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Western Animation: Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker
"You know, kids, a lot has changed while your old Uncle Joker's been away. New Gotham, new rules, even a new Batman. But now I'm tanned, I'm rested, and I'm ready to give this old town a wedgie again!"
Animation Bump: The movie was done by TMS, one of the best animation studios in Japan, and the results shine through. In the DVD Commentary, the creators will occasionally just pause to watch the show, Bruce Timm and the other DCAU regulars being unaccustomed to that kind of quality for most of their projects.
Ass Kicks You: Dee Dee does this to Dana when they are dancing with Terry to get her out of the way so they can gang up on him.
The Atoner: Harley Quinn is implied to be this in her brief appearance near the end. She apparently settled down to start a family after her apparent death at Arkham, and she tried her hardest to keep her granddaughters from going down the same path that she did. It didn't work.
Ax-Crazy: Joker, of course. More pronounced than in his other DCAU appearances too, since here he's actually allowed to kill people.
Being Tortured Makes You Evil: Zigzagged. Tim Drake is tortured/mutated/brainwashed into becoming a "Joker Junior." This is subverted when he shakes it off, refuses to hurt Batman, and turns on the Joker instead. Then this is subverted when it's implied that, years later, Tim turned evil again and became the new Joker, probably as a result of the original torturing/brainwashing. Then that is subverted when it turns out that Tim has been completely unaware of the recent unfolding schemes; he only turned into the new Joker because the original had planted a microchip in his brain, thus causing his transformations.
Berserk Button: The Joker's deepest button is pressed when Terry brutally deconstructs his entire obsession with Bruce and then mocks the Joker's style of jokes, claiming them to be truly pathetic material. Compared to how calm the Joker was when Bruce!Batman was thrashing him around and even laughing off the hits, it really hit the Joker hard.
Big "Shut Up!": The Joker invokes this after one too many taunts from Terry.
Blood from the Mouth: The Joker, when he gets tackled and punched by Batman after the latter has pushed the former's Berserk Button too far in the original version. Batman has this too afterward when he gets knifed by the Joker.
Terry: [Bruce] wouldn't know a good joke if it bit him in the cape. Not that you ever had a good joke...I mean, joy buzzers, squirting flowers—lame! Where's the "A" material? Make a face, drop your pants, something!
Bowdlerise: The frenzy surrounding Columbine in 1999 resulted in extensive debates on media influences, which put some pressure on Warner Bros. Despite having a completed film, executives feared backlash on releasing a particularly violent animated movie and had certain scenes reanimated (which is different than normal, as it resulted in new material being written instead of simply cutting material). The original film was released later under a PG-13 rating but even the edited version isn't particularly "kid-friendly," the majority of the differences is minor edits including digitally removing blood, changing bits dialogue implying death/insanity/sexuality/swear words and trimming some of the more bone-crunching violence (including turning the "bang" flag gun murder of Bonko into a gas gun). The most significant edit comes in the flashback where Tim shoots the Joker with the "bang" flag gun, whereas in the edited version he threw the gun away and attacked the Joker into the lab space, who ended up soaked in water, covered in wires, slipping and grabbing a switch, electrocuting himself.
Call Back: The "HA-HA"s spray-painted in the Batcave call back to when the same "HA-HA"s were found at the crime scene of Warren McGinnis, which probably adds an even higher traumatic tension for Terry.
A subtler instance occurs when Tim Drake (really Joker in control of Tim's body) tells Bruce he wants Bruce to watch as he transforms Tim's body into his own: "It's a killer," echoing Dick Grayson's advice to Tim the first time they met way back in the TNBA episode "Sins of the Father."
The Call Knows Where You Live: When Terry quits being Batman out of anger at Bruce, Joker sends his gang to attack him and Dana whilst out at a club. Whilst this is going on, Joker makes a personal house call to Wayne Manor. Dana is hospitalized, Ace is injured, and Bruce is poisoned by Joker toxin and almost killed.
Commissioner Jim Gordon and Dick Grayson/Nightwing are mentioned, but not seen. Also, in the uncut version, Bruce is practicing his batarang-throwing against replica statues of some of his oldRogues Gallery.
Terry's affectionate nickname for Ace, "Good Bad Dog," came from an earlier episode also featuring Ace.
