At the beginning of 1999, as everyone was talking about the new century/millennium that was fast approaching, a new Batman appeared to give us a glimpse of what the future might bring. When Batman Beyond first debuted, I was curious about it as the initial concept sounded pretty interesting. So I watched the pilot movie and thought it was incredibly well done and couldn’t wait to watch the cartoon when it started up on a weekly basis. Now some time after the show started, there were some rumors that started up saying that the 5th Batman movie might possibly be based on this new cartoon. If there is one thing that I will never forgive Batman & Robin for, it is the fact that they deprived us of the chance for a live action version. However, they made up for it by making an animated film involving the Joker and bringing Mark Hamill in to reprise the character. As soon as I first saw the ad for this movie I knew I had to watch it so I bought the DVD as soon as it came out, then upgraded it to Blu-Ray a few years ago. So let’s sit back and enjoy today’s movie, Batman Beyond: Return Of The Joker.
The plot: In the year 2040, a gang of Jokerz (Bonk, Chucko, Ghoul, the Dee Dee twins (Deidre and Delia Dennis), and Woof (who has been spliced with hyena genes)) are stealing some high tech equipment when Batman (Terry McGinnis) shows up to stop them. Batman works on taking them out but gets briefly distracted by the Dee Dees when he sees them cowering in fear only to have one of them hit him with a taser when he turns his back and they both attack him. He manages to get away from them but Woof bites him and as Ghoul goes to help Woof, Bonk, Chucko, and the Dee Dees manage to get away with the equipment. Batman knocks out Woof and Ghoul and gives chase and when he attacks Bonk, he disengages from the device and flies off after him, leaving the other two unable to continue carrying the device. The Dee Dee that is with Bonk tries to attack Batman but ends up falling off the lifter. Batman manages to snag her with a grapple but Bonk attacks him. The other Dee Dee uses her lifter to save her sister as the device crashes to the ground and Chucko grabs the memory board from it before Dee Dee picks him up and they fly away before it explodes. Bonk continues attacking Batman but is struck by a flag pole and hangs onto it. Batman manages to jump from the lifter before it crashes but when he recovers, he sees that the Jokerz have gotten away. Returning to the Batcave, Terry tells Bruce about the Jokerz when he notices the news broadcast talking about Bruce returning to take control of Wayne Enterprises. Terry comments about some disparaging remarks from Jordan Price, who had been in line to run the company before Bruce’s return, and Bruce says he will keep him around so long as he is able to work by his rules. Despite Bruce telling him he should get some sleep, Terry heads out to meet his girlfriend Dana at a club but he ends up falling asleep on his feet there. Meanwhile, the Jokerz return to their hideout at an abandoned Jolly Jack candy factory, where Chucko hands the memory card to their new boss, who says it is worthless. As their boss calls them losers, Bonk loses his temper and yells at him, saying he wants out. The boss, revealing himself to be the Joker, pulls out a gun and threatens to shoot Bonk, who quickly apologizes. When Joker pulls the trigger, a flag with the word “Bang” printed on it pops out and Bonk breathes a sigh of relief, until the Joker pulls the trigger again and the flag is propelled into Bonk’s chest, killing him. Joker then addresses the other Jokerz and after getting a renewed pledge of devotion to him, has Ghoul find another facility that has the equipment they need. When he picks one, Ghoul worries about the security there but Joker says that it will make things more fun. The next night, Bruce and Terry attend a function welcoming Bruce back to the company when the Joker’s laughter is suddenly heard through the speakers just before Woof appears and rushes the stage, avoiding Terry’s attack. Security is called in but they are taken out by Chucko and Ghoul, who then proceed to steal the scanner they were after. Bruce manages to knock Woof aside with his cane, then tells Terry to get to work while he tries to leave but the Dee Dees grab him and knock him back onto the stage, just as Joker appears. Bruce reacts in shock at seeing Joker, who tells Bruce that he is the real deal and he should know, inferring that Joker knows Bruce was Batman. Batman shows up but Joker has Woof deal with him and once he hears from Chucko and Ghoul that they are almost done, he calls for a retreat, detonating some explosives and sending some of the guest falling to the ground, forcing Batman to save them and allowing him to get away. As they are leaving, Terry tries to get some information from Bruce on the Joker, who refuses to tell him anything. The next day, Terry goes to see Barbara Gordon, the police commissioner, who refuses to go into details but tells him that the Joker was like nothing he had ever faced before and to let it drop, then dismisses him as she has an appointment coming in to speak with her. Back at the Batcave, Bruce is analyzing the Joker’s voice from last night with a previous recording from an old crime and the computer says that they match. Terry returns to the Batcave and asks Bruce why he never talked about the Joker, even though he mentioned all of his other criminals. When Bruce says it can’t be the real Joker because he saw him die, Terry asks if he killed him. Bruce doesn’t respond and instead, asks Terry to return the Batsuit, saying he had honored his father’s killers and gone above and beyond to protect the city but he no longer needs to do that. Terry argues that before becoming Batman he was the type of punk that Bruce wouldn’t have wasted a second