Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders Review
I've been a big fan of WB animation with the DC characters, but they have now completely outdone themselves.
I own "Batman: The Movie," the true first film with Batman in it. It takes place in the 1960's Batman world. It stars Adam West and Burt Ward as Batman and Robin, reprising their roles from the 1960's TV show. I know it feels like the whole world prefers it when Batman is dark and gritty. I'll admit it myself, Batman is at his most interesting when we are dealing in a bleak world, because he a bleak character. He watched his parents die for crying out loud. But there is no denying that the campy 1960's stint is part of our pop culture history, and to pretend it doesn't exist simply because of what Tim Burton and Christopher Nolan did is silly. I get a big kick out of "Batman: The Movie" and I love the vibe of the old TV show.
"Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders" is a gigantic, nostalgia thrill ride. Its an animated adventure featuring the 1960's world of Batman. Adam West and Burt Ward lend their voices for Batman and Robin, and Julie Newmar reprises her role as Catwoman. The film features the animated copies of 1960's style Joker, Riddler and Penguin as well and there is a massive list of Easter Eggs from the TV show that I could talk about them all night. Its just so much fun looking at the old-school designs in animated form and listening to West's and Ward's voices coming out of those animated avatars.
The storyline is what you'd expect from the old Batman television series. Except there are some differences. This Batman and Robin operate at night. The Joker's car and gadgets are much more dangerous than before. Heck, Batman even has a Bat-themed rocket ship that flies them to space. Why? Because there is a fight at a space station. Why the hell not? There are several things this movie does that the TV show never did, simply because the budget, the scope and the scale of the show was not up to the task at the time. But I loved that the movie still felt to stay in the spirit of the old show, no matter how many new things they throw into it. It feels like something of its own, while also appreciating what came before.
I mean Catwoman creates a drug that will turn Batman evil, and that plot gets wrestled into another involving a gun that can duplicate anything or anyone. These are artifacts and ideas you would only find on a zany episode of "Batman: The TV Show." There are those classic one-liners that made Burt Ward and Adam West famous, and I'll admit that some of them made me smile, and others made me laugh out loud. There are more double-crosses in this film to shake a stick at, but its all in good fun and never confusing for the viewers. What was also kind of fun was seeing Julie Newmar's Catwoman earn a little redemption, even if its only slight. Something I did not expect to see here. But my favorite thing they did with the film, which I also think is the most important decision made in the film was what I stated above. This is a movie of its own, taking a page from nostalgia. It never lets the past overwrought the movie. It was designed to be fun for people of all ages, not just those who are into the 1960's serial or all things Batman.
So if you are children of the 1960's show and you have children of your own now and you are figuring out how to introduce this Batman to them, this would be a fun avenue. Its something nostalgic that exists on its own terms, not simply a hollow exercise. It sounded like Adam West and Burt Ward were having a ball doing this again and it was a wild reminder of what came before. Now WB, please give us an animated Burtonverse Batman movie. Please? Bring back Michael Keaton, Michelle Pfeiffer, Pat Hingle and Billy Dee Williams. Even go off some old notes and bring in Marlon Wayans to voice Robin. Now that would be something!
FINAL GRADE: A