Directed by Curt Geda
This movie is a throwback to when Saturday mornings were good. Kids (and the occasional adult *ahem*) eagerly anticipated this day and time because it was THEIR time with THEIR shows. I have happy memories of eating sugar loaded cereals and sitting before the boob tube. Them were the days.
Before we get to the movie a little about the series that preceded it. Batman Beyond itself was a spinoff of the Batman animated series of the 90s. It told the story of Batman Terry McGinnis (voiced by Will Friedle) who is serving under the tutelage of Bruce Wayne after he retired. It’s a great series and worth a look beyond this film. This film is not the unedited version I’m discussing but the better-known edited version.
After many years of being gone, the Joker has returned and is seeking revenge and to bring chaos to Gotham once again. Now Bruce Wayne with the help of his protégé has to face the sins of his past as well as a former Robin in order to figure out what is going on and stop his old nemesis.
Bruce Wayne/Batman (Kevin Conroy) is estranged from former Robin Tim Drake (here voiced by Dean Stockwell). Tim was kidnapped and tortured by the Joker when he was young and was never the same afterwards. Joker brainwashed him and turned him into “Joker Junior” and that reveal is probably one of the more disturbing moments in the Batman animated movies. It still shocks and kind of horrifies all these years later. Rare for these movies is what appears to be an actual death when Tim Drake kills the Joker with a lethal prop gun and that is what completely breaks him.
The film is a bit more of a mystery than most of the episodes of the series. I wouldn’t expect a half hour animated program to have a sophisticated mystery even though both versions of Batman are supposed to be detectives but given that this is a movie they do have more time to construct one. The mystery here is not only what happened between Bruce and Tim which is not immediately revealed (and was a question during the show) but how the Joker is still alive. And that revelation is a cool twist, but it was also something that required more forethought than the impulsive Joker had previously demonstrated.
In the movie the Jokerz, a criminal gang which pattern their actions and appearance after the Joker, play an important part. In that gang are twin female gang members. They’re rather prominent in the movie in my opinion, and their purpose is to answer the obvious question of Batfans of whether or not Harley Quinn (voiced by Arleen Sorkin) survived to that time. And her survival is revealed when it’s shown that the twins from the Jokerz are actually Harley Quinn’s granddaughters when she bails them out. She’s no sweat granny but would you expect any less? It was a nice bit of fan service on their part.
This movie is exciting, and it feels different from the more recent DC animated efforts. It strikes me as less formulaic but that could be because they hadn’t quite worked out a system for the storytelling in their animated movies.
Celebrity voice work was a little unusual for the time in television animation and it’s what helped set the DC animated efforts of the time apart. That and an effort to make them appeal to children and adults separated them from what Marvel produced around the time. Batman Beyond was a great spinoff series that took a previously preexisting mythos and built upon it to create its own unique vision. This film proudly continues that. It’s an exciting story filled with twists and shocks that has aged quite well. Check it out.