Holy animated nostalgia, Batman!
I grew up in the late seventies watching reruns of the Batman television series that ran for three years during the 1960s. Starring EYG Hall of Famer Adam West and Burt Ward, the Batman series was full of cheese and old fashioned goodness.
Of course, Batman has evolved since this iteration of the Dark Knight. He has become more dark and gritty, sacrificing the over-the-top goody-good of the series.
However, recently, DC Comics released a new comic book series called Batman ’66, which brought the character back to this campy version. With the success of Batman ’66, it was just a matter of time before DC’s excellent animated movies would come calling.
And even better, they were able to get Adam West and Burt Ward to return and voice these characters that made them iconic.
The film also had the voice talents of former Catwoman, Julie Newmar. Catwoman was one of the four most famous of Batman’s rogue’s gallery who made multiple appearances on the Batman series. Along with Catwoman, there was Penguin, Riddler and Joker.
Sadly, the three actors who portrayed these Batman villains have passed on. Burgess Meredith, Cesar Romero and Frank Gorshin were amazing in these roles and having them gone was going to be a challenge for any version that would include them.
Yet, the new voice actors do a great job of paying homage to the original actors without completely doing an imitation. William Salyers played the Penguin, Wally Wingert played the Riddler, and Jeff Bergman played the Joker. Honestly, I actually wondered if the voice of the Riddler was actually Frank Gorshin (who died in 2005).
The story is wonderful. It is just like the weird and off-center show that inspired it. There were many laugh out loud moments in The Return of the Caped Crusaders, but it was not a jokey film. The humor here came from the same place as the show did. Everything was so ridiculous, from dialogue to plot points, but the actors played it perfectly straight. They played it as if it was deadly serious and that only made it funnier.
The animation was nothing special. It was not a big screen animation. It was animation for a direct-to-DVD film. I happened to see this on a big screen through a special presentation by Fathom Events, but there would be no mistaking this animation for Pixar. However, I think the animation on Batman: The Return of the Caped Crusaders was superior to that of Batman: The Killing Joke, another animated Batman film from earlier this year. And the animation really fit well with the campy tone and feel of this film.
People who were not fans of the Batman television show will probably look at this version of the Dynamic Duo and wonder what DC was thinking, but for fans of the show, like me, this was a magnificently wonderful trip down memory lane and an amazingly entertaining time at the theater.