Wednesday, October 12, 2016

I saw the Caped Crusaders Return...

The wonderful thing about animation is that it can conjure sequels to movies and television shows well after they've exited their prime. Then again, has the Adam West/Burt Ward incarnation of the Caped Crusaders ever left our pop-cultural consciousness? Gosh, no, which is why a revisit of any sort seems only justified. 

As our good fortune would have it, Warner Brothers/DC has fashioned, with the help of director Rick Morales, the animated "Return of the Caped Crusaders", a film which wisely utilizes the voices of not only West and Ward, but Julie Newmar, reprising her delightful role of Catwoman. Meee-ooow!!! (But don't be surprised--SPOILER-- if a couple of other Catwomen surface along the line...)

The plot is of the basic reunion variety, for all intents and purposes a villain-rally sequel to the beloved '66 theatrical film, though with a few Cold War/Space Age trimmings. In addition to Catwoman, the primary baddies include Joker, Penguin and Riddler, who've broken their shackles and re-teamed in pursuit of a super-duper Replica Ray Gun. They hope once more to purge Gotham of the Dynamic Duo and seize conquest beyond the fabled city, or if that fails, at least make Batman bad, but come on, is that even possible? (Hint: The latter plot device is a clever way to essay Batman's evolution from West's version to the recent, darker, cinematic editions, though as the story progresses, the concept eventually steers in a different direction.)

The vile crusade contains a number of cat-and-mouse set-ups, including the already famous, TV-dinner sequence revealed in the film's teaser trailer, plus the expected "Zap"/"Boff"/"Oof" brawls: nothing too sophisticated or profound, but for scriptwriters Michael Jelenic and James Tucker to have done otherwise would have gone against the grain. This is classic "Batman '66", or at least as close to it as we could hope to get. 

To give the reunion the required atmosphere, the animation is flamboyantly garish, featuring rich hues and a fluid thickness that, after a spell, plays upon one's mind as would any '60s Batman adventure, and all adorned by those spectacularly slanted angles and familiar musical queues, plus cameos by a number of villains outside the headlining quartet. (BTW: the opening credits are a spellbinding, visual feast, inserting the Caped Crusaders and their foes in recreations of classic Batman comic covers.) 

Unfortunately, the voices of Joker, Penguin and Riddler never quite emulate the inimitable tones of Cesar Romero, Burgess Meredith and Frank Gorshin, though they come pretty close under the circumstances; the same can be said for Alfred; Aunt Harriet; Commissioner Gordon; and Chief O'Hara. Regardless of this debatable imbalance, the adventure remains a bubbly, satisfying experience, and a welcome submission to our present culture of sinister tones and vague morality: guaranteed, therefore, to put a sentimental tear in many a Bat-fan's eye. (The movie also works as a nifty companion piece to the live-action, memory-lane testament, "Return to the Bat Cave", for those desiring an evening's double bill.)

Too bad this animated approach wasn't implemented sooner, when other cast members were alive. Nonetheless, it's nice to see this one come about, and it appears a sequel is already in the works: an adaptation of the "lost" Harlan Ellison Two-Face introduction, with William Shatner set to voice Batman's legendary foe. Holy Bat-Dream Come True!!!

"Return of the Caped Crusaders" is currently available for viewing via Amazon and will hit disc in early November.


  1. Great review good buddy, just makes me anxiously wait more for when it comes to DVD!!

    1. Thank you, Nate. I do think you'll enjoy it, my friend. It really has its heart in the right place.