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Old 01-22-2006, 06:24 AM   #46
Drunken Savior
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Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (2000)


Released 2000
Rated: PG-13
Staring: Will Friedle, Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill, Angie Harmon, Dean Stockwell, and Arleen Sorkin.
Written by: Paul Dini, Glen Murakami, and Bruce W. Timm
Directed by: Curt Geda


Acting: A
Cinematography: B-
Story: A
Sound: C+

2000. A weird time for Batman fans. The animated shows were coming to an end, and soon Batman fans would have to turn to Justice League to get their Batman kicks. However the animated series gave us one last hurah in Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker. For the benefit of those who have not seen this film, I will be reviewing the UNCUT version of this film and this review will not feature spoilers. At the end of the review, there will be a brief bit on the differences between the CUT and the UNCUT versions, and it will feature spoilers to the plot.


An old face returns to Gotham...

In the future, young Terry McGinnis has assumed the mantle of the Bat and carries on the name of Batman, and all he stands for. Aside from Mr. Freeze, Terry has a whole new slew of villains to fight. An aging Bruce Wayne, too old and weak to physically handle the duties of Batman, sits in the cave and monitor's his young disciple?s progress. Bruce's villains have all but disappeared...but then one day, the clown prince of crime returns, as young and as spry as Bruce remembers him in his heyday. Is this new Joker an imposter? The real Joker must be as old as Bruce.


The crew. No that's not the Scarecrow....sadly.

This new Joker terrifies Bruce. Unlike the Batman of old, aging Bruce Wayne knows of the horrors the Joker can, and will, inflict to Gotham City. More importantly, this new Joker knows there is more to Bruce Wayne than an old coot in a big mansion. He knows that his arch-rival, the Batman, is old and now is the time to exact his revenge and take Gotham City from the good people.


We meet again, Batman. Time has not treated you well.

Return of the Joker is much darker and more violent than the other animated Batman films. There is a scene of torture, blood, stabbings, implied deaths, and a general dark tone that easily warrants a PG-13 rating. Will Friedle(Terry) does an impressive job as the new dark knight, though his tone is much more lighthearted than his mentor, Kevin Conroy(Bruce Wayne), who pulls an amazing old man performance that still shows that he understands the dichotomy between Bruce Wayne and Batman better than any actor out there). Mark Hammill(The Joker) pulls his best Joker performance ever, enhanced by the wonderful new Joker design. Angie Harmon(Commissioner Gordon) does a good job, but doesn't add too much to the old Barbara Gordon, now Commissioner. Dean Stockwell(older Tim Drake) has the right tone and character to his character and his performance will probably go unnoticed, but it's an amazing job. And lastly, Arleen Sorkin (Harley Quinn) is just as we remember her.


The best part of the film is the trip down memory lane....

Sadly, the direction is one of the film's weak points. I found that I was bored of most of the way the film was presented. The character's moved very well, the fight scenes were all done very well and feature a lot of complicated animations (especially the last due between the Joker and Terry). However, nothing really stood out. Often times, the backgrounds were so drab that I would find myself bored unless the animation was standing out. In general, that's my biggest beef with Batman Beyond too. The dark deco style didn't fit the Gotham of the future. It fit a more Dick Tracey, retro New York World's Fair look much better. But before I end this bit, I want to point out that I did give the Cinematography a B, a good mix between the drab backgrounds and the excellent character animation.

When talking about sound, simple music here. Kristopher Carter's original music doesn't hold a candle to Shirley Walker's orchestra from older Batman episodes or Mask of the Phantasm. Replacing a full orchestra with electric guitars fits the futuristic tone, but it's not good music for the dark knight.


Man, I love the new Joker redesign....

How does this film stand to other Batman films? Personally, it's my #3 behind Mask of the Phantasm and Batman Begins. The plot is simply superb and well written. The Joker is a psychopath and this film solidifies his new role in today's Batman universe. The film essentially ties up the older series (Batman: the Animated Series and The New Adventures of Batman) and also expands upon the Batman Beyond storyline.


Gotta love the Dark Knight Returns inspired Batmobile of Batman Beyond!

WARNING!!! SPOILERS BELOW!

The Differences between the CUT and UNCUT
+
Arguments for Both


Warner Bros. has actually released two versions of this film. The first release was the cut version, which was softer and had "less" violence. The Uncut version features blood and more explicit violence. Both films have the same outcome, but both come to their conclusions under different terms. Each film has an argument for how the characters would have acted.

Some of the cuts are just to appease the MPAA. The Joker more so 'poisons' his victims rather than kills them. He says "yutz" over "putz"...tough I don't really see the difference. The blood is removed. However the biggest change comes in the flashback...

In the film, the Joker kidnaps young Robin, a.k.a. Tim Drake and tortures him. During his probe, he pries out the secret identity of Batman. To add insult to injury, the Joker transforms young Tim Drake into a bastardized version of himself, complete with a purple schoolboy suit. When Batman discovers this, he loses it. Batman has lost his family before, and considers all of the Robins as his sons. Now he's lost his son to the chaos he has sworn to fight. At the same time, he is responsible for putting his son in danger. A fight ensures and the Joker is killed. But the way he dies is told differently:

CUT
When Joker gets the upper hand on the emotional Batman, he plans for one last joke, to have his new son kill his former master. Holding the defeated Batman by the collar, the Joker hands Tim a gun and orders Tim to kill Batman. However Tim denies and pushes the Joker into the room where he was operated/tortured. The room is still wet and the Joker stumbles into wires. The Jokers slips and pulls a lever and is electrocuted.

An argument for the Joker accidentally being killed
Some fans argue that Batman would have trained Robin NOT to kill, no matter what. This fact is a cornerstone of the Batman lore. Batman brings order and leaves it to the courts to deliver justice. He is not the executioner. He will not kill, period. By having Tim push the Joker, it solidifies the idea that no mater what the Joker did, Tim is still Tim and represents the ideals and morals his father has installed ino him. The Joker failed at destroying Batman's son.

UNCUT
When Joker gets the upper hand on the emotional Batman, he plans for one last joke, to have his new son kill his former master. Holding the defeated Batman by the collar, the Joker hands Tim a gun and orders Tim to kill Batman. In a laughing fit, Tim takes aim, adjusts at the last second and fires a shot into the Joker's chest. "That's not funny. That's not....." the clown prince of crime says before he falls, face first, into the ground. There is no accident, Tim Drake has killed the Joker, something Batman could never pull himself to do. Something he would never do. So there is tragedy, Tm Drake has fallen. He is no longer the Robin Batman has trained. The Joker has won. He has stolen Batman's son and there is tragedy instead of triumph.

My argument for the UNCUT plot?
So which plotline works? Personally, I like the idea that Joker's last act would be to 'destroy' Robin. Simply killing him isn't enough, he has destroyed all that Robin stood for and truly taken away a son from Bruce. It's cruel, depressing, and fitting for an ending to the clown prince of crime. It also explains Bruce's downward spiral that is obviously displayed by the bitter old Bruce Wayne. It's tragic, but so is the story of Bruce Wayne. He set out to accomplish a goal he could never finish, and he pays lots of prices along the way. This is one of them...perhaps his biggest.
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Last edited by Drunken Savior; 01-23-2006 at 11:07 AM.
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