Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (2000) – Classic Rivals and the Timelessness of Batman

Batman Beyond Return of the Joker

   “Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker” still holds up. It isn’t as good as I remembered it being, but it is still easily a favorite and does some really creative stuff with the Bat Family, seriously…this blows the modern day DC Animated Films out of the water. There simply isn’t a comparison in quality and storytelling and I think most of that credit goes to Bruce Timm who managed to make Superman interesting enough to receive an entire Animated Series and to have created two successful renditions of the Justice League…outside of creating the best Batman on screen.

    The film was directed by Curt Geda and written by Paul Dini (though Bruce Timm and Glen Murakami wrote the story too) and produced by Alan Burnett, Paul Dini, Bruce Timm and Glen Murakami.

     The story takes place in the universe of “Batman Beyond” which takes place years into the future where Bruce Wayne (Kevin Conroy) has become an adviser and mentor to the new Batman Terry McGinnis (Will Friedle)  in Future Gotham. When the Joker (Mark Hamill) resurfaces after being dead for 35 years it is up to Terry to solve the mystery and discover the dark secret of why Batman was working alone when he found him.

The Pros: The World – The world of Future Gotham is fantastic! A new Batman, Barbara as the new police commissioner and the use of future tech in gang warfare are fascinating. As much as Gotham has changed, it has also stayed the same…which is fitting.

The Animation – This is WB animation with Bruce Timm at the helm and it rocks! The animation is unique and has a simple yet beautiful style to it. Each character looks distinct and Gotham looks like a true future city.

The Characters – The characters are why we’re here. They drive the story and it is that core drama between Bruce Wayne and the Joker and his drama with the Bat Family old and new. These core relationships drive the story.

The Jokerz – The Jokers are awesome and Dee-Dee are twins that are grandaughters of Harley Quinn, carrying on her legacy in their own way. They have cool look with a ghoul looking guy, a fat clown in a mask, a Scarecrow type and a man with Hyena blood spliced into him.

Harley Quinn – Harley is a messed up character who seems to have grown up by the end. She is one of the tormentors of Robin and takes part in the abuse and torture Joker puts on the populace, but when we see her as an old woman she regrets it all. She’s done and just wants to take care of her family. She healed from the trauma the Joker did to her, which is powerful.

Tim Drake / Robin –  Tim Drake is the last Robin in the Batman Universe and we learn why in this as he is tortured and turned into Little J by the Joker and Harley. After he is rescued and kills the Joker he is left with the trauma and scars that Barbara helps him through. Joker still won to some degree though as the micro-chip the Joker installed on him leads to the Joker taking control of him until Terry McGinnis can rescue him. In the end Bruce reaches out and expresses how lucky he is know Tim.

Barbara Gordon / Batgirl – Barbara is the one taking care of everyone as she is mature enough to deal with her trauma and others’ trauma (unlike Bruce Wayne). It is thanks to her that Terry finds out that Tim is the Joker and from there how to stop him. She really is an awesome character!

The Joker – Hamill is back as the Joker in the past (when he dies) and the future with his technology rebirth! He is such a great villain. He not only broke Harley making her a villain but broke Tim almost making him another villain and breaking him enough that Tim killed him the first time. This isn’t the end though, he destroys the Batcave, Wayne Manor, Laugh Gasses Bruce and a good portion of Gotham with a lazer. Seriously, not a single Joker compares to this besides Ledger’s in “The Dark Knight.”

Bruce Wayne / Batman – Bruce deals with his trauma finally and we see him begin to heal as he faces the fact that he cut himself off from everyone, but thanks to Terry he begins to heal things with Tim and Barbara bringing the Bat Family back together again.

Terry McGinnis / Batman – Terry is the glue and the main driving force as we see him dealing with being both Terry and Batman and in the end finds he is Terry as Batman, not the other way around as he defeats the Joker not by being Bruce but by mocking him  and being himself and forcing the Joker to be stupid and tricking him. Terry is an amazing Batman and I’m glad he’s official canon now. He’s a Batman I’d like to see in live action films. This film shows why. He’s a punk who grew up and now does everything he can to help others.

Tim Drake’s Story and the Death of the Joker – This incident is why Bruce went loner. Tim kills the Joker breaking the rule and lives with the guilt from that only for Joker to win anyway…Not only did Joker destroy the Bat Family, he lived on from the trauma caused by that day. There is reason he is one of the greatest villains of all time.

Timeless Batman – Batman can work in any environment or world and it doesn’t have to be Bruce. This film showed as much, Terry has his own darkness as Bruce does but unlike the Joker it doesn’t define them and it is their classic rivalry against what the Joker represents in chaos that really makes Batman timeless. All of Bruce Timm’s Batman work shows as much as he explores the Batman of the future in Terry McGinnis and in the past in Bruce Wayne. Batman is about overcoming your demons and  using that to help others and that is what they do.

