Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker
Batman Beyond - Return of the Joker poster.jpg
Home video release poster
Directed by
  • Curt Geda
Produced by
Screenplay byPaul Dini
Story by
  • Paul Dini
  • Glen Murakami
  • Bruce Timm
Based onDC Comics characters
Music byKristopher Carter
Edited byJoe Gall
Distributed byWarner Home Video
Release date
  • October 31, 2000 (2000-10-31)
(edited version)
  • April 23, 2002 (2002-04-23)
(uncut version)
Running time
  • 73 minutes (edited version)
  • 76 minutes (uncut version)
CountryUnited States

Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (also known as Batman of the Future: Return of the Joker[1]) is a 2000 American direct-to-video superhero mystery animated film featuring the DC Comics' superheroes Bruce Wayne / Batman and Terry McGinnis / Batman as well as the former's archenemy, the Joker. It is set in the continuity of the animated series Batman Beyond, in which Bruce Wayne has retired from crime fighting, passing the mantle of Batman to high-school student Terry McGinnis, and serves as a sequel to both Batman: The Animated Series and The New Batman Adventures. As in the TV series, Will Friedle and Kevin Conroy star as Terry McGinnis and Bruce Wayne, respectively, and Mark Hamill, who voiced the Joker opposite Conroy in Batman: The Animated Series and The New Batman Adventures, reprises his role. Animation services were done at the Japanese animation studio, TMS Entertainment. The story follows McGinnis, the new Batman and his mentor and predecessor Bruce Wayne as they face the latter's archenemy the Joker, who has returned after having been presumed dead for decades, leading Terry to discover the truth about Bruce's final battle with the Joker as Batman. With Gotham City is at risk from the Joker's attacks, Terry must confront an enemy who is unlike anyone he has faced before.

Before its release, the film was heavily edited to remove scenes of intense violence, and some dialogue was altered. The original uncut version was subsequently released on DVD following an online petition to have it released.[2] It received a PG-13 rating from the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) for violence, the first animated Batman film and first from Warner Bros. Family Entertainment to do so.

Rotten Tomatoes' critical consensus says it "hit[s] the same caped crusading peaks of the original series".[3] The film won an Annie Award for Best Animated Home Entertainment Production and a DVD Exclusive Award for Best Animated Character Performance for Hamill.

Mephisto Odyssey and Static-X contributed the song "Crash (The Humble Brothers Remix)" on the film's soundtrack, along with a music video directed by Len Wiseman featured on the DVD.

Plot[edit | edit source]

A new faction of the Jokerz gang steals high-tech electronic equipment, but is intercepted by Batman (Terry McGinnis). His mentor and predecessor, Bruce Wayne, has recently re-secured control of Wayne Enterprises from the Powers family, following Paxton's arrest. Meanwhile, the Jokerz report to their leader, revealed to seemingly and obviously be the Joker himself, the original Batman's archenemy.

At a press conference commemorating Bruce's return to the company, the Jokerz attack to steal more equipment and the Joker reveals himself to Bruce, who is visibly shocked and insists that it cannot be him. After fending off the Jokerz, Terry demands information from both Bruce and Commissioner Barbara Gordon, the former Batgirl, but neither give him answers, and Bruce orders Terry to return the Batsuit and investigates on his enemy's return.

Later, the Jokerz attack Terry while the Joker ambushes Bruce in the Batcave and poisons him. Terry finds Bruce and administers the antidote, and calls Barbara. Reluctantly, Barbara tells Terry about what happened surrounding the Joker's disappearance: four decades ago, after Dick Grayson left to fight crime in the adjacent city of Blüdhaven as Nightwing, the Joker and Harley Quinn kidnapped Tim Drake, Dick's successor as Robin, while he was working solo. Tim was tortured for three weeks at the abandoned Arkham Asylum, which he initially endured but brokedown and revealed Batman's secrets and was transformed into a teenage facsimile of the Joker after being driven insane by his ordeals. Batman and Batgirl found the brainwashed Tim, and a battle ensued in which Harley fell into a pit and Tim, who was ordered by Joker to kill Batman turned on the former and killed him, after which Tim suffered a nervous breakdown. The Joker's body was buried underneath Arkham and the only other people who knew what happened were Barbara's father, Commissioner James Gordon, who promised to cover up the incident and Bruce's family friend Dr. Leslie Thompkins, who nursed Tim back to sanity over the next year. Bruce, racked with guilt over what had transpired, forced Tim into retirement despite the latter's vain attempts at reconciliation; following which Tim severed his ties with Bruce and then went on to become a communications expert, while also marrying and siring children.

