Whether you see it as a product of the times or a blemish of The Dark Knight’s cowl, the 60’s television series of Batman in all its wacky nature antics opened up the hero to a wider audience and helped to grow him into the fan favourite he is today across generations. With it crazy story lines, crazier gadgets (as long as it starts with “Bat” it counts) and even crazier deathtraps, its cheesy to watch but entertaining all the same. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the series’ debut, DC created an animation homage to the style of the show, along with some of the original cast to lend their voices to the project. In a mix of modern animation to classic entertainment, Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders is a movie that captures what made the original TV series unique and oddly enjoyable for the modern market that will appeal to fans new and old.
To fully appreciate what is on show here, it benefits immensely to have some knowledge (and appreciation) for the source material to pick up on the subtle touches and references throughout. This even applies to the story, which follows the conventional story of the dynamic duo stopping the bad guys, taken way out of proportion and realism. What starts as a standard chase becomes a story that jumps the shark (keep that shark repellent handy) and keeps going far beyond that. The writers clearly had fun with the story and is so ridiculously over the top, that I can’t go into detail or it would ruin the experience. Just prepare for escaping from elaborate death machines, plot devices hidden as gadgets on the utility belts, and even a Batusi or two. The Batusi to those that may not know is Batman’s dance. I’m serious, it happened.
The main star power of this animation lies with the original Batman, Robin, and the 1st Catwoman actors of the TV series lending their voices to their respective characters, and it works… for the most part. It shows the TV series great respect by getting these three on board and for them they have a good share of dialogue to say with the same enthusiasm and chemistry they had 50 years ago. Whilst some lines and interactions felt forced and occasionally miss their intended mark, they read their lines with great conviction.
Adam West keeps his authoritative, cool tone and clearly got the more outlandish and comical lines, his past experiences with voice work shows well here. Burt Ward shows a little age in his voice but maintains an optimistic and upbeat boom in his voice that felt like no time has past since his screen role. Julie Newmar shows a few cracks but it comes from some certain lines that feel forced and act for the sake of a response or filler. But it doesn’t entirely help her when grouped with professional voice actors that fill in the rogue gallery with more lines and things to do in relation to the story. It’s clear that the stand-in voice actors are big fans of the TV show and effectively utilise the unique quirks and speech patterns of the original actors, such as Penguin’s bird cackle and Joker’s fit of laughing hysteria to great effect.
Now with the animation – it offers a good blend between modern incarnations and the early comic book style with the details and subtle references to the original. The opening title sequence is a great homage to the early comics, replicating with full motion the scenes depicted on those covers with the original TV series theme blaring out the screen as the chaos unfolds. And the references don’t stop there. The first transition down to the Batcave has all the computers and gadgets from the original show in their right places, with astonishing detail.
The Batmobile especially gets great screen time as you see all the gadgets, buttons and labels that the car has to offer. The fight scenes are classic material and they had great fun in replicating them as well. As the camera slants to one side, the wacky onomatopoeic words are splashed across the screen with each hit in their vibrant designs whilst the fight unfolds like the TV series, with shoulder barges and punches that look like they are missing or lacking impact. They even reference this as they switch to a fight scene view on a camera during a fight scene on a studio set. It is the little details and the smooth animation that makes this movie so visually appealing.
In summary, I thoroughly enjoyed this animation feature. Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders is a fitting tribute to the TV series and shows that even 50 years later, its influence is still present. True love of the source material and those subtle touches make this movie an entertaining Batman adventure for the younger viewers, and an nostalgic adventure for the older viewers. I definitely recommend this as whether you are fans of today’s iteration of the Caped Crusader or not, it offers a glimpse into his earlier and more ridiculous ventures that can be both baffling yet intriguing all the same.
Have you had the chance to watch Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders? What about the original 60’s TV show? Sound off in the comments or send us your thoughts on Twitter!