My last visit to the coastal outlet bookstore mentioned here was my last in both senses of the word: the store was sadly shutting down. I walked inside for one last glanceover, hoping it could sell me one last curiosity.
I was in for the biggest surprise yet--lo and behold, I found a stack of published copies of Paul Dini's original unedited script of Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker! (I tried my hardest to avoid using "of" so many times in that sentence, but to no avail. I'm a baaad grammar-personer.)
Wait a minute...that's not the book. Okay, so I wasted a lot of digital film on things like this and never thought to take a money shot of what I'm writing about, but it exists and it's right in front of me this minute.
I had no idea they published this and I was enraptured by the sight. If you still, for some crazy reason, haven't seen Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, you need to see it now. In my honest opinion, it's the greatest Batman film ever made. It's better than ALL the live-action films, including Batman Begins. (And I'm talking about the uncut version, not the more common alternate version that's been sanitized for kids. If you see Return of the Joker appear on TV, it's the cut version. Don't watch that; there's an uncut DVD out there and as I typed before, it was once for sale at this very bookstore.)
For those who need a little more explanation, the movie stems from WB's sequel series to the legendary Batman: The Animated Series. Batman Beyond took place in the future, where a bitter elderly Bruce Wayne (and his secret) was discovered by a teenager that decided to become the new Batman in Wayne's place. Through this series, which was just as well-written as the original, we learn what happened to the heroes and villains from the first Batman's time, and meet a bunch of new ones. Batman Beyond was the result of WB exec Jaime Kellner desiring a new Batman series that appealed more to the kid demographic, hence a teenage Batman, but his nefarious plan was foiled because the show was good. In many ways, BB was even grittier and grungier than the first series was. Return of the Joker is the apex of it.
As the title reveals, the plot of the movie is an answer to the biggest question--what happened to the Joker. Oddly, he reappears looking exactly as he did before, with no aging appearing to have taken place. Because this is the future, the reasons behind that could be anything, but as the movie goes on and Terry investigates, the truth is an absolute shocker. So much so that WB felt they had to edit the film.
I wish they hadn't done that, because the movie needs the horrific twist in the middle. I refuse to spoil it for you, and I've worded the rest of this page so that you can't find out what happens from any part of it. I'll just say that after you see what the Joker does, you're disgusted and furious, and you want someone, ANYONE, to kick his behind. The movie has an emotional charge that no other Batman film delivers. The climax is inventive and clever, because Terry doesn't win against the Joker through physical violence (like everyone expects). And the animation is spectacular; some of the best work I've ever seen out of Japan's TMS studio.
The interesting thing about the published script is that since it IS the original script, it contains all the scenes WB originally didn't want to let out, but eventually did with the uncut release. Yet it was published at the same time as the original edited disc. The script is illustrated with storyboard art and has an introduction by Dini:
When producers Alan Burnett, Glenn Murakami, Bruce Timm and I began developing Batman Beyond in early 1998, we made a conscious decision to downplay much of the lore established in our first animated Batman series. It would have been easy to craft Beyond completely around elements from Bruce Wayne's life, which had resurfaced to confront his young pupil Terry McGinnis, nearly forty years later. After all, who wouldn't want to see our new Uncaped Crusader lock horns with the youthful clone of Catwoman or match wits with a supercomputer programmed by the original Riddler? The notion of going that route for fifty-two episodes was very tempting, which was all the more reason not to do it.
It wasn't out of lack of affection for the old show--we all still love it. In nearly ten years Batman, Robin, Joker, Harley Quinn, and all the others have become old friends to everyone on the crew, myself included. Yet, early on we determined if Batman Beyond was to succeed, it had to do it on its own terms. The series' energy had to come from the tense relationship between Bruce and Terry, the differences in their methods and motivations being the engine that would drive Batman far into the twenty-first century. Once that was established, only then would we feel ready to go back and answer a few of the questions fans had asked about the old Batman's life and his original crime-fighting partners. Where's Robin? Is Nightwing alive or dead? Batgirl had long ago hung up her cape and cowl to fight crime as the new Commissioner Gordon, but what terrible secrets and memories still haunted her? Most important, what of Gotham's most insidious villain, the Joker? Did he, as rumors suggest, die at the hands of the first Batman or had he hidden himself away to plot some devilish future revenge?