Terry although feeling bad for Tim concludes that he can be a prime suspect regarding Joker's return and visits him. Tim denies involvement in the Joker's return and expresses resentment of his vigilante past. He next suspects Jordan Pryce, a Wayne Enterprises executive who was supposed to succeed Paxton Powers as CEO of the company had Bruce not returned. Terry overhears and records a conversation between Pryce and the Jokerz on his yacht that reveals he conspired with them to have Bruce killed. Terry rescues Pryce as a laser beam strikes the yacht before handing him to the police.

In the Batcave, Terry notices that the Joker only destroyed Tim's Robin costume and discover that the equipment the Jokerz have been stealing would need someone with Tim's expertise to operate it and access a satellite defense system. Terry goes to face Tim, but triggers a trap set by the Joker. Terry escapes and tracks the Joker to an abandoned candy factory.

At the factory, Terry subdues the Jokerz and finds Tim, who then transforms into the Joker himself. The Joker explains that while he had Tim captive, he encoded his own DNA and consciousness on an advanced genetic microchip he had stolen and implanted it behind Tim's right ear, slowly turning him into the Joker's replicate over time, though Tim remained unaware of this. The Joker prepares the satellite and threatens to destroy everything both Bruce and Terry hold dear before attacking Gotham City, but Terry attacks and the Joker's joy buzzer jams the satellite system, activating it and forcing it to return to the factory.

They fight; while the Joker has the advantage due to Tim's previous training as Robin, Terry learns of the Joker's vanity from Bruce and then improvises with his own tactics and taunts. Terry uses the joy buzzer to destroy the microchip, ending the Joker permanently and freeing Tim. In the aftermath, two of the Jokerz, twin sisters, are bailed out by their grandmother, revealed to be an elderly Harley Quinn, who survived her apparent death unknown to everyone and has since reformed.

With the Joker gone, Bruce, Tim and Barbara finally make amends while Tim recovers in the hospital, and both Bruce and Tim acknowledge Terry's worth to the Batman mantle.

Cast[edit | edit source]

Production[edit | edit source]

The film was put in production after the cancellation of Boyd Kirkland's Batman: Arkham, the intended sequel to Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero, as well as the planned third Batman: The Animated Series feature film.[4] It was produced during the second and third season of Batman Beyond, and aired as part of the third season, specifically after the episodes "King's Ransom" and "Untouchable", although in fact, the movie's events could have happened even after "Unmasked", the show's series finale, as there is no reference to the previous two mentioned episodes. Something interesting to note is that the show's recurring character Maxine "Max" Gibson is inexplicably absent from the film.

The design of the Joker in the film was the second revamp of physical appearance, after his redesign in The New Batman Adventures. This design was later used in the episodes "Injustice for All", "Only a Dream, Part 1" and "Wild Cards" of Justice League and in the episode "The Big Leagues" of Static Shock.[5] According to the DVD commentary, Joker's new design was based on an illustration of Hannibal Lecter from the novel The Silence of the Lambs. The design of the character of Chucko was inspired in a clown costume of Eric Radomski, while the character of Ghoul's design was loosely based on the Scarecrow, one of Batman's original foes. The character of Woof was created as a tribute to Bud and Lou, the pet hyenas of The Joker in Batman: The Animated Series. Dee Dee's original designs were also very different from the final ones, resembling very much the classic disguise of their grandmother Harley Quinn.[6]

