|Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker|
|Written by|| Story:|
|Directed by||Curt Geda|
|Animation by||TMS Entertainment, Ltd.|
|Release date(s)||December 12, 2000|
|Running time|| Rated Version:|
- See Batman (disambiguation) for other uses of the word "Batman".
Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (also known as Batman of the Future: Return of the Joker in Europe and Australia) is a direct-to-video animated feature based on the Batman Beyond series. It is noteworthy for resolving the conflict between the Joker and the original Batman, as well as introducing the Joker into the Batman Beyond timeframe. Also resolved was the fate of the second Robin, Tim Drake, and the Joker's old sidekick and groupie, Harley Quinn.
While the feature is quite popular among DCAU fans, many of whom cite it as the animated universe's storytelling apotheosis, its release was plagued by controversy. Scenes dubbed too intense for young audiences were altered or outright removed from the film's first incarnation, in some cases drastically changing the mood of a scene, and when fan unrest led to an uncut version being released over a year later, it was given a PG-13 rating.
- The following summary is based on the original uncensored cut of the film. See below for details of elements altered after censorship.
A gang of Jokerz launch a raid on Gotham Shipping to steal a large piece of electronic technology with three forklifts. The robbery is interrupted by the arrival of Batman. A fight ensues, which turns into a pursuit in the skies of Gotham City. One of the forklifts the Jokerz are using to carry away the equipment, piloted by Bonk, takes off to fight Batman, leaving the equipment and the other craft to crash. Batman overcomes Bonk, and his craft crashes. The equipment crashes to the ground, but Chucko manages to retrieve its memory chip and escape with the others before the equipment explodes.
Terry is puzzled as to why the Jokerz would be stealing advanced technology. Bruce Wayne theorizes that they're engaged in industrial espionage. Just then, Terry sees a news report that Wayne has announced his return to active leadership of Wayne Enterprises, to the disappointment of acting Operations Manager and rival-for-corporate-leadership Jordan Pryce. Terry resolves to wait for the Jokerz to make their next move. However, he does end up feeling the after-effects of a bite given to him by the spliced Jokerz member Woof in the earlier fight. He decides to go on his date with Dana that evening, despite the fact that such an injury would be difficult to explain, and Bruce's advice that he get a good night's rest instead. Terry is so tired that he not only falls asleep at the dance club but seems to be dozing through the dances, and even talks to the wrong girl by mistake. Dana is initially annoyed but soon pulls Terry off the dance floor to sit down and talk over coffee instead.
The Jokerz return to their lair, an abandoned candy factory. Chucko offers the memory chip, explaining that it was all he could get away with when Batman interfered. Their leader, hidden in the shadows, angrily smashes the chip with his fist and proceeds to berate them for their incompetence. Bonk is angered by this, and tells his fellow gang members that not only is their new leader is having them steal a lot of high tech equipment instead of money, but also that he never even explained to them what he planned to do with the components that they stole for them if he even had one. This fact made the Jokerz think it over and then glare angrily at their leader. When Bonk shouts that he wants out, the leader responds by pulling a gun on Bonk. Terrified, Bonk takes back his statements, but the leader pulls the trigger ― and a comical "BANG!" flag pops out. Bonk breathes a sigh of relief ― and the leader pulls the trigger again, shooting the flag into Bonk's chest like a dart, whereupon his bloodstream is quickly flooded with Joker venom. The leader steps out of the shadows, revealing himself to be the original Batman's old archenemy, the Joker. He now sports a skin-tight purple outfit, short slicked-back hair, and is oddly lacking in eyebrows. The terrified remaining Jokerz swear their allegiance to him, then Ghoul begins searching the net for places to acquire a new piece of equipment while Dee Dee takes out the trash (by disposing of Bonk's eerily smiling corpse).
Bruce and Terry arrive at an evening gala at which Bruce plans to inaugurate his return. Said speech is immediately interrupted by familiar hysterical laughter. The spliced half-hyena Joker Woof then jumps into the crowd of spectators. During the distraction, Chucko and Ghoul break into the Wayne Enterprises lab downstairs and steal the desired technology, as well as gassing security. Up above, Bruce easily overcomes Woof with his cane. After checking on him, Terry dashes off to suit up. However, Wayne is then attacked by the newly arrived Dee Dee twins and is down on the ground when the Joker makes a dramatic emergence onto the stage, much to Bruce's shock and horror.
The now-costumed Terry returns but is occupied with Woof as Joker and Dee Dee board a hovercraft. When Terry tries to pursue, Joker detonates a series of explosives, causing further chaos. Batman is forced to save civilians rather than pursue.
On the way back to Wayne Manor, Bruce assures him that saving the civilians was the right choice. Terry muses aloud that the Joker seemed pretty vigorous for a man who should be in his mid-80's. When he tries to get some feedback speculation on the suspect (Clone? Robot? Suspended animation?), a grim-faced Bruce simply orders him to carry on driving.
In another part of Gotham, the now middle-aged Tim Drake sees a news report on the Joker's re-appearance and is horrified.
Undaunted by Bruce's aloofness, Terry tries Commissioner Barbara Gordon for information and receives much the same reply from her: it isn't his business and that if Bruce ordered him to drop it, he shouldn't concern himself with it. As Terry leaves, he passes Drake, who has his own appointment with Barbara.
In the Batcave, Bruce runs a voice comparison between the Joker at the ceremony and his old recordings: They are identical. Terry returns and realizes that the Joker, whom Bruce never mentioned once, must have been the greatest ever of Bruce's old foes. He asks how it's possible that Joker could still be alive, and Bruce says it's impossible: The Joker died years ago, and Bruce watched it happen.
Terry concludes that Joker was planning a crime so heinous that Bruce had no choice but to kill him. Bruce does not give an explanation but tells Terry that he wants him to hand in the Batsuit, reasoning that since Terry avenged his father's death, he has no need to continue wearing the cowl. Bruce thanks him for upholding the reputation of Batman, but declares that he was wrong to "force this life" upon Terry. Terry refuses to give up the suit, saying that fighting crime as Batman is what makes him a worthwhile person, after so many years as an irresponsible, lawless teenager. Bruce listens quietly, but turns away, calling Terry a "stupid kid" and claims that he doesn't know what he wants, much like his previous sidekicks. A stunned and angered Terry retorts by throwing the Batsuit at Bruce's feet and leaving.
