Warner Bros. Animation and DC Entertainment
Warner Bros. Animation and DC Entertainment

By Mikael Trench

It’s sometimes hard to remember that before the days of the dark, brooding Batman that has oversaturated our media today, there was a time that the character was much more lighthearted and campy with the hit 1966 “Batman” TV series starring Adam West and Burt Ward. The series has held a substantial fan base due to its upbeat charm, absurd action, comical villains, and intriguing detective edge. And now, after 50 years, this beloved adaptation of the Dark Knight has been brought back with the new animated film, “Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders.”  

The film follows the dynamic duo, Batman (voiced by Adam West) and Robin (voiced by Burt Ward), as the two follow a dastardly plan made by their most notorious enemies, Catwoman (voiced by Julie Newmar), the Joker, the Penguin, and the Riddler. Suddenly, it seems that they are least of their worries, as Batman starts to become a malicious fiend who begins to take Gotham into his control and, using a replica ray, creates an army of Batmen who start taking over the city. Robin must then reluctantly team up with Catwoman to find a way to get Batman back to normal, but there may be more to this plan then the two think.

Right off the “bat”, it’s obvious that the filmmakers have a great love for the TV series as the entire movie perfectly captures the wild absurdity and fun that the original television show had. Everything from the music, the gags, the backgrounds, the gadgets, the humor, the writing, the acting, and the overall tone help convey that light-heartedness while still gripping you with some fun action. The film also is able to keep true to the detective aspect of the series, which, in my opinion, depicted it better than any other live-action movie or television versions that followed. It constantly keeps you on your toes by offering a snappy pace with plenty of twists and turns while balancing it with light-hearted comedy that will keep the audience intrigued throughout.

The characters and voice acting are top notch. The returning players, West, Ward and Newmar, all bring the same level of vitality and energy to their respective characters and don’t feel like they’ve aged a day. Batman, in particular, goes through a rather interesting transformation during the film, as he becomes more sinister due to the villain’s ultimate plan. This brought out a lot of surprising comedy, but also made this Batman more edgy, which was also a nice way of paying homage to the more recent incarnations of Batman. Batman’s relationship with Catwoman is also developed much further within this story, which was very engaging. In particular, their final interaction within the film got — I kid you not — very emotional and surprisingly powerful, even for the modern Batman character.  

The only issue the film really harbors is with it’s animation. I was lucky enough to see “Return of the Caped Crusaders” on it’s only day of release in theaters but, much like this year’s “The Killing Joke,” this film was meant to be a direct-to-DVD release and the animation definitely shows it. While the character designs are faithful to the TV show, the character animation is rather choppy at times. Also, the film does take place a lot during the night and in more darker colors such as greys and blacks whereas the series often contained a bunch of bright colors and lights, so that could be the only aspect that was mostly unfaithful to the show’s artistic style.

“Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders” is bound to be a DC animated classic. With its energetic tone, fun characters, joyful score, engaging action, and surprising depth and mystery, this is a film that should not slip under any Batman fan’s radar. And, with the oversaturation of the darker Batman that we’re getting these days, seeing the original caped crusaders back in action has never felt so refreshing.