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Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (also known as Batman of the Future: Return of the Joker in Europe and Australia) is a 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 crimefighting and given the mantle of Batman to high school student Terry McGinnis. 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, returns in the title role.

Before its release, the movie was heavily edited to remove scenes of 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 MPAA for violence.

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

Plot

Terry McGinnis, as Batman, foils a heist by a new group of Jokerz in a high security lab, although the eqiupment they attempt to steal is destroyed. Terry returns to the Batcave and voices his surprise to Bruce Wayne at the Jokerz' sudden love for high-tech, and also learns from the news that Bruce, following the arrest and conviction of Paxton Powers, has regained full control of Wayne-Powers, renaming it Wayne Enterprises. Meanwhile, at an abandoned candy factory, the Jokerz are reprimanded by their enigmatic leader, none other than the original Joker, who kills one of them, Bonk, for defying him and expressing doubt over his status as the real Joker. With the Jokerz now in check, the Joker plans another similar heist at Wayne Enterprises during a return speech by Bruce Wayne. During this raid, he makes his return known to the public, also implying that he knows Bruce was the original Batman when he comments that Bruce should know him better than anyone. Terry, as Batman, intervenes- the Joker criticising his new costume over the old version-, but is forced to allow the Joker to escape in order to save some citizens.

Bruce staunchly insists that it cannot be the real Joker, whose death he claims to have witnessed decades before, yet all evidence points to him being the genuine article. Unable to learn anything about the Joker from Barbara Gordon, Terry speculates that Bruce killed the Joker to prevent him from committing a particularly heinous crime. Bruce, unwilling to let Terry face the Joker whether the man is an impostor or not, demands that he return the Batsuit, to which Terry only complies after a heated argument.

Later on, as Terry is dancing with his girlfriend Dana at a nightclub, he is attacked by the Jokerz, who have been sent by the Joker to kill him. At the same time, the Joker himself ambushes and attacks Bruce in the Batcave, leaving him for dead. Dana is injured, but Terry evades the Jokerz and Dana is taken to Gotham General Hospital. Terry rushes to Wayne Manor, and finds Bruce half-dead from Joker venom. Terry quickly administers an antidote, and tends to Bruce with Barbara's help

After insisting on being let in on what happened to the original Joker, Barbara reluctantly reveals his final criminal act. The Joker and his sidekick, Harley Quinn, kidnapped Tim Drake, Robin, and transformed him into a son of sorts through brutal physical and psychological torture, bleaching his skin white, dying his hair green, giving him a purple suit, and contorting his lips into a rictus reminiscent of the Joker's. In the process, Tim was forced to tell the Joker everything about Batman, explaining how the Joker knew Batman's identity. Batman chased the Joker through Arkham and fought him but was severely injured. The Joker saw an opportunity and gave Tim a gun; Tim, however, briefly regained his senses and instead opened fire on the Joker, killing him instantly. Batman and Batgirl buried the Joker's body beneath Arkham Asylum, while Harley fell into a pit during a battle with Batgirl and was never found. Following the incident, Dr. Leslie Thompkins helped rehabilitate Tim. Bruce forbades Tim from ever donning his mantle again, vowing to never put another young partner in danger. Tim eventually settled down with a wife and family, and currently holds a job as a communications engineer. Terry, however, remains suspicious of Tim.

Terry decides to question Tim, who denies any involvement with the Joker and expresses resentment about his past life as Robin. Terry then suspects Jordan Price, a bitter executive who would have taken control of Wayne-Powers were it not for Bruce's return and who partially resembles the Joker without makeup. However, Terry finds the Jokerz on Price's yacht, trying to kill him. He rescues Price before a satellite laser weapon destroys the boat, then turns him into the police, having recorded an admission of guilt before rescuing him.

Back in the Batcave, Terry's attention is drawn to Tim's Robin costume, the only costume in Batman's memorial that the Joker apparently destroyed. Remembering Tim's resentment of the role, Terry deduces that Tim must be behind the Joker, especially when Terry discovers that the high-tech equipment the Jokerz have been stealing can be combined to form a satellite jamming station which can take over control of any satellite, thus explaining how the Joker destroyed Price's yacht. Bruce is skeptical, but nonetheless sends Terry to question Tim again. Terry tries to confront Tim at his job site, but is lured into a trap by the Joker, who reveals that he and Tim are indeed working together. Escaping in the Batmobile, he is then chased through Gotham by the laser-armed satellite.

