No laughing matter February 16th, 2003

Ninja Review: Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker Uncut DVD

Ninjatron is going to talk about one of his favourite movies ever.

"Huh? An animated Batman movie? How can that be anybody's favourite? Isn't that kid's stuff?"

If that's what you're thinking now, then prepare to be smartened up, junior.


The Story

This is tough. How can I exclaim the greatness of this movie without spoiling it for those who have yet to see it? Well, I'm about to try, because no one should know the whole story of this movie before seeing it.

Batman and Batgirl flashback Batman Beyond

This movie ties in to both the Batman and Batman Beyond animated series, and acts as a bridge between the two. For the benefit of those who have never seen Batman Beyond, allow me to bring you up to speed in a fairly rudimentary manner.

Terry and Bruce Terry

- It's the future. Bruce Wayne is a bitter old man and has given up on being Batman for several years. Much of his family's business no longer belongs to him, and he's been working to regain full ownership.

- Terry McGinnis is a high school punk kid who's father was murdered. He becomes the new Batman (and Bruce Wayne's assistant) when he stumbles upon the Batcave and puts on a high-tech Bat-suit last worn during Wayne's last days as Batman to get revenge on the killers.

Terry and Barbara The Jokerz

- Barbara Gordon, who used to be Batgirl, is now the Police Commissioner just as her father was all those years ago.

- A gang calling themselves "The Jokerz" has been a large nuisance to the city. There are several different groups and each member has a clown-like gimmick. They are not major villains, however. More like street thugs.

- Most of the action throughout the series, with only a few exceptions, has centered around new villains, not futuristic versions of classic Batman foes.

- Everything else is mysterious. Oooh.

Yeah, what's wrong with you? If this is new information, I pity you.

But really, if you didn't know all of that, then that means you haven't seen any Batman Beyond. If that is indeed the case, my question is this. What's wrong with you? Do you have something against top quality entertainment or something?

So, with that out of the way, let's get to the meat of the story. Or at least, a little slice of it.

The Future Joker Joker and Harley Quinn flashback

The Joker, one of the greatest animated villains of all time (if not THE greatest), has returned to Gotham City in the future. How can the Joker be alive at this time? How do the uncharacteristic crimes of his new gang tie in to his grand designs? The new Batman has to stop him from realizing his plan to take the city as his own, but Bruce Wayne isn't talking. It all ties into an incredible flashback sequence, in the style of the New Adventures of Batman series, detailing the untold story of Joker and Batman's last meeting that will chill you to the bone.

And that's all I'm going to say, and maybe even that is too much.

Joker and Harley Jolly Jack Candy Factory

The animation is amazing. It's incredibly fluid and expressive. There are some bone-crunchingly brutal fight scenes, and the explosions are massive. The backgrounds and character design is, as usual, brilliant.

Jokerz Amazing Gotham skyline

The music is intense, mixing the dark, classical style of the original Batman with the techno influence of Beyond. You wouldn't think that something like that would work. but it does.

The voice acting is phenomenal. Forget about Keaton, Kilmer, and Clooney. Kevin Conroy IS Bruce Wayne. And Mark Hamill, beyond a shadow of a doubt, is amazing. Luke Skywalker? Nah, Mark Hamill should be best known as the Joker. He's just so damn good at it. They both own those roles for a lifetime. The rest of the cast also all perform very well.

Batman and Batgirl Batman and Joker flashback

But most of all, the story is what makes this movie shine the most. It's deep, dark, and sometimes disturbing, but always engaging. Put the little kids to bed, this might be a bit too much for them. There are also some good messages about responsibility and individual identity in here.

Bruce and Terry Batman Beyond

All of these elements come together so perfectly. I can enjoy this movie as an animation enthusiast, a movie lover, an artist, a fan boy, and in several other ways of thinking. I say that Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker is the pinnacle of all direct to video animation from around the world. Believe it.

The Disk

What we've got here, despite never being intended for theaters, is a widescreen movie. The box might say it's standard and has been formatted to fit the screen, but don't be fooled; It's a misprint. However, some say that it's supposed to be in the standard 4:3 format, and this DVD was cropped into a widescreen format. Whatever. I don't let it bother me. The picture is nice and shiny and the sound is great. All the bases are covered there.

Jokerz Classic Joker

As far as extras go, the most exciting is a commentary by the filmmakers. Bruce Timm, Paul Dini, Glen Murakami, and director Curt Geda talk about how the movie came about and the effort they all put into it. his is a rare chance to hear these guys speak their minds. There's also some funny behind the scenes stuff. Certainly worth a listen if you're a fan of their work throughout the Batman series and if you are interested in animation. It's also worth checking out if you're an anime fan, because they talk about TMS, the Japanese studio that animated the movie, as they bring up some very interesting parallels between it and another very famous TMS production, Akira.

Other than that there's some story boards from deleted scenes, character bios, an interesting documentary with the voice actors, trailers, and a music video starring some guy with his hair sticking up like Batman ears along with some scantly clad girls.

Joker More Joker

But the real bonus here is that this is the Uncut version of the movie. When this movie was first released, much of what you see in this movie was toned down significantly, and a very important plot point was changed entirely. I've seen that version and it's still every bit as entertaining, but I refused to buy a copy to own. It was only after several complaints and petitions from many fans that Warner Bros. finally buckled under the pressure and released the film again, uncut. Now, this isn't about pretending to be cool because I watch violent cartoons or other such nonsense. This is about the original vision of the artists' involved getting its fair shake, uncorrupted by stuffed suits who erroneously believe that they have some creativity. I'm very pleased that Warner Bros. released this version of the movie after all, and I hope that they intend on considering their older fans in the future.

Creepy. Just Creepy. The red was changed to purple in the edited version so it wouldn't look like blood.

Conclusion

You know, what I really like about this movie is that it establishes Terry McGinnis very firmly. He IS Batman. He's a very different kind of Batman to be sure (which becomes an important part of the story), but he is Batman no less. I hope that they don't stop here. I want to see more Batman Beyond.

Batman Beyond = Bad Ass Awesome Shot

I really can't say enough good things about this movie. Please buy it. Please share it with your friends and have a good time. Please help support high quality, intelligent animation in North America, and make sure that Warner Bros. knows that we like this kind of stuff.

Maybe it seems like I'm overselling this film, and it's can't possibly live up to the hype I'm giving it. Well I don't care.

I love this movie.

And so should you.

Sayonara.

What did you think of Return of the Joker? Hit the message board and discuss!

Holy Bat-Links!

Batman Beyond Official Website Neat Flash site.

DC Comics Batman's Comic Book Publishers.

Toon Zone Excellent animation fan site!

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