There have been many different versions of Batman since his 1939 debut in the pages of Detective Comics #27, but there’s one that still resonates strongly in the memories of the baby boomer generation: the campy 1966-68 Batman TV series that starred Adam West and Burt Ward. While some “serious” fans dislike the series, many others, like writer-director Kevin Smith, are advocates for and devotees of the show. The colorful series has experienced a renaissance and re-appreciation in recent years. In 2014, the entire series was released on Blu-ray and DVD in a beautifully re-mastered edition. DC Comics (who had distanced themselves from the series in the past) has been publishing stories set in the show’s continuity, in a wonderfully retro digital and print series entitled Batman ’66. Now, they've released a fantastic new animated movie, Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders.
Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders features the voices of Adam West as Batman, Burt Ward as Robin and Julie Newmar as Catwoman, reprising their iconic roles from the show. As the movie opens, we learn that The Joker, The Riddler, The Penguin and Catwoman have once again escaped prison. They’ve teamed up to wreak havoc on Gotham City, and take over the world. Who are the only ones that stand in their way? Why our stalwart heroes, Batman & Robin, of course! But what happens when Batman is given a dose of a strange drug by his arch enemies, and turns into a very different sort of Dark Knight? The story that follows is a loving valentine to the TV series and its unique style, with campy dialogue, cool Bat-gadgets, narrow escapes from deadly death traps, and battles with vile villains. I won’t spoil the fun by giving away any more of the plot, but if you’re a fan of the show, this will be like catnip (pun most definitely intended) for you.
James Tucker & Michael Jelenic’s screenplay hits all the right notes. You’ll definitely feel like you’re watching a lost episode of the original 1960s series. West, Ward and Newmar all have great fun returning to their characters. The supporting voice actors are well cast, managing to give their own spin to The Joker, The Penguin and The Riddler, whose original portrayers (Cesar Romero, Burgess Meredith and Frank Gorshin, respectively) have sadly, passed away over the years. There are plenty of visual treats and Easter eggs for fans, and the animation nicely captures the essence of the show’s pop art look. This is a delightful film that pays tribute not only to the classic TV show, but the entire history of the Batman character. Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders is now available on Blu-ray, DVD and for digital download. Here’s a link to the trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hGeQKu8RXDc. By the way, a sequel (Holy follow-up, Batman!) has already been announced, with William Shatner joining the fun to portray Two Face, a member of Batman’s Rogue’s Gallery who never got to appear in the TV series. So, in a sense, we can look forward to Batman vs. Captain Kirk in the near future!