Besides the main cast of the TV series (who returned to reprise their roles), the producers also cast Michael Rosenbaum, a voice actor that voiced many characters in Batman Beyond, as Ghoul, one of the Joker's Jokerz. The others were voiced by other DCAU voice actors. According to the DVD commentary, Rosenbaum modeled his voice on that of actor Christopher Walken, who previously portrayed Max Shreck in 1992's Batman Returns. Rosenbaum's performance ended up leading the producers to give him the role of the Flash in Justice League, replacing Charlie Schlatter, who had voiced the character in the episode "Speed Demons" of Superman: The Animated Series. Dean Stockwell was cast as an adult Tim Drake, being inspired by one of his earliest roles in The Boy with Green Hair when he was a child actor, while casting director Andrea Romano played young Tim when he was Joker Junior. Mark Hamill, apart of reprising his role as the Joker, also voiced Jordan Pryce, a red herring character, in the film, in order to deceive the public about the new Joker's true identity. Tara Strong, who voiced Barbara Gordon/Batgirl, was first credited as Tara Charendoff, her maiden name. For the scene of the old Harley Quinn, Bruce Timm originally wanted to cast an old actress for the role, but at the end, he decided to maintain Arleen Sorkin in the role.

In the early drafts of the film's script, the Joker's sidekick Harley Quinn was originally set to be killed in the flashback sequence. However, a short scene near the end of the movie, just after the climax, features an older woman who resembles Harley releasing her twin granddaughters Dee Dee (Delia and Deidre Dennis) from prison. When the old woman scolds the twins about their actions, one of them replies: "Shut up, Nana Harley!" Producer and screenwriter Paul Dini included this scene in the script because of his displeasure at being asked to kill off what he felt was one of his biggest contributions to the Batman mythos. Producer Bruce Timm chose to retain it because he felt it provided some necessary comic relief. The Hyperion-class Satellite idea was taken from Katsuhiro Otomo's sci-fi film Akira. The Jolly Jack Candy Factory, the resurrected Joker's hideout, is a reference to American comic book artist Jack Kirby, who, during his early Marvel Comics days, was known as "Jolly" Jack Kirby.

Many scenes written in the film's original script, like one featuring the The Penguin being interrogated by Batman at the Iceberg Lounge during the flashback sequence in order to discover the whereabouts of the Joker and Robin or one showing the Jokerz being arrested by Barbara Gordon and the Gotham City Police Department, were deleted due to time constraints. Woof even had a line in the original script, but it was cut.[7] The scene in which Bruce listens to records taken from The New Batman Adventures episode "Holiday Knights" was originally planned to retain the episode's animation, but at the end it was edited to replace the Joker's old appearance.[8] Even although many scenes were deleted from the final cut, some planned scenes were storyboarded but never made. For example, it was originally intended that after being shot at the film's beginning, Bonk's corpse was to be seen in the background twitching throughout the rest of the scene, but the producers were asked to leave it out early in the film's development. Another deleted concept was that in the "Our Family Memories" video, the Joker's apron was originally going to say "Kill the Cook", rather than the final version's "Kiss the Cook", and the table was supposed to have surgical tools rather than the final's bagels, plungers, and cream cheese, but it was changed due being too gruesome.

Re-editing[edit | edit source]

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The Joker's death in the unedited version of the film (top) compared to his death in the edited version (bottom)

The film was initially released amid the backlash against violence in films and video games aimed at children that followed the Columbine High School massacre, in which Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 12 students and one teacher before committing suicide on April 20, 1999. As a result, the film was substantially re-edited shortly before release on December 12, 2000, to reduce the violence. The original unedited version was eventually released as "The Original Uncut Version" on April 23, 2002.

