The Animated Batman Beyond Movie Had To Be Re-Cut From PG-13 To G

When it comes to Batman, there are hardly any other comic book properties that rival his sheer amount of adaptations. The amount of television series, games, and films that audiences have access to about the Caped Crusader is astonishing. Some stand out more than others, and in the case of animated adaptations, the history and distribution of the movie "Batman Beyond: Return of The Joker" is just as intriguing as anything involving Ben Affleck's Batman in Zack Snyder's DC Extended Universe.

"Batman Beyond" is a sequel animated series to the classic "Batman: The Animated Series," and it see an older and retired Bruce Wayne taking in and training a young Terry McGinnis to become a new Batman for the futuristic and cyberpunk Gotham City. The three-season run also included the feature film "Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker," which saw Terry go up against Batman's most iconic villain, The Joker. The film tried to bridge the gap between the original animated series and "Beyond," providing flashbacks to Joker's last battle against the Dark Knight and how he returns in the far future to terrorize Gotham again.

However, the animated "Batman Beyond" movie experienced a forceful edit process, which saw the film get its rating changed from a PG-13 to G, something that didn't go over entirely well with fans excited for the film's home video release.

A more ambiguous death

"Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker" was originally more violent, but given extensive edits changing multiple key aspects of the film. This was mostly due to the social climate at the time, with a concern over violence in children's media following the Columbine High School massacre. There were some more minor changes to the DC animated film, such as use of color red in the film being predominantly changed to purple, since the former is more closely associated with blood. 

However, the violence in the film is where the more drastic changes come in. The fate of the Joker is the biggest one, as his death in a flashback sequence was censored in the re-edit of the film. In the censored version, a tortured Robin pushes Joker into electrical wiring, causing the villain to be electrocuted to death offscreen. This earned the film the "G" rating that the powers-that-be were pushing for.

In the original cut, after psychologically torturing Robin, Joker gives the Boy Wonder a spear gun to kill Batman. Instead, a broken and angry Robin turns the weapon on Joker, opting to shoot him with the spear. This original scene gave Joker a full on-screen death, complete with the Clown Prince of Crime uttering a few last words before slumping over dead. This on-screen death seemed to make it more certain that the Joker died in the past, giving "Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker" a more unsettling feeling of mystery, given the fact the villain returned in the future.

The eventual re-release

This forced re-cut gives the film a much more toned-down feel, robbing viewers of a more intense "Batman Beyond" film. Besides the Joker's death being off screen and leaving his fate ambiguous, there are also multiple fight scenes that are edited to be less violent. For example, the opening fight sequence in "Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker" has Terry McGinnis as Batman in a six-on-one fight, with Terry holding his own against a group of thugs. In the edited version of the film, almost every punch thrown is cut away from with an explosive flash put in its place to emphasize the hit, rather than actually showing a character getting hit. Several of the punches and choreography were removed from the re-edit, giving the fights in the film a less intense feel.

The flashback sequence detailing Robin's torture is also heavily edited. Joker's lines regarding his "peeling back the layers of the boy's mind" are completely removed in favor of something with less harrowing implications. Moreover, Joker's home video tape, which shows his means of torturing Robin, are completely removed in order to avoid implying additional violence. All of these heavy re-edits and changes in dialogue made "Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker" a shell of its former self, lacking in any sense of stakes due to fears of how violence in media might effect minds of the youth. 

A true to form Batman

Eventually, audiences were given a proper release of the PG-13 version of the film two years after its release, thanks to outcry about the censored version. This re-released version comes complete with the on-screen death of the Joker, showing viewers that he did indeed die in the past, making his re-appearance in the future all the more menacing. The PG-13 version of the film puts the action on full display as well. Every punch thrown in the film is never cut away from, and blood removed in the re-edit is now shown in the PG-13 cut, making the punches feel just a little more real. 

Most importantly, Batman and Joker are in their truest form in this film. While the re-edit was done out of a place of concern, the PG-13 cut is necessary to stay true to Batman mythos. Both in flashback sequences and the future in which the film takes place, "Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker" delivers a thrilling tale that shows the evil that the Joker is capable of as well as the power Batman has to overcome it.