One Last Hurrah for Kevin Conroy’s Batman

Spinning out of the underrated Batman Beyond television series from the late 1990s, DC animation masterminds Bruce Timm and Paul Dini shepherd one of the best Batman movies ever made, animated or not. Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker is a superb mystery adventure that subverts fan expectations with a couple of sublime twists on familiar characters.

Featuring legendary voice actor Kevin Conroy (Batman: The Animated Series) reprising his acclaimed turn as Bruce Wayne and Mark Hamill as the Joker, it’s the stuff of fanboy dreams.

Nominally about Terry McGinnis, the teenage Batman in a futuristic Gotham powered by a flying Batsuit, Return of the Joker explores Bruce Wayne’s final confrontation with his nemesis. Long thought dead, the Joker reappears in Gotham, shocking an elderly Bruce Wayne. His Jokerz Gang’s crime spree draws the attention of Bruce Wayne’s young protegee.

Return of the Joker may be the best story ever told about Batman outside of comic books

Familiar characters like Barbara Gordon, Tim Drake and even Ace the Bathound all appear in the gripping mystery. No one is spared in the uncompromising storytelling. Told with a sophisticated and mature approach, the characters are grounded in ways rarely seen in comic book fare.

Tautly paced and scripted by writer Paul Dini at the top of his game, the feature-length movie sends off the Joker in one last clash with Bruce Wayne. Is this really the clown prince of crime, returned from the dead? Set fifty years after Bruce Wayne’s prime as Batman, it is a brilliant extension of Batman’s mythos that will delight long-time fans. Mentoring a young Terry McGinnis, it explores a Bruce Wayne dealing with the consequences of his actions as Batman.

Brimming with suspense, action and surprising nods to Batman’s past, Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker may be the best story ever told about the superhero outside of comic books.

The Bruce Timm-produced movie is a vital classic of the genre that requires only a whiff of familiarity with the Batman Beyond series itself. Made by true fans of the Dark Knight that respect the character for Batman fans everywhere.

Video

Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker had a troubled history on DVD, released in a censored PG cut. Warner corrects that mistake here by presenting the fully uncensored PG-13 director’s cut in an open matte 4:3 transfer. The open matte choice is mildly controversial as Bruce Timm intended the movie for a pillar-boxed 1.78:1, though it fully exposes all of the original animation.

The 2000 animated movie shows its age in HD. This is soft and less brilliant looking than most theatrical animation, as the budget for the movie pales in comparison to animated movies from Pixar or Dreamworks. Some of the rougher issues get exposed in 1080P video, animated in fairly cheap digital ink and paint. Line art has obvious aliasing issues and some of the action has stiff movement. However, black levels are perfect. Splashes of deeply saturated primary colors pop with definition and clarity.

Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker runs 76 minutes on a BD-25, encoded in modest AVC bitrates around 20 Mbps. There are surprisingly no issues with the encode, always a question mark for animated projects released from Warner early in Blu-ray’s history. I’d wager this is a faithful transfer of sometimes questionable animation. The 1080P presentation looks okay.

Audio

The lossless 5.1 DTS-HD MA audio offers fairly active sound design primarily concentrated towards the front soundstage. There are no dialogue issues in the clean mix that provides occasional low-end punch and energy. This is serviceable audio without amazing immersion.

Optional English SDH, French, German SDH, Spanish, and Swedish subtitles play in a white font. French, Spanish, German and Swedish dubs play in 2.0 Dolby Digital.

Extras

Originally released in 2011 on Blu-ray, this is a serviceable assortment of special features which first appeared on DVD. The commentary is the highlight.

Audio commentary – A four-person group commentary with producer Bruce Timm, producer/writer Paul Dini, producer/art director Glenn Murakami, and director/storyboard artist Curt Geda. Everything from the voice acting to the origins of a new Joker story are covered by the group. Told with a loose, conversational style that makes it easy listening for fans.

Animatics (03:20 in SD) – Storyboards are paired with dialogue tracks.

Beyond Batman Beyond (11:59 in SD) – Fluffy EPK featurette designed to hype you for the movie.

Video Character Bios (05:03 in SD) – Text biographies of the main characters are included, from Bruce Wayne to Woof.

Confidential Batman Footage – For Your Eyes Only (05:19 in SD) – An extended deleted sequence with Terry’s family that was cut for time, shown in storyboard form with dialogue overlaid.

“Crash” Music Video (03:50 in SD) – Mephisto Odyssey’s music video featuring Static X.

Young Justice Trailer (00:55 in HD)

All-Star Superman Trailer (01:10 in HD) – Plays before the main menu.

Green Lantern: Emerald Knights (01:41 in HD) – Plays before the main menu.

DC Comics Online Promo (00:48 in HD) – Plays before the main menu.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
5

Movie

The Joker returns from the grave in this shockingly fantastic extension of the Batman mythos and Batman Beyond continuity.

Sending
User Review
5 (1 vote)

The 15 unaltered images below represent the Blu-ray. For an additional 47 Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker screenshots, early access to all screens (plus the 100,000+ already in our library), 100 exclusive 4K UHD reviews, and more perks, support us on Patreon.