Although I haven't seen a great deal of the efforts, the animated "Batman" series has occasionally provided some thrills during the shows that I've seen. The animation is excellent; the stories are well-written and the tone is darker than most animated offerings. For this feature-length offering, Bruce Wayne has now grown older, looking over the new Batman, his assistant Terry. Batman's arch enemy, The Joker, has returned and seems to be stronger than ever.
The majority of the film then follows the pair as they try to put a stop to the Joker once and for all. It's impressive that an animated movie like this one can provide more excitement than the feature films, but it succeeds in doing so. The animation is well done, the story is exciting and the the universe that the filmmakers have created is stylish and wonderfully dark.
The vocal work is also quite strong, with Mark Hamill, Melissa Joan Hart and others providing the voices for the characters. There is quite a debate going about the the fact that apparently some footage was edited out of this release due to violence. That's entirely unfortunate, but I must say that I found this version to provide a thrilling experience. If there is actually an unedited version of the film, I hope Warner Brothers will release it eventually.
VIDEO: "Return Of The Joker" is presented full-frame and looks excellent, with great sharpness and detail to the animation. There isn't any instances of pixelation or shimmer to be found, nor are there any print flaws that I saw, in the form of marks or scratches. Colors are especially vibrant and bold, looking beautiful throughout the movie. There's really not a great deal to mention with this presentation, which really looks excellent with no major (or really any minor, for that matter) complaints.
SOUND: Going into viewing "Return Of The Joker" I was pleasantly suprised to find that, when reading the back of the box, that the film was presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. As the film is apparently a straight-to-video release, I wasn't expecting a great deal of effort put into the the film's sound.
Well, I'm pleased to say that I was wrong. "Return Of The Joker" provides a terrifically exciting Dolby Digital 5.1 audio experience that gives all speakers a suprisingly energetic workout. There is a great deal of effective and thrilling surround use during the more intense scenes, whether it be for the edgy, loud music score or for effects. The movie isn't consistent action, but during the more intense parts, the movie provides a very entertaining presentation. Even during the less "busy" moments, dialogue is clear and easily heard, and the track provides full, rich sound.
MENUS:: Although the main menu isn't animated, it does have audio playing behind it.
Commentary: This is a commentary from producer/directors Paul Dini, Glen Murakami, Bruce Timm, who provide a very interesting discussion of the production of this animated feature, giving the viewer plenty of details about the creation of the story and the animation. I found this track to provide a lot of details about the storyline of the series, which helped, since I wasn't that familiar with it, as well as details about the production of the animation. The participants are enthusiastic about sharing details about their experiences of working on the movie and the series, and between them there really aren't that many instances of silence/pauses. A good track well worth a listen. Strangely, in the special features section this feature is listed as "a word from the creators" rather than simply "commentary".
Animatics: About a minute or so worth of moving storyboards.
"Beyond Batman Beyond" Documentary: This is an 11 minute documentary that is certainly promotional in nature, as it offers more story details through interviews rather than actual production information.
Deleted Scene: A deleted scene shown in storyboard form that was taken out due to pacing reasons.
Video Character Bios: Short animated clips that reveal more information about the main characters of the movie. The feature runs for a little less than 5 minutes total.
Music Video: "Crash" by Mephisto Odyssey featuring Static X. (who?).
Also: DVD-ROM features including web-link; trailers including "Return Of The Joker", "Batman Beyond: Video Collection", "The Iron Giant", "My Dog Skip", "Pokemon The Movie: 2000" and "Scooby Doo and the Alien Invaders"; bat trivia.
Final Thoughts: "Return of the Joker" is recommended for older children, as younger ones might be scared from it. If this is indeed an "edited" version of the movie that is certainly unfortunate, but I still found this version - the only version out, enjoyable to watch. As for the DVD, I was really pleased with the quality - audio/video quality is excellent and there are some great extras.