When the good folks at Warner Bros. Home Video gave us the green light to produce a feature-length Batman Beyond adventure, we decided to use the movie format to answer those questions. Bruce, Glen and I tossed around a number of ideas pertaining to the fate of the old Bat-team, as well as to the miraculous return of the Joker and the new threats he would bring to Batman/Terry's world. That's always the best part of the job, the magical, collaborative spirit that infuses the start of any new animation project. I was shouting out bits of dialogue, Bruce was sketching orbiting death-rays, and Glen was tossing in plot twists and wondering how in God's name we were going to get all this done in only sixteen months.
Once the story was more or less set, I went away to write the script. Remarkably, I have no memory of this next stage. I can dimly recall the six weeks I spent slamming my head into my computer keyboard while weeping in frustration, but that's about it. Somehow at the end of that time something came out of my printer which the gang at Warners liked and that's pretty much what you're holding now.
As with every screenplay, there were segments written for Return of the Joker which did not make it into the finished picture. The scene where Bruce Wayne confronts his ambitious business associate Jordan Pryce provided the one opportunity for the two adversaries to have a face-to-face encounter, but it essentially underscored the fact that these two guys don't like each other, something the audience already knows. And while Penguin's flashback cameo and Bruce's visit to the ruins of Arkham Asylum added a lot of classic Bat-atmosphere, they did little to advance the storyline. Still, it's always fun to get a glimpse at what might have been, so the entire script is presented here as originally written.
The resulting story is both tragic and triumphant, recalling the lore of our classic Batman while bridging the gap to Beyond. I think we did a good job, but the deciding vote now rests in the hands of the people who have always known Batman best, his readers.
April 17, 2000
Oh yes...those deleted scenes. There are many differences between the script and the movie, though most are merely cosmetic--the basic plot did not change in any way.
The opening fight mostly flows as originally written, but much of the individual moves and punches were made up in production and don't appear in the script. By contrast, during the scene where the Jokerz are flying above the buildings, a few events and pieces of dialogue only exist in the script, right after Batman's comment:
And here I thought I was just being a good citizen.
Bonk detatches the arms from the machinery and veers the lifter away.
ON CHUCKO AND THE DEEDS
Now holding the machinery by itself, Chucko's lifter severely dips and strains under the weight. The Deeds barely manage to hold on.
#1 & #2
Bonk! You moron! Get back here!
ON BONK'S LIFTER
Oblivious to the fact that his lifter is now flying wild, Bonk leaps at Batman.
They go down slugging. The lifter streaks down in a wide, circular trajectory. It careens off the sides of buildings, smashes windows, etc.
When Terry is back in the Batcave and talking with Bruce Wayne, the VR newsreport is different in the script. Pryce is standing in his lavishly furbished and posh office, not in front of his yacht. And the report originally went on longer, in the background, as Terry and Bruce were talking.
(heard faintly in the background)
Bruce Wayne is certainly no stranger to challenges. Orphaned at age nine, he later assumed control of his father's pharmaceutical company, diversifying it into the areas of computer science and industrial research, making the young Wayne a billionaire many times over. Though Jordan Pryce's concerns have given rise to some doubts among shareholders, the market jumped today with news of Wayne's return. Shares in Wayne Industries stock were trading briskly this afternoon and had risen five points by the final bell.
Because the news report remained on, it factored back into Terry and Bruce's discussion after Bruce said "Who sleeps anymore?"
Bruce turns back to catch the last part of the news report.
Wayne will assume the reins of the company later this week in a special ceremony at the newly constructed Wayne Enterprises complex, a state-of-the-art office and science center.
The TV shows an image of the futuristic new center. Terry nods with approval.
Even though I don't get around as much as I like, I can still help the city in some small ways.
There's nothing small about that. It must have cost a billion.
Sure hope I'm in your will.
Bruce gives Terry a friendly pat on the shoulder.
Takin' it with me, kid.
Bruce moves off as Terry shakes his head.
Terry stretches, then feels a pain where Woof attacked him.
