Equally both a loving homage to a classic TV series, and a bizarre anachronism that doesn’t fit in anymore, Return of the Caped Crusaders is one of the oddest – and funniest – Batman creations I have ever seen.
Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders (2016) is a direct-to-video DC animated film directed by Rick Morales. Reprising their role of the dynamic duo is Adam West and Burt Ward as Batman and Robin respectively, who must attempt to foil a plot concocted by the most avarice of their aggressive adversaries.
If you understood the gag in that previous sentence, you probably have some experience with the original 60s Batman TV series. At the time it was hugely popular and its camp and cheese defined Batman’s on-screen appearance for several decades. As I am more familiar with the modern ‘dark ‘n gritty’ Bats everyone loves (and am not over 60 years old), I’ve never bothered much with the original series. That is, until Return of the Caped Crusaders. Not only is this film a delightful homage to the original show, it is legitimately good enough for me to consider diving into the campy side of Batman’s psyche.
From my limited experience with the show, Return of the Caped Crusaders seems to nail the feel of it. Everything classic is here – the red phone, the fireman’s pole, and especially the original batmobile. And not only is the aethsetic hit so perfectly, but so is the tone. This is classic camp done well: equal parts ridiculous, self-serious and downright bizarre, Caped Crusaders utilises a 50+ year old formula to make it new again. And this time with a bigger budget, a bigger thesaurus and 50 years of Batman lore to mock. Any Batfan owes it to themselfto hear Adam West quoting the Dark Knight Returns. It is glorious.
Speaking of West, his delivery after so many years is still pitch-perfect. Its downright impressive that after such a long period of time that he could bring his A-game and basically be the best thing in a great movie. Burt Ward still sounds relatively similar as well, and his old-chum rapport with West is excellent. The final returning voice actor, Julie Newmar as Catwoman, unfortunately fares the worst. Her voice has clearly changed after such a long period of time, and her delivery hence seems off. But aside from that minor hiccup, Caped Crusaders experiment to bring back three members of the original cast was a brilliant idea and absolutely paid off.
Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders is the best movie featuring Batman of 2016. Seems weird to say that. Prior to this film I had little to no interest in the original series, but its gloriously campy ways have opened my eyes to a new Batman. A Batman who’s just as likely to pull Bat-shark repellant from his belt as he is to try and win a surfing competition. And holy overused catchphrase Robin, I’m happy it did.
General Audiences: Highly Recommended
Film Buffs: Highly Recommended
True Believers: Must-see
Winner of the 2016 Batsie Award for I am the night.