In the flashback, Joker stabs Bruce in the leg. Eventually, this wound and old age gave Bruce his limp.
In the original version of the flashback, Batgirl questions her informants from the TNBA episode "The Ultimate Thrill." (Cut from the bowlderised version, presumably because they appear to be hookers.)
Couldn't Find a Pen: A scene involves Bruce Wayne being found after an attack by the Joker with "Ha! Ha! Ha!" written on the ground in red. It was changed to purple in the censored version to avoid looking like this trope.
Cow Tools: During the flashback, there's a shot of some innocent junk lying around (a toilet plunger, for example). Word of God says originally Joker's tray was originally going to have bloody surgical instruments, but the execs put their foot down.
Criminal Doppelgänger: Jordan Pryce is introduced as a Red Herring in determining Joker's real identity. Implying that Pryce has deduced Bruce's secret, he also physically resembles the Joker in build, hair and facial expressions (yet obviously not with the clown coloring) and is voiced by Mark Hamill. However, while not actually Joker, Pryce did work in connection with him and is turned in to Gotham PD by Terry.
Cry Laughing: A deadly serious example in the second Robin, Tim Drake, in a flashback. The Joker applied ample amounts of Cold-Blooded Torture to Tim, leaving him Brainwashed and Crazy. When ordered to kill Batman, after The Joker has him in a position he wouldn't be able to protect himself, Tim breaks through the brainwashing and murders The Joker instead, laughing like a maniac the whole time. Once The Joker succumbs to his injuries and Batgirl arrives, Tim's laughing abruptly turns into uncontrollable sobbing, as the weight of everything that transpired suddenly sets in. The flashback ends with Barbara/Batgirl trying to console him.
Curb-Stomp Battle: Terry's final fight against Joker's gang consisted of one move on each of them: crashing the damaged Batmobile underneath Chucko's high perch, getting Dee Dee to knock each other out, sicking Ace on Woof, and finishing with a Batman classic on Ghoul.
Tim: Me and the others gave everything, but it just wasn't enough for the old man. I used to think, if I went on long enough, someday he'd retire and I'd...ah, the heck with it. Capes, costumes, bad guys—it was kid's stuff! Bruce probably did me a favor. By the end, I was so sick of it I never wanted to see that stupid Robin suit again...!
Terry admits that The Joker is a successful supervillain, but a pathetic comedian: he never made Batman laugh, nor corrupt or break him. He never was Affably Evil, just Faux Affably Evil. And after all, the natural enemy of a comedian is The Heckler.
Terry:The real reason you kept coming back was you never got a laugh out of the old man. The Joker: I'm not hearing this... Terry:Get a clue, clowny! He's got no sense of humor! He wouldn't know a good joke if it bit him in the cape...not that you ever had a good joke. The Joker:Shut up...shut up! Terry:I mean, joy-buzzers, squirting flowers—lame! Where's the "A" material? Make a face, drop your pants, something!
Tim: Fun and games. Boy Wonder playing hero. Fighting off bad guys and no one ever gets...oh God. (I killed him./I did it.) I didn't mean to. I tried so hard to forget. But I still hear (the shot/his scream). Still see the (dead/frozen) smile. Every night, the dreams get stronger...he's there when I sleep. Whispering! Laughing! Telling me that I'm as bad as he is! We're both the same!''
Locked Out of the Loop also gets a painful deconstruction, because the old Bat Family's refusal to come forward with the truth Terry needs about the Joker gets him fed up to the point where he quits. Of course it doesn't stick, but the damage the Joker does in the short span of time ends with Dana hospitalized and Bruce and Ace nearly dead. Terry eventually coaxes the story out of Barbara, citing that he's involved in this mess whether they like it or not.
Deface of the Moon: Joker plans to use his hijacked Kill Sat to carve a giant smiley-face into Gotham City (taking out Terry's family, Wayne Manor, and the hospital Dana is staying at along the way) as a way of showing everyone once and for all that "this is Joker territory."
Designated Girl Fight: Harley vs. Batgirl. Ends up tragically as Harley plummets to her death while Batgirl looks in horror. Or so we think.
