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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 1/17/01

Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker
2000 (2000) - Warner Bros.

review by Todd Doogan of The Digital Bits

Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker Film Rating: A

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A/A/A

Specs and Features

74 mins, NR, full frame (1.33:1), single-sided, single-layered, Snapper case packaging, audio commentary (with producer/artist Bruce Timm, producer/writer Paul Dini, producer Glen Murakami and director Curt Geda), animatics (animated storyboards with dialogue) for three scenes, music video for Crash by Mephisto Odyssey featuring Static X, Beyond Batman Beyond featurette, 5 animated character bios, deleted scene (in animatic form), trivia game, video and theatrical trailers (for Batman Beyond video collection, Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, The Iron Giant, My Dog Skip, Pokemon: The Movie 2000 and Scooby Doo and the Alien Invaders), film themed menu screens with music, scene access (18 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1), subtitles: English and French, Closed Captioned

"Get to work."

There's much ado about nothing concerning this straight-to-video flick. It was supposed to come out in the summer, but was pulled because the studio brass felt the film was a bit too violent. And with the political campaigns of the recent election going full force, the criticism against Hollywood and its responsibilities to children was rising. So Warner, being politically-minded (and in the middle of a merger that would make them the biggest media corporation in the world) had the film edited and revamped by the film's original production team. And surprise - having seen both versions, I think I like this revised one better anyway. When faced with pressure, artists have generally made better work, and I think that can be said for Batman Beyond: Return of Joker.

To discuss this film too much would do a great disservice to it, because it has so many loops and plot twists. But let's give you a handful of points. The Jokerz, a mutant gang ruling Gotham's underworld, are pulling off a rash of high-tech electronic equipment heists. Terry McGinnis, the new Batman, is trying to stop them as quick as he can. And in so doing, he comes face to face with the same Joker that his predecessor faced. But how? He'd be 80-something at this point. That's where the story gets tricky, because the Joker IS alive and well, it ain't no joke.

Batman Beyond was always a good TV show. It's witty, action-packed and (as steered by Bruce Timm and Paul Dini, the creators of the groundbreaking Batman animated series) could do no wrong. The series had a logical set-up and didn't rely too much on the mythologies that appeared before it. Being it's own thing made it that much better. This film goes one step further, by taking the ideas that make the series so good and injecting some maniacal history to it. When you find out how the Joker could come back, it'll leave you very uncomfortable. Especially for a cartoon.

You should know that the things that made the original version of this film so hard for the studio heads to swallow aren't entirely cleansed. Dini and Timm being given a chance to "correct" their own work was good, because this film could have been screwed up if hacks were brought in. As it stands, this film has all the integrity of the original version, with less overt violence. And it's still quite disturbing. In the end, I like this flick very much. It's a good film and a great animated movie. The animation is solid, the story is pretty spectacular and the voice acting is pitch perfect.

Warner's DVD is a nice one. The full frame transfer looks beautiful. The colors are nice, the blacks are without defect and the lines are smooth and crisp. There's really nothing wrong with the picture. The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio is also pretty good. It's not explosive, but it sounds fine. Most of the play is up front, with some directional effects and music in the rears. It's hard to have too many complaints with it.

On the extras front, we get a lot and it's all good. There's a commentary track with the filmmakers, where they talk about everything from how Batman's history affects the film, to how the music plays into all the action and even animation process. One note - DO NOT listen to this track before watching the film. There's a lot of information packed onto this track and some of it contains spoilers. The disc also includes a 13-minute or so documentary, with interviews, production art and animatics. It's pretty cool and is as fun as the commentary. You'll also find additional animatics, a music video, trailers, a trivia game and a deleted scene in animatic form. None of the issues surrounding the film's violence being toned down are addressed, but that's fine. That just tells me not to expect a release of this film in its original form in the near future.

Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker kicks some major ass. It's definitely worth checking out (in any version), and this DVD is as good a way as you'll find. I like this revised version just fine, and I don't think anyone that sees this is missing anything by not seeing the original. Plus, you don't have to be a fan of the TV series to enjoy it - there are enough witty recaps of the backgrounds of all the characters to keep everyone informed. Don't miss it.

Todd Doogan
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