When the Joker inexplicably stops trying to kill him, Terry tracks the Joker to the candy factory. After fighting off the Jokerz, he discovers Tim Drake. Tim initially seems to be confused, but quickly turns on Terry, revealing that he is the Joker, subsequently transforming into the villain. As part of Tim's transformation years prior, the Joker implanted a microchip in Tim carrying his encoded DNA and consciousness years ago during his captivity and tortures, allowing the Joker to physically transform Tim into a clone of himself. At present, the process is erratic, with residual memories being dismissed by Tim as bad dreams, but soon Tim's transformation into the Joker will be permanent.

The Joker prepares to fire the satellite on Gotham again, targeting Wayne Manor, Dana's hospital, and Terry's house, ultimately burning a path of destruction into Gotham City in the shape of a smiley face. Before he can fire, Terry sets Bruce's guard dog, Ace, on the Joker. The Joker's deadly joy buzzer is knocked into the controls in the confrontation, destroying the beam's guidance system and causing it to head for the factory.

The Joker attempts to escape, but Terry seals the factory, and the two adversaries face off in a final confrontation. Unable to overcome the Joker, who has Tim's combat training and experience of Bruce's own skills, Terry switches to psychological warfare, mocking the Joker's obsession with Batman and his inability to make the original Batman laugh, sending him into a crazed fury. An enraged Joker throws a handful of grenades at his opponent, sending Terry crashing to the floor. The Joker pins him to the ground and begins to strangle him, angrily taunting at him to laugh. Having retrieved the joy buzzer, Terry complies as he uses it to destroy the microchip containing the Joker's consciousness, destroying the Clown Prince of Crime once and for all. Tim reverts to his old self, and Terry escapes with Tim and Ace before the satellite destroys the factory, taking the satellite jammer with it and stopping the beam forever.

In the city jail, two of the Jokerz, the Dee-Dee twins (Delia and Deidre Dennis), are revealed to be the twin granddaughters of the elderly Harley Quinn ("Nana Harley"), who survived the fall from Arkham. She bails them out while lamenting what disappointments they are. Meanwhile, Terry meets Tim properly in the hospital while Tim is talking with Barbara. Bruce arrives just as Terry leaves, and tells Terry that it is not being Batman that makes him a worthwhile person, but the other way round. Bruce joins Barbara and Tim in the hospital room and they finally make amends. The film ends with Terry donning the Batsuit and flying off into the heart of Gotham City.

Cast

Actor Role
Will Friedle Terry McGinnis / Future Batman
Kevin Conroy Bruce Wayne / Original Batman
Mark Hamill The Joker

Jordan Price
Angie Harmon Commissioner Barbara Gordon
Dean Stockwell Tim Drake
Teri Garr Mary McGinnis
Arleen Sorkin Harley Quinn
Tara Strong Barbara Gordon / Batgirl (young)
Mathew Valencia Tim Drake / Robin (young)
Melissa Joan Hart Delia & Deidre Dennis / Dee-Dee
Don Harvey Charles Buntz / Chucko
Michael Rosenbaum Stewart Carter Winthrop III / Ghoul
Henry Rollins Benjamin Knox / Bonk
Rachael Leigh Cook Chelsea Cunningham
Frank Welker Woof the Hyena-Man

Ace the Bat-Hound
Lauren Tom Dana Tan
Mary Scheer Mrs. Drake
Vernee Watson-Johnson Ms. Joyce Carr


Connections to the television series

  • 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 the supervillain, Chronos. In the episode, Terry is killed by the Jokerz, but the original Batman/Bruce Wayne and Green Lantern manage to subdue Chronos and put things right, therefore restoring Terry and returning the Jokerz to normal.
  • In the Justice League Unlimited episode "Epilogue", it was revealed that the genetics technology used by the Joker had been stolen from Project Cadmus.
  • Continuity-wise, Return of the Joker appears to be set after Batman Beyond's third season episode "King's Ransom" where Paxton Powers is arrested, therefore leaving Wayne-Powers up for grabs. It would be fair to assume the film takes place after the entire series, as none of the plot elements get followed up on until the Justice League Unlimited episodes, and no mention is made of the Joker or Tim Drake during the third season. Producer Bruce Timm has reportedly stated that the events in said flashback take place at the end of the current DCAU timeline (post-"Destroyer" and pre-"Rebirth"), although Batman appears in his costume from The New Batman Adventures while the Joker retains his Justice League appearance, which was first created here and then utilized for Justice League later. This is simply because the movie was created prior to the Justice League series.
  • The Joker's remains have appeared on an episode of Batman Beyond, "Joyride," which the Jokerz used for their initiation ritual.


Re-editing

"That's not funny..."
The Joker's death in the original cut (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 massacremarker; as a result, the movie was substantially re-edited shortly before release to tone down 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 has been released as "The Original Uncut Version." This story was broken by Jim Harvey from The World's Finest.