The next morning, Terry is having breakfast and reveals to his mother and Matt that he is no longer working for Mr. Wayne. Later on that night, Dana, Chelsea and Blade attend a club to have a girls night out, where Chelsea tries to persuade Dana to leave Terry and find someone new. However, to their surprise, Terry appears to them and leads Dana to dance, where he informs her that he no longer has his job, but tells her that they will finally get to spend more time together, much to her joy. However, as Terry and Dana are dancing, they are approached by two girls who drag Terry away from Dana and while they distract him, Ghoul suddenly appears and kidnaps Dana as Terry breaks away from the girls and begins to search for Dana. Unknown to Terry the two girls are actually Dee Dee in disguise and begin to follow him.
At the same time, Bruce is in the Batcave where he is creating the antidote to Joker venom, suddenly Ace begins to bark which makes Bruce realize that a stranger has entered the Manor. Ace rushes out of the cave to confront the intruder, but becomes hurt. Bruce becomes concerned for Ace and goes to check on him but a gas bomb appears, as Bruce is hiding the antidote, the Joker appears before him and begins to attack Bruce. Back at the nightclub, Terry is still searching for Dana when he's attacked by the Jokerz. Chucko doesn't know why they've been sent to attack an apparent nobody, but as long as they have fun with it, they don't mind. As Terry fights them off, Dana breaks free from Ghoul and calls out to Terry for help as Ghoul recaptures her. Terry fights his way to Dana, but Ghoul throws her aside and as Terry rescues her she falls unconscious. Terry manages to send the Jokerz running, but Dana is sent off the hospital as she became injured during the fight.
Realizing that the Jokerz' boss must know his secret identity, Terry calls Bruce in an attempt to get answers. However, when he gets Bruce's answering machine, Terry rushes to Wayne Manor, realizing that Bruce not picking up at night meant something bad must have happened.
Terry arrives at the Manor and sees that it has been badly vandalized. He finds a hurt Ace near the entrance to the Batcave. Terry enters the Batcave to find the words "Ha! Ha!! Ha!" scribbled across the floor of the Batcave in red, mirroring how his father's place looked when he was seemingly killed by Jokerz. Horrified, Terry immediately runs down the stairs to find Bruce slumped against the computer, slowly laughing himself to death from Joker venom. Bruce manages to direct Terry to an overlooked vial of anti-venom lying under the chem table. Terry grabs it and injects Bruce, whose rictus grin relaxes as the exhausted man falls unconscious.
Unsure of who else to turn to, Terry calls Barbara in for help. After she ministers to a shallowly breathing Bruce and Terry checks on Ace, Terry demands answers as he is a part of this conflict and therefore deserves them. Barbara reluctantly gives in and admitting that time has not made relating it any easier, tells Terry the true story:
- Some forty years earlier, after Bruce's old ward and partner, Dick Grayson, had left to establish himself in another city as Nightwing, the second Robin and Dick's successor, Tim Drake, is kidnapped by Harley Quinn and the Joker while he was out patrolling alone. After three weeks of unsuccessful searching, Joker sends Batman and Batgirl a clue that leads them to the place where Tim is being held: the original Arkham Asylum (the old building had been partially demolished and the asylum had been moved to a newer high security building).
- Upon their arrival, the Joker explains that he and Harley were "getting on" in years as they realize that none of them are getting younger, and it is time to think about a family. They did not want to go through the joy of childbirth and couldn't legally adopt. But since Batman "always had a few spare kids" tagging along, the Joker had "borrowed" one of them. He then reveals Tim, who has been brainwashed and disfigured into a miniature version of himself to make him their own son, dubbing him as "Joker Jr.", much to Batman and Batgirl's horror. Joker takes off with Batman in pursuit, while Barbara fights Harley through the ruins of Arkham. In the fight, they both end up getting blown over a cliff, with Batgirl catching onto a ledge, and with her other hand, having snagged Harley by the cuff of her sleeve. With all her might Batgirl attempts to pull Harley up so she can also grab onto the ledge, but the cuff tears from Harley's weight; she falls, screaming, and vanishes into the dark pit far below.
- Arriving in the asylum's old operating theater, which Joker has converted into a cinema, Batman sees "home movies" of how Joker tortured and brainwashed Tim. From his hiding place, Joker narrates the story, saying that Tim held out for a long time but finally broke down and revealed all of Batman's secrets, and delivers the final bombshell by calling Batman "Bruce", mocking the revelation of Batman's true identity by dismissing him as nothing more than a scared child in a playsuit crying out for his parents.
- Finding his hiding place, Batman engages Joker in a brutal fight and is ready to kill him but Joker manages to get the upper hand, disabling Bruce with a knife in his leg. As Bruce lies helpless, Joker tosses a gun to Tim, telling him to "deliver the punchline" and finish Batman. Batman softly calls Tim's name, and his young partner hesitates. After a moment of warring with himself while laughing, Tim shoots Joker fatally, Joker's last words being "That's not funny... That's not..." before he stops breathing and dies. As Barbara runs in, Tim suffers a complete nervous breakdown, drops to his knees and begins to cry. Batman limps over as Barbara gathers Tim into her arms to comfort him.
- Bruce and Barbara bury the Joker deep under Arkham and take Tim to Leslie Thompkins, who helps him back to sanity over the course of the next year. The only other people who know what happened are James Gordon, Barbara's father and the original Police Commissioner who helped cover the incident up for the sake of his friendship with Batman.
Barbara sadly notes that with his final act of cruelty, Joker had in many ways gotten the last laugh after all—and the physical and mental wounds from that time have never completely healed. Terry asks what happened to Harley; Barbara tells him that they never found her body, but even if she did survive, it's doubtful she'd be stirring up trouble after all these years. She also reveals that after Tim recovered, Bruce forbade him from ever being Robin again, blaming himself for what happened and swore that he would never endanger another young partner. Tim soon left after this, choosing to make it on his own. He tried reconnecting with his mentor once or twice, "but you know Bruce," Barbara notes as Terry can't help but wryly smile. As for Barbara, she checks up on him now and again: Tim eventually married, fathered two children, and restarted his career as a top level communications engineer. Terry feels sorry for Tim after hearing the torture that he went through and believes he deserves a happy ending, but says Tim is still the most likely connection to the now-returned Joker. As Batman, he questions Drake, who denies any involvement and expresses resentment about his past life as Robin: all of them ― Barbara, Dick, and himself ― gave it everything they had, but it was never enough for Bruce's impossible standards. Tim even had a vain hope that one day he would succeed Bruce as Batman, but eventually grew sick of his life to the point that he detests even looking at his old Robin suit.
