By Chad Wilson
After a good long run in the 90s with Batman: The Animated Series, Warner Bros. took a unique new approach with the Caped Crusader by taking him further into the future. With the introduction of Batman: Beyond, a future Gotham City saw a retired Bruce Wayne mentor a new Batman in teenager, Terry McGinnis. The show offered a slew of new villains and storylines in its futuristic setting, and became a cult hit despite having only three short seasons. Before the show’s abrupt cancelation, Batman Beyond would have a full-length movie that reintroduced one of Batman’s most infamous villains to the mix, creating a tale that ranks as one of the best in all of Batman’s animated adventures.
Terry has grown quite accustomed to his role as Gotham’s protector, but the revelation that the Joker has somehow been resurrected in the future moves Bruce to demand that Terry gives up being the Bat. Why the Joker is there or how he has managed to stay young after so many years is initially unknown, but all is revealed in interesting fashion by the time the story nears its end. The story is perhaps the darkest yet, especially when it touches on past events involving the Joker, Batman, and his bat-family. The film has seen two versions released over time based on these events, with a second version most recently released in an uncut format. Depending on what version you watch, a certain scene may prove to be more mature than the other, but it largely creates the same thematic result. Not to be left out, the movie features much of the famous voice cast from the show, including Kevin Conroy as the aged Bruce Wayne and Will Friedle returning as Terry/Batman. Of course, the star of this film is the returning Mark Hamill, who reprises his role as the Joker in usual top form.
Return of the Joker was a good reminder of how fun the future Gotham City was while it lasted. While not a true sendoff to the Beyond series, it could be seen as a fitting conclusion to Terry’s tale if you watch this after completing the main series. However, the outstanding Justice League: Unlimited episode titled “Epilogue” truly closes Terry’s story in satisfying fashion, so that would definitely be something to check out for the sake of completion. Overall, with a solid story and voice cast, Return of the Joker is a definite recommendation for Animated Series fans, and especially fans of Batman Beyond in general.
Family Rating: 7/10: Usual animated series type fair, outside of a middle section of the movie that may seem too mature younger kids.
Overall rating: 10/10: One of the best movies from the string of animated series shows and a fitting semi-conclusion to a show that had an abrupt ending.