Batman Beyond Return of the Joker

  • Title: Batman Beyond Return of the Joker
  • Director: Curt Geda
  • Voice Director: Andrea Romano
  • Date: 2000
  • Studio: Warner Brothers Animation
  • Genre: Action, Fantasy, Mystery
  • Cast: Kevin Conroy, Will Friedle, Mark Hamill, Dean Stockwell, Teri Garr, Tara Strong, Frank Welker, Michael Rosenbum
  • Format: Color Animation, Widescreen
  • DVD Format: R1, NTSC

This film bridges the gap between Batman: The Animated Series and Batman Beyond, answering some of the unanswered questions. And it brings back the most famous Batman villian — the Joker. Briefly, Batman Beyond, part of the DC Animated Universe, was a television series set 50 years after Batman: The Animated Series. Bruce has gotten old and is now unable to fight crime. Terry McGinnis becomes the new Batman, having at first stolen Bruce’s latest Batsuit (used before his retirement) and then with Bruce’s blessing. Terry is a bit more light-hearted than Bruce but not as light-hearted as some of the Robins. He has a mother and a younger brother (tho’ his father was murdered) and even a girlfriend. The solid black suit with a red bat symbol is more technically advanced, with jet packs that allow real flight (so the cape is gone). It also has a video and audio link to the Cave where Bruce advises Terry. Throughout the series The Joker’s been missing but a gang of trouble-makers called Jokerz have caused Terry and the city of New Gotham trouble. It’s a cyber-punked/21st century Batman rather than the Art Deco/30s/Film Noir look of Batman: The Animated Series.

This film opens with Batman breaking up a theft of electronic equipment by the Jokerz. All goes well, but when he discusses it later with Bruce, Terry’s confused, because high-end electronics and computers aren’t normally the Jokerz’ style — they usually go for quick cash. Bruce dismissed the theft as “looking for stuff they could fence”. Bruce, perhaps, has too much on his mind — he’s returning to be the active head of Wayne Enterprises.

The Joker (again, voiced by Mark Hamill, as he was in B:TAS) breaks up the party welcoming back Bruce. Terry changes into the Batsuit and rescues Bruce and the party-goers but the Joker gets away. At the Cave, he insists Bruce fill him in on the background of the Joker. Bruce merely insists that Joker is dead, saying he was there when it happened. Terry jumps to the conclusion Bruce killed Joker, he had no choice, then stopped being Batman. Bruce refuses to comment. He also forbids Terry to go after Joker and even asks for the suit back.

Terry goes to see Barbara Gordon. Barbara refuses to talk, only mentioning Tim Drake (Robin # 3).  Terry sees Tim, but gets no answers from him either.

Deciding he will quit, Terry is relieved to spend time with his family and Dana, his girlfriend. But the Jokerz show up at the club Terry and Dana frequent and try to kidnap the girl. They also try to kill Terry. After speaking with the police, and checking on Dana, Terry goes to see Bruce. But he’s too late — Ace, Bruce’s protective Great Dane is injured, and Bruce is unconscious with a hideous smile on his face. The Cave is a wreck, the costume displays destroyed, and “Ha Ha” written in red everywhere. Bruce, between laughs, manages to point Terry to the anti-toxin for the Joker’s laughing gas, and Terry gives him a shot, then calls Barbara.

Barbara Gordon, who was once Batgirl and is now Police Commissioner Gordon, decides to explain what happened in the past. In a well-executed flashback, we learn what happened:  Harley Quinn had set-up young Robin, Tim Drake, and he is kidnapped by the Joker. Batman and Batgirl search for him for three weeks. Finally, Joker leaves them a blatant clue — Batman and Batgirl follow, and discover the horrifying truth:  Tim/Robin was tortured, electrocuted, drugged, beaten, and finally programmed to be Joker Jr. They find him complete with the white face, green hair, and a miniature purple suit. But merely turning Robin into a copy of himself isn’t enough for Joker — he also orders the boy to shoot and kill Batman. (Batgirl is meanwhile somewhere else in the now abandoned Arkham Asylum fighting Harley Quinn). But Tim shoots, and kills, Joker instead. Barbara rushes to Tim, as does Batman.

In the present, Barbara explains they buried Joker then took Tim to Dr. Leslie Thompkins, who took a year to put him back together again. After that, Batman forbade him to ever put on the Robin suit. It was the disastrous final clash with Joker that caused Bruce to forbid Terry from going after the super villain.

Terry, meanwhile, is trying to find out what’s going on. Evidence leads to Tim, yet Tim claims to be innocent. However, in front of Terry (in the Batsuit) and Bruce’s (at home in the cave, barely recovered) eyes Tim turns into Joker — victim of a transmitter containing Joker DNA that takes over his subconscience and brain. It’s basically like a scientific explanation of the “split personality” villain. Tim isn’t even aware that the Joker is piggy-backing in his body, thinking any memories are only bad dreams. Joker plans to take over a government laser defense satellite, using telecom equipment stolen by the Jokerz and Tim’s know-how to put it together. He’s already blown-up a boat, and now plans to strike close to home for Terry:  blowing up the hospital where Dana’s recovering, blowing up Terry’s home where his Mom and brother are, and blowing up Wayne Manor and Bruce — just to get started. However, Terry has discovered the secret to defeating the Joker, which is does, then he destroys the control chip in Tim’s head, bringing the man back to normal.