Finding Drake a dead-end, Terry then suspects Jordan Pryce. However, Terry finds both Pryce and the Jokerz on the Wayne Enterprises yacht and proceeds to eavesdrop. After the Jokerz try to kill Pryce, he rescues the man before a giant laser beam from a satellite destroys the ship. Although Pryce is not the Joker, Batman plays a recording of the conversation between Pryce and the Jokerz for two police officers nearby, revealing that Pryce has been helping the Jokerz steal the technology in exchange for them trying to kill Wayne. Pryce is arrested.
Terry returns to the Batcave, frustrated with his inability to solve the case. As he muses aloud to Ace, Bruce appears in his bathrobe, having partially recovered from the toxin. He confesses that this is why he didn't want Terry going up against the Joker, imposter or not, fearful that something similar would happen to him as it did with Tim all those years ago.
Looking around the Batcave, Terry notices something odd: even though Joker smashed the costume displays, only the Robin costume was deliberately damaged during his attack. Remembering Tim's resentment, Terry deduces that he may be behind this new Joker. Bruce is hesitant to consider Tim a suspect again, but Terry shows him on the Batcomputer how the stolen technology components, when utilized by a communications expert like Tim, could form a transmitter allowing him to hijack a military defense satellite — the same kind that destroyed the yacht. Somewhat chipper at the promise of a new lead, Bruce orders Terry to go after Tim and begins typing away at the computer. Terry remarks that he would also like to bring Ace along this time.
Terry tries to confront Tim at his job site, but discovers that he's been tricked by a hologram. Laser traps seal him in and motion-detecting blasters are mounted on the walls. Joker appears on a video screen, revealing that Tim has indeed joined forces with him. With his help, the Joker has taken control of an Hyperion class defense satellite, which he intends to use to bring Gotham under his control.
Terry manages to escape the booby traps set at Tim's lab and takes off in the Batmobile, being chased through Gotham by another giant laser beam. He tracks the Joker to the abandoned Jolly Jack Candy Factory. He is attacked by the Jokerz, but fights them off easily. One exception is Woof, but this time, Terry has brought along an equalizer, and Woof discovers that an encounter with Ace the Batdog is a rather painful experience.
Inside the factory, Terry finds an unconscious Drake. Awakening, Drake appears to be re-living the trauma of his kidnapping and how he killed Joker. Bruce, able to hear and see what's going on via the suit's visor and mic, is visibly saddened by Tim's words. Terry is also concerned, but then Drake calls him "Terry" and turns on him, disabling him with an electrical device. To his and Bruce's horror, Drake then bursts into hysterical laughter, and transforms into the Joker.
The Joker reveals the truth behind his resurrection: using genetics technology that he stole years ago, he copied his consciousness and DNA onto a microchip and planted it onto the back of Tim's neck while Tim was his prisoner. To the casual observer, it looks like an innocuous mole. This allowed him to live on after death, hidden away in Tim's mind through the chip. He had to remain dormant inside Tim's brain for most of the past decades, but has been gradually getting stronger. Whenever the chip takes control of Tim, he transforms into the Joker, Tim attributing any residual memories of his actions in this form to nightmares. Joker then demonstrates that he can use Tim's voice to lie to his family should they grow worried. Soon, the Joker intends to take complete control of Tim's body.
The Joker prepares a satellite strike on Gotham, explaining that he plans to begin with either Wayne Manor, the hospital Dana is being treated at, or Terry's house (by way of carving a smiley face on the city with the satellite's cannon), in order to crush Terry's spirit. But before he can fire, Terry sics Ace on him and has the dog's powerful jaws destroy the electrical device. Ace runs for the Joker again, but is fended off by his signature joy buzzer. Before Joker can finish off the weakened Ace, Terry tackles him to the ground; the joy buzzer flies from his finger across the room to activate alongside a large bundle of cables for the satellite's guidance system, shorting them out. This causes the damaged system to turn the beam on and send it directly towards itself inside the factory.
The Joker declares the game over for the time being and attempts to escape, but Terry seals the factory. They face off in a final confrontation. This incarnation of the Joker is a much tougher physical combatant than his old self and soon shows himself to be more than a match for the young Batman, as having access to Tim's memories gives him knowledge of Batman and Robin's skills. As Joker gloats, Terry retorts that Joker doesn't know a thing about him, and proceeds to prove it by fighting dirty and catching the Joker off guard, landing a few good hits on him.
Bruce reveals to Terry that Joker, due to his vanity, likes to talk, and advises him to ignore his foe's words and just power on through. Coming to an epiphany, Terry changes his battle plan when he realizes that he likes to talk as well. Hiding in the rafters, he plays mind games with the Joker, taunting him about his obsession with Batman, spending years trying to get a laugh from someone with no sense of humor, and his sloppiness as a comedian, insisting, like the Joker told Bruce decades ago, that he's "pathetic." Imitating the Joker's laugh at the ridiculousness of the "Clown Prince of Crime", that he isn't funny of frightening, the psychological attacks which Joker has never suffered from the previously silent Batman sending his opponent into a crazed rage. An angry Joker throws a handful of grenades at his opponent, sending Terry crashing to the floor. The Joker pins him to the ground, pulls off his mask and begins choking him. Terry capitalizes on the Joker's distraction and revealing the Joker's joy buzzer that he'd retrieved and hidden in his hand, and with a strained, measured "ha, ha" reaches up and destroys the microchip with a prolonged electrical surge, thus destroying the Joker once and for all and restoring Tim. Terry escapes with Tim and Ace before the satellite destroys the factory, taking the guidance system with it and killing the beam. The satellite then drifts off into space.
In the city jail, the Dee Dees are revealed to be the twin granddaughters of the elderly Harley Quinn, who survived the fall all those years ago. Their nana bails them out while lamenting what disappointments they are (punctuated with a sharp smack across their backsides with her cane).
