When kids of today think of Batman most would draw upon the versions produced Christopher Nolan or Zack Snyder but there is one iconic version that should never be forgotten; in 1966 television producer William Dozier cast Adam West as the world renowned Caped Crusader, and not as a the Dark Knight detective known to comic book readers but as a straight man to an array of camp villains and goofy criminal capers. The series sadly only lasted three seasons but now Warner Bros. Pictures has given this classic show a little bit of a comeback with an animated movie called …
Basing an animated movie on a decades old television show, one containing a version of Batman far from the grim vigilante today’s audiences are familiar with, could be considered a bit of a gamble, but if anyone has seen Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice I’d say the world is in need of a nice jolt of fun lighthearted Batman. The studio deciding to go the animated route allowed three of the cast members to return; Adam West as Batman, Burt Ward as Robin and Julie Newmar as Catwoman are the only actors to reprise their roles, most of the other cast members have sadly passed away, but as Adam West is no newcomer when it comes to voice acting things on that score are pretty safe. As to who provides the voices for the other members of the rogue’s gallery, Julie Newmar being the only original villain returning Warner Brothers decided to just use hard working voice actors from their rooster of animated shows.
The Joker is voiced by Jeff Bergman who does a pretty good impression of Cesar Romero, as does Wally Wingert with his Frank Gorshin impression for the Riddler, but William Salyers doesn’t even attempt to mimic Burgess Meredith’s Penguin. That may have been for the best because as good as Bergman and Wingert’s impressions were they never quite capture the manic intensity of either Romero or Gorshin, and when their impressions occasionally slip it makes the fact that these aren’t the original actors more noticeable. On the positive side the character designs are bang on, making this movie really look like a big budget version of the original show, and with the scintillating tones of Adam West it does seem like a trip back in time.
The basic story this time out deals with the Joker, Riddler, Penguin and Catwoman stealing a type of replica ray gun that can multiply anything that it hits. Joker and The Riddler pooh-pooh Penguin’s prosaic notion of using it to, “Multiply money, diamonds…females” as they have a grander scheme in mind, but of course standing in their way is the Dynamic Duo who are still able to solve any riddle, using the most convoluted train of thought possible to lead them to their opponent’s next move, and then *Bam* *Socko* *Ker-Plow!* Batman and Robin duke it out in their classic camp style.
Now Batman: Return of the Caped Crusader isn’t a straight up animated copy of the 60s television as it throws in quite of few nods and winks to some of the goofy conceits that have both puzzled and delighted fans of the show; Aunt Harriet is still questioning Bruce and Dick’s frequent “fishing trips” but now alluding to her having figured out their “Big Secret” which is of course that they are gay and not secret crime fighters. In the original series Commissioner Gordon and Chief O’Hara never seemed to actually worry about dealing with crimes themselves, much easier to just make a call on the Batphone, and in this outing it’s made clear that the police can’t even manage to handle the average shoplifter if Batman isn’t around. All the visual trademarks from the show make an appearance here; the Batmobile is still the customized 1955 Lincoln Futura, the Batcave is entered by triggering a switch in a bust of William Shakespeare (though the cave itself includes the large dinosaur statue from the comics and a different looking atomic pile), and of course the show has the standard deathtraps for our heroes to escape.
This animated movie is both a beautiful nostalgic trip to a time when Batman had a bit of a sense of humor, and a loving jab at the direction in which the character has gone in the recent years, director Rick Morales even pokes fun at the ridiculous Paris epilogue in The Dark Knight Rises, but overall it is a love letter to a show I adored when I was a child. This is a movie that I can recommend to any fan of the Batman young or old as its art direction is fantastic, Adam West is in full comic deadpan mode and the caper that the villainous fiends attempt to pull off is a real doozy. So my advice to you is to rush out and snatch up the Bluray of this beauty as soon as possible.