Both as a showcase of how good DC animated films can be, and as a clever iteration of the TV show, Return of the Joker is a bloody triumph. One of the best Batman films ever, animated or not.
Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (2000) is a direct-to-video DC animated film based on the TV show of the same name. It follows the ‘Batman of the future’ Terry McGuiness who, with the support of an aged Bruce Wayne, must confront the seemingly reincarnated Clown Prince of Crime as he terrorises Neo-Gotham.
ROTJ simply feels like a high-budget extra long episode of Batman Beyond. Which is awesome – the tone of the show is captured beyond perfectly, and this is going to feel comfortably familiar for any fan. And like the show, this movie is dark. Comfortably able to rival the best stories of Batman’s history, this film delves into some deep and unsettling territories – particularly in a flashback sequence to Batman’s heyday which must be one of the best Bat-sequences ever put to the screen. Its horrific, grim and perfectly captures so many thematic elements of Batman’s mythology.
Speaking of which, the film operates excellently as a process to delve into the relationship between Batman and the Joker. It sheds a light on the disturbing and complex relationship they share, and Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill are both (as usual) perfect in their delivery and portrayal of the two iconic characters. It speaks to their decades of conflict and multiple interpretations that it is so incredibly fascinating, and this conflict forms the backbone of the entire film.
The film isn’t exactly perfect. The subplot with Terry regarding his girlfriend Dana just seems to bog the film down and feel unnecessary, and there’s a couple too many similar action sequences to the point that they begin to blend together. But overall, there is so much incredible stuff in ROTJ that it should still be herald as one of the best on-screen adaptations of the Batman mythos of all time.
General Audiences: Highly Recommended
Film Buffs: Highly Recommended
True Believers (Batman): Must-see