Don’t worry: that Rogue One review is forthcoming. Meanwhile, we’re taking a look at a recent contribution to Bat-animation.
Return of the Caped Crusaders saw limited release in October 2016 and quickly found its way to home viewing. A tribute to the campy, cult Batman of the 1960s, featuring the voices of series originals Adam West, Burt Ward, and Julie Newmar, it uses animation and an awareness of the Dark Knight’s history to take Batman ’66 where period TV could never go.
Title: Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders
Director: Rick Morales
Writers: Michael Jelenic, James Tucker
Adam West as Bruce Wayne / Batman
Burt Ward as Dick Grayson / Robin
Julie Newmar as Catwoman
Jeff Bergman as Announcer / The Joker
Thomas Lennon as Chief O’Hara / Prison Warden
William Salyers as The Penguin
Wally Wingert as The Riddler
Lynne Marie Stewart as Aunt Harriet
Jim Ward as Commissioner Gordon
Steven Weber as Alfred Pennyworth
Sirena Irwin as Miranda Moore / The other Catwomen
Available at Amazon
The Joker, Penguin, Riddler, and Catwoman join forces in the most ludicrously convoluted plot imaginable. How will Batman and Robin stop them—especially once Batman turns heel?
The movie captures the essence of the series, with painful puns, anguished alliteration, goofy gimmicks, poker-faced platitudes, subversive suggestions, stupendous sound effects, and implausible illations.
Although it never takes itself seriously, the film nevertheless comments on the various incarnations of the Batman. As a plot device slowly turns Batman evil, he first becomes something akin to the Frank Miller version, even directly quoting that Dark Knight. When Catwoman suggests that she and Batman retire to Europe and drink tea at a café, Robin yells, “Holy Unsatisfying ending, Batman!”
Other references are mostly just fan service Easter Eggs, but they’re entertaining: Batman, dazed after a head strike, sees Catwoman in triplicate: as Julie Newmar, Eartha Kitt, and Lee Meriweather.
I now enjoy the 1960s series (which I watched in original broadcast, though at too young an age to recognize its camp qualities), but I find its humor wears thin after a short while. The same is true of this film, which ramps up the camp, throws in numerous gay subtext gags, and amps up the silly techno-gimmickry. Batman: The Return of the Caped Crusader runs only 78 minutes; I found myself growing weary two-thirds of the way through.
Originality: 1/6 The film is clever, but there’s nothing really new here. I’m not certain how much new one can do with Batman (The Brokeback Mountain references don’t really count).
Animation: 4/6 The animation is servicable, though the traditional and computer-generated material prove an inconsistent match.
Story: 4/6 It’s always difficult to assess this kind of plot. The story is absolutely ridiculous, but that’s kind of the point.
Voice Acting: 5/6 The voice actors use deadpan delivery to good effect. Ward and Newmar remain remarkably unchanged, while the new actors accurately replicate the classic characters. Adam West, alas, sounds noticeably like a man just shy of ninety.
Production: 5/6 The celebrated theme song receives a smart, jazzy update.
Emotional Response: 5/6 Return of the Caped Crusaders is a funny and occasionally clever romp that suitably celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of a memorable TV show. It won’t appeal to everyone, but its intended audience will enjoy it.
Overall: 4/6 Yeah, maybe this should be a five, but 28/42 gives us a score of (roughly) 66%.
In total, Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders receives 28/42