Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders
Screenplay by Michael Jelenic and James Tucker
Directed by Rick Morales
I was super excited to hear about Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders when it was announced that Adam West and Burt Ward would be reprising their roles from the 1960s series, even more so with Julie Newmar also around as Catwoman. As you have probably guessed from the large amount of campy super hero flicks TarsTarkas.NET has covered over the years, the television series that inspired many of them is a big deal, so any thing that means more of the cool magic that it was is great. It turned out better than I imagined, it’s one of the best animated films DC has put out, and they have put out a few good ones! (and a few….not so good ones!)
The film is jam packed with the flavor of the original series – wild alliteration, pop-up word balloons during action scenes, random labels on object, Robin declaring “Holy ______” every few seconds, all sorts of random bat gadgets, Batman and Robin figuring out the most obscure Riddler clues in the universe, and the ever-present incompetent police force. There are cameos from almost the entire era, really the only thing missing was Batgirl.
Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson’s quiet evening at home is interrupted with the big four villains – Joker, Catwoman, Riddler, and Penguin – hijack a television show just so they can leave a Riddler clue behind. From that, Batman and robin deduce that the criminals are out to steal a duplicating ray, while Catwoman schemes to turn Batman just slightly evil so they can be united in love. But her plan fails and after one thing leads to another suddenly everyone is fighting in outer space to stop the villain’s schemes of duplicating more Earths so each one can control a Gotham City.
It wouldn’t be Batman if things were that simple, and they aren’t. For Batman soon does jump to the side of the rogues, and takes over Gotham City by himself. Well, lots of himselves, thanks to the duplicating ray! It’s up to Robin and Catwoman to try to turn Batman back to the side of good before he makes a play for the entire planet!
Not only were there more Easter Eggs than a Cadbury’s factory, but Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders even had its own original story that both honored and had lots of fun with the entire history of Batman. We have our beloved campy 1960s Batman, but once under the influence, he starts acting like the darker knights of later films, disappearing while characters aren’t looking (something they verbally remark about!) and quoting Michael Keaton’s turn. Even the word balloons change, from campy sound effects like “KRAMM!” or “KER-PLOW!” to more violent words like “GORE!” and “BLUDGEON!”
Despite the “serious” turn, the film never takes itself too seriously while still being 100% consistent with the feel of the original. It’s an amazing achievement, and shows that revivals like this could work with other franchises. At one point Robin and Catwoman free a plethora of prisoners to help fight the Batman army, which allows an array of guest star cameos from all sorts of obscure villains. The other two Catwomen also show up briefly as Batman begins seeing triple (Four Krusties!), and they slam a bit of The Dark Knight Returns in a throwaway gag.
There is even a ton of great lines, just a small sample of which are below:
“An intergalactic spaceship is just another tool in a crime fighter’s arsenal.” — Batman
“The only thing a cat hates more than water is the vacuum of space.” — Catwoman
“You do want to ensure the safety of the prisoners and all that garbage, don’t you?” — Catwoman
“Holy Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!” — Robin dropping a sweat film reference!
Just pretend I quoted the entire script. Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders doesn’t hide what it is, and you will go into it knowing if you already enjoy the style or not. The only thing that could be better is if there was more, and there will be! A sequel is already in the works, and it will have William Shatner as Two-Face! Here’s hoping Batgirl finally pops up there as well! Batman 66 has gotten a lot of love the past few years, from the long-delayed DVD release to a quality comic series and now the great animated film, here’s hoping the love train continues as long as possible!
Rated 10/10 (joking logo, dinosaur, potion, special gas, so many antidotes, camera position, clowning around, signs explain everything, dancing, signs explain more than everything)
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And all the fight graphics in gallery form!