Barbara visits Tim in the hospital, assuring him that she's covering up for the Joker's crimes, of which he is completely innocent. Terry also comes to visit, and they are all surprised to see Bruce there. The Dark Knight explains that it's where he should be. The three old heroes mend their fences. Terry leaves, but not before both Tim and Bruce stop to tell him that he is truly worthy of the Mantle of the Bat, and that Terry was wrong: it wasn't Batman that made Terry worthwhile. It was the other way around. Though neither expresses it overtly, both are respectful and moved. Tim reconciles with Bruce and Terry leaves.
The next night, Terry stands at the top of a high building, looking out over the city he protects. Like Bruce before him, this is the life he has chosen. He pulls on his mask, spreads his wings, and flies off into the heart of Gotham City.
- Producer Bruce Timm has reportedly stated that the events in the flashback take place "at the end" of the current DCAU timeline ― i.e., after the events chronicled in Justice League Unlimited ("Destroyer") and before the events of Batman Beyond ("Rebirth"). It has been suggested that the traumatic event caused Batman to sever his ties not only with his immediate partners, but also with Superman and the Justice League.
- This movie establishes the Joker's real identity as being unknown. In previous episodes (namely "Dreams in Darkness" and "Joker's Wild"), he was referred to by the name "Jack Napier", but that this has been simply another alias.
- This is not the first time Joker had learned that Batman's true identity was Bruce Wayne, as he also learned it, along the Penguin and Two-Face, from Hugo Strange in the episode "The Strange Secret of Bruce Wayne", although Joker did not believe Strange at that time.
- In the episode "Harley and Ivy", Poison Ivy injected a toxic antidote to Harley Quinn, increasing her stamina and allowing her survive falls like the fall that she survived in the flashback sequence of this film.
- When Terry taunts the Joker about his lameness as a comedian, suggests that he should "make a face" or "drop his pants" for laughs. This actually happened in the episode "Make 'Em Laugh".
- The Kiss the Cook apron that Joker was wearing when reaching for the electric clamps inside the barbecue grill in the "Family Memories" tape was a reference to a similar apron Harley Quinn wore around her waist in Joker's commercial threat in "The Laughing Fish".
- When Bruce Wayne is checking the Joker's new version against that of the original Joker, the video footage in Joker's records is of a segment from the episode "Holiday Knights" (abeit a newly animated and voiced version). Though Joker's original broadcast from that episode was in color (as seen on the TV in Commissioner Gordon's office), the segment was shown in black and white and Joker had black lips. The clip of Joker's future version is also re-voiced from the original clip.
- In the episode "Never Fear", Batman becomes crazy due the effects of the Scarecrow's non-Fear gas, so Robin tried to control him by tying him up and going alone to defeat Scarecrow after Batman almost killed a person. In the flashback sequence of the film, Batman tries to stop Robin from killing the Joker, as he was under the effects of Joker's torture, but didn't succeed.
- The "sources" who were interrogated by Barbara Gordon to see if they knew the whereabouts of Joker and Robin were the same ones that Gordon used to find out who was Roxy Rocket's secret boss in "The Ultimate Thrill".
- Barbara Gordon indirectly alludes to Nightwing after the new Batman discovered a dead end with Tim Drake and that the latter hated the experience of being Robin, mentioning that Nightwing had "lots of stories" regarding bad experiences under Batman. A few examples include the pre-revamp episode "Robin's Reckoning", and the revamp episode "Old Wounds".
- The episode "Beware the Creeper" supports the notion that 'Jack Napier' was not the Joker's real name even further, as Jack Ryder's report mentions that his former identity was unknown.
- When Terry McGinnis runs into the Batcave and sees the giant "HA! HA! HA! letters spray-painted on the floor, he gasps and whispers, "Please God, no". This is a reference to "Rebirth, Part I" when he came home and found a similar tableau at the scene of his father's murder.
- The first time that it was hinted that a member of the Bat-Family ended up suffering for join it was in the episode "Black Out", where Barbara Gordon mentioned to Bruce Wayne that it could have been better to reject McGinnis instead of accept him as his sidekick.
- When Terry speculates about possible explanations for the Joker's longevity, he mentions "suspended animation due to floating around in a frozen block of ice?". This is a possible reference to Mister Freeze, who survived with this way apparently until the episode "Meltdown".
- Terry mentions his breaking in of the Batcave and swiping the Batsuit in "Rebirth, Part II".
- In the episode "Joyride", many fans believe that skeletal remains seen in the mineshaft are those of the Joker where he's buried in the ruins of Arkham Asylum.
- Bruce Wayne and Terry both reference the events of "Rebirth" and "Ascension" (specifically, Terry avenging his father's murder) when Bruce Wayne forces Terry to quit being Batman.
- Terry calling Ace as "Good, Bad Dog" is repeated from the episode "Splicers".
- The film takes place somewhere after the events of "King's Ransom", due the fact that Wayne-Powers was disbanded and Wayne Enterprises was reestablished.
- At the end of the episode "Wild Cards", Joker is rendered catatonic by the metahuman Ace. His recovery from that state was left unexplained, but he recovered, as seen in the film's flashback sequence.
- In "Future Shock", Batman mentioned that Robin lives now as a civilian, suggesting that the events of the movie would have happened by then.
- The Jokerz introduced in the film reappeared in the episode "The Once and Future Thing Part Two: Time, Warped" where they are henchmen of Chronos, and have been updated with cybernetic enhancements and radically advanced weapons. Also, Bonk is alive and well.
- The episode "Epilogue" revealed that the genetics technology Joker used on Tim Drake had been stolen from Project Cadmus, possibly the time he freed the Royal Flush Gang.
- Barbara Gordon's flashback sequence implies that Nightwing left Gotham City. The episode "Grudge Match" reveals that Nightwing has been in Blüdhaven.
Home video releases
- Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (VHS)
- Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (DVD) – Cut
- Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (DVD) – Uncut
- Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (Blu-ray)
- Tara Strong (née Charendoff), who was married on May 12, 2000, is credited for the first time in the DCAU under her married name.
- This movie was produced during production on the second and third season of Batman Beyond. Timm and his crew couldn't figure out how to do this, since their production crew was already stretched thin working on the show. Storyboard artist and future Justice League Unlimited producer James Tucker was promoted to director and given Curt Geda's storyboard crew, and a few episodes were outsourced to Koko directly. Geda was put onto the film as a director, partially because he was a skilled storyboard artist himself, and one or two of the artists from his crew were brought on as well. Timm and his crew outsourced part of the film to TMS, and Hiroyuki Aoyama and Toshihiko Masuda storyboarded around half of the film, while Geda, Timm himself, and a freelance crew including Batman: The Animated Series veterans Ronnie del Carmen, Ted Blackman, Bob Smith, and a few others also worked on boards. On the DVD commentary, Timm speculates that a few scenes were outsourced by TMS to Koko and Dong Yang because TMS were also under tight deadline pressure.
