A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker is a 2000 animated feature in which The Joker, believed to have been killed four decades before, returns to wreak new havoc on Gotham City. Expect cartoon violence, including fighting with gas bombs, guns, laser guns, punching, kicks. Characters shot and killed. Peril, as characters fall off building rooftops before getting rescued by Batman. In a flashback scene, a Batman-in-training is kidnapped by The Joker and Harley Quinn and tied to a table in the abandoned Arkham Asylum, where he's tortured until driven to madness. Champagne drinking, drinking in a nightclub. Joker briefly uses a pipe as a prop. While enjoyable on its own terms, this story of heroes and villains past and present is most likely to appeal to superfans.
What's the story?
In BATMAN BEYOND: RETURN OF THE JOKER, Terry McGinnis (Will Friedle) assumes the role of Batman as an aging Bruce Wayne retakes control of Wayne Enterprises. Meanwhile, The Jokerz have been stealing high-tech equipment out of warehouses in Gotham City, and when they crash a press conference to mark Wayne's return to the company, it's revealed that the leader behind The Jokerz criminal mischief is none other than The Joker (Mark Hamill). After this first attack is stopped, McGinnis demands answers from both Wayne and Commissioner Barbara Gordon (Angie Harmon). Wayne and Gordon cannot believe that Joker is still alive, as they insist that they witnessed his death 40 years prior. Reluctantly, Wayne and Gordon (as Batgirl) reveal how they rescued a Robin-in-training named Tim Drake, who was kidnapped by Joker and Harley Quinn while left to his own devices while Dick Grayson was working as Nightwing. It seems that Drake, despite disavowing his prior life as an aspiring superhero, may hold the secrets as to why the Joker has seemingly risen from the dead, and what he and the Jokerz intend to do with all the high-tech equipment they've been stealing. McGinnis, Wayne, and Gordon must find out before it's too late.
Is it any good?
While accessible on its own terms, Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker is most likely to be enjoyed by superfans of the DC Universe. There are interesting backstories of the Batmen and Batgirls of the past and present, as well as a story of a Robin who never was. We see past and present incarnations of the different characters, and in some respects, this explores the theme of growing up and growing old in ways the many other Batman movies never have.
Often these nods to characters' pasts, presents, and futures come across as winks to the fans at the expense of a straight-ahead story for everybody else. While those who aren't overly familiar with the Batman line of succession will still latch on to the action, it's not going to win any converts. Also, the style of the turn-of-the-century animation hasn't aged well, and often seems as dated as the dancing in the nightclub where Terry McGinnis hangs out when not saving Gotham as an upstart Caped Crusader. It's an interesting movie for what it is, but doesn't really rise above or stand out from the numerous DC Comics movies that have been released since this one.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the backstories of these characters. What does this movie show about the histories of Batman, Robin, Joker, and Harley Quinn? How do backstories add more depth and detail to stories as well as characters?
How are these versions of the superheroes and villains similar to and different from other versions that came before and after this movie?
How does the violence in this movie compare to other movies from the DC Comics universe?
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