Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders

| November 1, 2016

Holy nostalgia overload! Adam West and Burt Ward return as “Dynamic Duo,” Batman and Robin, in Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders (2016), an animated throwback to the 1966-1968 Batman television series. Joined by original Catwoman Julie Newmar, West and Ward reprise their roles as Batman and Robin to take on band of thieves Catwoman, Joker, Penguin, and The Riddler in a scenario not unlike that of Batman: The Movie (1966).

The movie centers on the four rogues’ theft of a replicator ray and Catwoman’s subsequent application of the mind control serum Bat-Nip to Batman—a serum that turns Bruce Wayne apathetic. The villains then flee into space even as Catwoman’s poison takes hold of Batman’s mind and he turns downright mean. Batman and Robin follow suit in their Batrocket, and a predictably campy series of events follows… only with a more uncaring, cutthroat, and despotic Adam West-Batman than we’re accustomed to. What transpires after the evil Batman gets a hold of the replicator ray is quite amusing, and would have never been possible in the live action series.

If you grew up on the 1960s Batman series as I did, you’ll find all the markers of the original’s charms here: the Batusi, onscreen sound effects, corny riddles, endless puns, homosexual innuendoes, and all the “holy” this-or-thats from Robin you can handle. The attention to detail here shows that the filmmakers know their stuff. The banter between Commissioner Gordon and Chief O’Hara is spot-on, as is the relationship between the Dynamic Duo and Aunt Harriet, with whom Bruce and Dick use random fishing trips as an excuse for their constant late-night crime-fighting outings. Batman and Robin also find themselves in some recognizably cartoonish tight spots, as when the rogues attempt to cook the duo on a giant TV dinner tray.

Unfortunately, if you’re looking for a movie rooted in a more modern morality than the 1966 Batman series, you won’t find it here. The tired gender stereotypes characterizing the 1960s remain, bringing some old-fashioned misogyny to a new generation. While seeing Catwoman rely on hairspray as a weapon and be constantly sexually objectified might have been comical fifty years ago and therefore understandable in the original series’ context, this sort of material feels terribly out-of-place and passé in a modern film. If you can look past that, though, and have a soft spot for the original series as I do, you’ll likely have a lot of fun with Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders, especially in the latter half, once Batman turns Gotham’s dictator.

Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders is now available on Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD, and Digital HD from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. By way of special features, the Blu-ray includes a featurette on the film’s core rogue’s gallery as well as a featurette about the film’s voice cast.

About the Author:

Jef is a writer and educator in Chicago, Illinois. He holds a degree in Media & Cinema Studies from DePaul University, but sometimes he drops it and picks it back up again. He's also the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com and is fueled entirely by coffee (as if you couldn't tell).
Filed in: Video and DVD
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