Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders review: by Rob Stoakes
UK Certification: PG
So some of you may have noticed that I talk about Batman, like, a whole bunch. Meet me in person and you will probably not meet me in person because I’ll be hidden from you. Like Batman.
An orphan who trains in the martial arts to fight crime? Awesome. And the criminals are dark reflections of himself? Awesome. And it’s full of violence and sex and deep philosophical questions about justice and identity? Awesome. And there are stories where Batman is suddenly turned into a tiger or where Robin attacks The Beatles or where alien plants attempt to teach humans love through having incestuous tentacle sex with each other then suddenly dying to the bewilderment of all involved?
… uh… huh…
Ok, so Batman has been goofy and weird for far, far longer than it’s been dark and moody, and comic book fans seem almost in denial over this. They’ll feverishly tell you that the original 40’s comics were way darker (this is the decade Krypto the Wonderdog was introduced), there wasn’t a Robin (for 6 months), the Joker would just murder people with guns and knives (and laughing gas), and most importantly, it wasn’t anything like that stupid, stupid Adam West show.
You know, the goofy one that got a movie where he had a shark repellent spray in a helicopter? The most important and successful comic-book adaptation of all time and the most likely reason that you even know who Batman is today? The satire so good no one even noticed it was a satire? The show that was fun? Remember that one? The fun one? I hate fun. Why can’t they take my story about a billionaire dressing up like a rodent in purple spandex seriously?
Well, if you don’t like brilliant TV shows, then DC are out to upset you because they’ve recently released an animated revival with Adam West, Burt Ward and Julie Newmar returning. Well, West hasn’t really returned, he’s been playing increasingly deranged parodies of himself ever since the show ended.
If you think that intro defending the show was too long, well, you smell and no one likes you, because the movie is really just one long episode that happens to be a cartoon. It captures just about everything about the show, from the out-of-place sudden moralising to the baffling leaps of logic whenever the Riddler’s involved to the goofy tone. It’s still as camp, funny and ingeniously stupid as the original show.
So the only elements to improve upon are the look and the voice acting. Well, DC animated ventures tend to be pretty good-looking considering their tiny (for movies) budget, but the animators seem stuck in the dark funk from this year’s earlier release The Killing Joke. Now, The Killing Joke was a very dark story with a very dark look, while RotCC involves clones of Chef Batman. The original show was so bright that even the night time scenes looked like a fire at the searchlight factory, and yet RotCC is full of harsh shadows and contrasting darks which do not fit the tone or the original show.
As for the acting, Adam West has been in self-parody mode for decades, so surprise surprise he absolutely kills it, but Burt Ward still sounding like the snotty young “gee willikers” kid he always was despite being 10,325 years old is great. Shame about the villains; Catwoman’s Julie Newmar doesn’t capture the same sound as before, while Joker, Riddler and Penguin all have the laughs on point and then the rest of the time sound like a vague suggestion of what Romero, Gorshin and Meredith would’ve sounded like if they were the same guy.
There’s not much point going on. This film is so full of Batman references and nods to the original that it might as well be told in Ancient Sumerian as translated by a madman to anyone who isn’t a fan. So if you’re an enemy of fun, I’d advise against this purchase. Otherwise, TO THE BAT-BLOCKBUSTER!
Music: Kristopher Carter, Michael McCuistion, Lolita Ritmanis/Length: 88 mins
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
And if you’re in need of more of Rob’s raucous ramblings, tune in to this week’s Battleship Potemkast for a breakdown of zombie movies, joined by comedian Michael Cook.