I remember the first time I ever watched Batman Beyond, and just being amazed by how good it was. I loved the futuristic rendition of Gotham City, as well as the vehicles, technology, and the people that inhabited it. Everything about it felt familiar but with a fun and fresh twist to it. Additionally, it was also enjoyable to see the creative homages to pre-existing villains. More importantly, however, was the dynamic between Bruce Wayne and Terry Mcginnis, and both Kevin Conroy and Will Friedle played their roles perfectly. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, that dynamic was the major driving point in me adoring the show, even to the point where young me deemed it the best television that he had ever seen.
Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker is what I loved, and still love about Batman Beyond. Although I usually don’t say this, I’m so glad that this movie was given a PG-13 rating, due to the film’s exploration of the Joker as a character, and what makes him a terrifying villain. I usually prefer a Joker that is a bad person, no doubt, but actually fun to watch. However, I feel the more serious Joker worked for this particular story, due to the excellent character drama that came as a result. This is one of the best versions of the joker put to film, because the movie isn’t afraid to show the twisted damage that the joker has inflicted on the lives of others, and that ultimately ends up elevating what is not only the most important part of the film, but the entire Batman Beyond franchise, the relationship between Bruce and Terry.
It’s interesting to see Bruce in a place of weakness, and scared that someone he loves could be killed by the Joker, and he could do nothing about it. Additionally, I love that Terry is able to defeat the Joker, Batman‘s most dangerous adversary, by showing what makes him Batman. It’s a fantastic character study of Terry, and it’s part of what makes this film feel like the ultimate Batman Beyond project. Out of all of the direct to video DC movies, this is the one I keep forgetting wasn’t theatrically released. From the animation, to the voice cast, to the fact that it’s the feature film to follow such a great cartoon, everything feels so much larger than, say, Batman vs. Robin. The movie isn’t perfect, but it’s everything that I could want from a Batman Beyond movie.
So I’m giving Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker a high 8/10 (bordering on a 9/10).