Release Date(s)1999-2001 (October 29, 2019)
Studio(s)DC Comics/Warner Bros. Television Animation (Warner Home Video)
- Film/Program Grade: See Below
- Video Grade: See Below
- Audio Grade: See Below
- Extras Grade: B
- Overall Grade: A-
After reinventing what an animated superhero show could be with Batman: The Animated Series and its follow-up The New Batman Adventures (as well as Superman: The Animated Series, for those keeping count), DC found a new home for their line-up of characters on the Kid’s WB. Several shows soon went into production, the first being Batman Beyond, a successor to the previously mentioned Batman shows, maintaining story continuity, as well as adding to the DC Animated Universe, which would later include the Justice League.
The story begins in the Gotham City of the future, Neo-Gotham, where an elderly Bruce Wayne (Kevin Conroy) resides after retiring his Batman persona. Terry McGinnis (Will Friedle) is a troubled teen in need of direction when he stumbles upon Bruce and his long-kept secret. Cold and dismissive at first, Bruce becomes more sympathetic to Terry after his father is killed by Derek Powers, the co-owner of Wayne-Powers who is secretly using the company to carry out unlawful activities. Though initially against the idea, Bruce allows Terry to put on the cape and cowl and become the new Batman to avenge his father’s death. Guiding him from the confines of the Batcave, Terry takes on a new rogue’s gallery of criminals on the streets of Neo-Gotham.
What Batman Beyond manages to accomplish more than most of the other Batman films and TV shows is that’s actually different – much more so than anything that has come before or after it. It’s certainly a sequel series, but it does its own thing without relying on the usual Batman tropes or villains. In fact, only three of the previous villains make brief appearances: Mr. Freeze, Ra’s al Ghul, and Bane. The new villains include Blight, Stalker, Inque, Spellbinder, Earthmover, Shriek, Mad Stan, and a gang of Joker wannabes simply called Jokerz. It’s a colorful mix, though select baddies are more effective and memorable than others.
Unlike his predecessor, Terry McGinnis’ Batman is more Peter Parker-esque with a neverending series of quips and commentary. The show also leans on its futuristic sensibilities, but with a light touch. Transportation is mostly limited to flying cars (including a Batmobile/Batwing hybrid) and currency is strictly limited to credit card type currency (“credits”). However, there are still TVs, cell phones, and arcades (the latter of which have mostly bit the dust in the real world).
One of the show’s best accomplishments is its ability to blend futuristic concepts with political and social commentary. Because it skews toward a younger crowd, the problems that Terry faces often involve his classmates, or just young people in general. Gene splicing is the new cool thing for kids to do (akin to piercing or tattoos), but it’s also used by criminals to their advantage – either to trick teens into working for them or to alter their own DNA and make themselves bigger and stronger. Drug use is also an issue that comes up in a couple of episodes, including the use of steroid patches (“Slappers”) laced with Bane’s Venom, as well as Spellbinder’s addictive virtual reality simulations where joy is a drug that can harm its young participants.
Like most TV shows, Batman Beyond also has its fair share of lackluster episodes. One involves a geeky teen buying himself a female robot that goes on jealous rampages at the drop of a hat. The entirety of another episode involves a group of Jokerz hijacking an experimental government aircraft and running amok with it. Another involves Terry’s jilted girlfriend Dana being kidnapped by a teenage rat boy who lives beneath Neo-Gotham and leaves her flowers wherever she goes. Many fans point to The Eggbaby as potentially the worst episode of the show, but episodes featuring Big Time and Mad Stan might give it a run for its money.
Batman Beyond is not a perfect show as the first season takes a while to warm up, and there are a few uninspired episodes throughout its entire run, but it still manages to give the franchise a nice shot in the arm. Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, the animated film based upon the series, feels a bit like a step backwards in comparison. In the story, the clown prince of crime has miraculously survived death and is back in Neo-Gotham to face both Bruce and Terry. Revelations about how this is possible will ultimately have an impact on everyone, including Commissioner Barbara Gordon (formerly Batgirl) and Tim Drake (formerly Robin).