punch on and this was his way of making amends for his past. When Bruce chastises him, Terry tosses his backpack with the suit inside at his feet and leaves. Later that night, Bruce is working on making some Joker antivenom when Ace hears something and, growling, heads upstairs only to quickly yelp in pain. As Bruce calls out to him, some gas pellets drop down the stairs and Joker appears and confronts Bruce. Meanwhile, Terry heads to a dance club, where Dana is out with some of her friends, and tells her that he no longer has a job so he can focus on her more, which she is happy to hear. Suddenly, the Dee Dees, without their make-up, approach Terry and Dana and separate Terry from Dana, allowing Ghoul to grab her. As Terry tries to find her, the Dee Dees attack him, with Chucko and Woof showing up as well. Dana tries to get away from Ghoul, who ends up shoving her off the raised platform they are on and Terry saves her from getting seriously hurt but she still falls unconscious. As the Jokerz continue trying to attack him, Terry leaves Dana with thier friend Chelsea and tells her to hide, then leads them away before knocking over a giant lava lamp, catching the Jokerz in the rush of falling liquid, then knocks out Chucko when he tries to shoot him. Heading back outside to check on Dana, who is being loaded into an ambulance, Terry tells Chelsea to stay with her, then he gets on his motorcycle and heads to Wayne Manor. As he is driving, Terry calls Bruce and starts to leave a message when he realizes Bruce should have picked up and quickens his pace. When he gets there, he sees the wounded Ace and the entrance to the Batcave broken open and heads down to find the Joker has covered the cave in graffiti. Seeing Bruce lying on the floor, he discovers that he has been infected with the Joker’s toxin but Bruce is able to tell Terry about the antivenom and he quickly grabs it and administers it to Bruce. Terry calls Barbara to help tend to Bruce, then forces her to tell him what happened to the Joker. Barbara tells him that their last encounter with the Joker happened after Dick Grayson had left to become Nightwing; leaving Bruce, herself, and Tim Drake, the new Robin, to patrol Gotham. One day, Robin was captured by Joker and Harley Quinn and for three weeks, Batman and Batgirl searched for him with no sign of him. When they received a package from Joker, they head to the old Arkham Asylum grounds and find Joker and Harley there. Batman approaches them, having Batgirl sneak up to a higher vantage point. Batman asks them about Robin but the feign ignorance, then comment about their “Little J”, and when Batman heads in the direction the indicated, Harley uses her bazooka to trap him. Joker then explains that they have been doing this game for years and he decided it was time to start a family but Harley didn’t want to deal with pregnancy so they simply borrowed one of his kids, then molded him in their own image. Joker then reveals that Tim has been turned into a mirror image of Joker and an enraged Batman breaks free from his bonds and goes after Joker. Batgirl swoops down and knocks Harley back, then tries to talk with Tim to see if he remembers her but Harley attacks her, then tells Tim to get her bazooka. Batgirl renews her attack on Harley, chasing her outside where the building is falling apart. As they argue over what they did to Tim, Tim shows up with the Bazooka and tosses it to Harley, who begins firing at Batgirl but she is able to knock it aside and a stray round causes both of them to fall. Batgirl manages to stop her fall and tries to pull Harley to safety but Harley’s costume rips and she ends up falling to the water below. Meanwhile, Batman continues chasing after Joker, who leads him to the theater room and shows him the video of how he tortured and changed Robin, revealing that in the process Robin told him all of his secrets. Batman smashes through the projection room and assaults Joker, and prepares to kill him but stops when he sees Tim watching them. Joker takes advantage of the distraction to slash Batman with his knife before stabbing him in the leg, then knocking him to the ground. Joker then tosses a gun to Tim and tells him to finish off Batman and, laughing maniacally, Tim pulls the trigger, making the flag come out, but as Joker yells at him to finish it, Tim points the gun at Joker before pulling the trigger again, sending the flag into Joker’s chest. Tim continues laughing before the laughter turns into sobs of pain and Batgirl rushes in and consoles him. Barbara then says that they buried Joker in Arkham, while there was no sign of Harley, and her father helped them hide the truth from everyone but after Tim was restored to sanity, Bruce forbade him from wearing the Robin costume again and Tim eventually left. He became a communications specialist and is now married and has children, which Barbara feels he deserves after what he went through. Terry decides to question Tim, who tells him that he had nothing to do with the Joker and he was just as surprised as anyone when he returned. Leaving Tim, Batman heads off to investigate Jordan Price, as he would also have reason for wanting Bruce out of the way. On his private yacht, Jordan is surprised to find the Jokerz waiting for him and he asks what they want, as he already gave them the codes they needed to rob Wayne Enterprises, and the Jokerz say that their boss wants them to tie up loose ends. Jordan tries to get away but Woof knocks him down and they handcuff him to a table, then contact the Joker. Joker tells them to get out of there and Batman, who had been recording their conversation, tries to stop them but they slip out and Batman moves to follow but notices the light suddenly shining onto the yacht. Freeing Jordan, he gets off the boat with him and heads to shore, just as a laser beam