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I have always considered both BATMAN and THE BATMAN BEYOND to be superior to other animated television series, especially BATMAN, which is one of the best animated series to have ever been produced. The direct-to-video movie BATMAN BEYOND: RETURN OF THE JOKER ($25) upholds the high standards of the television show that inspired it, plus this long form video allows the characters greater depth and the animation a larger scope to tell its story. BATMAN BEYOND: RETURN OF THE JOKER follows the Batman saga into the future, where the elderly Bruce Wayne has turned the mask of the Caped Crusader over to teenager Terry McGinnis. Even though Wayne is no longer able to assume the mantle of Batman, the billionaire industrialist isn't too old to reassume control of his company. Just as the ceremonial baton is passed back to Wayne, the Joker unexpectedly appears to wreak havoc on the festivities. While all of Gotham City is horrified by the reappearance of The Joker, it is Wayne who is most shocked by his return, especially since the original Batman was present on the night that the Clown Prince of Crime met his demise. With ghosts of the past coming back to haunt him, Wayne decides that is unfair for McGinnis to sacrifice his youth and continue as the new Batman. However, when Wayne is brutally attacked by The Joker, McGinnis is forced to unlock the secrets of The Joker's death and resurrection to avenge his mentor. BATMAN BEYOND: RETURN OF THE JOKER features the vocal talents of Will Friedle, Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill, Dean Stockwell, Angie Harmon, Teri Garr and Melissa Joan Hart.

Warner Home Video has made BATMAN BEYOND: RETURN OF THE JOKER available on DVD in a terrific looking full screen presentation. BATMAN BEYOND: RETURN OF THE JOKER features stylized animation is definitely superior to what one would find in a typical half-hour episode of the television series. The image on the DVD is very crisp, clean and well defined. Colors are quite vibrant with no signs of breakup or bleeding beyond their boundaries. Black are pure and inky, which is what one would expect from an animated title. There are no signs of digital compression artifacts on this smoothly authored DVD.

As a rather nice surprise, BATMAN BEYOND: RETURN OF THE JOKER features a Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack. The track is well mixed and takes advantage of the discrete channels for active sound effect placement. Imagine my surprise to hear split surround effects on a direct-to-video animated title. Fir this type of program, the mix is very well produced and engaging. Dialogue is sharply focused, with the performances really coming through in the sound mix. The bass channel reinforces the sound effects, in addition to enhancing the music. Speaking of the music, Kristopher Carter's score is pretty good for a direct-to-video program and is well integrated into the mix. Subtitles are provided on the DVD in English and French.

Music has been applied to the basic interactive menus, which allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features. Through the menus, one can also access the DVD's supplemental features. Topping the list, is a running commentary with director Curt Geda, writer Paul Dini and producers Bruce Timm and Glen Murakami. The talk offers a good deal of detail on the production, as well as expressing accolades for the talent involved. There is a 12-minute behind-the-scenes documentary that includes interviews with the filmmakers, as well as the vocal talent. A scene deleted prior to animation is presented in storyboard form with the recorded dialogue. Character biographies, interactive trivia a trailer and a music video fill out the DVDís supplements.

BATMAN BEYOND: RETURN OF THE JOKER is a great direct-to-video release that will appeal to fans of BATMAN BEYOND, as well as those of BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES. The DVD looks and sounds great, exceeding all my expectations for this type of production. If you are a fan, donít hesitate in checking out

Letís hope that Warner continues to release all things Batman, I know fans are dying to own episodes from BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES on DVD.


Batman Beyond - Return of the Joker


DVD reviews are Copyright © 2000 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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