Monday, December 21, 2015

Batman The Animated Series: "Christmas With The Joker"

Premiered November 13, 1992.

"Live from Gotham City, the show that nobody wants to see, but everyone will watch.  Yes, it's Christmas with the Joker!"

On Christmas Eve, Gotham City seems peaceful.  That changes when the Joker (Mark Hamill) escapes from Arkham Asylum.

Batman (Kevin Conroy) and Robin (Loren Lester) search the city for their escaped foe.  Robin doubts Joker will strike on Christmas Eve.  He makes a deal with the Caped Crusader:If they don't find the Joker, they will return to Wayne Manor, have Christmas dinner, watch It's A Wonderful Life and worry about apprehending Joker when Christmas is over.  After searching Gotham and coming up empty, they return home.

There seems to be a lot of goodwill in the air.  Batman is suspicious of this. 
When the Dynamic Duo turns on their TV, they're greeted by the Joker, who has taken over the airwaves.  He's created a twisted version of a Christmas variety special titled Christmas With The Joker.  It's Joker's special way of  threatening Batman and Gotham City for the holidays.  Joker also has three hostages, Batman's friends Commissioner Gordon (Bob Hastings), reporter Summer Gleason (Mari Devon) and Detective Harvey Bullock (Robert Costanzo).  The villain implies that the hostages will be killed if Batman can't rescue them by midnight.

The Clown Prince of Crime has a model of Gotham City and jokes about bombing sites on the model, starting with a railroad bridge.  Batman (correctly) suspects that Joker will detonate the real bridge just in time to  blow up a train.

Batman rescues the train's engineer.
The heroes are able to intervene and save the people on the train.  But they still can't locate the Joker's broadcast location.

Will Batman and Robin find the Joker before midnight, save the hostages, and Christmas?

J.A. Morris says:

"Christmas With the Joker" is a great episode of one of the best animated series of the 1990s.

Bruce and Dick's conversation about watching It's A Wonderful Life is great all by itself.

The inmates of Arkham Asylum decorate their tree, Joker puts on the tree-topper.
Mark Hamill's voicing of  the Joker is the real reason that "Christmas With The Joker" is great.  When Hamill was cast, he was known only for playing Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars movies.  He did a fantastic job with the Joker and is today known as the definitive voice of the character.

The Joker and his "elf" Laffy watch a live remote.
I found myself laughing at the Joker and almost rooting for him here, even as he commits multiple felonies.  That's a credit to Hamill's skills.  

Joker taunts Harvey Bullock.
The other actors do a fine job as well.  Lots of actors have voiced the animated Batman over the years and Kevin Conroy is among the best of them.  This episode shows why he played Batman for nearly fifteen years. 

"Christmas With The Joker" can be found on the Batman:The Animated Series, Volume One DVD set.  It's also available on a "standalone" DVD called Super Villains: The Jokers Last LaughThis episode also streams on Amazon and iTunes.  

The Batmobile drives past a Gotham City movie theater.  Look what's showing on Christmas Eve!
This episode is a great superhero Yuletide romp.  If I ran a network, "Christmas With The Joker" would air in prime time every holiday season just like Rudolph, Charlie Brown and the Grinch.  

J.A. Morris' rating:

4 candy canes!

RigbyMel says:

This is certainly an entertaining and action-packed episode of Batman: The Animated Series.  The whole of this animated series has a great film noir/expressionist look to it and this episode is no exception. 

Batman surveys the wreckage of the train crash.   It's good he and Robin saved everyone on board!
Mark Hamill's scene-stealing voicing of the Joker really makes this episode fun to watch. If I didn't already know that he voiced the character on the series,  I wouldn't know it was him, which is a credit to his voice acting.  

The Joker is quite dementedly gleeful with his holiday mayhem, beginning with his escape from Arkham Asylum via rocket powered Christmas tree!  (While singing a Batman-appropriate rendition of "Jingle Bells," no less!)   

"Jingle bells, Batman smells ..."
We see a tank with a Santa robot attached rampaging through Gotham.  Joker also makes use of a sleigh and an improvised "reindeer" in his pirate Christmas special.  

Festive mayhem in Gotham!
We also have all kinds of malicious toys that make appearances and add to the holiday atmosphere - giant toy soldiers,  Joker robots with machine guns, and toy airplanes that strafe the heroes, to name a few.   He even sports a Bing Crosby-esque holiday sweater! 

Note the Charlie Brown Christmas type tree on the left. 
You almost want to see what other felonious holiday mayhem he'll cook up!  (I do wonder how Joker had time to put together all of his elaborate sets and holiday pranks seeing as he's only just escaped from Arkham, though!)     

Of course,  we also see that Christmas is a time for less maniacal good cheer as well.  When Batman and Robin are out patrolling Gotham in the first part of the episode,  some situations that look like they could be bad things about to happen turn out to be people infused with Christmas spirit instead.   This comes as a relief to Robin and something of a disappointment to Batman, who is feeling a bit Scrooge-ish at the beginning of this episode.    

Batman and Robin's discussions about watching It's A Wonderful Life are quite amusing as well.   Batman has never seen it because he's turned off by the title and because he fears it will be "relentlessly cheerful" (like the Joker?).  But Bats seems to recover from his Scrooge-y attitude by the end of the adventure.  

Batman vs. Joker's toy planes.  As Robin says, they don't call him "Batman" for nothing! *rimshot*
I also quite enjoyed some of the meta commentary that goes on in this episode, such as when Joker hands us off to "our sponsors" at the point where the show would have gone to commercial when it originally aired.

Christmastime in Gotham City.
This is definitely a enjoyable addition to your holiday viewing.  

RigbyMel's rating:


3 and a half candy canes

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