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Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders (Blu-ray Review)

4 Nov, 2016 By: John Latchem



Warner
Animated
$19.98 DVD, $24.98 Blu-ray
Rated 'PG' for action, suggestive material and rude humor
Voices of Adam West, Burt Ward, Julie Newmar, Steven Weber, Thomas Lennon, Wally Wingert, Jeff Bergman.

Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders is the Batman movie we didn’t know we needed.

The movie is an animated version of the Batman ’66 comic book, which itself is inspired by the classic campy 1960s “Batman” TV show. Adam West, Burt Ward and Julie Newmar each revive their iconic roles, in voiceover form, as Batman, Robin and Catwoman, respectively, joined by a voice cast of talented sound-alikes for some of the other characters, such as The Joker, Penguin and The Riddler.

Much like the feature film version of the show that was produced between the first and second seasons, Crusaders finds Batman and Robin confronting a diabolical team-up of the four biggest villains of Gotham City. Only this time, television budgets are no object, as Batman must follow the fearsome foursome into outer space to put an end to their schemes (who knew Batman had a Bat-rocket hidden in the Batcave?)

The animation is lively and colorful and deliciously evocative of the ’66 tone. The film is A loving tribute to the 1960s series, but what sets it apart is how self-aware it is. The movie is both a revival of and a parody of the classic show, much in the way the show was a legitimate version of Batman while spoofing the Caped Crusader at the same time.

There are a lot of jokes about the quirks of the show (three versions of Catwoman), plus references to other Batman movies (Adam West quotes Michael Keaton!), including a subtle rebuke of the ending of The Dark Knight Rises.

In a sense, the film represents Batman coming full circle as a pop culture icon, bringing the sensibilities of the show to reflect on how Batman has evolved since then. It’s so much fun, and a delightful palate cleanser after the foul taste of the previous animated Batman effort, The Killing Joke.

References to many incarnations of Batman are littered throughout, though the big payoffs are reserved for fans of the show.

Anyone who reads the ’66 comic book knows that one of its big selling points is how it imagines how newer Batman villains such as Poison Ivy or Bane would have fit into the show. That seems to be the tact for the planned sequel to this bringing in William Shatner to voice Two-Face, a classic member of Batman’s rogues gallery who never made it into the original series (though an unused script for a proposed episode was adapted for the comic book).

Batman ’66 also features Batman teaming up with other notable 1960s heroes, such as "The Man From U.N.C.L.E." Watching the movie blast off into space, I couldn’t help but be reminded of a similar plot point from Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, which got me thinking about how great it would be to see Batman meet Austin Powers (before he’s frozen) on the page or one of these movies.

The Blu-ray is a great supplement to any “Batman” home video collection, especially the discs of the original show. In terms of bonus material, though, the disc is rather light. Aside from previews, the only notable extras are two 10-minute featurettes: “Those Dastardly Desperados,” about the villains; and “A Classic Cadre of Voices,” which interviews members of the voice cast.

Hopefully Batman vs. Two-Face will offer a bit more, such as a commentary with West and Shatner. Such a thing could turn what should be an exciting project into a truly epic one.
 


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