punch line" and his "last words" were, "That's not funny, that's not...". 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 Dennis 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.
  • Barbara's line, "We buried the Joker deep beneath Arkham" is cut in the edited version.
    • In addition, her line about her father, James Gordon, knowing about the events of Joker's death, was also changed from "He promised to keep our secret" to "And for Robin's sake, he kept that night a secret".
  • When Bruce and Terry are discussing the destroyed Robin suit, Bruce's line "Robin did shoot him" was changed to "Robin defeated him" 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 Dee Dee 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.

Connections to the television seriesEdit

  • In the Batman Beyond episode "Joyride", the Jokerz used the Joker's remains for their initiation ritual. A deleted scene in the film 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 prologue of 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.

SoundtrackEdit

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     [7]

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 receptionEdit

The film received critical acclaim for its story, voice acting, animation, and score. According to the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 90% of critics have given the film a positive review based on 10 reviews, with an average rating of 7.71/10. 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."[8]

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."[9] Gerry Shamray of Sun Newspapers said that Return of the Joker "would have made a great live-action Batman movie."[10] Ryan Cracknell of Apollo Guide called the film "an animated masterpiece."[11]

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."[12] 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."[13]

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."[14] 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.[15]

AccoladesEdit

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

Comic adaptationEdit

The comic adaption of the film was released in February 2001. While the comic was largely uncensored, the page depicting the Joker's death was redone to match the censored version of the movie.[16]

The comic includes several scenes that did not make it to either version of the film. Examples are:

  • During Bruce's visit to the remains of Arkham Asylum to find clues 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 (similar to a scene of the novel Batman: The Killing Joke) in the flashback was cut from the movie due to time and pacing concerns, as confirmed in the commentary.
  • Harley's death from the original script is used.

NotesEdit

1.^ According to the screenplay, what happened to Tim Drake and the Joker was over 35 years ago.[17]
2.^ In the continuity of Batman: The Animated Series and The New Batman Adventures, Tim Drake is the second Robin.

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ http://www.worldsfinestonline.com/WF/sections/backstage/abandoned/
  2. ^ http://jl.toonzone.net/joker/joker.htm
  3. ^ http://www.catsuka.com/gengal/batman/beyond/beyond_design_2d27s.jpg
  4. ^ http://www.platypuscomix.net/onlyme/rotj.html
  5. ^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xjSMOrONlhk
  6. ^ Dini, Paul (2000). Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker: The Official Screenplay. New York, NY: Watson-Guptill Publications. p. 91. ISBN 0823077179.
  7. ^ AllMusic review
  8. ^ "Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (2000)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Archived from the original on 2009-10-22. Retrieved 2009-10-23.
  9. ^ Goplan, Nisha (May 10, 2002). "Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (The Original, Uncut Version) Review". Entertainment Weekly.
  10. ^ Review by Gerry Shamray, Sun Newspapers of Cleveland, 7 February 2003
  11. ^ Review Archived December 23, 2007, at the Wayback Machine, Ryan Cracknell, Apollo Guide, 24 July 2001
  12. ^ Review, Peter Canavese, Groucho Reviews, 15 February 2005
  13. ^ Review Archived May 25, 2008, at the Wayback Machine, Michael Stailey, DVD Verdict, May 27, 2002
  14. ^ "Review". Archived from the original on June 28, 2007. Retrieved September 2, 2016., Garth Franklin, Dark Horizons, December 12th 2000
  15. ^ Conrad, Jeremy (April 23, 2002). "Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (Uncut)". IGN. Retrieved September 4, 2013.
  16. ^ ROTJ Page Comparison
  17. ^ Dini, Paul (2000). Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker: The Official Screenplay. New York, NY: Watson-Guptill Publications. p. 71. ISBN 0823077179.

External linksEdit