Disappointed By The Motive: Invoked by Terry during his battle against The Joker. Terry is basically trying to piss the Joker off.
Terry: So you fell in a tank of acid, got your skin bleached, and decided to become a supervillain. What, you couldn't get a job as a rodeo clown?
Due to the Dead: Discussed only by Barbara at the end of the flashback (in the uncut version, that is):
Commissioner Barbara Gordon: 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.
Emerging from the Shadows: When we first see the Jokerz and their gang speak with their leader, he is partly concealed in the shadows at first, except for his redGlowing Eyes of Doom and his grin, but then, after shooting Bonk dead for defecting him, he emerges from the shadows, revealing himself to be the newly-resurrected Joker.
Epileptic Trees: In-universe, Terry's suggested "theories" about how Joker is still alive and kicking.
Eureka Moment: "Nothing against your old partners, but I'm a completely different Batman. I was never a Robin, I never—" Terry notices the Robin costume is the only one out of all the other suits that was trashed.
When Bruce advises Terry to ignore the Joker's taunts and not respond, Terry realizes he's not Bruce. He has his own style.
Another one provides an awesome Call Back: Terry's laugh when confronting the Joker mirrors Batman's own Evil Laugh from the original series in that it manages to be just as creepy, if not more so, than the Joker himself.
Family-Unfriendly Death: The Joker is killed off fairly early in the story. There are actually two versions of the death scene. Originally, Robin shot the Joker; the Moral Guardians thought this was too violent, so the scene was reanimated to show the Joker getting wet and tangled up in wires, slipping and accidentally electrocuting himself. How this is supposed to be any less violent, even if it did cut away before we actually see it?
They thought that an indirect death is less violent than a direct death. Also, guns.
Also, if Moral Guardians make any complaint, Bruce Timm would edit the scene while making it a million times worse. See? No guns were used!
Flashback: The sequence with what happened in Bruce's last confrontation with the Joker.
Foreshadowing: Or rather "Backshadowing." Joker's "That's also how we did it in my day" and one half of Dee Dee almost dying the way her grandma supposedly died.
Another part of "backshadowing": The background music that plays when Bruce demands that Terry return the Batsuit because it's dangerous for him to face the Joker (impostor or not), despite the fact that the Clown Prince of Crime died years ago, is "Terry Relieved of Duty." When played again as a Dark Reprise near the end of "Arkham Mayhem," we now understand the reason: because the Joker Mind Raped Robin into divulging his secrets about Bruce Wayne as Batman, the Clown Prince of Crime tainted the Bat-Family with compromise and deception "in his last act of cruelty" that led to his demise at Robin's hands and to Barbara and Tim quitting the Bat-Family because of it.
About halfway through, Terry dodges one of the Joker's booby traps by tricking it into destroying its own power source. He uses the same trick to destroy the Kill Sat.
When Joker attacks Bruce in Wayne Manor, he addresses the latter as an old man. Just like how Tim refers to Bruce as of late, and in this movie itself.
Gory Discretion Shot / Scream Discretion Shot: The edited version of Joker's death involving water, wires, and a lot of electricity. Because the camera cuts away as he's dying, all we hear is his scream. For this reason, some people consider it worse than the uncut version, as it leaves more to the imagination.
High Voltage Death: In the censored version. After The Joker kidnaps Tim Drake (Robin) and brainwashes him into being insane like himself. The Joker tries to get Tim to to kill the Batman and prove Tim is like him. In the censored version of the scene, Tim pushes The Joker into a glass container full of water, breaking it, which causes him to get tangled in electrical wires attached to the container. The Joker slips on the water and accidentally pulls an electrical switch, and the wires electrocute him to death.
Hoist by His Own Petard: :Terry destroys the microchip with the Joker's own joy buzzer, killing him once and for all.
Before that the Joker is killed by Tim Drake using his own spear gun in the uncut version that he gave Tim to kill Batman.
Joker Immunity: Finally averted. The Joker actually dies for good twice in the film (first time is when he's killed by Tim Drake in the modern day; second time is when Terry fries the chip containing Joker's consciousness and DNA coding attached to Tim Drake's neck in the future).
Played straight with Harley Quinn, though. Word of God says it's because Paul Dini couldn't bear to kill off his favorite creation. Word of God also attributes her in-universe survival with the injection she got from Poison Ivy in the episode they met.
