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    DVD Video - Reviews [Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker]


    Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker

    Release Date:

    Studio: Warner Brothers
    Year: 2000
    Run Time: 70 minutes
    Rating: Not Rated
    Starring: Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill, Will Friedle
      Movie Summary: [Animation]

        The sleeker, deadlier and seemingly immortal Clown Prince of Crime is back with his own unique brand of havoc and mayhem. When Bruce Wayne is almost killed in one of the Joker's latest attacks, Batman vows to avenge his mentor and put the Joker to rest forever.

    DVD Details
    • Full Frame, Color, Region 1
    • Deleted Footage, Making Of, "Crash" Music VideoVideo Character Biographies; "Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker" Video Game Demo; CD Soundtrack Sampler.
    See Full Disc Details...

    Reviewer: Augie De Blieck, Jr.


            B ATMAN BEYOND: RETURN OF THE JOKER is a really good synthesis of the best parts of its two predecessors. MASK OF THE PHANTASM (also available on DVD) had a great story, and some decent action sequences. Its follow-up, SUB-ZERO (not on DVD), had some terrific action sequences, but the story was lacking. The animation was also questionable, particularly in keeping the characters on model and the gratuitous use of computer generated animation.

    RETURN OF THE JOKER takes place some 40 years in the future from those first two movies, and combines a tight plot with suspenseful action to make it the best of the three. It is years since the Joker disappeared, but his return to Gotham is met with chilly silence from now-retired Batman Bruce Wayne. That sparks the curiosity of his successor, Terry McGuiness, who finds it difficult to discover the truth behind the disappearance of the Joker. Many of the major characters from the television series are here, including Ace the Hound, Barbara Gordon (ex-Batgirl and now Police Commissioner), Joker, Harley Quinn, and Tim Drake. Joker's disappearance is shown in an extended flashback scene, which is animated in the most recent redesign of the characters. Sadly, it's a set of designs that seems to work better in comic books than in animation.

    The movie, however, is not without its controversy. The release directly to video was delayed by a month when Warner Bros. got cold feet and decided it needed to tone down some of the violence and action scenes. Most of the cuts are incidental -- a punch here or a thrown knife there. However, the ending is changed significantly. While it all worked for me on a first view, the ending felt a little too coincidental and simplistic. When I got my hands on a copy of the cut scene list, I found out why it was. The ending was changed to soften it significantly. Instead of getting a chilling, frightening gray area, Warner Bros. served up a solution that implicated nobody and made everyone seem like nice people who luck into the hard solutions. It's cheap and it's too bad. Hopefully, they'll be able to release an uncut version of this movie sometime down the road.

    In the meantime, you'll get the best possible presentation of the movie on this DVD. No, it's not in widescreen format. It's straight-on 1.33:1 ratio, although there are signs that this might be open matte. If you watch carefully enough, you can imagine the black bars covering up the top and bottom strips of the screen. The picture is as clear, crisp, and bright as animation gets on DVD. A Japanese company named TMS, which is known for its exacting animation and extremely thin and detailed lines, did the overseas animation. This movie would be a natural for a DVD to breakup with artifacting and shimmering. Thankfully, the encoders used a high enough bit rate to keep any of that from happening. You'll be treated to a clear and bright piece of animation. Occasionally, you may see a bit of a shimmer on a straight black line of animation, but only if you look for it.

    The Dolby Digital 5.1 sound is terrific, featuring some of the most directional sound I’ve heard on any disc. Listen carefully during the opening action sequence, and you can hear the cars flying all around you.

    The commentary track features producer/designer/artist extraordinaire Bruce Timm. He does most of the talking. Paul Dini, fellow producer and writer, joins him along with producer Glen Murakami and director Curt Geda. Timm dominates the track, which stays pretty lively for the entire 90 minutes of the movie, focusing mostly on the artistic side of things. You can tell that they were biting their tongues while making the commentary. There are a couple of topics that they drift into that suddenly get cut short, due to changes made in the movie to appease the Warner Bros. executives.

    Two deleted scenes are available as extras in storyboard form, with the dialogue recorded over them. They're both very interesting scenes. Although the one is a talking heads scene, it provides details that set up a lot of the mystery of the movie. The other is a magnificently moody sequence of Bruce Wayne touring Arkham Asylum. It adds nothing to the story, aside from teasing some of what comes later in the movie, but it does look like it would've been a great scene to keep in, had the budget allowed.

    There’s also a music video from the movie that I just couldn’t sit through because I don’t like the song. There are some video biographies, which show basic stats on the major characters while offering small clips of the movie in the corner of the screen. There’s also a standard behind-the-scenes segment, which allows you to see who the actors are who do the voices, as well as offering up the standard “How Animation Is Done” bits of business we’ve seen a million times in such specials.

    All in all, RETURN OF THE JOKER is a great movie, hampered a little bit by some political disagreements behind the scenes. The DVD offers up more content than you might expect from what is, in essence, an extended episode of a children’s television show. If you’re a fan of the Batman animated series - in any of its incarnations - this is definitely one worth watching.


    No screenshots at this time.

    Individual Ratings
    Video Audio Content Movie
    8 8.5 7.5 9
    Ratings Based on Scale of 1 - 10 (10 being Best)

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