The following are scenes that were changed in the edited-for-content version:

  • References to death and killing were removed from character dialogue, leaving most of it implied. For example, in the edited version, Commissioner Barbara Gordon's line at the end of the flashback, "We buried the Joker deep beneath Arkham", was removed to avoid any reference to death and burial of the dead.
  • The opening fight sequence was trimmed, cutting a second Dee Dee kick and a taser attack explaining Batman's subsequent vision malfunction. Also removed was a 360-degree fight sequence in which Batman fends off the Jokerz one by one.
  • White flashes were added to the action sequences. Additionally, repeated punches were mostly trimmed to one punch.
  • After the opening credits, Bruce Wayne throws a batarang that beheads a wax statue of Two-Face in the Batcave. This scene was cut and only shows the batarang returning to Bruce.
  • After Bonk yells at the Joker that his time is over and he is a fake, the Joker replies, "Ah, brave new world... that has such putzes in it." "Putzes" was changed to "yutzes" in the edited version, since "putz" is a Yiddish word that means "dick" as well as "fool". However, the subtitles for the DVD of the edited version still use "putzes".
  • Bonk was not shot with the Joker's flag-spear gun, but instead was given a dose of Joker laughing gas, taking his implied death off-screen. As a result, the following loyalty oath sequence was cut.
  • Blood was removed in the edited version.
  • The scene in which the Joker cuts Batman with a knife, then stabs him in the leg, was in the uncut version, which explained how Bruce got his limp due to the loss of his knee's cartilage and why he needed his cane for support,[9] although he walks normally, without the limp, prior to retiring as Batman in the episode "Rebirth". In the edited version, the Joker punches Batman, though the knife can still be seen in the Joker's hand and the hole it made in Batman's costume is still visible.
  • After the Joker attacks Bruce in the Batcave, when Terry returns to the cave, he finds "Ha! Ha! Ha!" painted on the ground. In the uncut version, it has a blood red color. In the edited version, it had a dark purple color.
  • In the uncut version, one scene has Batman throwing a knife he uses to cut himself free from the red strings at the Joker. In the edited version, the knife was removed, but the sound of the knife cutting through the strings can still be heard and the hole it makes in the curtain can still be seen.
  • The Joker's death scene was heavily edited. In the original, Tim fires the Joker's "BANG!" flag/spear gun at the Joker and the projectile pierces his heart, killing him. In the edited version, the gun is full of Joker gas and Tim does not use it. Instead he pushes the Joker into a room with hanging electrical wires and two tanks of water. The Joker crashes into one, and the wires slip down. The Joker runs forward to get Tim, but slips and turns on the wires, electrocuting himself. In addition, the setup lines were changed. In the original uncut version, the Joker tells Tim to "make Daddy proud, deliver the punch line" and his "last words" were, "That's not funny, that's not...". After the edit and the changing of the gun from a spear gun to a Joker gas gun, the line became "make him one of us", which is also his new "last words".
  • During the scene where Batman and Batgirl go searching for Robin, the uncut version shows Batgirl questioning two women about Robin's whereabouts. In the edited version, it is a man and a woman. This scene may have been edited because the women were implied to be prostitutes.
  • When the Jokerz visit Pryce on the Wayne Enterprises yacht, a suggestive scene in which one of the Dennis sisters lies on a bed was cut from the unrated version.
  • Seatbelts were added around characters in vehicles. There were no seatbelts in the original version.
  • When Terry visits Bruce's dog Ace after the Joker's attack on Wayne Manor, Ace is watching a Bugs Bunny cartoon called Hare Ribbin'. A character in the cartoon repeatedly shouts "I wish I were dead!" This audio was cut from the censored version.
  • In the "Our Family Memories" segment of the film, the uncut version depicts the Joker pulling out electrical cables to torture Robin. This brief sequence is cut from the censored version.
  • The Joker's line, "I'll begin with how I peeled back the layers of the boy's mind," in the uncut version is changed to "I'll begin with how I effected young Robin's makeover" in the edited version.
  • Barbara's line, "We buried the Joker deep beneath Arkham" is cut in the edited version.
    • In addition, her line about her father, James Gordon, knowing about the events of Joker's death, was also changed from "He promised to keep our secret" to "And for Robin's sake, he kept that night a secret".
  • When Bruce and Terry are discussing the undestroyed Robin suit, Bruce's line "Robin did shoot him" was changed to "Robin defeated him" in the edited version.
  • As the Joker is about to destroy Wayne Manor with the satellite beam, he asks Terry "any last words for the old Batfart?" "Batfart" was changed to "Batcoot" in the edited version.
  • During the scene where the elderly Harley Quinn bails Dee Dee out of jail, her clothes are different colors. In the original version, her clothes are blue and purple. In the edited version, her clothes are red and black like her original jester outfit.

