Jimmy and Tom have been chatting Batman Beyond for a while now, and the DCAU even longer. But this stage in their animated journey comes to an end with the only direct-to-home video Batman Beyond movie.
That’s right. Time to chat Return of the Joker.
Return of the Joker
The Joker returns to Gotham City, but he should be long dead. What terrifying secret from Bruce’s past is behind the Clown Prince of Crime’s resurrection, and can Terry stop Bruce’s greatest enemy?
jimmy: Now THAT’S a series finale!
tomk: Oh, did you like it?
jimmy: The whole Tim physically turning into the Joker stretched the boundaries of extending disbelief, but yes, I liked it a lot. You?
tomk: It’s excellent. It’s probably everything we wanted Batman Beyond to be.
I did learn recently that Bruce Timm had plans for a Catwoman-based sequel, but sales for this movie were low, so it never happened.
But they did use some of the plot points from the aborted sequel in Justice League, so I would advise you not to look them up.
jimmy: How long after the end of the series did the movie come out?
tomk: If Wikipedia is to be believed, the original came out while the show was still airing. An uncut version appeared a year after the show ended.
jimmy: I’m surprised the uncut version came out before the show was over.
Which version did you watch?
tomk: Probably uncut. Whatever was on DC Universe.
It didn’t say and there’s only about two more minutes of footage.
jimmy: I found this comparison.
tomk: Oh, I definitely saw the uncut version. I suspected as much when I saw how Joker killed the sidekick voiced by Henry Rollins.
jimmy: I watched the uncut as well. Not a lot of difference besides the way the henchman dies and the Joker’s death is quite different. A lot of the rest was just editing out some violence, adding seatbelts and changing some colors.
tomk: Always wear a seatbelt.
And take Ace with you.
jimmy: He’s a good boy.
tomk: But really, this one checked all the boxes.
Bruce’s past was a major factor.
We learned more of what happened to the sidekicks.
Ace went out with Terry.
Terry used the stealth field to fight.
Good action sequences.
A second character voiced by Mark Hamill to throw viewers off.
And the Joker undoubtedly killed at least a few hundred people with that laser gun tearing up the city.
jimmy: For sure. That was one of the edits, to make the destruction from the ray seem like it was cutting through abandoned buildings and not a cinema, park, etc.
tomk: Busy highway.
jimmy: All in all, it’s a very sad tale for Tim Drake.
tomk: And we still don’t know what happened to Nightwing.
jimmy: Maybe that was left for the Return of Two-Face movie.
tomk: It may not matter. We got the Joker back.
jimmy: Babs did tell Terry to look into it though.
tomk: Like I said, this one didn’t sell so well, so there were no sequels.
jimmy: Surprising. It was better than any BB episode and up with some great BTAS ones.
tomk: Did the flashback help?
jimmy: To make it better?
jimmy: Sure. Seeing original recipe Batman in action.
tomk: And it was so damn creepy.
Lots of creepy laughing this time around.
jimmy: Poor, poor Tim.
I assume influenced somewhat by A Death In The Family, but a completely different spin.
tomk: I think that’s a fair assumption.
jimmy: Was also the return of Harley…though that was more like you would expect 40+ years in the future. That said, time has not been kind, as I would think she was still quite younger than Bruce to begin with.
tomk: You weren’t amused by (presumably reformed) little old lady Harley?
jimmy: Amused, she just looked older than Bruce.
tomk: Dating the Joker really ages a person.
jimmy: It seemed fairly obvious that they were Harley “replacements”….even if not related.
tomk: And yet…they were related!
What a coincidence!
jimmy: Probably the first coincidence in a superhero story, ever.
tomk: Right up there with how, uh, there’s always a Commissioner Gordon.
jimmy: There won’t be soon…or will there?
tomk: You don’t know about Herb Gordon?
Or Julia Gordon, the cop/French chef?
jimmy: Batman Beyond Beyond just got a whole lot more interesting.
tomk: And we still haven’t gotten that much into Terry yet.
jimmy: He’s still not Batman.
tomk: That’s so Joker of you to say.
jimmy: Us “first name starts with ‘J’” people gotta stick together.
tomk: You, Joker, Julia Roberts, and Jerry Seinfeld keep causing trouble downtown.
jimmy: They do all have crazy laughs.
tomk: I think there’s a bad influence in your friend group, Jimmy.
jimmy: But getting to your point, this really never swung the needle on my opinion of Terry one way or the other. It’s still on Bruce is Batman and Terry is Terry.
tomk: Joker never saw it that way, but Terry did things his way.
jimmy: To be honest, the biggest story point that sticks with me is how tragic everything turned out for Tim.
tomk: Really? Because we’ve seen Batman and the Joker mess with each other many times over. Heck, we saw it again this time.
But then Terry, listening to Bruce’s advice, decides to do the opposite and still gains victory.
He was also the one who more or less figured out it was Tim as the Joker.
jimmy: Our little Terry is finally growing up.
tomk: And it only took the destruction of a third of the city to get there!
jimmy: Depending on which version you watched…
tomk: Uncut, of course. Or when dealing with Watson, the uncircumcised version.
tomk: The Matter Informs.