Return of the Joker could have easily been a two or three part episode of the series if it had gone beyond three seasons. Much of it is quite good, for all of the reasons that I mentioned previously about the original show, but where it falls short is its reliance on what’s come before. A major plot contrivance is responsible for Joker’s return, and even in a comic book world where alien and supernatural events occasionally occur, it feels like a step too far. It’s the unfortunate curse of Batman in that most producing entities, whether it be for comics, TV, or movies, go back to the Joker-well repeatedly instead of exploring other ideas. More interesting stories about Batman (particularly Bruce and Terry) were relegated to crossover episodes of Justice League Unlimited instead.
Once Justice League Unlimited and Batman: The Animated Series made their way to Blu-ray, it was only a matter of time before Batman Beyond would fly onto disc as well. The show was originally broadcast on TV in analog SD with stereo sound. 52 22-minute episodes were produced in all, airing from 1999 to 2001. Warner Home Video originally released each season of the show separately on DVD in 2006 and 2007, later repackaging them in a Complete Series DVD set in 2010. Batman Beyond: The Movie, which was a compilation of the first few episodes, was released on DVD in 1999, and later repackaged with a couple of other titles. Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker was released on DVD in an edited version in 2000, and later in its uncut form in 2002. The uncut version was later released on Blu-ray in 2011.
Batman Beyond: The Complete Series includes 6 Blu-ray discs featuring all 52 episodes of the show, as well as Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (utilizing the same Blu-ray disc released in 2011). The exact disc/episode breakdown follows below. Episodes are also listed with the major villains that appear therein for easier reference. The extras are also listed for each disc:
SEASON ONE (1999)
- 01 – Rebirth Part One (Jokerz, Derek Powers, and Mr. Fixx)
- 02 – Rebirth Part Two (Jokerz, Derek Powers, and Mr. Fixx)
- 03 – Black Out (Inque)
- 04 – Golem (Willie Watt)
- 05 – Meltdown (Mr. Freeze)
- 06 – Heroes (The Terrific Trio)
- 07 – Shriek (Shriek)
- 08 – Dead Man’s Hand (The Royal Flush Gang)
- 09 – The Winning Edge (Jackson Chappell)
- 10 – Spellbound (Spellbinder)
- 11 – Disappearing Inque (Inque)
- 12 – A Touch of Curare (Curare)
- 13 – Ascension (Blight and Baxton Powers)
- Batman: Hush Trailer (Opens Disc) (HD – 01:48)
- Wonder Woman: Bloodlines Trailer (Opens Disc) (HD – 01:43)
- Audio Commentary on Rebirth Part One with Bruce Timm, Alan Burnett, Paul Dini, Glenn Murakami, and Curt Geda
- Audio Commentary on Shriek with Bruce Timm, Alan Burnett, Paul Dini, Glen Murakami, Curt Geda, and Stan Berkowitz
- Music of the Knight (SD – 15:00)
- Inside Batman Beyond – Meet the Creators (SD – 9:42)
- The Death and Return of Superman Trailer (HD – 1:54)
- Teen Titans Go! vs. Teen Titans Trailer (HD – 2:00)
SEASON TWO (1999-2000) – DISC ONE
- 01 – Splicers (Dr. Abel Cuvier)
- 02 – Earth Mover (Earthmover)
- 03 – Joyride (Jokerz)
- 04 – Lost Soul (Robert Vance)
- 05 – Hidden Agenda (Jokerz)