- This was the first time that the backgrounds for a DCAU production were painted digitally. Though Timm was initially hesitant about this, TMS eventually managed to win him over with their strong work.
- In Paul Dini's screenplay, which has been published, there were several scenes that were cut and didn't make it into the film due time constraints although the final cut of the film is mostly faithful to it. The scenes deleted from the finished version of the film were the following ones:
- In the opening sequence, while in the film the fight mostly flows as originally written, there were no much moves and punches like in the finished version of the film, with more dialogue, including Chucko calling Bonk a "moron" for detatch his lifter's arms from the machinery they were trying to steal.
- After returning to the Batcave, the VR newsreport about Bruce Wayne's return to Wayne Enterprises that Bruce and Terry watched was longer as seen in the background, also revealing that Joe Chill gunned down Bruce's parents when Bruce was at age 9. Also, Jordan Pryce was standing in his lavishly furbished and posh office and not in front of his yacht.
- At the Jolly Jack Candy Factory, after killing Bonk, Woof was to lick the Joker's face for saying that he was with him like the other Jokerz.
- During the Wayne Enterprises gala, Terry finds that two women are saying that he is gorgeous. Initially, Terry thinks that they are talking about him, but later concludes that they were in reality talking about an elegantly attired Bruce.
- Following the Jokerz's attack, when Bruce demanded Terry to give the Batsuit, Terry mentions that the rejection from Mr. Tan will never make him forget his criminal past.
- At the McGinnis Residence, Matt McGinnis calls his brother Terry "a dreg", saying that he had never seen him in his entire life.
- In Wayne Enterprises, where Bruce visits the ruins of the opening gala after the Joker's attack, he finds Jordan Pryce supervising the clean-up crew: Pryce surprises Bruce with the depth of his knowledge about Bruce's public life and the fact that he remembrs Terry McGinnis' name albeit he has only saw him one time in his life, making him suspicious about whether he knows more. Also, Pryce says that he wasn't present at the gala because it was "Bruce's night" and he didn't wanted to be in the way. The scene, however, can be still seen in animatic form on the "Deleted Scenes" section of the film's DVD release.
- Wanting to investigate more of the Joker's return, Bruce goes to the ruins of Arkham Asylum and orders Ace to stay along his limosuine, without knowing that Terry has followed him. While searching clues, Bruce passes across the former cells of Two-Face (where half the padding has been torn off the walls making Bruce have chills, implying that whatever Two-Face's story ended, it wasn't a good ending), Poison Ivy (where there are a scattering of long dead leaves on the floor) and the Riddler (where the walls have been covered with faded, crudely scrawled question marks). After searching, Terry fins a crudely made Joker dummy with the word "I know" written in the chest.
- In the dance club scene, Dana Tan was to call Chelsea Cunningham "Chels" instead of Chelsea. Additionally, there was more dialogue for Dee Dee. The fight also played differently than in the final cut and after Dana is hospitalized in a comatose state, Terry warns Chelsea to "stay out of sight".
- In the flashback sequence, Harley Quinn was to knock out Robin before he can knock her "assailants".
- In the flashback sequence, while Batman was searching for Robin, Batgirl and him were going to infiltrate in the Iceberg Lounge and beat the Penguin's henchmen in order to interrogate the Penguin, only to discover that in fact, he doesn't know nothing about the whereabouts of the Joker and Robin. This scene was ultimately replaced with the scene of the thug crashing through one of the windows of the Stacked Deck.
- In the flashback sequence, Harley mentions at Arkham Asylum that instead of childbirth, the Joker and her decided to "adopt" a boy, reason for which Batgirl sarcastically calls Harley "mother of the freakin' year".
- In the flashback sequence, during the climax of Harley's and Batgirl's showdown, they merely fall over separately, and Batgirl is able to save herself but Harley isn't, falling to her death. However, Paul Dini ultimate decided to include an scene at the film's end revealing that Harley survived her fall because of his displeasure at being asked to kill off what he felt was one of his biggest contributions to the Batman mythos. Bruce Timm chose to retain it because he felt it provided some necessary comic relief.
- In the flashback sequence, the "family memories" film filmed by the Joker which deicted Robin being tortured in gruesome manner, was described to being shown off-camera unlike the finished version of the film, albeit Robin's torture is depicted more graphically in the film's uncut version. The video speech was also described to be longer than in the final cut. Additionally, the Joker's apron was going to say "Kill the Cook" rather than "Kiss the Cook", but was changed for being too gruesome.
- In the scene where Terry is at the laser trap, Bruce was originally going to monitor him in order to find a way out of the trap. This was changed because Paul Dini felt that the spoken resolution to this which was also the resolution to the climax fight of the film would have made it a little more predictable.
- When Terry confers with Bruce in the Batcave after the yacht explosion, he reveals that although Jordan Pryce wasn't the Joker, he indeed hired the Jokerz to kill Bruce. Bruce scowls and asks Terry to "remind him to fire Pryce".
- In the final battle at the Jolly Jack Candy Factory, there were extra lines for Dee Dee and the Joker. Additionally, after Batman said "Wait, I like to talk, too", the Jokerz were going to flee out from the factory only to be taken in custody by Commissioner Barbara Gordon and the GPD, with Woof saying "Aw, nuts" in human voice. Had this line would have been preserved, Woff would have had at least one line in the film. Also, the GPD was to cordon off the factory, only to flee out when the factory was blown up by the Joker's grenades.
- In the final scene of the Jokerz at prison, right before the last appearance of Dee Dee, it was going to be depicted that Ghoul, Chucko and Woof were sharing a cell, with Woof tethered to the wall and wearing a Hannibal Lecter-style dog mask.
- In the final scene at the hospital, Bruce Wayne was to knock on the door of Tim Drake's hospital room as Terry was inside. In the finished version of the movie, Terry leaves the room and runs into Bruce.
- The scene in which Bruce Wayne listens the Joker's recordings from The New Batman Adventures episode "Holiday Knights", the animation of the scene was going to recycle that episode's original animation. For some unknown reason, however, it was ultimately reanimated.