Karma Houdini: Harley, as revealed in The Stinger, ended up getting to live a fairly normal life, although her grandkids are falling down the same path.
Karmic Death: Joker's first death; in fact, when he's shot, he can only say, "That's not funny...".
Kick the Dog: When Joker breaks into the Batcave, he attacks Ace. He does so again near the end of the movie.
And in another sense, in the flashback scene, Joker shows Batman a video of him torturing Tim Drake and then reveals that, after a few weeks, his mind snapped and he revealed Batman's identity to Joker. Joker then proceeds to mock Batman over the death of his parents. Bodily injury soon followed.
After breaking into the Batcave and gassing Bruce the Joker re-creates the "HA HA HA" graffiti from the murder of Terry's father just to torture him. Even the filmmakers admit that that might be a bit too far.
Bruce Timm: (in the commentary) That's just sick.
Kid Hero: Deconstructed with Robin's fate. Barbara also seems to think that Harley Could Not Hurt a Child. Both seem to consider crime fighting like a great adventure. Bruce would never have such illusions.
Killed Off for Real: In a subversion of the very trope named after him, the Joker eventually got this treatment in the DCAU. Yes, having proven himself as much of a survivor as his counterpart in the comics, every bit the "no one" in No One Could Survive That, this movie took the big leap and put him down once and for all - killing him twice; first his body was destroyed and buried deep within Arkham Asylum in flashback, then the chip containing a copy of his DNA and memories was burned out, just to make sure he won't be coming back.
Kill Sat: Government issued Hyperion class defense satellite.
Made of Explodium: Everything explodes in this movie. In the opening battle Chuckles fired a laser at Terry, which at first melted the construction hook he was just sitting on and then it explodes. But there is nothing really to complain about since the explosions are animated gorgeously.
"I must admit, it's sadly anti-climactic. Behind all the sturm und batarang, 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! (Mad Laughter)"
Years later the second Batman, Terry McGinnis, throws the Joker's insults right back at him by pointing out that the Joker himself is also this trope as his fixation with the original Batman was childishly pathetic and, once you take away all the garish make up and fancy props, the Joker was really nothing more than a stupid, overgrown kid trying to make people laugh at a joke that wasn't all that funny to begin with, angering the Clown Prince of Crime greatly.
Mood Whiplash: In the flashback, after Batman busts in on them at Arkham, we see Joker and Harley acting out a cheesy '50s sitcom. They announce their intention was to start a family, and the mood is quite goofy. Then Joker peels back a curtain, revealing what he did to Tim Drake.
Monster Clown: This is Joker we're talking about, but his gang of Jokerz all deserve special mention. Dee Dee is/are done up to look like ragdolls, Ghoul is dressed as a ghastly scarecrow for Halloween (evoking another Batman villain, the Scarecrow), Woof spliced himself with hyena DNA, Bonk is a giant rage case, and Chucko wears a creepy mask.
Mugged for Disguise: One half of Dee Dee briefly poses as Jordan Pryce's girlfriend Amy as part of an attempted assassination. The real Amy is left bound and gagged at the docks.
My Biological Clock Is Ticking: From Harley: "That old clock's a-ticking!"note Since she has twin granddaughters she clearly did actually have children at some point, though the father is unknown.
Mythology Gag: The shredded Robin costume was a reference to the "Death In The Family" arc in the '80s, where readers could call a 1-800 number to decide whether Jason Todd (the current Robin) would survive a story arc.
Never Forgotten Skill: Bruce Wayne may have been out of being Batman for years, but a number of his skills were never forgotten. For instance, he has never forgotten how to make a batch of Anti-Joker Venom. It was a good thing, because Joker came calling and doused Bruce with the Joker Venom.
Never Found the Body: Harley Quinn falls into a crevasse during the fight between her and Batgirl. Barbara mentions this trope by name, but immediately follows up with savviness by adding, "But I doubt she'd be stirring up trouble now." The ending shows she's right: Harley survived the fall and settled down for a quiet life, even though her relatives didn't.
Off with His Head!: Parodied in the opening of the uncut version: after the credits, Bruce Wayne throws a Batarang that cuts off the head of a wax statue of Two-Face in the Batcave.