- 06 – Bloodsport (Stalker)
- 07 – Once Burned (Jokerz and The Royal Flush Gang)
- 08 – Hooked Up (Spellbinder)
- 09 – Rats! (Patrick Fitz)
- 10 – Mind Games (Brain Trust)
- 11 – Revenant (Willie Watt)
- 12 – Babel (Shriek)
- 13 – Terry’s Friend Dates a Robot (Cynthia)
- Audio Commentary on Splicers with Bruce Timm, Glen Murakami, James Tucker, Andrea Romano, and Will Friedle
SEASON TWO (2000) – DISC TWO
- 14 – Eyewitness (Spellbinder)
- 15 – Final Cut (Curare)
- 16 – The Last Resort (Dr. David Wheeler)
- 17 – Armory (Armory and Esteban)
- 18 – Sneak Peek (Ian Peek)
- 19 – The Eggbaby (Ma Parker)
- 20 – Zeta (Mr. Bennett)
- 21 – Plague (False-Face)
- 22 – April Moon (The April Moon Gang)
- 23 – Sentries of the Last Cosmos (Simon Harper)
- 24 – Payback (Payback)
- 25 – Where’s Terry? (Shriek)
- 26 – Ace in the Hole (Ronny Boxer)
- Audio Commentary on The Eggbaby with Bruce Timm, Glen Murakami, James Tucker, Glen Murakami, Andrea Romano, and Will Friedle
- Inside Batman Beyond: The Panel (SD – 11:51)
SEASON THREE (2000-2001)
- 01 – King’s Ransom (Paxton Powers and The Royal Flush Gang)
- 02 – Untouchable (Repeller)
- 03 – Inqueling (Inque)
- 04 – Big Time (Big Time)
- 05 – Out of the Past (Ra’s al Ghul)
- 06 – Speak No Evil (James Van Dyle)
- 07 – The Call Part One (Starro the Conqueror)
- 08 – The Call Part Two (Starro the Conqueror)
- 09 – Betrayal (Big Time)
- 10 – Curse of the Kobra Part One (KOBRA)
- 11 – Curse of the Kobra Part Two (KOBRA)
- 12 – Countdown (Mad Stan)
- 13 – Unmasked (KOBRA)
- Inside Batman Beyond Season 3: Panel (SD – 9:30)
- Inside Batman Beyond Season 3: Close-Up On (with Play All option)
- Out of the Past (SD – 4:32)
- The Call Part One (SD – 6:19)
- The Call Part Two (SD – 4:12)
- Curse of the Kobra Part One (SD – 4:48)
- Nostalgic Tomorrow – A Batman Gathering (HD – 53:19)
- Knight Immortal (HD – 34:50)
- Tomorrow Knight: The Batman Reborn (SD – 10:31)
- Gotham: City of the Future (SD – 5:34)
- The High-Tech Hero (SD – 5:44)
- Secret Origin: The Story of DC Comics (HD – 1:30:26)
BATMAN BEYOND: RETURN OF THE JOKER (2000)
- Film (HD – 1:16:45)
- All-Star Superman Trailer (Opens Disc) (HD – 1:10)
- Green Lantern: Emerald Knights Trailer (Opens Disc) (HD – 1:41)
- DC Comics Digital Comics Trailer (Opens Disc) (HD – 0:48)
- A Word from the Creators: Audio Commentary with Bruce Timm, Paul Dini, Curt Geda, and Glen Murakami
- Animatics (SD – 3:20)
- Beyond Batman Beyond (SD – 11:59)
- Video Character Bios (SD – 5:03)
- Confidential Batman Footage – For Your Eyes Only (SD – 5:19)
- Crash Music Video (SD – 3:50)
- Young Justice Trailer (HD – 0:55)
It’s worth nothing that the following has not been included in this set: Darwyn Cooke’s Batman Beyond short film and crossover episodes from The Zeta Project (Shadows), Static Shock (Future Shock), and Justice League Unlimited (The Once and Future Thing Part One: Weird Western Tales, The Once and Future Thing Part Two: Time Warped, and Epilogue). The short film has yet to be released but the Justice League Unlimited episodes can be found on the corresponding Complete Series Blu-ray release. However, The Zeta Project and Static Shock have yet to make it to Blu-ray, though DVDs of individual seasons are still available.
41 of the 52 episodes have been restored from either their original camera negatives, or their original camera digital negative (OCDN), which is a high quality master of the original negative. Batman Beyond is presented in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio. Return of the Joker was originally released on DVD in 1.78:1, but is presented on Blu-ray in 1.33:1 (open matte). For Batman Beyond, the animation is crisp and fluid with solid character lines. Everything appears sharp and well-defined. It’s brighter and more colorful with vibrant hues popping off the screen in nearly every scene – this really is a show that takes advantage of its color arsenal. Blacks are also inky deep. Grain reduction has been applied, but not at the expense of fine detail. Likewise, minor dirt and debris has been left intact to preserve the integrity of the original artwork. Return of the Joker’s presentation is similar, but slightly cleaner by comparison.
The remaining 11 episodes of the show have been upconverted from standard definition Digibeta video. They include Eyewitness, Final Cut, The Last Resort, Armory, Sneak Peek, The Eggbaby, Zeta, Plague, April Moon, Sentries of the Lost Cosmos, and Speak No Evil. The difference in quality is not immediate, but can be spotted easily once the episodes are underway. Haloing, macroblocking, less fluid animation, and thinner lines around characters are all evident, though they don’t stand out as much as you might think thanks to solid upconversion. The robust color palette and high levels of detail are maintained. It’s also worth noting that in Rebirth Part One, the hallucinogenic point-of-view of Bruce Wayne as he's having an apparent heart attack is no longer present. It could be an oversight, but it could also be that the effect couldn’t be replicated in HD as it might have originally been added in a standard definition environment.
The audio for Batman Beyond is included in English 2.0 DTS-HD and French 2.0 Dolby Digital, with optional subtitles in English SDH and French. They’re not overly aggressive stereo presentations, but they do provide occasional panning (such as the Batmobile zooming by the screen), as well as additional boom for more explosive moments. The hard rock score also has plenty of presence, but doesn’t drown out the rest of the track. Dialogue is clear and discernable at all times, and even placed in separate speakers for effect from time to time.
The audio for Return of the Joker is included in English 5.1 DTS-HD and French, German, Spanish, and Swedish 2.0 Dolby Digital. Optional subtitles include English SDH, French, German SDH, Spanish, and Swedish. It’s a strong track, though like the stereo track for the TV series, not as hard-hitting as it perhaps could be. Ambient sound effects are used to good effect in the rear speakers, particularly echoes, and the score gets plenty of breathing room. So the track is powerful enough without overdoing it.
BATMAN BEYOND: THE COMPLETE SERIES (FILM/VIDEO/AUDIO): B+/A-/B+
BATMAN BEYOND: RETURN OF THE JOKER (FILM/VIDEO/AUDIO): B/A/A-
Most of the vintage extras (all of which have been carried over from the show’s previous DVD releases) are spread out over Discs One through Four, while Disc Five features a few new extras. Nostalgic Tomorrow is a new roundtable discussion about the show between its collaborators: James Tucker, Bruce Timm, Glen Murakami, Bob Goodman, Andrea Romano, Kevin Conroy, Stan Berkowitz, and Will Friedle. Knight Immortal is a new look at the history of the Batman character, featuring interviews with people who have been associated with Batman over the years, including Michael E. Uslan, Mark Hamill, Kevin Conroy, Bruce Timm, Adam West, Julie Newmar, Bob Kane, and Stan Lee, among others. Secret Origin is a new long-form documentary that covers the entire history of DC Comics, speaking to many historians, writers, and artists, as well as various people who have been involved with them.
This Limited Edition boxed set features a thin casing that houses a sturdy slipcase with fold-out packaging and three of the Blu-ray discs sitting on top but astride from the others. Also in the package is a fold-out booklet with information about each disc; 4 collectible lenticular artwork cards; a metallic Batman Beyond Funko POP figure; and a paper insert featuring a Digital Copy code for the show.
Long-time fans of Batman Beyond should be more than pleased with this release. It’s a great package, and although it’s a shame that not all of the episodes could be sourced from the highest quality sources (or that the crossover episodes weren’t included in the extras), they are a major improvement over their previous SD incarnations. Along with the extras and the swag, Batman Beyond: The Complete Series on Blu-ray makes for a schway package overall.
– Tim Salmons