Terry McGinnis: What can you tell me about clowns?
Barbara Gordon: In this town, they're never funny.
When Bruce Wayne grows old, so does Batman, and thus the legendary cape and cowl are passed down to the next generation's hero: Terry McGinnes. As the new Batman, Terry uses futuristic gadgets like jet-force boots with gravity-enforcers and infra-red vision to enforce crime with a technological savvy that the original Batman never had.
However, all the tech in the world won't help Terry when Batman's brilliantly twisted nemesis, the Joker, apparently rises from the dead. Taking over the 'Jokerz', a gang of small-time crooks in clown costumes, the original Clown Prince of Crime announces his come-back with a wave of slick crimes and big explosions, the main attraction being his hijacking of a military satellite with a super-powered defense laser. His plan? To customise New Gotham with a giant happy face, so that everyone knows that it is still, irrevocably, Joker territory.
So who is this Joker, really? Can he be the real thing, if Bruce has such vivid memories of his demise, and of the horrific scheme that led to it and to Tim Drake, the youngest Robin, giving up crime-fighting? And can Terry, usually getting by with fists and wise-cracks, possibly hope to match wits with the criminal genius of the Ace of Knaves?
For Batman fans, this film is a must. Not only are the vocal performances bravura (special mention being made of Mark Hamill's stylishly sinister Joker and his ear-bleed-inducing laughter), the visuals a gorgeous blend of futuristic cool and classic Gotham noir, the animation slick and attractive, the soundtrack both orchestral and hip, the pace engrossingly fervent and the story cleverly plotted and surprising... All that aside, it's actually really funny! And not just to children or teens. In fact, this film is darker than most of Batman's animated history (apart from notable moments from Paul Dini's ealry 90s series) and is for that reason perhaps not suited to a younger audience (and the Director's Cut is purely shocking in its vicious plot twist).
If you love the Joker (and I do) and the classic menace of the 1970s Batman comics (and I do) and you enjoy a well-written science fiction mystery with a killer cyberpunk twist (and I really do!), then you should get Return of the Joker.
If not... Joke's on you.
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