"You know, kids, a lot has changed since your old Uncle Joker's been away. New Gotham, new rules, even a new Batman. But now I'm tanned, I'm rested and I'm ready to give this old town a wedgie again!"
Well, as promised, this is my first review on an animated feature, as well as my first review on a Batman movie. When I was thinking of which cartoon film I should review first, I had plenty of options, as there are tons of animated classics that I can give my opinion on. But instead, I decided to go for one of the most underrated movies I've ever seen... So here we go.
Back in the late 90's, everything and everyone was obsessed about the future:What would it look like? How would we live? What will mankind be capable of? Will we ever have hoverboards and flying cars? The thoughts and possibilities were endless! Of course, Warner Bros and the creators of Batman: The Animated Series got caught up in this "future craze" as well... And was resulted was one of the greatest animated TV shows of all time: Batman Beyond.
Set in 2039, the show introduced us to Terry McGinnis, who becomes the new Batman after bumping into Bruce Wayne, (and after Terry's father is killed). We learn that Gotham is just as fucked as it was in the past and that Batman must return. Unfortunately, Bruce Wayne is too old to do it himself, so he decides to take on the role of a mentor to young Terry, and help clean up the streets of Gotham once again.
The show wasn't as praised or as popular as TAS, however it maintained a strong cult following at the time, strong enough to get its own movie. Since many TAS purists were disappointed that pretty much all of their favourite villains were nowhere to be found (with the exception of Freeze's head), Paul Dini and company decided to bring back the greatest Batman foe of them all. With that, we end up getting Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker. Citing the return of the iconic Clown Prince of Crime, this was a movie that attempted to bridge the gap between TAS and Batman Beyond...
And what was the result? A fucking awesome movie! That's what!!!
The movie opens with the Jokerz gang stealing a plot device, when Batman comes in to stop the theft. He is then taken on a big flight cruise around Gotham, fighting on aircrafts with Bonk and DeeDee. Eventually (after Bonk swings around on a flagpole) Batman thwarts the Jokerz plan. We then find out that Bruce Wayne has taken back control of Wayne Enterprises, which doesn't sit too well with company hotshot Jordan Pryce... And then, while the Jokerz gang are in a meeting, we finally see the man we've all been waiting for: The Joker. He looks around the same age and he is alive and well. He's also ready to wreak havoc on the people of Gotham, just like the old days.
So what exactly did I love about this movie? For starters, I loved that the Joker came back. The Joker is the most popular and beloved villain in the Batman universe, and possibly in all of comic books, so we all knew the Joker would have to make an appearance at some point in Batman Beyond. It made sense not only from a marketing standpoint, but from a story standpoint as well: His return offered up a fish-out-of-water type of story arc in regards to Terry McGinnis's character, which I thought was genius. Not only has he never faced the Joker, he's never even heard of the Joker (how is that even possible?), which means he has no idea who or what he's dealing with, or what he's up against. So Terry is challenged in ways that he's never been challenged before, and all Bruce Wayne can do is reluctantly watch.
The Joker character seems to be a lot more sinister this time around (you can thank a PG-13 rating for that). He loves to make things more personal: he makes his grand return at Bruce Wayne's function; he gets the Jokerz gang to attack Terry and his girlfriend Dana at a dance club, hospitalizing Dana in the process; he attacks Bruce's dog Ace, and then attacks Bruce Wayne himself with laughing gas... in his own batcave no less! Not to mention that he gains control of a military satellite which he will eventually use to wipe Gotham off the map. He even sounds meaner and darker here than he did in TAS. Kudos to Mark Hamill for once again doing amazing voice acting job for this character!
The voice acting in this movie is phenomenal, as well as the animation. The looks of despair on Bruce Wayne's face after being made aware of Joker's return is amazingly done, as well as the deep, darkly voice that we've come to expect from Kevin Conroy. We brilliantly see a mixture of the very grim looking Gotham City with the look of a very slick and polished futuristic version of the city. Will Freidle once again impresses with his performance as the young wisecracking Terry McGinnis Batman. Mark Hamill does a good job of playing the film's other antagonist, Jordan Pryce.
That brings me to my next point, I loved how the movie did everything to make you believe that Jordan Pryce was the Joker, down to having the exact same actor pay him! But then, you're floored when you find out that Pryce is just another pawn in the Joker's game. You're even more mindfucked when the movie reveals to you that it's actually an old Tim Drake as the Joker, you're like "how the fuck did Joker manage that?" Now, the way they did it was pretty lame in my opinion, but I'll get to that later.
What were my favourite moments? Well, it's tie between the flashback sequence, and the film's climactic battle between Batman and Joker. Barbara Gordon (now commissioner) decides to explain what happened on the last night of Joker's life. Well, turns out he kidnapped Tim Drake, brainwashed him, and tried to force him to kill Batman, all while Batgirl is fighting with Harley Quinn, who ends up falling down a crevasse to her doom. I love it when Joker calls Batman by his true name, and then taunts him with his "It would be funny if it weren't so pathetic speech." I loved it because you really see how Joker always manages to bring out the absolute worst in Batman, just so he can make Batman sink to his level. After incapacitating the Bat, Mistah J decides to give Tim his gun to shoot B-man with. Unfortunately, he misses and ends up shooting and killing the Joker. My favourite part is when you hear Harley singing "Hush little baby", the way she sings it is so creepy and sinister that I actually felt a little uneasy listening to it. I was thinking "oh fuck, what did they do to Tim?"
I loved the battle between Batman and Joker at the end because... well... I won't give away too much, but Terry's Batman essentially beats the Joker at his own game. It was amazingly entertaining to watch!
Now, what did I not like about this movie? Well... two things. One was how the Joker was written into it: When he kidnapped Tim Drake, he managed to upload his consciousness into a little chip, and placed it on the back of Tim's neck. Here's my problem with that: Even if you're willing to roll with the whole "uploading his mind into Tim's" technobabble (which I did), am I really supposed to believe that Tim never felt that on his neck for nearly 40 years? Just seemed too convenient for me, and it took me out of the movie for a bit.
The other thing I didn't like was that the title of the movie was a spoiler. To me, it should've been named simply Batman Beyond: The Movie or something like that. Could you imagine the fanboy boners being popped when they hear Mark Hamill's voice and the Joker appearing out of the shadows? Not knowing he was going to be in it? It would've been better not to reveal the Joker in the title for the sake of DVD sales. Word of mouth would've gotten around pretty quickly and sales might've been equivalent to what Warner Bros got. Heck, sales might've even been better! This was just a minor nitpick though., to be honest..
In conclusion, while this movie does have one massive plot hole, it's still one of my favourite Batman movies and one of my favourite animated movies of all time! If I did a top 10 list of my favourite animated features, as well as favourite Batman movies, Return of the Joker would definitely make an appearance on both of those lists. It's no Mask of the Phantasm, but it's still an amazing movie that pays homage to TAS as well as introducing Batman Beyond to new fans.
I'm giving this movie 94 Joker Teeth out of 100.