An excellent movie, yes, it is like a longer version of a Batman Beyond episode, but it was also quite dark — especially the torture of Tim Drake, and Bruce and Barbara covering up a murder. There’s also some extremely effective visuals. The film is enjoyable tho’, with the saucy dialog common to Batman Beyond, and it answered some questions — where was the Joker? What happened to Tim Drake? What caused Bruce to give up the Batsuit? (something touched on in the series premiere as well). But it also didn’t answer everything — Nightwing / Dick Grayson is mentioned, a couple of times, but it’s never explained what happened to him.

Recommendation: See it! Buy it!
Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Batman Mystery of the Batwoman

  • Title:  Batman Mystery of the Batwoman
  • Director: Curt Geda
  • Voice Director: Andrea Romano
  • Date: 2003
  • Studio: Warner Brothers
  • Genre: Action, Animation, Mystery
  • Cast: Kevin Conroy, Efrem Zimbalist Jr, David Ogden Stiers, Kimberly Brooks, Kelly Ripa, Elisa Gabrielli, Bob Hastings, Tara Strong, Robert Costanzo
  • Format: Color Animation, Standard
  • DVD Format: R1, NTSC

“The last thing Gotham City needs is a vigilante running amok.”— Bruce Wayne
“As they say on the streets – ‘I ain’t touching that one.’ “— Alfred

A mysterious new vigilante appears in Gotham — the Batwoman, but is she a force for good, or a criminal? That, and just who is the Batwoman, is a mystery Batman must solve. Bruce meets Kathy Duquesne, the daughter of famous gangster, Carlton Duquesne, and begins dating her, in part because he wonders if she might have something to do with the sudden appearance of the Batwoman, a masked vigilante. He also meets a brilliant, and pretty, and blonde female metallurgist, nicknamed Rocky, who is newly employed at Wayne Enterprises. When Batman finds her new programmable metal at the scene of Batwoman’s attack on the Penguin’s club, he wonders if she might be involved. And he also runs into Harvey Bullock’s new partner, Sonia, but doesn’t initially realize the importance of the meeting.

Meanwhile, Carlton Duquesne, Penguin, and Rupert Thorne (another gangster) are plotting how to deliver a cargo of weapons to whatever-stan (a made-up name that’s not really that important). Batwoman had destroyed their first shipment, being transported by truck, so they plot for the next shipment to leave Gotham on a ship — a ship disguised to look like a cruise ship. For insurance, Penguin calls in Bane (the muscle-bound, steroid-addicted, South American mercenary, famous for once literally breaking the back of the Bat).

Batman, with help from Robin, and the ever present support of Alfred, investigates the mystery, trying to determine who the Batwoman is. He comes to the conclusion it might be Rocky and Kathy working together, but Robin finds no evidence that the two ever met. But, Batman then discovers a link: Sonia — who knew them both. Batman, or Bruce, as the case may be, has also discovered what the three have in common: a reason to be angry at the unholy triumvirate of Penguin, Thorne, and Duquesne. Sonia, as a child, saw her parents business destroyed by Thorne — a disaster from which the family never recovered and tore them apart (though it was Batman who saved her life in the fire). Rocky’s boyfriend was framed by Thorne and Penguin and sits in jail. And Kathy lost her mother when a rival gang shot at her father and killed her mother instead.

But Bruce also cannot condone someone else being a vigilante in his town, especially when innocent people get hurt, or even criminals get killed. He sets out to stop them. Meanwhile, Kathy’s taken a bomb to the ship that carries Penguin and Thorne’s guns — but she gets caught by Bane. She’s unmasked, but Batman arrives to save her, followed by Robin in the Batboat and the other two Batwomen on their glider-rockets. The bomb explodes, sinking the ship, but all three Batwomen are rescued and Throne, Penguin and Duquesne are caught.

I enjoyed this Batman animated movie. This was the second time I’d seen it, so I knew who the Batwoman was, yet the care the storyline takes in drawing character studies of these three women, who have all be affected by crime and violence, makes the story very re-watchable. Also, the cast is excellent, bringing back many of the regulars from Batman: The Animated Series — Robert Conzanso as Bullock, Bob Hastings as Gordon, Tara Strong as Barbara, and, of course Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. as Alfred. Yes, a Robin is in this, but since Barbara is away at college, I suspect Dick is too (and possibly not yet Nightwing) and the Robin is Tim Drake, tho’ he’s never actually called by name.

Recommendation: See it
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars