Warner Home Video has finally brought the original uncut Batman Beyond: Return of the
Joker into the high-definiton fold and, thankfully, it does not dissapoint. While the
package may not be overflowing with goodies, those who have picked up the previous
releases of this excellent movie will have plenty of reasons to upgrade. Infact, the
extras are the last reason for most, I would assume. Let's dive in, shall we?
To get it out of the way, Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker is packaged in the standard
eco-Blu-ray case, and contains both the Blu-ray and The Original, Uncut Version DVD. Reviews
for the other home video releases of Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker can, naturally, be
found elsewhere in this site. The DVD is the exact same disc as was released all those years ago.
The Blu-ray is newly-pressed, not a simple port. The disc art even features Warner Home Video's current
black-and-white Lightscribe-ish look. Still, no complaints.
Once the disc starts up, viewers will be treated to trailers for All-Star Superman,
the upcoming Green Lantern: Emerald Knights, and DC Comics Digital Comics. It's about
time DC Comics has started plugging their comic titles on other media, and this is a solid start.
The main menu is standard for a Warner Home Video release. The extras brought over from the previous
DVD release include the excellent audio commentary, deleted scenes, animatics, character bios, a
music video, and a featurette on the film. The trailers from the previous DVD releases are, naturally, gone.
New bonus content includes a trailer for the current (and very, very excellent) Young Justice
animated series. Since the included content is exactly the same from the previous DVD releases,
save for the snazzy Young Justice trailer, you can read our thoughts on it in the other
Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker DVD reviews found on this site.
Before I continue with the audio and video portion of this review, I just want to say that
I'm really surprised Warner Home Video has obviously put effort into this new release. It's not a quickie port or upscale, but a well put-together Blu-ray for one of the most acclaimed animated Batman movies to date. It's not a rush job, but an excellent one, and I commend Warner Home Video on it.
Now, I say this also becuase the audio and video have definitely been upgraded from the
previous DVD releases. The audio is a solid DTS-HD Audio 5.1 mix that is good,
not great. While I feel it doesn't deliver a home-run experience, it does at least garner a three-base hit. Sound could be a bit more boisterous at times, but overall I'm very happy with the audio for the final product.
The video on the otherhand...beautiful. Save for some standard color banding, which seems to
pop-up on all of Warner Home Video's animated home video releases, and some odd macroblocking,
the video is stunning. The details on the backgrounds are just gorgeous and the animation is
absolutely stunning. This film just hasn't looked better. Ever. I don't think I can go back
to watching the DVD version after seeing this. I am pretty sure that majority of viewers
will notice how clear the background looks here, how new details simply jump out. It's like
Warner Home Video wiped off a layer of dust from the film and...here we are. The movie looks excellent, plain and simple.
As for the image itself, it is 4:3 widescreen, 1080p open matte, just like the Justice League:
Season One Blu-ray release. It's full-screen, basically. There was some confusion when Warner Home Video originally announced
this release, due to inconsistencies over the release's reported aspect ratio, with many worried it would be a windowboxed (i.e., black spaces
on all four sides of the image). Thankfully, that is not so.
Now, since the film was animated in full screen, though intended as a
widescreen release as stated by the creators of the film, viewers will notice a fair amount of dead
space at the top and bottom of the screens. Admittedly, it did get a bit distracting at times since
the widescreen transfer on the The Original, Uncut Version DVD is framed perfectly (sure, it
was also non-anamorphic, but the frame composition was dead-on). You'll even notice the odd time when
the animation doesn't even meet the top or bottom of the screen. Personally, I don't mind the open
matte transfer here at all. It looks great. Yes, the image isn't as well framed as it would be in
widescreen, and the dead space can get noticeable (there are times when there is a very noticeable
amount of empty space between the tip of Batman's ears and the top of the screen, for example), but the
video quality itself more than makes up for it. I would have personally preferred if we got the widescreen
transfer as the creators intended, but this open matte transfer is the next best thing. Some comparison shots
are included below (my apologies for the poor quality).
Overall, I sincerely believe that all Batman Beyond fans need to rush out and pick up
this release. Even if you haven't upgraded to Blu-ray yet, don't worry - it comes with an additional
DVD copy of the The Original, Uncut Version for free. It's almost hard to believe that years after
this very site originally blew the whistle on the film's original censorship and heavy
edits (details here), we'd
end up with this nearly perfect representation of it. Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker uncut
and in high definition? Excellent! The main feature alone is worth the price of admission, to be honest, but having it in high definition gives the film a new, fresh
look. It's never looked or sounded this good, and fans will definitely notice the difference.
Don't hesitate with this release. Go out and pick up Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker
and I gaurantee you won't regret it.