shoots out of the sky and destroys the yacht. Batman gets caught in the wave that formed from the explosion but is able to rescue Jordan and heads to shore, where he turns Jordan, as well as the audio recording of his working with the Jokerz, over to the police. Returning to the Batcave, Terry chastises himself for not being able to figure out where the Joker is when Bruce comes down to the cave. As they discuss Bruce’s reason for not wanting Terry to face off against the Joker, Terry notices that despite all of the cases being smashed, Robin’s costume is the only one that was destroyed. Telling Bruce that Tim might be somehow involved this, he shows him all of the equipment that the Jokerz stole and how someone with Tim’s knowledge can turn it into a satellite jamming system. Bruce accepts Terry’s logic and tells him to suit up and Terry says he needs to bring something with him, staring at Ace. Batman goes to see Tim at his lab but finds it is a hologram, just as the lab is sealed off. Joker appears on the monitor and says that Tim is working for him and explains what he has planned, then invites Batman to try and stop him. Terry manages to get out of the lab and contacts Bruce but Joker interrupts their conversation and uses the satellite to attack the Batmobile, first by firing single shots and then turning the laser into a solid beam of light. As he is laughing at Batman’s plight, Joker suddenly gets woozy and cuts off the transmission, and as the satellite stops firing, Batman heads towards Joker’s hideout. As he nears the Jolly Jack factory, Chucko shoots the Batmobile down but Batman steers it right at him and takes out the tower he was on, knocking him out. Woof appears ready to fight but Terry sends Ace out to deal with him, leaving him free to deal with Ghoul and the Dee Dees. Batman heads inside to find an unconscious Tim on the floor and when Batman questions him, Tim says he doesn’t know anything about the Joker but then suddenly recalls seeing him. Tim seems out of it at first but then tells Terry that he is ok and when Batman asks how he knew his name, Tim says he knows everything about him, then throws a trap at him that incapacitates his suit. Tim then addresses Bruce, as he is watching through the suits video feed, and begins laughing and suddenly transforms into the Joker, shocking Batman and Bruce. Joker explains that he had placed his consciousness onto a microchip and placed it on Tim’s body when he was his captive, intended as a back-up plan. At first, he had to limit the time he was able to take control of Tim’s body, who would always chalk it up to nightmares about the Joker, but over time he was able to take control at will. He then plans on using the satellite to take out Wayne Manor, as well as Terry’s home and the hospital that Dana is in, then taunts Terry and asks if he has any last words for Bruce. Batman says “Yeh, sic ’em”, and Ace leaps out from behind Joker and knocks him into some cables. Batman calls Ace to him, who is able to bite the clamp off of his suit, then rushes at the Joker but Joker uses his joy buzzer to stun Ace. Before Joker can finish him off, Batman tackles him and the joy buzzer slips off his hand and short circuits the satellite controls, sending the beam straight towards them. Saying his plan is ruined now, Joker plans on leaving and when Batman tries to stop him, Joker easily pummels him, saying that he knew everything about Batman and Robin in their prime and that Terry was out of his league. Batman asks Bruce for advise but realizing the difference in their styles, Terry starts fighting dirty and then begins mocking Joker, causing him to get enraged. Joker eventually starts throwing explosives at Batman and traps him under a table before starting to choke him but as he taunts Batman, Batman reveals that he had grabbed the joy buzzer and uses it to short out and destroy the microchip, ridding Tim of the Joker once and for all. Able to free himself, Batman helps Tim and Ace out of there just before the laser destroys the factory before shutting down. Some time later, the Dee Dees are released from jail into the custody of their grandmother, who is revealed to be Harley Quinn. Meanwhile, Terry stops by to check in on Tim, who thanks him for what he did and says Bruce couldn’t have chosen anyone better to wear the suit. As he is leaving, Terry encounters Bruce, who stops Terry and tells him that he was wrong about what he said earlier; the Batsuit doesn’t make him a better person, but rather he makes the Batman a better person. Bruce then heads inside Tim’s hospital room to reconcile with his former sidekick while Terry heads out and puts on the Batsuit to patrol the streets of Gotham.
I have to admit that this was a bit darker than I expected but still a fantastic movie to watch. The voice acting was great, with Kevin Conroy and Will Friedle doing great jobs reprising their roles of Bruce and Terry respectively. Mark Hammill was fantastic coming back as the Joker, while Dean Stockwell did a good job as the older Tim Drake. The story was good but surprisingly dark considering it was essentially a kids movie. I liked how they were able to tie in the past events with the future, while the reveal that Harley was the grandmother of the Dee Dees, who were essentially a new generation of Harley, was pretty funny. The initial DVD that I bought had some scenes changed from the uncut version that is on the Blu-Ray, mainly how Joker killed Bonk and Tim killed Joker. The scenes showing Robin being tortured were definitely a little hard to watch and definitely not something that would be suitable for kids. The animation was great and felt like a step up from the animation from the TV show, which was pretty good to begin with. I wouldn’t necessarily let young kids watch it but it is definitely worth watching.
Rating: 4 out of 5