Steven Escareno is an amateur film critic who writes about movies in his spare time.
Holy Double Animation, Batman!
Since "Batman: The Killing Joke" received so much controversy because it featured Batman sleeping with Batgirl, it seems Warner Bros. Animation Studios has decided to take the caped crusader back to his campier days. Enter Adam West, who most younger readers might know more as the Mayor of Quahog from "Family Guy", and Burt Ward. Both reprise their roles as the caped crusaders once again.
And if you're a fan of the original campy sixties TV show, then you'll be pleased to see that the new animated film sort of stays within the same spirit of it. You still get the childish corny dialogue, with the cheesy one liners. You still get the silly cartoonish violence, with the word bubble sound effects each time someone gets hit. Batman still has his patented Bat-phone, from the TV series.
Catwoman and Batman still have their little flirtations between each other, while somehow being against each other at times. Robin still doesn't understand what Bruce sees in women, even though he's old enough to have a learner's permit to drive.... Um...I guess puberty hit Robin very late, or the sixties version was probably gay. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but just saying.
Apart from Adam West and Burt Ward, they even manage to bring back Julie Newmar to reprise her role as the deadly femme fatale known as Catwoman. As for the rest of the cast, they couldn't bring them all back for obvious reasons. Some of them are dead, so they had to recast parts like the Penguin, Joker, Alfred and etc. However, the voice actors they got did some pretty damn good impersonations of the original cast, to where you barely even noticed the difference.
Burt Ward and Adam West still sound like they did in the sixties show. However, I can't say the same about Julie Newmar. As some fans know, she's already in her early eighties, and you can tell by the sound of her voice. In fact, if you can imagine an animated sexualized version of Catwoman, from the original TV show, looking like she's in her mid to late twenties, while sounding like she's in her eighties, then you can pretty much get an idea of how Catwoman is like in this film. Yeah, she says a lot of the cheesy, yet suggestively sexualized, dialogue she said in the original show, but she sounds a lot older. In fact, it's distracting half the time because that voice doesn't sound like it would come out of that character.
Granted, it's not her fault she got older, and her voice changed. Plus, I know this film was made mostly to pay homage to the original TV series; hence why they had to bring back whoever they could from the original cast. However, you do get used it after the first act, so it's not too big of an issue. Just a minor nitpick at best.
As for the story itself? I'm not going to delve too much into it, as I would hate to ruin it for readers. However, the story starts off with Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson at home. Dick is practicing ballet, while complaining about wearing tights. Of course, Bruce compliments him on his technique, as he periodically watches his progress. But as they relax at home, it seems that four of Batman's greatest nemeses team up again, which consists of Joker, Penguin, Catwoman and the Riddler.
What's their evil scheme this time? They plan on stealing a duplication ray to do nefarious deeds. Of course, if you've seen the original sixties TV show, then you can pretty much tell how it plays out, with Batman and Robin being tied down to some deadly trap that's supposed to kill them. Catwoman tries to use some potion on Batman to try to make him turn evil, but it doesn't work allegedly. Anyways, the villains leave them alone to assume they're going to die, but somehow they make it out alive, while saving the day. However, that's not where the story ends.
While the first act plays out exactly how you'd expect an episode from the TV series to play out, it gets a bit more complicated after that. Unknowingly to Batman and Robin, the potion she used did work; almost too well in fact. First, he fires Alfred over something petty like how Aunt Harriet almost discovers the Batcave in Wayne Manor. He kicks Robin out of the house, and he even takes over all the positions of power in Gotham City. Needless to say, Batman has become a super villain. And to Adam West's credit, he seems to relish playing a bad version of Batman, as he practically chews away at every scene he's featured in. Hearing Adam West telling Dick to hit the road, while calling out Commissioner Gordon for relying on his services too much, was not only interesting, but it was kind of funny as well.
Granted, there's an antidote, and Catwoman inevitably joins Robin to save Batman. Sure, the story is predictable in a sense that you know everything will turn out alright in the end. However, it still leaves you with enough surprises to where it'll keep you guessing throughout most of the film.
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Like the live action film of "Rocky and Bullwinkle", "Batman: The Return of the Caped Crusaders" not only seems to have all the little things that the original show had going for it, but it even seems to incorporate a lot of the flaws as well; right down to the intentionally bad writing and contrived plot devices. Remember how Batman used shark repellent to ward off a shark in Adam West's Batman movie? Well, they do something similar to that here too, which does seem to come out of nowhere. It doesn't really make a lot of sense when you think about it, and it feels like a contrived deus ex machina. But then again, that's exactly what the original show was like. It was corny, and stupid. The story was all over the place just like the TV series, which arguably makes it a fitting homage to a classic era of Batman.
Hell, you could even argue that the writing for this movie was even better because it acknowledges how ungodly stupid the source material it was based on was. In one particular scene for instance, when Batman gets hit in the face with some gas, he sees three Catwomen instead of one. Instead of merely using three different versions of Julie Newmar, it shows all three of the original women that ever played Catwoman on the show, during Batman's hallucinations. It's a nice call back to the original series, and it's one that I'm sure die hard fans of Batman might enjoy.
Granted, "Batman: The Return of the Caped Crusaders" can seem odd at times, as I know most fans prefer to see Batman have a bit more of an edge to him. And to be fair, they make references to that too in this feature.
While "Batman: The Return of the Caped Crusaders" may not be for everyone, it's probably one of the best "Batman" movies ever made. It pays homage to an era of Batman hasn't been addressed much since the eighties, while modernizing it for today's generation as well. It's funny and entertaining, while still giving you enough drama to make you feel for some of the characters.
To sum it up, if you're someone that loved how funny and entertaining the sixties Batman was, or you just want to see something different out of the character, then you'll probably find this film thoroughly enjoyable as well.
Pros and Cons
- Great animation. Everything from the color schemes, to how it even managed to replicate the original sixties TV show, is simply amazing. Although this was a direct to DVD film, the animation quality itself feels more like a theatrically released 2-D movie.
- The cinematography was great.
- Musical scoring was awesome.
- The voice acting was good for the most part.
- The jokes were funny.
- While the story did have a lot of contrived plot devices, and plot holes, it seemed intentional considering the fact that the film was trying to nail down the feel of the sixties show so much that it even gets it right down to the flaws, which is kind of a nice homage to the original Batman series.
- Action scenes were cartoonishly silly and entertaining to watch.
- While most of the story was predictable, it still had a lot of surprises that'll keep you guessing throughout most of it.
- While the voice acting wasn't bad per se, Julie Newmar's voice doesn't match the body of her character at all. Granted, I know this film was meant to be a homage to the original sixties show; hence why they brought back Adam West, Burt Ward and Julie Newmar to reprise their iconic roles. But unlike Burt and Adam, who sound exactly the same as they did decades ago, Julie's voice sounds a lot different than she did during her younger days. In fact, if you can imagine an eighty three year old woman's voice coming out of a cartoon character that looks very young, while trying to be sexy, then you pretty much have an idea of how Catwoman is portrayed in this film. Granted, I know it's not her fault that her voice changed as she aged. However, it's glaringly obvious that her voice doesn't match the character anymore.
- Some parts of the story feel a bit rushed like how Batman's evil schemes were just a ruse to cover up another crime, or Catwoman's fate at the end.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2016 Stevennix2001