Batman Returns [1992]

Genre: Action
Rating: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Some diehard Batfans have been slow to warm to the animated series Batman Beyond even though it was created by the same team responsible for the excellent Batman cartoon of the early '90s. The Dark Knight should be a brooding avenger in a noir-nightmare Gotham City, the purists argue, not some smart-aleck teen four decades in the future, with jet packs, invisibility shields, and other sci-fi gizmos loaned him by an elderly Bruce Wayne (voiced, excellently as always, by Kevin Conroy, his stony bass given a raspy hint of old age), now confined to hobbling about on a cane and monitoring his protégé's activities from the Batcave. Between its respectful reexamination of the "tortured hero" mythos and its sleek, anime-inspired look, this feature-length movie should go a long way toward quieting their complaints. Of course, it doesn't hurt that they've brought back the most legendary figure in the Rogues Gallery (voiced by Mark Hamill, deliciously deranged), but exactly how and why the Joker has managed to turn up 40 years after his last meeting with Batman still as youthful and diabolical as ever is explained not only logically but terrifyingly as well. The secret behind his arrival is perhaps the saddest, grimmest twist any purported "kids' show" has dared to attempt. (Parents may well want to preview this tape before screening it for the very young.) Once again, Warner Brothers' cartoon Batman has outshone all the live-action films, never allowing the thrilling action set pieces or flashes of wry humor to drown out the drama, even tragedy, of the all-too-human superheroes. --Bruce Reid

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