Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (2000) — One last laugh

“It’d be funny if it weren’t so pathetic. Oh, what the heck, I’ll laugh anyway. HA HA HA HA HA HAA!”

Justin’s rating: Hamill and Conroy ride together again

Justin’s review: While I was a massive fan of the Batman animated series in the early ’90s — and continue to be to this day — I’ll admit that my attention and interest dropped off as the decade wore on. A big part of that was being in college without a TV, but whatever the case, I didn’t really stay up-to-date on the New Adventures of Batman, Justice League, and even Batman Beyond.

This last one was a short-lived three-season series that held an intriguing premise. It pushed forward the timeline to 2039 and the passing of the Batman cowl from Kevin Conroy’s Bruce Wayne to Will Friedle’s Terry McGinnis. It was a mostly a “next generation” series that still retained some ties to the popular past while developing a new rogue’s gallery, a different kind of Batman, and a lot of fun hi-tech gadgets. In the midst this series run, the first and only feature film came out of the project: Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker.

A ghoulish-looking Bruce Wayne with all the eyebags in the world finally reclaims his role as the head of Wayne Enterprises… just in time to be the target of a revitalized gang of Joker’s minions. And indeed, the legendary Mark Hamill is back as the cackling and crazy clown prince of crime. But everyone’s confused as to how this 80-plus-year-old figure looks so young. It certainly comes as a shock to Bruce, who flashes back to the last time that he fought the Joker before his retirement.

Suffice to say, the past has a whole lot to do with the present, and Return of the Joker does a great job weaving together the two eras into a tight story that kept me glued to the proceedings for the 80-minute runtime. About the only thing that had me rolling my eyes was the “obviously made in 2000” use of techno industrial music for every action scene. Oh, and a character in 2039 rolling out an insult by acting like email is still relevant.

But past that, this is quite the dark tale with a couple of really interesting twists. Hamill always brought one of the most chilling Jokers to life, and both his old and new incarnations in this film offer demented diatribes while threatening the entire world. Terry’s Batman wasn’t properly prepared to tackle someone of this caliber, but he’s going to leap into the fight even still.

Both fans of Batman: The Animated Series and Batman Beyond are well-served by this plus-sized outing. It gives Terry’s Batman moments of deserved heroism while also putting a cap on the decade-long Batman/Joker rivalry. A must-see in my (comic) book.

Didja notice?

  • All of Batman’s gadgets used in the first few minutes
  • You can fall asleep while dancing
  • “I’m ready to give this old town a wedgie again!”
  • Those smile drugs are still creepy as all get out
  • As is the abandoned Arkam Asylum
  • “Sweetie, get mommy’s bazooka!”
  • “Wait, I like to talk too!”
  • Nana Harley

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