The scene in the Jokerz hideout, where Joker reveals himself, has an extra line. Joker addresses Woof as well:
We're with you!
The Joker leans down to Woof.
Woof just grins and licks the Joker's face.
The Joker glances over to Bonk.
The scene at the Wayne Enterprises complex has a different opening. The one in the movie cuts directly to Ms. Carr:
EXTERIOR: WAYNE ENTERPRISES COMPLEX--NIGHT
It is a few nights later. We are on a multilevel terrace, which makes up the enclosed top of the tall building. The enclosed terrace has been decorated for a formal reception. Terry, in a formal suit, fiddles uncomfortably with his collar.
There he is!
Terry becomes aware of a pair of attractive twenty-something women standing nearby.
Terry smiles, then suddenly realizes the women aren't referring to him, but to the just emerging and elegantly attired Bruce Wayne. Bruce gives the women a polite nod.
The women beam with delight at being noticed. Terry moves off with Bruce.
Gotta be the money.
An official-looking woman, MS. CARR (African-American, early 30's), approaches Bruce and Terry.
When Bruce demands Terry give up the suit, and Terry explains why being Batman is helping him "atone for past sins," there is extra dialogue.
You've never had to look in the eyes of a girlfriend's father and know all he's seeing is "the bad kid." To know that despite whatever I accomplish in school, I'll always be the guy who "did time."
In the "next morning" scene, when Terry's little brother finds him in the kitchen, his response is meaner:
Never seen the dreg before in my life.
In the actual movie Matt says the same line, but leaves out "dreg."
The largest cut is the meeting between Wayne and Pryce. This can be seen in animatic form on the "deleted scenes" section of the DVD, but for completion's sake I've put the script version here:
INTERIOR: WAYNE ENTERPRISES--DAY
An elevator door opens and Bruce enters the terrace area where the Joker-disrupted reception was held the night before. The place is still pretty much a shambles--broken glass and overturned tables everywhere.
Clean that garbage away.
Bruce looks to see:
ANGLE ON JORDAN PRYCE
The executive is supervising a team of uniformed CLEANUP WORKERS.
And sweep that glass up.
Pryce sees Bruce and walks over to him.
Well, Bruce. Looks like your return party brought out the lunatic fringe in full force.
They weren't on my guest list.
No, of course not. Terrible that our company should be a target for such a thing. Don't know how I'll explain it to our shareholders.
Pryce starts for his office, with Bruce following.
Sorry I missed you at the party.
Pryce turns at his door.
It was your night. I didn't want to be in the way.
Pryce starts to go in but Bruce gently holds the door open with his cane.
Jordan, I know you're not happy with my return.
Please. I'm not paid to have an opinion on the matter. You are the head of this corporation and I will strive to do my best for the company, as would any other employee. Hmm...
Pryce pauses, considering something he hadn't thought of before.
No, I just noticed you're alone today. Usually you have Terry here to assist you.
Bruce is intrigued by this.
I'm surprised someone in your position would remember the name of a boy he'd seen maybe once before.
There is a pause, then Pryce sweeps his hand toward his office, gesturing Bruce to come inside. Pryce moves to his inner office bar and pours himself a drink.
I got to my position by being thorough, Bruce. Besides, I've made it a point to know everything there is to know about the man I work for.
Pryce takes his drink and sits down opposite Bruce as he recounts Bruce's life story.
Orphaned at age nine and educated abroad. Returned to Gotham fifteen years later, but for over two decades only took a passing interest in day-to-day company operations. Seems you developed somewhat of a playboy reputation, late hours, nightly carousing, according to rumors.
The foolishness of youth.
Still, during that time, you charitably served as legal guardian for two orphaned boys. And later were publicly linked to now-Police Commissioner Barbara Gordon, though you never married.
Hardly the stuff of legends.
Pryce toasts Bruce with his glass.
Maybe not. But like I said, I am thorough.
Pryce's phone BEEPS.
Mr. Pryce? Your lunch appointment is waiting.
On my way.
You'll be okay here on your own?
You would know.
Pryce smiles as he exits.
Bruce eyes him with suspicion.
