May include spoilers
With a lot of Batman-related media of recent years being dark and serious in tone with a dark and serious Batman – the Chris Nolan movies, the Arkham games, Batman v Superman – it’s easy to forget the Dark Knight has seen brighter adaptations. Let’s face it, the 1966 Batman TV series is campy, but it’s still hilarious and enjoyable to watch even today. Therefore, an animated movie based on the show, with Adam West, Burt Ward and Julie Newmar reprising their respective roles as Batman, Robin and Catwoman, is more than welcome in this day and age, something to give us a break from the brooding Batman.
Joker (Jeff Bergman), Penguin (William Salvers), Riddler (Wally Wingert, reprising the role from the aforementioned Arkham games) and Catwoman reunite to seize a ray gun capable of duplicating anything, and Batman and Robin, as usual, have to stop them. There’s just one thing complicating matters – Catwoman has given Batman a serum that turns him evil, and using the ray, the now-criminal Batman uses clones of himself to take over Gotham City. This leaves Robin no choice but to team up with Catwoman in hopes of curing his old partner.
All the hallmarks of the 60’s TV show are here; Batman lectures Robin on the dangers of jaywalking, they scale the wall of a building, deathtraps and battles with onomatopoeia galore. It pays homage to other Batman media as well; not only is the intro a slew of classic comic covers with the movie’s versions of the characters, but the brainwashed Batman is a cute poke at the darker renditions of the character, even quoting the 1989 Batman movie and The Dark Knight Returns. Catwoman also makes fun of the ending of The Dark Knight Rises, but these pokes never feel mean-spirited. This is not asking to replace the more serious Batman but rather to co-exist with him.
What also makes the movie a joy to watch is its visuals; the animation is smooth and vibrant and the characters look pretty close to how they looked on the show (though Commissioner Gordon looks more like he does in the comics than he did on the show). It’s bright and colourful and eye-catching with even some nice details in the background, like the outfit Batman wore in his very first comics appearance in the Batcave. The final battle atop a blimp boasts some exquisite lighting. The voice acting is also top-notch, with West being as hilariously over-serious as he was in the live-action show, and is an utter hoot to listen to while evil. Ward and Newmar are great and Bergman, Salvers and Wingert do good impressions of Romero, Meredith and Gorshin.
It isn’t on the level of say, The Dark Knight, but it isn’t meant to be. Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders is a tonne of fun with plenty of laughs and should be extremely enjoyable for Batman fans young and old. Hopefully the upcoming sequel will be as entertaining, but how can it not, when it has William Shatner playing Two-Face?