For a lot of today’s generation, seeing Batman anything but the grim avenger of justice of Gotham City would be a travesty. But to a lot of fans who grew up during the 60’s and are just purveyors of anything Batman, there’s a little more to the Caped Crusader than just being all serious. No, real fans know that it’s okay to poke fun at how serious Batman is. And this is very evident as, even after 50 years, the very campy live-action Batman television show is still remembered fondly by a lot of people.
Well, it looks like DC and Warner Bros. haven’t forgotten that the show that starred Adam West and Burt Ward as the fabled Dynamic Duo and what a big success because they decided to make a direct-to-video animated film based on it. Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders return Batman and Robin to a more innocent time where campy fun and childish humor were the norms for the Caped Crusader and the Boy Wonder. But is it too late to capitalize on a 50 year old product?
Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders has been available for digital download for a while now and it has just been released on Blu-Ray and DVD a couple of days ago. As it’s still relatively new on shelves, this review will be SPOILER FREE. So, read on!
Batman, Return of the Caped Crusaders takes place smack dab during the original live-action 60’s television show. It was a simpler time when Batman and Robin were deputized by the police and the crimes perpetrated by villains like The Joker, The Riddler, The Penguin and Catwoman weren’t really despicable plans and were more about robbing banks and getting rich; a far cry from what most people expect The Dark Knight’s adventures are supposed to be nowadays.
With that being said, there’s a lot to love about this return to this really weird period of Batman’s mainstream success. The story cleverly mimics the kind of capers the live-action show would have on a weekly basis. The writers did a great job carrying over a lot of the weird elements from the show as well as making fun of them. It generally straddles the line of paying homage to the wackiness of the show but also lovingly pokes fun at the ridiculousness and outlandishness of it as well. Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders is a celebration of how campy and lovable the show and the characters are.
I will have to say that the animators did a spot on job taking the look and style of the show and bringing it to life in all its cartoon glory. Everything is beautifully animated for the most part with just a couple of missteps here and there. But these issues are so few and far between that you’ll probably not even notice them unless someone points them out. They even animated a lot of the tropes from the show, such as the infamous “wall climbing” scenes and like how Catwoman would just move to the side during the fight scenes because, well, you can’t hit a woman now, can you? It really gets you in the mood to just let go of all the seriousness that Batman has been seeped in the past few years.
It definitely helps that the dialogue are all masterfully written. Each and every line lovingly mimics the weird way everyone speaks in the original show. Every line is spoken with this strange dramatic tone and are laced with these really cheesy and overblown descriptions that is just amazing.
It definitely helps that you have the surviving cast members lend their voices as it definitely helps you get in the mood for all the campy fun. Adam West’s delivery of all his lines as both Bruce Wayne and Batman are masterfully done; he hasn’t lost a step in that department. Sadly, the same can’t be said for Burt Ward and Julie Newmar, who reprise their roles as Robin/Dick Grayson and Catwoman, respectively. They do a fine job with their lines but you can really hear the age in their voice. This is definitely much more evident with Julie Newmar’s delivery than Burt Ward but they still do an adequate job of bringing their characters to life.
There’s definitely a lot to love about Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders if you’re a fan of the original show. But, even if you aren’t, there’s still so many things in it that’ll make even newer Batman fans love it. The entire 72-minute run is sprinkled with little Easter Eggs about Batman. A lot of it does involve poking fun at the original show but they managed to put in a few in-jokes about the grimdark Batman movies as well. These little winks and nods are going to be highly appreciated by Batman fans, both old and young alike.
There are a few missteps, though. Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders is a really silly Batman animated film but it does get a little bit too silly at times. There are some moments of animated slapstick that actually feels out of place as these sequences feel a bit too outlandish and too crazy. These moments fall into generally cartoon logic and not the logic of the show. The final scenes involving The Riddler, The Penguin and especially The Joker are a little too wacky and unrealistic and feel out of place. It’s not enough to ruin the entire experience but it would’ve been better if the writers made these moments follow the tone they’ve been following throughout instead of veering into cartoon logic.
There’s also another tonal shift at around the mid-point of the film. Without spoiling anything, I will say that it’s vital to the plot and is actually interesting to see it actually happening. However, it can be jarring, especially if you’ve been enjoying the proceedings up to this point. It does take some time to get acclimated to this change in tone but, once you do, it is pretty good.
Overall, I would say that fans of the 60’s television show will definitely appreciate Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders as it does manage to capture the feel for the most part. It’s a great love letter to a more sillier time in Batman’s illustrious career but still a big part of what made the Caped Crusader so popular in the first place. Fans who at least have a passing familiarity with the campy live-action show would have a good time with it as well as it is funny and is smart at the way it pokes fun of itself. Fans who only like their Batman to be all brooding and dark should pass this up as they won’t get why this was such a blast in the first place; they’ll be missing out on a great Batman adventure, though.