EXTERIOR: COUNTRY ROAD--LATE AFTERNOON
Though not yet night, it is gray and dark, a light rain is falling. We see Bruce's car driving along this lonely country road on the outskirts of the city. PULL BACK to show Terry watching from cover of the woods. He's on his motorcycle. After Bruce's limosuine passes, Terry lowers the visor of his helmet and follows.
As Bruce drives, he talks to someone next to him.
I'm standing by my decision. I was a fool to allow McGinnis to assume the role of Batman. It's no life for anyone and you can quote me.
We now see Bruce is talking to Ace, who cocks his head quizzically at Bruce.
It heads up a neglected road and passes through open, rusted iron gates. Atop a nearby hill we can see the abandoned, but still recognizable structure which once was Arkham Asylum.
CLOSER ON ARKHAM
The limosuine slows to a stop. Bruce climbs out of the driver's side.
Bruce closes the door and starts to walk toward the entrance.
The main door swings open and the bent silhouetted form of Bruce stands framed in the entrance. He slowly walks in.
Terry rides up on his bike and parks it around the corner, out of the right of Bruce's car. Terry removes his helmet and starts toward the entrance. He passes Bruce's limosuine and Ace barks, tail wagging, happy to see him.
Terry waves to the dog, but gestures for him to be quiet.
Shhh. Yeah, I'm happy to see you, too.
Terry heads toward the asylum entrance.
Bruce slowly walks through the asylum, passing dark, abandoned cells. Readable names can still be seen next to some of the cells: "Dent, H." next to a cell where half the padding has been torn off the walls; "Isley, P." beside a cell with a scattering of long dead leaves on the floor; "Nygma, E." next to a cell whose walls have been covered with faded, crudely scrawled question marks.
Bruce shakes his head and continues on. So many bad memories.
ANGLE ON TERRY
He quietly ducks through Arkham, following Bruce's trail.
He continues on past where
a sawhorse barrier has been erected by a demolished portion of
the inner asylum. There are DANGER signs posted around the area
and the sound of rushing water can be heard rising up from far
Bruce comes to a pair of imposing double doors. The words OPERATING THEATER can still be read on them. Bruce grimly sets his jaw, pushes the doors open and walks inside.
Looking around a wall behind Bruce, he watches him enter the room.
INTERIOR: OPERATING THEATER
Bruce walks in, his eyes blinking in the dim light. His gaze falls over a row of Frankenstein-like operating tables and electronic machines, all rusting and falling apart. Then his eye is attracted upward, to a dim form seen swinging in a pool of light. Bruce's eyes go wide with shock.
INTERIOR: HALLWAY--ON TERRY
He ducks back out of
sight, as the doors to the operating theater slam open. Bruce
hurries out of the room, a haunted look on his face.
Terry waits until Bruce is gone, looking after the old man with concern. Terry then approaches the operating theater and goes in.
INTERIOR: OPERATING THEATER
Terry enters the operating room and looks around. He looks up to see what Bruce saw, suspended in the dim glow of a broken skylight. It is an obviously fake, stitched up and crudely made Joker dummy swinging from a rope. Painted across its body are the chilling words: I KNOW. The beeping of a pocket pager alerts Terry. He takes it out and glances at it.
In the dance club scene, Dana calls Chelsea "Chels" instead of her full name. There is also extra dialogue from the Dee-Dees:
Please excuse my evil twin, here. I can't take her anyplace.
She's the bad one.
Dana whirls as if to deck Dee-Dee when Ghoul pops out of the shadows and pulls her back.
From here, the fight is almost entirely different:
Terry pushes through them but they each grab an arm and pull him back.
Don't run away.
All the boys love us.
DEE-DEE #1 &
We're trouble on the double.
Once he hears that, Terry instantly realizes who these twins are. He reaches up, grabs both girls behind their heads and klunks them together.
DEE-DEE #1 &
Woof leaps over the crowd and crashes into Terry. Dancers scream and scatter as the splicer brings Terry down hard on a table, which splinters beneath them.
Woof leaps clear and circles for another attack. Terry instinctively flicks his wrist, as if trying to produce a Batarang, then remembers he's not in costume--dope! Woof lunges again.
Terry kicks the splicer away, but then is roughly yanked to his feet by Chucko. The punk grins as he tells Terry:
Dunno why the boss wants a dreg like you out of the way, but hey, as long as it's fun.
