Tuesday 8 January 2008

Batman Beyond - The Joker goes back to the future

Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker was a direct to video feature length animation from 2000 based on the TV series Batman Beyond aka Batman of the Future. With dazzling manga style animation, the movie presented a dark plot involving Batman's arch nemesis, The Joker and in the process revealed what really happened to Robin.

Batman Beyond was Warners' next generation Batman. One that had previously been thrillingly brought to life by the acclaimed Batman: The Animated Series which starred the vocal talents of Kevin Conroy as arguably the best Batman ever. In Batman Beyond, Conroy reprised his role in a future where Bruce Wayne has retired from crimefighting and handed the mantle, though not the cape, of Batman to high school student Terry McGinnis. Also repeating his role was animated Batman veteran and former Tatooine farmboy cum Jedi master, Mark Hamill as the Clown Prince of Crime, The Joker.

Apart from its sophisticated animation, plots and voice work, Batman: The Animated Series had the kind of orchestral scores normally associated with big budget features. The late great Shirley Walker provided the music along with her team of talented composers including Lolita Ritmaris, Michael McCuistion, Gabriel Moses and Kristopher Carter.

To reflect its futuristic setting and a decidedly youthful hero, the Batman Beyond TV series utilized a predominantly techno sound. Kristopher Carter's soundtrack for the movie however reveals more light and shade with dramatic orchestral passages that recall the influence of his mentor Shirley Walker and adrenalin packed techno-metal wig-outs with drums like kango hammers on steroids, bowel-destroying bass and chunky chainsaw guitar. Carter's keening mournful theme for the movie is further enhanced during the end titles by some nifty bluesy fret play from Kenny Wayne Shepherd.

At a whisker over half an hour, this soundtrack only represents a brief glimpse into the future, and while not all the tracks are for the fainthearted, Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker represents a rock solid modern soundtrack with some occasional moments of sheer brilliance that sound fantastic when played very loud.

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