I remember first watching Batman Beyond somewhere around 2001. Back then, the digital era was in its infancy and the Toonami programming block had just been introduced to Cartoon Network. Episode/s would release just once a week on the weekends. There was a special feeling to this airing schedule as you waited all week just for that 1 episode. No YouTube, no Netflix back then and episode re-runs would air at odd times which made it impossible to catch otherwise. Oh and boy was Batman Beyond worth that wait.
It’s been more than a decade since the show’s original run. Yet, every time I re-watch episodes of the show and the movie, it retains its explosive impact. Batman Beyond was dark, gritty and so cool all at the same time. I’m going to save up my review of the show for a future series of posts…so lookout for that !! The show was so popular that Warner Bros. animation decided to give it a movie. The movie serves as a sort of finale to the excellent show but more importantly bridges the gap between Batman: The Animated Series and Batman Beyond.
An interesting point to note about both the aforementioned Batman series is their narrative style. While there is character development throughout the show, episodes are generally independent of each other. There are mini-story arcs throughout both the series and yet there is no over-arching story line. Also, neither series ended with any sort of cliffhanger or conclusion. You could make a case for Batman Beyond getting a conclusion in the Justice League Unlimited episode Epilogue. However, while it does tie up certain loose ends it never really felt like a conclusion. There was always this feeling that the show still had much to explore.
The other crucial aspect is the continuity between the 2 series. The opening episode of Batman Beyond does explain why Bruce quit the role of Batman. Yet, there is no mention of what happened to Robin, Nightwing & Batgirl.
Both these aspects are addressed with aplomb here.
The film starts off with our current Batman, Terry McGinnis trying to prevent the Jokerz gang (From the Series) from stealing some high-tech equipment. At the same time, it is also revealed that Bruce Wayne has finally come out of retirement to regain control of his financial empire. Bruce’s plans then take a turn for the worse when the Joker shows up to spoil his party, although supposedly dead for decades.
Throw in ex-Robin Tim Drake, ex-Bat Girl Barbara Gordon (Now, Commissioner of Police) & Jordan Price (Poised to take over the Wayne Empire); and you have one terrific plot that unfolds beautifully as the film progresses.
The Fate of the Bat Side-Kicks
Batman Beyond and this film are animated in the same style as The New Batman Adventures. Apart from the animation style of The New Batman Adventures, its most noteworthy aspect was that it focused a lot on Batman’s sidekicks. There are memorable episodes involving all of them. Nightwing and the new Robin’s (Tim Drake) origin stories are particularly memorable. The controversial episode Over The Edge which portrayed the death of batgirl in a hypothetical situation, was another great addition.
With the exception of Nightwing, the other two play significant roles in this film. Even though it’s been years since this movie came out, any further detail on this aspect would be stepping into spoiler territory.
Terry McGinnis Comes of Age
The whole idea of a teenager donning the mantle of Batman was met with skepticism and mixed responses; especially by batman purists. Despite this, Terry McGinnis’s progression throughout the series from meeting an old Bruce Wayne in a chance encounter to becoming Neo Gotham’s new hero, is handled really well. Still, many fans often believed that Terry is nothing without his high-tech futuristic bat-suit. Terry may not have the brain or even the combat-skills of Bruce but he sure has a few tricks up his sleeve (That don’t depend on the suit).
In many ways, this movie is truly Terry’s defining moment as Batman. The return of Bruce’s greatest nemesis from the dead terrifies Bruce so much that he almost prevents McGinnis from taking him on. It becomes clear that something truly terrible happened involving the ‘Bat Side-Kicks’ which explains his reclusive behavior. This is where McGinnis truly shines and puts all his detective skills to test leading to the eventual confrontation with the Joker.
The final duel between the two is one to remember for the ages; not so much for the action but for the mind games and taunting. I really am tempted to post a clip of this but wouldn’t that spoil all the fun ?
Return of The Joker is truly one of the crown jewels of the DC Animated Universe. It is one of the darkest Batman stories ever told. Yet, in spite of its tone, the movie retains the core elements of what made Batman Beyond so cool.
The background music is terrific and much of the content is similar to that of the series. Will Friedle as Terry McGinnis is great as are all the original Batman regulars including Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill etc.
This movie might be the defining legacy of Batman Beyond but it also pays a huge tribute to Batman: The Animated Series. Bruce Timm has hinted that he would like to work on Batman Beyond again if given the chance. Considering the show’s cult status, I believe that we could see McGinnis return to action very soon.
If the overwhelming positive reactions to Darwyn Cooke’s short for the 75th Anniversary of Batman is anything to go by, that day is very near.