After Batman V Superman:Dawn Of Justice dramatically failed to live up to the hype, DC is trying to inject some much-needed cred into the franchise – with animation. Just what you need if you can’t wait until next February for the Lego version.
Batman:Return Of The Caped Crusaders had a “Holy One Night Only!” one day release in cinemas last month and now arrives on DVD and download. But don’t be fooled into thinking this is just a revival of the 1960s cartoons. It’s all new, but with more than a few nods towards the original TV series, including the usual suspects for villains and the voices of Adam West and Burt Ward as the Dynamic Duo. This time, they’re preventing their usual adversaries The Joker, The Riddler, The Penguin and Catwoman from taking over the world. And the Felonious Four have a dastardly scheme up their collective sleeve. An army of Batman clones. Holy double take!
So, yes, there’s the usual proliferation of alliteration, all those onomatopoeic captions during the fight sequences – from Whomp! to Zap! via Kerpow! – and a healthy dose of terrible puns for good measure. When the villains manage to escape capture yet again, they send Batman a sheet of tinfoil. Foiled, geddit? Even better are the joyously superfluous labels that pop up on locations and buildings. Like the former frozen food factory, used by the villains as a hide-out. Next to the building is a sign emblazoned with “Abandoned Frozen Food Factory”. Strange it’s alliteration-free.
All of that makes it huge fun, a hoot for anybody who loved the style of the TV original and it also takes the proverbial out of itself at any given chance. Batman is the biggest target of the lot. If you’re expecting the darker version of the Caped Crusader, then dig out your Dark Knight trilogy, because you won’t find him here. This Batman is pompous, self-righteous and takes himself and his crime fighting duties so seriously that he’ll only use a proper pedestrian crossing – no jay walking for him! – and enters a building by anything other than the front door in exceptional circumstances.
As well as re-uniting the original Batman and Robin, Julie Newmar reprises her role as Catwoman, while a new crew make a decent fist of replacing the voices of Burgess Meredith, Caesar Romero and Frank Gorshin, who were the original Penguin, Joker and Riddler. And devotees will relish all the little references to other Batman films and comics, including fleeting appearances from other fiendish felons like Mr Freeze and False-Face.
So with all the conventions ticked off the list, plus a plot that’s pretty much incidental, there’s little here that won’t entertain and crack you up laughing. Except for one thing. For the first half hour or so, it’s a riot, with the laughs coming just as thick and fast as the action. But once you get past that, it’s just more of the same, so that it’s not only repetitive but your attention starts to wane.
That said, it’s way more fun than any of the other offerings we’ve had from DC this year. Just don’t go expecting a super hero movie in the true sense of the word. You won’t get it. But you will get a comedy. An intentionally funny one.
Batman:Return Of The Caped Crusaders is released on DVD and download today.