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‘Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker’ Original Motion Picture Score

— by CHAS BLANKENSHIP —

For the first feature length “Batman Beyond” release, it was clear that the musical score would need to deliver on a level far and above Saturday morning television.

Fortunately, given its high-profile plot and storyline, “Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker” (2000) more than asked for that level to be reached…it outright demanded it.

Under the watchful eye (and ear) of Kristopher Carter, the main composer for the show taking the reigns over from the fan-beloved Shirley Walker, the score for the film stands as one of the most dynamic and unique of any official release for Batman compositions.

The composition opens with the primal percussive nature of crime itself as the Jokerz enact their “Industrial Heist.” Led by a great synth beat and some trippy whistle instrumentation (meant as a bizarre theme for the Jokerz), sweeping string work flies on red-wing as Batman makes his presence known. The track is full of flight and momentum. One of my favorite moments in the cue swoops in for the final crecendo at 3:27 as Terry takes flight in pursuit of the Jokerz…

One of the greatest aspects of the score for “Return of the Joker” is the driving sense of pathos that runs its course…so much so that the score is rightfully NOT a simple re-hash of all the techno spectacle of the show. Parlaying its energies into the Joker’s re-emergence and the ramifications that has both on Bruce and Terry, Carter also treats us to some wonderful classically symphonic material…and it’s quite charming to see the “Beyond” universe get a treatment of strings and brass amongst all the electric guitar and synthesizers.

This is clearly evidenced upfront with “Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker Main Title” and I have to say…Carter’s “Batman Beyond” theme NEVER sounded better! Honestly, this arrangement and rendition gives me chills.

Truly, strings and brass seem as at home in the futuristic Gotham as any of the musical establishment from the series…tracks such as “Meet the Joker” seem to almost hold a resonance as classical orchestra creeps into the tech…as if the past is rearing its head to haunt the future.

It’s as if (and refreshingly so) the Joker’s return marks a simultaneous return to the grandiose orchestral stylings of the original “Animated Series” and that’s really the music I personally love.

Of course, given that it’s a “Batman Beyond” piece, several cues are still in the tradition…such as “Nightclub Fight” and “Batman Defeats the Jokerz.”

One of the most divergent (not to mention creepy) elements of the score comes courtesy of “The Joker Family Portrait,” a downright throwback to old-style family sitcoms as Batman discovers Joker and Harley’s “happy home” in the bowels of a partially-demolished Arkham Asylum. Lots of whimsy brass and cartoon twinkle open the cue as Joker and Harley inform Batman of their hopes for having children…and with the reveal of their “Little J,” the track takes a complete 180 (according to interviews and commentary, the effect for Drake’s reveal was accomplished by layering electric guitar on top of the sounds of a children’s music box!)

Everything kicks into high gear with “Joker Meets His End (Again)” as Terry faces Bruce’s most hated nemesis…a fitting track of theatrical nuance and kinetics as Batman races not just to defeat Joker…but save Tim Drake (as well as Ace and himself!) from the Clown Prince of Crime’s demented plan to wield as Satellite Laser!

“Healing Old Wounds” ends the score with a very subtle and beautiful piece of symphonic material before once more delving into the hard grit guitar of “Batman Beyond”…although THIS time, having proved his worth, McGinnis is played off with an AWESOME fusion of Walker’s original Batman theme with Carter’s electric guitar implements…too COOL!

The official studio release is ended with “Crash,” the head-thrasher courtesy of the combined forces of Mephisto Odyssey and Static X (the track makes a prominent appearance in the second Nightclub scene). The track is all kinds of bad ass…I mean how Wayne Static can hit those notes and still be able to talk is a feat in and of itself! Plus the guitar and synthesizer work is just phenomenal…maybe even more so than the series.

Finally we get an End Credit reprise of the “Main Title,” only this time with the added genius of guitarist Kenny Wayne Shepherd, who provides some extra electric meat to the theme with attitude to burn.

All in all “Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker” is a wonderful score that’s one part “Beyond,” two parts “Animated Series” and all parts SICK. A great fusion of the collective Batman animated odyssey more than worthy of the film it represents.

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“Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker” Original Motion Picture Score (Kristopher Carter, 2000)

Composed and Conducted by … Kristopher Carter

Track Listing:

1: Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker Main Title (2:11)
2: Industrial Heist (3:50)
3: Meet the Joker (2:49)
4: Joker Crashes Bruce’s Party (1:21)
5: Terry Relieved of Duty (1:56)
6: Nightclub Fight/Terry Rescues Bruce (4:41)
7: A Trap for Tim (1:28)
8: Joker Family Portrait (2:07)
9: Arkham Mayhem (3:33)
10: Batman Defeats the Jokerz (1:38)
11: Joker Meets His End (Again) (4:23)
12: Healing Old Wounds (2:05)
13: Crash (The Humble Brothers Remix) – Mephisto Odyssey feat. Static X (3:28)
14: Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker End Title – Kenny Wayne Shepherd (3:04)

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