When “Batman Beyond” was introduced in 1999, fans of old and new were given a peek in to a Batman for a new generation while also exploring what happened to Bruce Wayne’s legacy many decades in to Gotham’s Future. When the series took off, fans were able to see that the legacy of the Joker lived on, as he inspired one of future Gotham’s most violent army of gang members “The Jokers,” however we were never given a definitive explanation as to what happened to the clown prince of crime. “Return of the Joker” holds true to its title, spending a feature length narrative explaining what happened to the Joker and how he left a lasting scar on Bruce Wayne and his family.
After Bruce begins experiencing the effects of age, he struggles to retain control of his company and is shocked to be confronted by the Joker during a press event. And he’s not an impostor of copy cat. It’s the joker in the flesh and he has a score to settle with Bruce Wayne. Horrified, Bruce and Commissioner Barbara Gordon are forced to re-live their past with the Joker as new Batman Terry McGinnis struggles to stop the Joker, who has devious plans for Gotham and the crime underworld. “Return of the Joker” gathers most of the team for the re-emergence of the Joker, as Terry McGinnis and Bruce Wayne go investigating on why the Joker is suddenly back.
There’s an inkling that perhaps he’s a copycat, but soon as Terry begins uncovering how and why the Bat team split up, it becomes painfully apparent something more sinister is amidst. We’re given a dark retelling of the final days of the Batman team, as Terry visits with an elderly Tim Drake, and Barbara Gordon, both of whom recall how the Joker destroyed their lives, and scarred them beyond comprehension. “Return of the Joker” is a dark thriller, even for Batman, and takes the return of the clown prince of crime very seriously, as Bruce’s life is instantly in jeopardy while the Joker enacts his plan for vengeance and destruction.
Filled with excellent voice work and top notch animation, the movie works as a fantastic spin off of the television series, and closes up the pressing questions we’ve had since “Batman Beyond” began. Why did Barbara quit and become a commissioner? Why was she so dead set on stopping Terry McGinnis? What happened to Tim Drake, Dick Grayson and even Harley Quinn? “Return of the Joker” is a tense and pressing thriller that raises the stakes for Bruce Wayne and his young apprentice and sets Terry on a course of realizing his role as Batman, while also facing down the only maniac that drove Bruce Wayne to the edge. “Return of the Joker” is a fantastic extension of the Batman mythos and one that pays homage to the classic Dark Knight, while also extending the dignity and mature arc of “Batman Beyond.” It’s a must watch for all Batman fans.