Hey folks, Harry here... And our spy called 'superhero' has just turned in a fantastic look at BATMAN BEYOND: RETURN OF THE JOKER. Why's it fantastic? Because... 'superhero' doesn't really care for the BATMAN BEYOND tv show... it has never had that... 'oomph' that it needed to begin to approach the resonance of the original BATMAN. And as a result... 'superhero' has been disappointed throughout its television incarnation. Well.... I felt the same way with SOUTH PARK... I have always been a bit disappointed with the television show... wanting it to be a bit harder... more subversive... really getting under people's skin... and when I saw the film... all my problems and hangups with the series were COMPLETELY answered.... and so it seems is the case here with 'superhero'. He is now a full fledged convert. NOW... Hopefully, Dini, Burnett, Stephenson and Yakin will be able to take the next step with the feature live-action film.... I can't wait. Here's 'superhero'....
I am the individual known in your talkback forum as superhero and I am here with a review of the new animated straight to video release, Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker.
Now before I get into this I must precursor everything I write by saying that Batman Beyond is not one of my favorite interpretations of the Dark Knight. I feel that the young charge that Bruce Wayne has taken under his wing and entrusted to carry the Batman mantle has no real edge to him. To me the original Batman Animated series encapsulated everything that was great about the Batman mythos. It had the perfect setting and the perfect mood. It nailed all of the villains and heroes perfectly and even when they changed things they made them better than the comics had ever been able to. I loved the original series, liked the WB follow up, and was VERY lukewarm about Batman Beyond when it premiered.
Yes you may hate me for saying it but it just didn't gel for me.
I missed the cape and I missed the attitude. I missed the,"striking fear into the hearts of evildoers everywhere." I felt that Terry wasn't scary enough and that he wasn't as tough as he could be. I felt that Batman should be a badass with a take no prisoners kind of feel to him and Beyond didn't capture that for me. To me the kid was a wannabe and the criminals he fought were NEVER scared of him. He had no great Rogues Gallery and his villians were all lame subpar 70's Marvel Comics villain ripoffs. And the teen angst thing was NOT Batman.
In other words: I felt if they wanted to do Spiderman than that's what they should have done.
Don't get me wrong, I didn't HATE it. It just didn't MAKE me want to watch it like the other show did. It just wasn't BATMAN.
So now you're thinking that I hated Return of the Joker, right? You're thinking I'm going to rip this Batman Beyond flick a new a-hole, right? I can almost imagine all the talkbackers clicking their mouse on the talkback button getting ready to burn me like little ol' Joan of Ark...
Well, guess what people?
I will sum this Batman Beyond video feature in one word:
This movie really takes the Batman Beyond idea EXACTLY where it needed to go from the beginning. It brings back that edge, that spirit that makes Batman what he is. This is a TRUE life and death adventure that pushes all of the characters to the next level of where they needed to go.
Not only that but it answers questions. A lot of questions. And in answering those questions it gives a whole new understanding to the Bruce Wayne and Barbra Gordon characters. Why there is so much bitterness and resentment between them in the Batman Beyond reality?
In this tale you feel that there are stakes. That something is going to happen that will change the way these people live forever. And it does happen and it's all because of the return of possibly the greatest supervillain of all time. You already knew it by the title but let me tell you: The Joker is BACK!
And he is not in a good mood.
If you always felt that the Joker in the cartoon could never reach the level of pure homicidal mania that he achieved in THE KILLING JOKE or A DEATH IN THE FAMILY you were wrong. The Joker in this video is out and out scary! He is playing for keeps. He's here for revenge and he's going to get it. In short: he's here to KILL people.
And when he comes back he brings a whole slew of baggage with him. A past that Bruce Wayne would just as soon not see revealed. There are revelations about the past of this series that are truly shocking. The things that occur in the flashback sequence will break your heart. The Joker went all out here and what occurred to Batman and his crew as result was just as tragic as when he killed Jason Todd, paralyzed Batgirl, and murdered Comissioner Gordon's wife. Quite honestly I was blown away. I had no idea they would go this far in an American mainstream cartoon. But they did and it's haunting.
But the wonderful thing about this is the fact that when the Joker makes his return he becomes, in effect, the reason why Terry will become the one, true Batman of the future. The Joker is the catalyst for tragedy but like in all great dramatic pieces the tradgedy actually makes the characters GROW. After the Joker's visit to this future Gotham none of its residents will ever be the same.
I feel that the screenwriter really outdid himself with this story. The first thing that impressed me the most is that it really is a mystery. Who is this Joker? Is he the real deal? Is he a clone? A robot? I'm not telling but I will tell you that when you find out the real answers I doubt you'll be disappointed. And what's truly great about the screenplay is that it leaves you guessing at every corner. You have no real idea what's happening or what's going to happen. You're going for a ride and theysure as hell make sure you'll enjoy it when you get to your final destination.
The animation is well done too. The colors seem to be much brighter and the fluidity of movement in someplaces is beautiful to behold. Of course, some of the stuff is a bit stiff in places but all in all this thing is really gorgeous to look at. And the character design! I really loved the look of the Joker's new posse. They absolutely fit in with what a bunch of goons working for the Joker in the future would look like.
But what really stood out for me amongst all the technical stuff? Mark Hammil. Let me just say that if they had an Oscar for voice over work it would have to go to him. His voice stuff is truly masterful. For all you people who think that voice over stuff is just showing up and talking into a mike you are wrong. It IS acting. You have to get into the character and BE that person almost as much as if you were doing it in front of the camera. The michrophone lies just as little as the camera does and Hammil IS the Joker in this film. He gives him a life and vibrance and horror that few other voice actors could. He is a main part of why this video is the greatness it is and I hope he gets real credit for it.
All in all this Batman Beyond movie is fantastic and it makes me more than a bit sad that this may be the last season for it when it FINALLY seemed like it was going to hit its stride. Hopefully it will be a huge success and give the suits at the WB an excuse to make many more episodes because after this I, who wasn't so keen on Batman Beyond, WANT to see more. I'm converted!
So in the trilogy that are the Batman animated films the order of greatness is this:
1) Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
2) Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker
3) Batman: Sub Zero
So that's it. One last thing, though. If you are a parent I must advise you that some of the scenes in this are VERY intense. I was actually shocked (and I am a fully grown adult) by some of the stuff they showed. So if you have a kid under maybe ten years old you might want to watch it before you get it for them. I'm NOT a fan of censorship of ANY kind but I think you parents should know so that none of you can blame Batman when your psycho eight year old knifes another kid at the K-Mart.
Anyway, I think I can hear a woman trapped under a burning car...
I better go. Duty calls.
Until next time.