Okay: Side Characters – Dana and Bruce Wayne’s rival and Terry’s family are just kind of there. They exist in relationship to Terry and Bruce and don’t feel like full characters. They are good for their function in the script but could have been more…this movie should have been longer.

The Soundtrack – It is quite at times and besides the Beyond opening theme isn’t all that great. It works but it isn’t a pro.

  This is a film well worth your time if you are a fan of Batman. Bruce Timm and this world were a world I grew up watching and it holds up stronger to this day. Seriously, this film blows all of the “New 52” films out of the water. You get to know the characters, no characters are unstoppable and the flaws of characters are on display always.  The world of Gotham feels lived and there is so much history which you’d come to know from this film even if you’d never watched “Batman: The Animated Series” or “Batman Beyond.” This film stands on its own and is one of the darker films in the Universe that still manages to hold a place for healing and hope for the characters. If you get the chance, check it out!

Final Score: 9.5 / 10

Top 10 Batman: The Animated Series Episodes (Season 1)

1992-BatmanTheAnimatedSeries-keyart

“Batman: The Animated Series,” is one of my favorite shows and after rewatching Season 1 I can once see why. It has fully fleshed out characters, villains with dimensions and adds so much to the mythos. I’ll be taking a break from Batman for a while but plan on returning to Batman and the DC Animated Universe.

In this post I’ll be going into my top 10, as well as giving a link to each one and the reason why they are where they are. Each was chosen because it was the perfect episode compared to the others. I am going to give an honorary mention to some more of my favorites though: “Harley and Ivy,” “Heart of Steel,” “Shadow of the Bat,” “Curse of the Grey Ghost,” “Day of the Samurai,” “His Silicon Soul,” and “Joker’s Wild.” All of these are worth checking out and worth more than one viewing.

Here are the Top 10:

What is Reality

10th) What is Reality?

“What is Reality?” is not higher on the list because it doesn’t really add more to any of the characters. It is on the list though because it shows the Riddler at his height (wiping all information of his existence away and stealing money and stock via hacking) and it takes Robin and Batman working together and at their best to stop him and save Commissioner Gordon. The Riddler is one of my favorite of Batman’s Rogues and this one captures why that is perfectly.

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/06/25/batman-the-animated-series-season-1-episode-48-what-is-reality-the-riddlers-game/

Wayne_and_Batman_fight

9th) Perchance to Dream

“Perchance to Dream,” is the best Mad Hatter episode since he gives Batman a world where Bruce Wayne could function in. Someone else is Batman, his parents are alive and he has a normal life. This is a common trope especially in the DC Animated Universe which is why it isn’t higher on the list, but what sets this one apart is how in the world created a Batman does exist and shows just how much Bruce Wayne needs Batman as an identity to function.

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/06/12/batman-the-animated-series-season-1-episode-30-trapped-in-a-dream/

Robin's Reckoning

8th) Robin’s Reckoning

“Robin’s Reckoning,” sold me on the Batman and Robin possible romance in this series. The chemistry and honesty they have with each other is greater than any of the partners they get in this universe and it shows their bond with Batman trying to protect Robin from doing something he’ll regret by killing his parents killer. The killer Tony Zucco is the weakest part of this episode, which is why it isn’t higher on the list.

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/06/15/batman-the-animated-series-season-1-episodes-32-33-robins-reckoning-how-dick-grayson-became-robin/

Riddler-5

7th) If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Rich?

This is the episode that introduces us to the Riddler and what a great episode it is! It incorporates mythology with the Riddler as the sphinx and Batman and Robin having to save the Riddler’s corrupt boss in a giant maze. This one is great in regards to their team work and shows that Robin is a gamer. The Riddler is also one of the more sympathetic rogues and this is why. He is cheated out of the game he created and fired by his corrupt boss. He could have been an anti-hero if he hadn’t violent too…showing the promise to this version of the Riddler. My hope is that when he returns to the big screen that inspiration will be taken from this Riddler after the horrible execution and choice that was the Jim Carrey Riddler.

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/06/19/batman-the-animated-series-season-1-episode-40-if-youre-so-smart-why-arent-you-rich-the-arrival-of-the-riddler/

Joker's Favor

6th) Joker’s Favor

“Joker’s Favor,” is the episode that shows just how petty and cruel the Joker can be. Charlie is a guy having a bad day, he yells at a car that happens to have the Joker in it and he is blackmailed for the rest of his life. The Joker and Harley later use him to almost wipe out the Police Force. Harley Quinn is also the reason this episode is so perfect, given the plan would have have succeeded without her and Charlie. The ending is perfect too and we’re left wondering if Charlie snapped because of everything the Joker put him through…showing us just how deadly the Joker can be to total strangers.

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/06/08/batman-the-animated-series-season-1-episode-22-jokers-favor-the-deal-with-the-devil/

two_face_piece

5th) Two-Face

“Two-Face,” is one of the greatest tragedies of this series because in the beginning he was a well intentioned District Attorney who we see as a flawed but good person through his friendship with Bruce Wayne. It makes Rupert Thorne’s blackmail of him all the more powerful since he uses Harvey’s past and vulnerabilities against him, which in turn creates a monster who becomes one of the best of Batman’s Rogues. I always had hope for this Two-Face, it was a shame that the hope was forsaken as Harvey was lost and Two-Face became dominant. Also, my favorite Two-Face is the one from this series.

