Just when you thought Batman couldn’t get any darker this year, the light and campy world of the 1960’s returns with Adam West, Burt Ward, and Julie Newmar. This animated adventure pits the dynamic duo against their greatest foes (Joker, Penguin, Riddler, and Catwoman) and the status quo of what DC superhero movies have been for the last decade (since Batman Begins) or at most since Tim Burton’s works (1989). The catchphrases are back, the comic book punches and kicks are as ‘zonky’ as ever, and the stakes are as high as ever (as high as orbit; Batman’s in space). The fact that this cartoon retains the same values as the original television series with cheesy dialogue, pitch-perfect music, and acknowledgement of the time in which it resides may make it one of the best Batman flicks to date (easily of this year).
Batman (West) and Robin (Ward) are up against a team up of their greatest adversaries who’ve stolen a duplication device in order to…eventually do something with it. The plot of the film isn’t the main purpose for putting on the old utility belt; the purpose is to remind people that not all superhero films need to be dark in order to be great or even good. Recent animated and live-action attempts have either retained their comic book somberness (Batman v Superman) or went even darker in a failed attempt to try to be a part of the current stream of films (The Killing Joke), while this Batman adventure kept to its campiness and actually insulted the fact that Batman can be somber. The overall plot of the film is the question of what would happen if Adam West’s Batman ever went dark. This results in multiple lines from darker media (The Dark Knight Returns) being introduced to Batman’s vocabulary, but still in a light manner.
The film is a reminder of the past and a simple opportunity to have most of the original gang back together from one of the most famous (or infamous) portrayals of the Batman mythos. The entire voice cast sounded like they had a great time being back in their respective roles. Adam West and Burt Ward are still the ideal live-action (not animated for B: TAS) dynamic duo until any other incarnation is announced that isn’t directed by Joel Schumacher. Julie Newmar still has it as Catwoman and is able to do as she pleases with the Dark Knight’s prying eyes. Even the additional voice cast to replace the roles of Romero (Joker) and Meredith (Penguin) are near pitch-perfect while joining the veterans. The animation is fluid and has more light than that of the total of the last eleven years of Batman films combined. It acts like the comic book status quo change, when Batman was starting to go dark with Miller and Moore’s works, but fortunately for the film, the 60’s rejected the darkness.
The newest animated Batman adventure may go down as one of the caped crusader’s finest as he brings back the light in order to fight the darkness of today’s much darker and brooding incarnations. The number of Easter Eggs within the film is insane in how much it either embraces its time or directly insults its future, especially towards the Nolan films (“Holy, anticlimactic ending”). The funniest fact was that it showed how flawed its ‘light’ world was by literally having Batman take it over and become a ‘darker’ knight, proving how both elements are required in order to successfully create a comic book film by showing the split psyche the character lives with. The only flaw is that we all have to wait for the sequel with Captain Kirk (William Shatner) as Two-Face. As the first ‘fun’ Batman film since…well, the original 1966 classic, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993), or The Lego Movie (2014), Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders deserves a 10 out of 10 for being faithful to a time long past and yet still being relevant to now while anticipating or downright mocking the future. Hopefully Affleck finds this type of Bruce Wayne worthy of featuring within his Batman film, giving some light (just enough so that we can see the character as he takes on Deathstroke) to the darkness that the character has hidden in since 2005 (although Affleck was incredible as Batman).
Enjoy the day.