The following are scenes that were changed in the edited-for-content version:
  • In general, references to death and killing are removed, leaving most of it implied instead of apparent.
  • The opening fight sequence is trimmed, cutting, among other things, a second Dee-Dee kick and a taser attack which explains Batman's subsequent vision malfunction. There is a 360-degree fight sequence which is also removed, where Batman fends off the Jokerz one by one.
  • White flashes have been added to the action sequences where there were previously none. Additionally, repeated punches have been mostly trimmed down to one punch. For example, Woof slashes the guard once instead of twice. Batman no longer punches Ghoul in the gut; he just uppercuts him into the dish. Later on in the club, Terry's attack on Ghoul is cut to a flash and Terry running away while Ghoul falls.
  • When Bruce throws a Batarang in the Batcave, it appears as though he's simply pleased that he can still throw and catch the weapon, instead of showing the scene in the middle where it decapitates a Two-Face mannequin.
  • Seat belts are added to Terry and Bruce as they drive home after their first meeting with the new Joker as well as in the chase scenes in the Batmobile.
  • After Bonk tells the Joker, "I think you're a fake!", the Joker comes back by saying "Ah, brave new world, that has such putzes in it." It has been changed to "brave new world, that has such yutzes in it."
  • Bonk is not shot with Joker's flag-spear gun, but instead given a dose of Joker laughing gas, taking his implied death off-screen and adding a number of visual and audio edits to account for the fact. Because of this, the following loyalty oath sequence is cut.
  • The club fight is changed. Chucko no longer punches Terry and says, "I don't know why the boss wants a dreg like you outta the way, but hey, as long as it's fun..." He just goes for his gun and says, "Slag him!"
  • When Terry enters the Batcave to find it demolished by the Joker, the letters 'HA! HA!' written across the floor are changed from red to purple, probably to assure the viewer it is written in spray paint rather than Bruce's blood (a still in the scene selection on the DVD retains the red paint despite the edit).
  • During a montage where Batman and Batgirl comb the underworld looking for clues about Robin's disappearance, Batgirl talks to a nicely-dressed man (Martin LeBeau from the Superman: The Animated Series episode "Feeding Time") and woman instead of two scantily clad women, clearly intended to be prostitute, on a street corner. These two women appeared in The New Batman Adventures as Batgirl's sources in the episode "The Ultimate Thrill". The blonde is based on an early Black Canary character design later seen in Justice League Unlimited.
  • In the unedited version, when Batman (in the flashback) frees himself from the Joker's ribbon wrap, he throws the knife that he used to free himself with at the Joker. The Joker ducks at the last second and the blade goes through the stage curtain. This is removed from the edited version, though the hole remains.
  • Two of the Joker's lines are changed. One line, "I'll begin with how I peeled back the layers of the boy's mind," is changed to, "I'll begin with how I affected young Robin's makeover."
  • More than half of the "Our Family Memories" home movie is cut out, only showing Robin tied up and struggling, and cutting the scene where the Joker opens the barbecue lids, picks up the voltage tongs, and shocks Robin.
  • While The Joker is Shocking Tim, The Joker says "Then all too soon, the serums and the shocks took their toll, and the dear Lad began to share such secrets with me," was replaced with "But all too soon, The Dear Lad began to share such secrets with me,"
  • All other blood is removed. Only one example was passed over: in the flashback sequence when the original Batman smashes through the projection, he punches the Joker. Blots of blood fly from the Joker's mouth, but he is not bleeding in the next shot.
  • The Joker no longer slices Batman across the chest or in the leg (originally intended to explain why Bruce walks with a limp in Batman Beyond); he just punches Batman. However, the knife handle is still visible in the Joker's hand and Batman's shirt is still torn.
  • The Joker originally wanted Robin to shoot Batman with a gun, saying, "Make Daddy proud, deliver the punch-line." In the edited version, it is implied that the gun, as in Bonk's scene, was just intended to kill Bruce with laughing gas. The Joker's line is thus changed to "Make him one of us." The Joker's last line, "The last sound you'll hear will be our laughter," is kept in.
  • As a result of the previous changed scene, Tim instead discards the gun and attacks the Joker, pushing him into some glass water tanks, smashing them. The Joker also gets entangled in a mess of electric cables. As the Joker advances again, he slips in the water and accidentally throws an electrical switch, thus electrocuting himself off screen. The dialogue in the subsequent scene is changed, with no mention of the Joker being buried under Arkham Asylum. When Tim drops down to cry, the gun is right next to him. When Batgirl comes to comfort him, the gun is gone.
  • Barbara's dialogue is once more altered from "...she was able to help Tim back to sanity" to "...she was able to help Tim back to himself."
  • Terry's dialogue is altered from "I'm assuming his girlfriend bought it, too" to "And since you saw Harley fall into the pit..."
  • When Ace watches part of a Looney Tunes episode on the TV ("Hare Ribbin'") where a dog thinks he killed Bugs Bunny, the dog on TV says "I don't deserve to live!" over and over instead of moving on to saying "I wish I were dead!" twice.
  • The introduction to the scene on the Wayne Enterprises yacht between Jordan Pryce and his female friend is excised.
  • Jordan Pryce's dialogue is changed from "...bunglers tried to kill Wayne" to "...bunglers tried to ice Wayne."
  • Bruce says "Robin defeated him" instead of "Robin did shoot him."
  • In the scene where the satellite laser chases the Batmobile, it blasts an unmarked, dark, seemingly empty building. Originally, it was a lit movie theater. In the edited version, the word "cineplex" can be seen exploding out of the wreckage in the last few frames of the shot.
  • Further into the scene where the satellite laser chases the Batmobile as a condensed beam of light, in the uncut version it passes over a plaza with people in it. This scene is cut from the edited version completely.
  • As Tim Drake is recounting past events of the Joker's death, his dialogue was altered from "Oh God. I killed him. I didn't mean to. I tried so hard to forget...but I still hear the shot, still see his dead smile." to "Oh God. I did it. I didn't mean to. I tried so hard to forget...but I can still hear his scream. I can still see his frozen smile."
  • Right before Tim Drake turns into the Joker, he says "It's a killer." It's altered to "It's a doozy."
  • The Joker's dialogue of asking Terry if he had "any last words for the Bat-Fart" now changed to "any last words for the old Bat-Coot".
  • When Harley takes the Dee-Dee twins into her custody the color of her jacket is changed from blue to red, presumably to make her identity more apparent.