- The designs of the Jokerz (except Bonk) were based each other on different things. Woof's desing, according to the DVD commentary, was a nod to Bud and Lou, the "pet" hyenas of the Joker in Batman: The Animated Series and The New Batman Adventures. Dee Dee's initial design was based on their grandmother Harley Quinn's original outfit. The design of Chucko, also according to the DVD commentary, was based on "Sicko the Clown", a clown custome created by producer Eric Radomski, who attended a Halloween party dressed in that outfit. Ultimately, Ghoul's design was presumably based on Batman's enemy the Scarecrow.
- For the scene in which Harley Quinn reappears alive and well after paid for the bails of her granddaughters Dee Dee, Bruce Timm initially considered to cast an old actress, but ultimately decided to mantain Arleen Sorkin in the role.
- The Joker's death takes place after Justice League Unlimited (it was stated Batman was with the League for more than five years). However, Tim Drake still is a young boy in the flashback; later appearances in Static Shock and Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman portray him as slightly older. However, neither Justice League Unlimited nor the older Robin had appeared yet, production-wise, when this movie was made.
- When Terry is in the Batcave briefing Bruce on the successful foiling of the robbery, his Batsuit can be seen on display next to Nightwing's. However, Terry is wearing that Batsuit at the time, and almost always carries it with him. (This inconsistency also occurred in "Eyewitness", "Out of the Past", and "The Call, Part I".) The suit is seen in display several times throughout the film, but when Terry arrives at the Batcave to aid Bruce, the displays have been tarnished and the one where Terry's Batsuit suit was supposed to be is empty again. This can also be observed later when Terry makes the connection between Tim and the Joker.
- When Terry arrives at the Batcave to find Bruce lying on the floor, the emblem on Nightwing's suit is red instead of blue.
- On the DVD of the edited version, the scene selection menu shows a screenshot from the Batcave in which the giant "HA! HA! HA!" letters are still red instead of purple.
- In the flashback, when Tim pulls the trigger on the spear gun the first time, the flag itself was hanging on the far end of the spear. However, when Tim shoots Joker with the spear gun, the "BANG" flag should be the first end in Joker's heart, as it was to Bonk, but The Joker's flag is pointing out like a real flag.
- The planned path of the Hyperion-class satellite's beam shows Wayne Manor on the riverfront. In all other appearances, it was shown to be on the oceanside.
- Ace would have to have metallic jaws to shred metal apart.
- According to Paul Dini's screenplay, Bruce's limp in old age is attributable to being stabbed in the leg by Joker's knife. However, in "Rebirth" after Bruce decides to retire, which happens years after the Joker's death, he climbs up the stairs of the Batcave without a limp or cane. It is possible that both factors played a part, with the injury never fully healing and bothering him more and more as he aged.
- Paul Dini makes a cameo during the first few minutes of the movie.
- Terry briefly suspects Jordan Pryce of being the Joker. To support this theory Pryce was made to look like Joker without make-up. He is also voiced by Mark Hamill (much like how Stacy Keach voiced both the Phantasm and Carl Beaumont, the prime suspect).
- Ghoul is voiced by Michael Rosenbaum, who voices several other characters in Batman Beyond, and Flash on Justice League and Justice League Unlimited. According to the DVD commentary, Rosenbaum modeled his voice on that of actor Christopher Walken, much like he modeled his voice for Deadshot after Kevin Spacey.
- In the commentary, the producers remark that Chucko's appearance is based on Eric Radomski, who came to a Halloween party dressed in a similar outfit, humorously titled "Sicko the Clown".
- Maxine Gibson, Terry's confidant and pseudo-sidekick, is inexplicably absent and unmentioned, which is odd given that she appeared in almost every episode of Batman Beyond since her debut.
- Delia & Deidre Dennis ("Dee Dee") are shown to be the granddaughters of Harley Quinn, but it has been confirmed that they are not related to the Joker nor Poison Ivy.
- Both Woof and Ace are voiced by Frank Welker, a veteran voice actor whose specialty is animal characters.
- The producers were originally going to use a different actress to provide Harley's "old lady" voice, but ended up using Arleen Sorkin as usual.
- Some aspects were not included in either version of the movie:
- After being shot, Bonk's corpse was to be seen throughout the rest of the movie in the background, twitching. However, the producers were asked to leave it out early in the film's development.
- Likewise, the picnic table was supposed to be set with surgical tools and sharp knives, rather than the more innocuous bagels, plungers, and cream cheese.
- The Joker's line, "Ah, brave new world, that has such putzes in it" is a spoof on the line "O brave new world, that has such people in't!" from Shakepeare's The Tempest.
- When Terry speculates about possible explanations for the Joker's longevity, he mentions "suspended animation due to floating around in a frozen block of ice?" This is a possible homage to Marvel Comics's Captain America.
- Joker's line "beneath all the sturm und Batarangs" is a spoof on the German phrase sturm und drang ("storm and stress"), the name of an artistic movement in Germany in the late 18th century.
- At one point, the Joker declares "Look out Gotham! The Joker's back in town!" These words appear as a caption on the famous cover of Batman #251 (September, 1973), illustrated by Neal Adams.
- Joker calls Ace "Snoopy," a reference to the dog in Peanuts.
- The orbital weapon commandeered by the Joker is a homage to the Satellite Orbital Laser in the anime film Akira (just as the bikes that the Jokerz ride in Batman Beyond are an homage to the Clowns motorcycle gang from that film). The film's animation director had previously worked on the original sequence in Akira.
- Pipe-Bomber Luke Helder attempted to make a "smiley face" pattern out of his targets across America, similar to the Joker's attempt with the satellite beam.
- When Batman and Batgirl enter Arkham Asylum, Harley Quinn is singing the famous lullaby "Hush Little Baby".
- Pier 7 first appeared in the episode "Mind Games".
- The VHS and DVD covers depict the Joker as having green skin, while in the movie he has his normal white skin.
- The idea of a former Robin emerging as a new Joker would later be used in the alternate timeline comic book series, Batman: The Dark Knight Strikes Again, though with the following differences:
- The Robin is Dick Grayson rather than Tim Drake.
- Dick Grayson willingly submits himself to radical gene therapy conducted by corrupt government officials led by Lex Luthor and acquires the ability to shapeshift, taking on the appearance of a more gruesome and grotesque-looking "Joker" instead of Drake being captured by the real Joker and driven into temporary insanity against his will.
