Director Rick Morales
Starring the voices of Adam West, Burt Ward, Julie Newmar
Released 7th November 2016
There’s no point in going into all the reasons for DC lagging so far behind Marvel at the cinema. It’s been more than well documented elsewhere, so let’s just say that neither Batman V Superman or Suicide Squad both failed to live up to their marketing campaigns, and leave it at that. So Warner Brothers is trying a different tack, one that this time comes with built-in nostalgia by the bucket-load. Or the bat-load.
Batman:Return Of The Caped Crusaders is a completely new animation which was given a one day release in cinemas last month and now arrives on DVD and download. Essentially a cartoon re-creation of the gloriously camp TV series from the 1960s, this sees the Dynamic Duo preventing their old enemies The Joker, The Riddler, The Penguin and Catwoman from taking over the world. And the Felonious Four have a cheeky secret weapon. An army of Batman clones.
‘Nuff said. If you enjoyed the original series, you’ll be blissfully at home with the proliferation of alliteration, the onomatopoeic captions during the fight sequences – Whomp! Kerpow! and even a good old fashioned Zap! – and the truly dreadful puns. When the four “fiends”, as Batman loves to describe them, manage to get away yet again, they send him a sheet of tinfoil. Foiled, geddit? Even better are the deliberately superfluous labels on locations and props. The villains are hiding out in a former frozen food factory: next to the building there’s a sign emblazoned with the words “Abandoned Frozen Food Factory”. Strange they didn’t go for the alliteration as well.
Quite apart from being camp, the TV series regularly took the proverbial out of itself, and so does this, with Batman himself the biggest target of the lot. If you want the darker view of the Caped Crusader, get out your Dark Knight trilogy, because this Batman is pompous and self-righteous, so conscious of his status as a crime fighter that he always uses a proper pedestrian crossing and is almost as fastidious about entering a building by the front door. He’s also voiced by the original Batman himself, Adam West, who does sound his age just a touch, but you can happily overlook that. Burt Ward is the voice of Robin, The Boy Wonder, and Julie Newmar, the original Catwoman, reprises her role as well. The other villains are inevitably all new voices, but make a decent enough job of re-creating Caesar Romero, Burgess Meredith and Frank Gorshin, the original incarnations of The Joker, The Penguin and The Riddler respectively.
We’ve got the self-deprecating humour, the captions, Robin’s frequent exclamations starting with “Holy!” and a plot that’s more or less incidental. Batman aficionados will love picking up on the references to other Batman movies and the comics themselves: when another group of villains breaks out of prison, they include familiar adversaries, like Mr Freeze and False-Face. It’s huge fun, whether you’re into nostalgia or not, but it does have one small downside. For the first half hour or so, it’s a riot: it cracks you up with all the terrible humour. Once you get past that, it’s just more of the same, over and over. And it starts to get just a wee bit repetitive.
But it’s way more fun than any of the offerings we’ve had from DC this year. It’s not a superhero movie in the true sense of the word, but a comedy. And that’s intentional.
Batman: Return Of The Caped Crusaders is released on DVD on Monday, 7th November and reviewed on Talking Pictures on Thursday, 10 November.