So, here’s a question: can someone that closely associated with Bruce end any other way than tragically?
jimmy: Well, we don’t know what happened with Nightwing. And Barbara is still around…but she doesn’t seem overly happy looking back on her Batgirl days with Bruce.
tomk: See, you gotta be with Superman to be happy. Then you only loss a few years of your life to a space parasite.
jimmy: Those years would probably go to waste anyway.
tomk: How do you figure? Is it that hard being Jimmy Olson?
jimmy: Well, if you lose the last couple of years in a nursing home, crapping yourself, beating a space parasite might not be a bad trade off.
tomk: Your views intrigue me, and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.
jimmy: But I wonder if any of these super types live happily ever after? I imagine, if things played out in “real life” that many of them would eventually fall victim to one villain or another. Possibly at an older age when they shouldn’t be out crusading anymore, but can’t give it up.
tomk: I dunno. Captain America and DC’s Justice Society seem pretty spry.
jimmy: Is that unfrozen caveman Captain America or Ryan doesn’t understand Endgame time travel Captain America?
tomk: I’m not going to argue time travel with anyone around here. That just causes problems.
jimmy: So, you’re more well versed in animated Batman’s than me, but does anyone even come close to Mark Hamill’s Joker?
tomk: In animated form…no. There’s sometimes some interesting casting, like John “Bender” DiMaggio in the straight to DVD Under the Red Hood or maybe Michael Emerson in The Dark Knight Returns. Young Justice had an interesting casting choice with Brent “Data” Spiner as the Joker, but he only appeared in one episode.
jimmy: I can’t remember if I saw that. I know I watched Dark Knight Returns and not Young Justice.
And I do recall the wacky Joker from The Batman.
tomk: Kevin Michael Richardson is usually a reliable voice actor, but that Joker was way too weird. Even for the Joker.
jimmy: Speaking of weird…where was Max?
tomk: I dunno. Kobra again?
jimmy: Man, those guys just don’t quit. You cut off one head…
tomk: It really smarts?
I don’t remember when Max was introduced, but it seems like this film was made midway through the BB run. Maybe she wasn’t around yet?
tomk: It’s possible. Also, there may not have been room for her in this story.
jimmy: Also possible.
tomk: She was probably off plotting Doomsday Clock.
tomk: Terry didn’t need her. He figured out how to beat the Joker all by himself.
jimmy: So I rewatched with the audio commentary on.
It’s interesting as it was recorded before the movie came out. So no talk at all about the cut version. They talk a lot of stuff that they had already cut which was even darker again.
As for Max, the movie was commissioned prior to season 2 of the show and was worked on simultaneously with season 2. And Max debuted the first episode of season 2, so she probably wasn’t a factor when they wrote the script, recorded dialogue, etc.
tomk: Anything else in the commentary jump out at you?
jimmy: Nothing major. They were asked to do the movie just after getting picked up for season 2. They weren’t sure how they were going to get it done but shuffled some crew around and the movie and show were done at the same time.
They mentioned Stockard Channing being unavailable to voice Barbara Gordon, so they got Angie Harmon, who wasn’t even 30 but had a deep smokers voice that worked.
Harmon, Dean Stockwell and Melissa Joan Hart did their lines remotely and not in the studio with the rest of the cast.
And like I said, this was done just before release and prior to the cut version being created. Stories from having to do the cuts/changes would have been interesting. They did remark numerous times about how dark it was at times. And some of the things they noted, like the “HA HA”’s in the Batcave looking like blood, were things they ended up changing.
And somehow, the movie works as a finale.
jimmy: I know. And I struggle not to think of it that way.
tomk: Well, do you have any final thoughts on Return of the Joker or Batman Beyond in general?
jimmy: Well, it’s not a bad show. And maybe it even suffers from having Bruce in it as a constant reminder of days gone by and a better iconic show. But it is perfectly watchable and really avoids some BTAS level stinkers like the Sewer King. Everything works, but it just never transcends to greatness for me. I think the villains may be a part of that. None really stand out, but it will always be impossible to match the rogues gallery of original recipe Batman.
I really liked the movie…but you could argue that was half of a BTAS movie, which helps. It definitely works as the finale of the show, regardless of when it was released. I’m glad we waited until the end to watch it…especially after the normality of the final “lost” episode.
tomk: The movie also demonstrated how different Bruce and Terry are. Terry wins in part by taunting the Joker the whole time.
jimmy: Yes, I picked up more on that the second time. Terry even says something like “the old Batman never talked to you like this did he?”
tomk: It worked too. Joker doesn’t want to be an actual joke.
jimmy: Or have anyone funnier than him.
tomk: Joker loses to every Batman.
jimmy: Everyone loses to Batman.
tomk: Even Batman?
jimmy: Especially Batman.
tomk: Well, I’m convinced. Got a grade for the show?
jimmy: Hmm. Interesting question. How about 8 Sorry but you’ll never be my Batman out of 10?
tomk: And the movie?
jimmy: 9.5 #uncutversion out of 10.
tomk: I’m gonna say another 8 out of 10 Needs More Ace for the series and a 9.5 It Coulda Been This out of 10 for the movie.
jimmy: Pretty much in agreement then.
tomk: I’d say so.
jimmy: I always felt like you might have liked it a bit more.
tomk: I had familiarity on my side.
jimmy: That’s true. So…what’s next for us in the DCAU?
tomk: Maybe we should get the original Batman back.
jimmy: Along with some Super Friends?
tomk: It’s always good to bring friends.
jimmy: Unless one of those friends is Watson.
tomk: Batman would not be friends with Watson.
Aquaman on the other hand…
NEXT TIME: Yeah, that’s right. It’s time for Batman and his Superfriends!
I mean JUSTICE LEAGUE.