Connections to the television series[edit | edit source]

  • In the Batman Beyond episode "Joyride", the Jokerz used the Joker's remains for their initiation ritual. A deleted scene in the film would have involved Bruce Wayne checking these remains to ascertain whether or not the original Joker was really dead. Wayne finds the body suspended over the Arkham Operating Theatre with a note pinned to the chest reading "I know".
  • Enhanced versions of the Jokerz seen in Return of the Joker later appear in the Justice League Unlimited episode "The Once and Future Thing: Part II—Time Warped", thanks to the actions of supervillain Chronos. Terry is killed by the Jokerz but Green Lantern and the original Batman manage to subdue Chronos and put things right, therefore restoring Terry and returning the Jokerz to normal.
  • In continuity, Return of the Joker appears to be set after the Batman Beyond episode "King's Ransom", where Paxton Powers is arrested, leaving Wayne-Powers up for grabs. However, the film could take place after the entire series, because none of the plot elements are followed up, and no mention is made of the Joker or Tim Drake during the third season until the Static Shock episode "Future Shock" and the Justice League Unlimited episode "Epilogue". Producer Bruce Timm has reportedly stated that the events in the flashback take place at the end of the current DC animated universe timeline, which is after the Justice League Unlimited series finale "Destroyer", but before the prologue of the Batman Beyond series premiere "Rebirth". However, Batman, Batgirl, Robin, and Harley Quinn all retain their The New Batman Adventures designs, while the Joker appears in his Static Shock and Justice League design.
  • In the Justice League Unlimited episode "Epilogue", it is revealed that the genetics technology used by the Joker was stolen from Project Cadmus, and is possibly a variant of the same technology that was used to create Terry in the first place. In the Justice League two parter episode "Wild Cards", Joker is shown stealing that technology, intending to reserve it for later use, which was in transforming Tim while he frees the Royal Flush Gang.

Soundtrack[edit | edit source]

Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker Soundtrack
Soundtrack album by
Various artists
ReleasedOctober 17, 2000
LabelRhino Records
Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic3/5 stars[10]

Released on October 17, 2000, the soundtrack to Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker contains music composed by Kristopher Carter, as well as two tracks of music featured in the direct-to-video film.

All tracks are written by Kristopher Carter.

1."Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (Main Title)"Kristopher Carter02:10
2."Industrial Heist"Kristopher Carter03:48
3."Meet the Joker"Kristopher Carter02:47
4."Joker Crashes Bruce's Party"Kristopher Carter01:19
5."Terry Relieved of Duty"Kristopher Carter01:54
6."Nightclub Fight / Terry Rescues Bruce"Kristopher Carter04:39
7."A Trap for Tim"Kristopher Carter01:26
8."Joker Family Portrait"Kristopher Carter02:05
9."Arkham Mayhem"Kristopher Carter03:31
10."Batman Defeats the Jokerz"Kristopher Carter01:36
11."Joker Meets His End (Again)"Kristopher Carter04:21
12."Healing Old Wounds"Kristopher Carter02:03
13."Crash (The Humble Brothers Remix)"Mephisto Odyssey (feat. Static-X)03:26
14."Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (End Title)"Kenny Wayne Shepherd03:02
Total length:38:13

Critical reception[edit | edit source]

According to the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 90% of critics have given the film a positive review based on 10 reviews, and the average rating is 7.71/10. The site's critics consensus reads, "This feature length entry in the Batman Beyond mythos sends off the Mark Hamill-voiced Joker in thrilling fashion, hitting the same caped crusading peaks of the original series."[3]