Critical reception

Return of the Joker has received mostly positive reviews from critics. It currently holds an 86% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the fourth highest for any Batman movie (behind Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero, and The Dark Knight ).

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

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." 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."

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."

Comic adaptation

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, wasn't altered. As a result, the rest of the story refers to the Joker being shot as opposed to electrocuted and killed.

The comic includes several scenes that didn't make it to either versions of the film, such as:
  • Bruce's visit to the remains of Arkham Asylum to find clues on the Joker's return. He is unknowingly followed by Terry. (Storyboard drawings, however, do appear as deleted scenes, which was present on both versions of the DVD as part of the special features.)
  • Batman's interrogation of The Penguin in the flashback.
Both were part of the script that got cut out of the movie due to time and pacing concerns, as confirmed in the commentary.

Soundtrack

  1. "Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (Main Title)"
  2. "Industrial Heist
  3. "Meet the Joker"
  4. "Joker Crashes Bruce's Party"
  5. "Terry Relieved of Duty"
  6. "Nightclub Fight / Terry Rescues Bruce"
  7. "A Trap for Tim"
  8. "Joker Family Portrait"
  9. "Arkham Mayhem"
  10. "Batman Defeats the Jokerz"
  11. "Joker Meets His End (Again)"
  12. "Healing Old Wounds"
  13. "Crash (The Humble Brothers Remix)" by Mephisto Odyssey Feat. Static-X
  14. "Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (End Title)" by Kenny Wayne Shepherd


Behind the scenes

  • Both Jordan Pryce and the Joker were played by Mark Hamill. This furthered the idea of Price being a red-herring, as Price was not only designed after the Joker but shared his voice actor.
  • 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 playing Lex Luthor on Smallville. While in the recording studio, he would often do a Christopher Walken impression; when they were commissioned to create this film, they modeled the character on Rosenbaum's Walken impression. Christopher Walken played villainous business tycoon Max Shreck in the film Batman Returns.
  • Although Harley Quinn was originally set to be killed in the flashback sequence, 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. When the old woman scolds the two twins, one of them replies: "Shut up, Nana Harley!" 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; Timm chose to retain it because he felt it provided some necessary comic relief.
  • Upon being shot, Bonk's corpse was set to be seen throughout the rest of the scene in the background twitching, 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".
  • Also in the "Our Family Memories" video, the table was supposed to have surgical tools rather than the final's bagels, plungers, and cream cheese.
  • Paul Dini makes a cameo during the first few minutes of the movie.


References

  1. Review, Nisha Gopalan, Entertainment Weekly, May 07, 2002
  2. Review by Gerry Shamray, Sun Newspapers of Cleveland, 7 February 2003
  3. Review, Ryan Cracknell, Apollo Guide, 24 July 2001
  4. Review, Peter Canavese, Groucho Reviews, 15 February 2005
  5. Review, Michael Stailey, DVD Verdict, May 27th, 2002
  6. Review, Garth Franklin, Dark Horizons, December 12th 2000


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