As Terry hands the comatose Dana to Chelsea, he tells her to "stay out of sight," something he didn't say in the script (but really should have).
He dives for cover behind the club's juice bar as laser blasts hit around him. Nearby is a giant clear-glassed machine, which dispenses Slurpee-style ice drinks. It looks somewhat like a ten-foot-tall lava lamp.
He pops his snarling head over the bar and threatens Terry.
Terry grabs a bottle and splinters it over Woof's head. The splicer SHRIEKS and withdraws.
He has leapt over the bar and is aiming his laser weapon at Terry. Grabbing wildly, Terry picks up the first thing close at hand, which happens to be the hand-held soda dispenser. He fires it at Ghoul, hitting the hand he was about to fire with. The liquid causes the weapon to SPARK in Ghoul's hand, giving him a big shock.
Terry knocks Ghoul back over the bar--
--but the Deeds and Chucko are still firing at him. Terry looks at the giant slushie dispenser and gets an idea. He runs into the dispenser a few times, trying to knock it over.
ON THE DEEDS
They pause for a second between shots.
What's he doing?
Dee-Dee #1 smiles sarcastically.
Maybe he's thirsty.
In the movie, Dee-Dee #2 says "You got ME" in response instead of a lame joke.
One more shove and over the slushie dispenser goes.
(grunt of exertion)
It SHATTERS and the blue-greenish slushie liquid gushes over the dance floor.
ON THE JOKERZ
They move back a little, unharmed and unconcerned about the frosty liquid splashing against their feet.
In the movie, the dispenser is a lot larger, and the cascading rush of water ends the fight.
Aw, you made a mess, dreg!
Then Dee-Dee #1 looks around.
She tugs at her sister's arm and points. Dee-Dee #2 turns to see.
WIDER ON DANCE FLOOR
The spilled slushie liquid is headed for the generator, which provides power to the club's lighting effects and music. The liquid hits the generator, which sparks and explodes in a bright flash. Nearby decorations are set on fire as the neon lights in the club overload and explode.
ON THE JOKERZ
They are startled by the explosions.
DEE-DEE #1 &
The club is plunged into darkness, though smaller explosions and bursts of fire highlight the Jokerz as they run for the back door.
He vaults over the bar and runs for the front door.
In the beginning of the flashback sequence, Harley is uncharacteristically cruel.
We now see the disguised woman is indeed the Joker's henchgirl HARLEY QUINN. She smiles wickedly at Robin.
Now just hold still and this won't hurt a bit.
The hoods lunge at Robin and start to beat on him.
Robin returns the blows in kind, pummeling the hoods.
HOOD #1/HOOD #2
Harley winds up for another blow with the mallet, but Robin pulls it out of her hands with such force that he sends her spinning back into a row of trash cans.
Before he can turn, a purple, gloved hand clasps his shoulder and a massive charge of electricity shoots through him.
Robin falls forward unconscious.
Behind him we see the demonically grinning Joker! His electric joy buzzer is seen smoking in his hand.
A bird in the hand....
The hoods pick up the unconscious Robin and move him out of the alley as Harley hugs the Joker.
During Batman and Batgirl's search montage, they visited the Penguin. The glimpse of the thug crashing through the Stacked Deck window that replaced this scene is not here.
INTERIOR: THE PENGUIN'S ICEBERG LOUNGE
The place has been
trashed, tables overturned, glasses shattered, the Penguin's
hired goons beaten unconscious on the floor. Pan past Batgirl
knocking out the last goon to PENGUIN, with a black eye and
roughed up, frantically shaking his head as Batman prepares to
It's clear Penguin knows nothing. Batman tosses him aside and strides forward, the black of his cape WIPING SCENE TO:
EXTERIOR: GOTHAM ROOFTOP--RAINY NIGHT
At Arkham Asylum, Harley describes things a little differently.
She makes a comical pained face.
But rather than going through all the yuck of childbirth, we decided to adopt.
In the movie Harley says "joy of childbirth," while making a face that says "I could have finally gotten some, but NOOOOO."