The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: Played straight depending on your point of view. Joker wanted JJ (Tim Drake) to physically be the one to kill Batman, but it was Joker that masterminded the whole situation.
Also played straight in that Joker wanted Bruce's Batman to be the only one to defeat him, or the only one he'd seek to make laugh.
The Joker really genuinely loses his temper when he's taunted by Terry playing The Heckler, the Smug SnakeMonster Clown façade crumbling under jabs that he's just not funny. Only the monster remains from that point on.
Papa Wolf: Seeing what Joker had done to Tim Drake was the one thing that seemed to convince Bruce to finally try and kill him in the flashback (course, being mocked over his parents' deaths probably didn't help either).
The poster, seen as the page image above, features a giant green Joker head, closely mimicking one of the posters for The Man Who Laughs, the film which inspired the Joker.
After Terry has saved Bruce's life, one Looney Tunes cartoon Ace is watching is the Bugs Bunny short "Hare Ribbin'," known for its controversial ending (which is also shown)note in which a Russian stereotype dog, in his "My God, What Have I Done?" moment, laments that he has apparently killed Bugs Bunny and that he himself should have been the one to die; his lamentation is also heard in the audio, but only in the uncut version.
Shout-Out: To Shakespeare: When Bonk gets angry at the Joker and calls him a fake, the Joker replies, "Ah, brave new world...that has such [putzes/yutzes] in it." This is a parody of a line spoken by Miranda in The Tempest: "O, wonder!/How many goodly creatures are there here!/How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world/That has such people in't" (V, i).
Smug Snake: Joker, every time he interacts with Terry. He regards Terry as nothing more than Bruce's lackey and takes constant amusement in taunting him, thinking him incapable of succeeding against him (oh, howwrong he was). Perhaps the best example in the film, is after Joker reveals his Kill Sat plans to Terry.
Joker: You're welcome to try and stop us, but I'm not taking bets on that happening anytime soon. Toodles.
So Happy Together: Terry surprising Dana at the dance club after Bruce fires him as Batman. They get a little banter and a sweet dance together...Then the Jokerz crash the party and almost kill both of them.
So Proud of You: Bruce gives one of the silent variety in form of a smile when in the edited version of Jokers death, Tim throws away the gun given to him by Joker.
Soul Jar: The DNA/Microchip package The Joker implanted in Tim Drake during the weeks he was holding him captive
Turn in Your Badge: Bruce to Terry. He does it out of fear of what Joker might do to him, but doesn't do the best job of getting it across.
Bruce: Stupid kid. You don't know what you want. None of you ever did.
Underestimating Badassery: Joker assumes that Terry is just a Batman-knock off, a punk who's trying to be the original and could never measure up. It isn't until their final fight that Joker realizes that Terry is a different opponent, who is willing to fight dirty, turn the Joker's mind games back on him, and kill him if he had to.
Unstoppable Rage: Joker hit Bruce's Papa Wolf instincts and Berserk Button one time too many in the flashback, as it convinced Bruce to attempt to kill him for good. He didn't succeed. But Tim did. Sort of.
Visual Pun: In the flashback, when the Joker says, "I, on the other hand...", he pulls out the knife from one hand to his actual other hand before attacking Batman.
Villain Exit Stage Left: Joker is so used to this trope that, when he loses control of the Kill Sat, he seems to think he can just walk away (although that may also have been due to his lack of respect for Terry).
Joker:Oh, good, the beam's headed here! Now I'll have to start all over again. Thanks for wrecking everything, kid. See ya round.
Wouldn't Hit a Girl: Played straight with Dee Dee. Terry largely just grapples and tosses them around rather than the rather intense beating he would give the other Jokerz. Terry somehow got them to beat each other up.
Wounded Gazelle Gambit: The Dee Dees pull this trick to get the drop on Terry when he sees them for the first time. (When he interrupts a heist the Jokerz are pulling, the Dee Dees grab on to each other and pretend to be terrified; then when he turns his back to concentrate on the tougher-looking male members of the gang, they pounce.)
Wronski Feint: How Terry beat the Dee Dees: his jet boots got him out of the way so they crashed into one another.