Nisha Gopalan of Entertainment Weekly praised the uncut version of the film, in particular how it "sheds light on the dark, obsessive relationship between the villain and his vigilante counterpart."[11] Gerry Shamray of Sun Newspapers said that Return of the Joker "would have made a great live-action Batman movie."[12] Ryan Cracknell of Apollo Guide called the film "an animated masterpiece."[13]

Peter Canavese of Groucho Reviews called it an "energetic and unsettling Batman adventure," adding that it "provides a memorable showcase for Hamill's celebrated take on the Joker, and allows both McGinnis and Wayne to see action and face emotional challenges."[14] Michael Stailey of DVD Verdict gave the uncut version a score of 92 out of 100, calling it "a taut, high-impact film" and "a must-buy to Bat-fans and animation lovers alike."[15]

Garth Franklin of Dark Horizons had a mixed response when reviewing the uncut version, saying that "the script is pretty solid, the animation superb, and the voice performances all work well," but added that "the Terry character's personal scenes aren't anywhere near as engaging [as the scenes featuring the Joker or Bruce Wayne], and the investigative subplot doesn't work as well as it should."[16] Jeremy Conrad of IGN gave the uncut version a score of nine out of 10 for the movie itself, six out of 10 each for video and audio, and eight out of 10 for extras, adding up to an overall score of seven out of 10.[17]

Accolades[edit | edit source]

Award Category Subject Result
Annie Award Best Animated Home Entertainment Production Won
Directing in a Feature Production Curt Geda Nominated
Writing in a Feature Production Paul Dini, Glen Murakami, and Bruce Timm Nominated
Voice Acting in a Feature Production Mark Hamill Nominated
DVD Exclusive Award Best Animated Character Performance Won

Comic adaptation[edit | edit source]

The comic adaption of the film was released in February 2001. While the comic was largely uncensored, the page depicting the Joker's death was redone to match the censored version of the movie.[18]

The comic includes several scenes that did not make it to either version of the film. Examples are:

  • During Bruce's visit to the remains of Arkham Asylum to find clues to the Joker's return, he unknowingly is followed by Terry. The Joker's body is hanging from the ceiling, with a written note on his body saying "I Know". Storyboard drawings, however, do appear as deleted scenes, which were present in both versions of the DVD as part of the special features.
  • Batman's interrogation of the Penguin (similar to a scene of the novel Batman: The Killing Joke) in the flashback was cut from the movie due to time and pacing concerns, as confirmed in the commentary.
  • Harley's death from the original script is used.

Novelization[edit | edit source]

Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, a novelization of the feature film written by Michael Teitelbaum, was released on November 1, 2000.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. "COVERS.BOX.SK ::: batman beyond return of the joker english - high quality DVD / Blueray / Movie". Retrieved 2020-09-22.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. (in en) Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (Uncut) - IGN,, retrieved 2020-07-06 
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (2000)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Archived from the original on 2009-10-22. Retrieved 2009-10-23.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-05-10. Retrieved 2016-11-12.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Dini, Paul (2000). Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker: The Official Screenplay. New York, NY: Watson-Guptill Publications. p. 91. ISBN 0823077179. 
  10. AllMusic review
  11. Goplan, Nisha (May 10, 2002). "Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (The Original, Uncut Version) Review". Entertainment Weekly.
  12. Review by Gerry Shamray, Sun Newspapers of Cleveland, 7 February 2003
  13. Review Archived December 23, 2007, at the Wayback Machine, Ryan Cracknell, Apollo Guide, 24 July 2001
  14. Review, Peter Canavese, Groucho Reviews, 15 February 2005
  15. Review Archived May 25, 2008, at the Wayback Machine, Michael Stailey, DVD Verdict, May 27, 2002
  16. "Review". Archived from the original on June 28, 2007. Retrieved September 2, 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>, Garth Franklin, Dark Horizons, December 12th 2000
  17. Conrad, Jeremy (April 23, 2002). "Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (Uncut)". IGN. Retrieved September 4, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. ROTJ Page Comparison

External links[edit | edit source]

Template:Annie Award for Best Animated Home Entertainment Production

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