In the original script, Batgirl sarcastically calls Harley "mother of the freakin' year." She says "stinkin' year" in the final version (yes, even in the uncut one). During the climax of the Harley/Batgirl showdown, they merely fall over separately, and Batgirl is able to save herself but Harley is not. In the finished movie, Harley hangs off Batgirl as they dangle over the cliff and she tries to help Harley get back up, but her costume rips and sends Harley tumbling.
The grotesque home movie of Robin being tortured is described in the script as only being shown off-camera. Unforgettably, it was shown in the final. The intended final, anyway.
When Batman meets the older Tim Drake, he says "You can turn off the camo mode. I heard you a mile away" in the script. He says "You might as well show yourself. I heard you a mile away" in the movie.
In the scene where Batman falls into the laser trap Joker set for him, Joker's video speech was originally longer.
The Joker smiles smugly.
Over the past few weeks my Jokerz have stolen the parts I needed to override and control the gizmo. The only thing missing was the communications code, and Timmy kindly provided that.
On the small screen we see the Joker reach for his jar of Jolly Jack jelly beans. He eats one.
The yacht was just a test shot. I have something special planned for dear old Gotham.
Originally Bruce was monitoring Batman as he tried to find a way out of the laser trap.
The lasers start firing at Batman, accurately targeting every place he can move.
Bruce watches the scene through Batman's eye lenses.
Take out the laser system!
BACK TO LAB
Batman tosses a Batarang at one of the lasers, but it moves quickly to intercept the Batarang in flight and destroys it. Batman tries several other times, but the lasers each destroy the weapons, sometimes before they've left Batman's hand.
(cry of surprise)
He ducks for cover behind an overturned metal table. Laser shots slam into it.
It's like they know what I'm going to do before I think of it!
Getting an idea, Batman throws two Batarangs not at the lasers, but into opposite walls. Both weapons explode, one of them exposing a laser's wiring system.
Batman tosses a grenade into the wiring system. It blows out the wall and all the circuity controlling both the lasers firing at Batman and the ones shielding the doors and windows.
Batman smashes up through the lab ceiling window and lands on the roof. He speaks to Bruce via his headset.
My only way out was to do the opposite of what Joker expected Batman to do.
Watch yourself. The Joker is also likely to do the opposite of what anyone's expecting.
Obviously this was changed because the spoken resolution to this is also the resolution to the climax fight of the movie, which would have made it a little more predictable.
In Batman's final confrontation with the Jokerz, the Dee-Dees have one line that is never spoken in the movie:
Ooh! Look who's come back for seconds!
When Joker explains himself, there is an extra line:
Of course, it took a few decades to rewrite his cellular makeup, but it was only a matter of time before I popped up again.
After Batman said "Wait, I like to talk, too," there was a cut back to the Jokerz that resolved their portion of the story.
EXTERIOR: CANDY FACTORY
The laser beam has cut through the abandoned buildings nearby and is continuing on toward the factory.
The beaten Jokerz come in to the factory's main area and see the glow from outside and the laser beam haded their way.
It's coming this way!
Run for it!
Dee-Dee, Woof and Ghoul dash out of the factory and into the arms of Gordon and the arriving cops.
The unarmed Jokerz surrender without protest. Woof slumps in defeat, his fearsome attitude gone.
During the final confrontation there was also another flash to the outside, to remind the viewers that the cops were still there.
Gordon and her men have cordoned off the factory, but there's little they can do about the approaching laser, now starting to move steadily toward the factory. They look up as they see bits of the upper factory blown away by the Joker's grenades.
Right before the explosion:
Gordon and the cops run for cover and shield their eyes as the top of the factory is blown apart.
And finally, the last appearance of the Jokerz, right before the last appearance of the Dee-Dees:
INTERIOR: GOTHAM CITY JAIL LOCK-UP AREA--DAY
The defeated Jokerz, Chucko, Ghoul and Woof (tethered to the wall and wearing a Hannibal Lecter-style dog mask) languish in one cell.
In the script's end scene, Bruce Wayne knocks on the hospital room door as Terry is inside. In the movie, Terry leaves the room and runs into Bruce.
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OR, CHECK OUT THESE RETURN OF THE JOKER EXTRAS FROM WORLD'S FINEST...
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