- Written by Michael Jelenic & James Tucker
- Directed by Rick Morales
- Starring Adam West, Burt Ward & Julie Newmar
Batman and Robin are back in action to take down their fiendish foes once again with original actors Adam West voicing Batman, Burt Ward voicing Robin, and Julie Newmar voicing Catwoman.
‘Return of the Caped Crusaders’ is available now via Amazon!
Nostalgia is all the rage. Reboots. Remakes. Continuations. It’s big business in the world of film and TV. Thanks to the deal struck between Warner Bros (current owners of DC Comics) and 20th Century Fox (then distributor of the TV series) we not only have ‘Gotham’ but a plethora of merchandise related to the Adam West ‘Batman’.
The deal ended years of speculation of whether the series would ever receive a home video release. Not only did the show get said release but it got a remastering to boot.
Following the success of that home video release and the recently ended, digital first, comic series came the news of this animated film.
Lead actors Adam West and Burt Ward quiet revealed they were recording dialogue for an animated project. Soon Julie Newmar was thrown in to the mix and ‘Return of the Caped Crusaders’ was born.
The nostalgia of ‘Return of the Caped Crusaders’ goes far beyond its voice cast. The story, crafted by Jelenic and Tucker, is a perfect recreation of the TV series aesthetic. There’s opening and closing scenes at stately Wayne Manor, Bat-poles and Bat-gadgets galore. The film runs to a sturdy 70mins but as an audience member you will be left feeling as though every trope of the TV series has been thrown at you in spades.
The storyline builds through a series of set pieces that could never have been accomplished on the TV series budget. Each more wacky than the last until the caped crusaders blast off in to space. In the Bat-rocket of course.
The middle section of the film meanders slightly as it feels the story wraps up on more than one occasion before continuing on to even more ludicrous situations. Nevertheless the enjoyment factor never drops below intense.
Stylistic choices and drawn out sections of the story are not an accident. Throughout ‘Return of the Caped Crusaders’ there are moments purposely designed to allow its cast to poke fun. Either at themselves, popular culture and even Batman films past and present.
There were few jokes which fell flat on the audience I saw this with at the cinema. An awkward ‘ooooh’ was heard followed a specific joke lobbied at ‘The Dark Knight Rises’. Great moments of humour come from classic moments like the Bat-dance and even from set pieces like the factory featuring a perfectly placed ‘abandoned food factory’ sign outside.
This is ‘Batman ’66’ at its very best.
Ward, West and Newmar all sound much older of course. The voices not quite matching the age of their characters is part of the charm of ‘Return of the Caped Crusaders’. Several audience members who seemed less familiar with the source material seemed to be heavily distracted by it. I felt that with the actors still alive and working it was the most perfect way to make the film.
West carries the film perfectly. He slips back in to the dual roles of Bruce Wayne and Batman as if he had never stepped away. As his voice is easily the most familiar and the most relevant given his continued work on ‘Family Guy’ it is the least out of place.
Burt Ward struggles at times to find his Robin voice. There are moments where he finds the perfect pitch and others where it feels like he is struggling to keep up. Either way it’s brilliant to hear these two together again regardless of age.
Newmar always came across as a little kooky. This film only proves it. Much like Adam West she slips back in to the role as if we were still in 1966. Of all the villains to appear in ‘Return of the Caped Crusaders’ she has the most screen time and equally the most presence. I hope she is able to return for the already announced sequel.
Riddler, Joker and Penguin also appear played by Wally Wingert, Jeff Bergman and William Salyers. Wingert is the perfect soundalike for Frank Gorshin. Utterly perfect. He brings not only an homage but a spark and vigour to the role that only Gorshin could equal in this setting. Salyers also makes for a good Penguin being less of a soundalike but with much of the flair of the original version.
All eyes are, of course, on Jeff Bergman as Joker. Originally played by Ceaser Romero he was the trailblazer for all Joker actors to follow. It’s hard to tell whether Bergman was trying to impersonate Romero or whether he was trying to do something original whilst honouring that which came before. There are flashes of pure Romero and moments of something truly original. Either way he’s performance is a highlight.
There are small supporting roles for Commissioner Gordon, Alfred, Chief O’Hara and Aunt Harriet. All are brief in their screen time but still make this film feel like the perfect recreation.
I heard the guys sat behind me at the end saying they felt the animation was a little weird. I don’t agree although I did at times find myself fixated on the mouth movements of the characters. There were some incredibly lifelike movements in the faces throughout the film.
Overall the film looks excellent. Easily one of the best DCAU films to date. Backgrounds are rich and inviting, Gotham looks sprawling and far beyond anything seen in the TV series. Environments are littered with easter eggs and humours nods to the series and Batman lore.
Characters look brilliant. Costumes appear exactly as they did on film. There’s been no tweaking here. Batman and Robin look great. Commissioner Gordon has gained a moustache whilst Joker has lost his.
My only visual complaint was that the Batcave was backwards. The Bat-poles would drop the heroes on the right of the frame where they would run to the left to the Batmobile and drive our via a road again on the left. My memories of the TV series distinctly say this is reversed but please correct me if I am wrong.
Sound design is also brilliant. Of course the soundtrack is the most important part of this. The original theme is updated and put to the visuals of a great opening title sequence which comics fans will love.
It’s just too hard to say anything critical about this film!
‘Return of the Caped Crusaders’ is a complete triumph. A brilliantly nostalgic throwback to the TV series which inspired it. Yet filled with modern humour and wit to make it relevant to a new audience. An absolute must watch!
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