- As the new Joker, Grayson eventually goes up against an aged Bruce Wayne/Batman instead of a successor.
- Upon realising the new Joker is actually Grayson, Bruce makes no attempt whatsoever to save his former ward's sanity and instead sets into motion his plans of killing him there and then, which he succeeds in doing, albeit with a bit of remorse for Grayson's death.
- The initials for the movie as well as the title are similar to the Star Wars film Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, which coincidentally also featured Mark Hamill in both productions as a major character (in the latter case, the main protagonist).
- The Looney Tunes short that Ace was watching when Terry arrives to check up on him was "Hare Ribbin'", which was notoriously controversial for the nature of its ending (where Bugs Bunny either murders the dog directly by shooting him in the mouth [director's cut], or otherwise forcing the dog to commit suicide by handing him a revolver and having him shoot himself in the head [standard uncut versions]).
- Technically, the Joker isn't completely gone. He had an alternate counterpart who lives in the universe of the Justice Lords as seen in the Justice League episode "A Better World". However, his counterpart's status by the time the film takes place is completely unknown.
The movie was initially released in the midst of the backlash against violence in movies and video games aimed at children that followed the Columbine High School massacre; as a result, the movie was substantially re-edited shortly before release to tone down the violence. Many of the changes were controversial, particularly those made to a key scene in which the Joker is killed. The original unedited version has been released as "The Original Uncut Version".
The following are some changes that were made in the edited version:
- The opening fight sequence is trimmed, cutting out a second Dee Dee kick and completely redoing the entire Batman/Dee Dee sequence.
- Lots of white flashes have been added to the action sequences where there were previously none. Additionally, combinations of punches have been mostly trimmed down to one punch. For example:
- Woof slashes the guard once now instead of twice.
- Batman no longer punches Ghoul in the gut; he just uppercuts him into the dish.
- There is a 360-degree fight sequence in the opening battle that has also been removed, where Batman fends off the Jokerz one by one.
- Later on in the club, Terry's attack on Ghoul is cut to a flash and Terry running away while Ghoul falls.
- When Bruce throws the Batarang, it appears as though he's simply pleased that he can still throw and catch the weapon, instead of using it to decapitate a Two-Face dummy.
- Seat belts are added to Terry and Bruce as they drive home after their first meeting with the new Joker as well as in the chase scenes in the Batmobile.
- Bonk is not shot with Joker's flag-spear gun, but instead given a dose of Joker laughing gas, taking his implied death off-screen. Because of this, the whole scene following Bonk's death is heavily edited, as it would make no sense.
- The club fight is changed: the sequence where Chucko punches Terry while he is being held helpless by Dee Dee is cut out; he just goes for his gun and says "Slag him!"
- As a result of this change, it also resulted in the implication that the Jokerz somehow knew Terry McGinnis being the new Batman, as the scene cut had Chucko admitting that he doesn't know why they were sent to kill Terry, but he was going to do it anyways as long as it was fun.
- When Terry enters the Batcave to find it demolished by the Joker, the letters 'HA! HA!' written across the floor are changed in color from red to purple, probably to assure the viewer it is written in spray paint rather than Bruce's blood.
- During a montage where Batman and Batgirl comb the underworld looking for clues about Robin's disappearance, Batgirl talks to a nicely-dressed man and woman instead of two scantily clad women, clearly intended to be prostitutes, on a street corner. These two women appeared in The New Batman Adventures as Batgirl's "sources", in the episode "The Ultimate Thrill". (The blonde is based on an early Black Canary character design later seen in Justice League Unlimited)
- In the flashback, Batman frees himself from the Joker's bonds with a knife, then throws that knife at the Joker, who ducks at the last second. This scene is cut out of the edited version.
- More than half of the "Our Family Memories" home movie is cut out, only showing Robin tied up and struggling, and cutting the scene where the Joker opens the barbecue lids, picks up the electrodes, and electrocutes Robin.
- After Batman smashes through the glass of the projector room, he punches Joker and traces of blood fly from Joker's mouth; all other blood in the film was removed. Notably, in the next shot, Joker is not bleeding.
- Originally, Joker disables Batman by slashing a knife across his chest and then stabbing him in the leg. In the edited version, he just punches him. However, if one looks closely at the Joker's hand, the knife handle is still visible in the edited version.
- The Joker's death scene is replaced with an entirely different one: Joker tosses Tim a gun meant to spray him with Joker gas, meant to "make Batman one of us". Instead, Tim drops the gun and pushes Joker into a room with water on the floor, where he accidentally hits an electrical switch and is electrocuted to death off-screen. The gun's positioning and appearance during this edited sequence is inconsistent.
- Barbara's line about burying the Joker beneath Arkham is removed. Instead, Barbara adds, after her father's knowledge about the night, "and for Robin's sake" for his keeping it a secret.
- A lot of dialogue is changed as well; words implying killing or torture are changed:
|Joker: "I'll begin with how I peeled back the layers of the boy's mind."||"I'll begin with how I effected young Robin's makeover".|
|Joker: "[...] the serums and the shocks took their toll, [...]"||*Cut*|
|Joker: "Make Daddy proud . . . deliver the punchline."||"Make him one of us."|
|Barbara: "We buried the Joker deep beneath Arkham. The only other person who knew what happened that night was my father, the first commissioner Gordon. He promised to keep our secret."||"The only other person who knew about this was my father, the first commissioner Gordon. And for Robin's sake, he kept that night a secret.|
|Terry: "I'm assuming his girlfriend bought it, too."||"And since you saw Harley fall into the pit..".|
|Barbara: "[...] she was able to help Tim back to sanity."||"[...] she was able to help Tim back to himself."|
|Jordan Pryce: "[...] while those bunglers tried to kill Wayne [...]"||"[...] tried to ice Wayne. [...]"|
|Bruce: "Robin did shoot him."||"Robin defeated him."|
|Tim: "Oh God... I killed him. I didn't mean to. I tried so hard to forget... but I still hear the shot, still see his dead smile."||"Oh God... I did it. I didn't mean to. I tried so hard to forget... but I can still hear his scream. I can still see his frozen smile".|
|Tim: "It's a killer."||"It's a doozy."|
- Some slight profanity is also removed:
|Joker: Ah, brave new world, that has such putzes in it.||"putzes" is changed to "yutzes".|
|Joker: Any last words for the old Bat-Fart?||last phrase is changed to "the old Bat-Coot".|
- In the scene where the satellite laser chases the Batmobile, it blasts an unmarked, dark, seemingly empty building. Originally, it was a lit movie theater. In the edited version, the word "cineplex" can be seen exploding out of the wreckage in the last few frames of the shot.
