Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (2000) Director: Curt Geda
“The last sound you’ll hear will be our laughter.”
Coinciding with the animated show Batman Beyond, a 52-episode futuristic series which features an aging Bruce Wayne (Kevin Conroy) and a new teenager named Terry McGinnis (Will Friedle) who dons a Batman suit. It’s a fascinating world for a new Batman story. However, the real star of this show is Mark Hamill as the Joker who has mysteriously returned with his clownish “Jokerz” gang. In a flashback from four decades ago, as explained by new Commissioner Barbara Gordon, the Joker had kidnapped Robin and subjected him to torture, brainwashing, and chemicals which have transformed him into “Joker Jr.”, a horribly disfigured miniature Joker. During his rescue by Batman and Batgirl, Robin/Tim Drake turns on the Joker which kills the Joker, forces Robin to suffer a maniacal fit and nervous breakdown, and causes Harley Quinn to fall down into a dark pit.
Following the clues, Terry and Bruce trace a satellite technology to Robin/Tim Drake. He has apparently gone insane, and the fight leads to an abandoned candy store. As it turns out, the Joker had used Drake’s body for experimental cutting-edge genetic technology –a microchip with the Joker’s DNA. It’s a bit of a strange, contrived turn of events if you ask me. Needless to say, with such dark, twisted themes, Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker was heavily edited, especially in light of the recent school shooting at Columbine. In the end, Terry successfully destroys the Joker once and for all.
While many Batman fans seem to praise this film, I simply do not care for this interpretation of Batman rife with heavy metal music and futuristic motifs –personally, I prefer the classic Batman in The Animated Series, but I can see some of its merits. Perhaps I will give it another try in the future.