Plot: What’s it about?
Just when you think you’ve seen the last of his ever smilin’ face, The Joker (voiced by Mark Hamill) returns and starts up his old tricks, which can be mean serious trouble for Gotham City. Of course, Bruce Wayne (voiced by Kevin Conroy) has been retired for some time and can no longer do battle with his arch nemesis, but that doesn’t mean The Joker’s crimes will go unpunished. The man known as Terry McGinnis (voiced by Will Friedle) has taken over the role of Batman and has every intention of living up to the legend, which means dealing with the menace that is The Joker. As Batman researches The Joker to unlock whatever information he can, he discovers a very mysterious night, the one in which the original Batman did battle with him for the final time. Of course, Bruce Wayne has aged a lot since that night, but it seems as though The Joker has remained the same age, which is odd enough alone. Then, when Wayne is almost killed in one of The Joker’s fiendish plots, Batman knows the time has come to redeem his teacher and take down The Joker for good. It won’t be easy of course, but Batman is always up to the challenge.
I’ve never taken the time to watch much of the Batman animated television shows, but I do like Batman and was looking forward to this disc, as I had heard a lot about the film. I’ve heard about the cuts and looked over this edition of the film, which reflects a multitude of small, but important changes. A few snips here and there removed the blood, on screen deaths, and some choice dialogue, but this is still a more than solid effort. Aside from the first film, this is the greatest Batman film of all time, which is a real compliment to an animated feature. The action is intense and the writing is superb, I know I’ll be viewing some back episodes, in order to fill in some details in some places. The voice talent, led by Mark Hamill (as The Joker) is also up to the task, which adds a lot to the movie in the end. I am also impressed by the animation, which looks much slicker and more refined than what I’ve seen of the television series. This is a more than worthwhile motion picture, especially for those of us who have longed for a decent Batman flick. This one might be animated, but it more than fits the bill, even going beyond expectations. It is nice to have this uncut version and a widescreen transfer, but it seems sloppy for Warner not to have made this anamorphic. Even so, fans won’t want to miss this disc, it is a terrific overall release.
Video: How does it look?
Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker is presented in a 1.78:1 widescreen transfer, which is not enhanced for widescreen televisions. The case states it is a full frame treatment, but rest assured, a non anamorphic widescreen edition is to be found. I don’t know why Warner hasn’t given this an anamorphic transfer though, as they’re a large studio and budgets can’t be to blame, so I guess laziness is the culprit. But this is a terrific looking version nonetheless, as this is a sharp and quite impressive visual presentation. The colors come across in bold, rich form and show no flaws, while black levels are excellent also, no loss of detail and contrast is well balanced throughout. So yes, I do wish Warner would have put a little more effort into this and made it anamorphic, but even as it stands, this transfer looks top notch.
Audio: How does it sound?
This disc includes a Dolby Digital 5.1 track and while this track is active, it lacks the total depth I expected. This uses a very television like range, which means music and minimal sound effects use the surrounds, but little else. A little more surround use is evident in the more intense sequences, but on the whole, this is a rather subdued audio treatment. I don’t think this mix is to blame though, it seems as though the source materials just weren’t put to good use here. The dialogue is sharp though, no volume issues surface and the clarity level is always right on. This disc also includes English and French subtitles.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This is one stocked disc, which includes an audio commentary with the director and a couple other crew members. I found the track to be much more involved and informative than I expected, which was a real treat. I wasn’t sure how much these folks could add to the experience, but I am very pleased I took the time to hear their comments. You’ll also find about three and a half minutes of animation tests, some very cool animated character biographies, a music video, trivia game, and the film’s trailer. But that’s not all of the goodies, as you can also view some deleted footage, which is presented in rough form, but still worth a look. The final supplement is a twelve minute featurette, which combines clips from the film with various interviews, pretty cool stuff overall.