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/06/05/batman-the-animated-series-season-1-episodes-10-and-11-two-face-the-tragedy-of-harvey-dent/

Dreams in Darkness

4th) Dreams in Darkness

“Dreams in Darkness,” asks the question of does Batman belong in Arkham Asylum? It is a haunting episode because Batman is someone who is like the crooks he brings in. He has unresolved issues that lead him to dress up like a bat to take out criminals. This is the question dealt with as he tries to convince the doctors that Scarecrow has escaped and is planning to destroy Gotham. This is by far the best of the Scarecrow episodes and well worth a watch due to how it analyzes Batman, shows Scarecrow at his height and how the workers of Gotham are just normal well intentioned doctors.

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/06/11/batman-the-animated-series-season-1-episode-28-dreams-in-darkness-batman-in-arkham-asylum/

Heart of Ice

3rd) Heart of Ice

“Heart of Ice,” is one of the most tragic tales of “Batman: The Animated Series,” and by far the best of them. We see a scientist trying to save his wife with experimental technology destroyed by his boss and in the process losing all ability to physically feel. There is a reason this episode has won awards before. It is just that good and Mr. Freeze is one of the more complex rogues who I was always rooting for to get redemption.

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/06/06/batman-the-animated-series-season-1-episode-14-heart-of-ice-the-tragedy-of-victor-fries/

The_Man_Who_Killed_Batman-Title_Card

2nd) The Man Who Killed Batman

“The Man Who Killed Batman,” is an episode that explores what Gotham would be like without Batman. It would be first place if it had shown how more of the rogues reacted besides the Joker and how Commissioner Gordon reacted, but it does what it needs to. Sydney the ambitious but stupid and funny thug is believed to have killed Batman and from there he faces the consequences of it as Thorne thinks he is a threat, Joker hates him for stealing his kill and in the end the prison admires him. It is a fun and powerful episode.

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/06/27/batman-the-animated-series-season-1-episode-51-the-man-who-killed-batman-a-world-without-batman/

Almost Got Im

1st) Almost Got ‘Im

Told in the style of “The Canterbury Tales,” the villains Two-Face, Penguin, Poison Ivy, Joker and Killer Croc recount their exploits on how they almost killed Batman. It is fun and you see why Penguin, Two-Face, Poison Ivy and the Joker are the strongest of the popular rogues. They dynamic between them all of jealousy, animosity and friendship is fantastic since it was created by Batman bringing them down. There are a few twists and some great jokes and fantastic stories making “Almost Got ‘Im” the best of the “Batman: The Animated Series,” episodes of season 1!

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/06/24/batman-the-animated-series-season-1-episode-46-almost-got-im-a-meeting-of-the-rogues-or-so-close-to-victory/

Next I will be reviewing some animated shows, but someday I will be returning to review Season 2 (and best of Season 2) and the rest of the DC Animated Universe. Bruce Timm helped create something great that stands strong to this day.

 

Batman: The Animated Series – An Episodic Exploration

batman-animated-series

Today is the day I began the Episodic Exploration of “Batman: The Animated Series” or “Batman: TAS.” It was one of the first shows I ever saw as a child and inspired by own writing and creativity in it’s dark and whimsical bent…it was what introduced me to Batman since I didn’t see Burton’s “Batman” until I was older. I plan to review some episodes every week until I’m through the entire series, after that a new show that may or may not be in the DC Animated Universe, but a list of my top episodes will also be there for the final review tied this series. Bruce Timm deserves appreciation for the fantastic work he did with his art and multiple series.

“Batman: The Animated Series” was created by Bruce Timm who in turn created the rest of the DC Comics animated universe including “Superman: The Animated Series,” “Justice League” and “Justice League: Unlimited,” “Batman Beyond,” “The Adventures of Batman and Robin,” and “The New Batman Adventures.” All of these minus “Superman” which I haven’t watched yet were shows I grew up with and love to this day.

This was the show that introduced me to some of my favorite comic book villains such as The Joker, Two-Face and Scarecrow. The show also has the best Batman and Bruce Wayne, which I’ll go into more when I eventually get to the films. How the handled is story made him more than just a dark and brooding sociopath with a justice streak…he was able to connect to people and form real friendships while never becoming paralyzed or inept like many of the movie Batman were. Kevin Conroy also does the voice change between Bruce Wayne and Batman so naturally. This series also had my favorite Two-Face where his backstory and drive are truly explored and one of my favorite Jokers. Mark Hamill’s Joker…That laugh…not to mention he is dangerous as well as funny.

The show isn’t completely gold, there are some dud episodes, which is why I plan to take it in order so that it can be taken as a whole with new eyes.