- The introduction to the scene on the Wayne Enterprises yacht between Jordan Pryce and his female friend is excised.
- When Ace watches part of a Looney Tunes episode on the TV where a dog thinks he killed Bugs Bunny, the dog on TV says "I don't deserve to live!" over and over instead of moving on to saying "I wish I were dead!" twice.
- The scene where Jordan Pryce discovered the Jokerz on board his yacht was shortened in order to omit a potentially suggestive scene where he is talking to "Amy" about how he didn't know who to invite to his celebration of his ascension to Wayne Enterprises CEO only to discover that the woman on the bed was actually one of the Dee-Dee twins.
Additionally, some scenes were not included in either version; see Comic Adaptation and Behind the Scenes, below.
A comic book adaptation of the film was released. It was largely based on the original version, except for the Joker's death scene, which matched the edited version. This led to inconsistency, where the rest of the comic referred to the Joker being shot instead of electrocuted.
The comic also includes several scenes that didn't make into either version:
- In the opening sequence, Woof slaughts the guard of Gotham Shipping.
- During the ambush at the Wayne Enterprises gala, Bruce hits Woof with his cane while held by Dee Dee.
- Bruce visits the ruins of Arkham Asylum to find clues about the Joker's return. He is unknowingly followed by Terry. Once there, Terry finds a crudely made Joker dummy, with the words "I know", written in the chest.
- Barbara Gordon mentions to Terry that Nightwing left Gotham City to establish himself in another city.
- In the flashback sequence, Robin never knocks Harley Quinn's "assailants". He is knocked by Harley before he can knock her henchmen, so the Joker never appears to congratulate Harley for her tactic in the scene.
- In the flashback sequence, Batman interrogates the Penguin at the Iceberg Lounge about the Joker's and Robin's whereabouts.
- The Joker's appearance in the flashback sequence is not the revamped version seen in the film. His appearance is the same (but without black pupils) that he had for The New Batman Adventures series following the revamp in order to make the series resemble Superman: The Animated Series.
- In the flashback sequence, the Joker uses the name "J.J." for Tim instead of Joker Junior, although the former is an abbreviation of the latter.
- In the flashback sequence, the Joker does not use a mobile stretcher to escape from the scene unlike the film. Also, Tim goes outside Arkham without being ordered to bring Harley's bazooka.
- In the flashback sequence, Harley falls into Arkham's chasm directly after being knocked off the cliff. Also, Batgirl never attempts to save her as she does not grab Harley from the glove until it rips off. Additionally, Harley dies in the fall, as she never reappears at the end. Also, both Tery and Barbara never comment anything about Harley's fate, implying in fact that she was killed.
- In the flashback sequence, the Joker never says "What the heck. I'll laugh anyway". Batman knocks him off the window of his room before he can say it. Therefore, the Joker never stabs Batman and does not hold him for allow Robin to shoot him. Simply, Robin was at his side after getting up because of his fall.
- In the flashback sequence, the Joker's corpse after being killed is shown, albeit not graphically. In addition, Robin starts to cry just after knocking the Joker against the water tank.
- The scene aboard Jordan Pryce's yatch takes place during day instead during the night, as seen via a window. Also, Dee Dee tie up Pryce while in the film the Jokerz only handcuff him. Also, Amy is absent from the scene. Terry and Pryce didn't leave the yatch before it exploded. Instead, they somehow survive the explosion, but when Terry announces Pryce that he will show the GPD the recordings about his deal with the Jokerz, Pryce admits that he wants his lawyer.
- At the Jolly Jack Candy Factory, Terry subdues the Joker before killing him, while in the film the Joker subdues Terry and he uses his strenght to kill him with his device. The scene where Tim returns to normal at the factory is omitted, albeit Tim reappears at the end.
- The scene of Dee Dee at prison is omitted. The comic ends in the hospital scene.
The DVD's special features include a music video "Crash (The Humble Brothers Remix)" by Mephisto Odyssey & Static-X.
Joker: (asking each of the Jokerz if they're with him) Bonk? Oh, right. Dead.
Joker: Ah, the new boy. Ears are too long and I miss the cape, but not too shabby. Not too shabby at all.
Terry: Hey, I was the one who broke in and swiped the suit, remember? Yes, there was my dad's murder, but we come from two different worlds, Mr. Wayne. I wasn't like you, or the kids you took in. I was a pretty kid once, ran with a rough crowd, broke a lot of laws to say nothing to my folks' hearts. The kind of punk you wouldn't have wasted a second punch on back in the day.
Joker: What's the matter, Batman? No witty comeback? No threat? Then I'll provide the narration. I'll begin with how I peeled back the layers of the boy's mind. Oh, he bravely fought it at first. You would have been so proud to see him so strong. But all too soon, the serums and the shocks took their toll, and the dear lad began to share such secrets with me. Secrets that are mine alone to know... Bruce. It's true, Batsy. I know everything. And kinda like the kid who peeks at his Christmas presents, I must admit, it's sadly anti-climactic. Behind all the sturm and Batarangs, you're just a little boy in a playsuit crying for mommy and daddy. It'd be funny if it weren't so pathetic... Oh, what the heck? I'll laugh anyway.
Joker: (Last words) That's not funny... that's not... (gasps and dies)
Joker: You're welcome to try and stop us, but—heh-heh—I'm not taking bets on that happening anytime soon. Toodle!
Joker: Aren't you the nasty tattle-tale? Ratting me out before I have my fun! Papa spank!
Joker: Mr. J's on the rebound, baby! My comeback party's gonna set the whole town on fire!
Joker: Adios, Brucie. I guess I should salute you as a worthy adversary and all that, but the truth is, I really did hate your guts. (blows a raspberry)
Joker: What are you doing?!
Joker: (his final words) C'mon, McGinnis! Laugh it up now, you miserable little punk. LAUGH! I can't hear you!
Tim: I owe you big time.
Bruce: Terry, I've been thinking about something you once told me, and you were wrong. It's not Batman that makes you worthwhile. It's the other way around. Never tell yourself anything different.