The Other Side of Animation 63: Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders

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Oh, my goodness, it finally happened! In 2016, DC released a superhero film that wasn’t terrible or super-divisive! 2016 has definitely been an uneven year, but we finally have a product that changes that! Granted, it’s another Batman film, but hey, you’ve got to take the victories as they come. What is also interesting is that this universally praised DC film is based off of one of the best cheesiest shows of all time, this is Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders. This new animated film from DC is directed by Rick Morales, and has Adam West, Burt Ward and Julie Newmar reprising their roles from the 1960s Batman TV series. So, how good is this movie? Is it DC’s Deadpool? Or is it meant to be yet another divisive, but mostly in the middle of the road DC film? Let’s find out.

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As previously mentioned, Adam West and Burt Ward reprise their roles as Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson. While enjoying a lovely night of television, they realize that the ghoulish team-up of Joker, voiced by Jeff Bergman, The Penguin, voiced by William Salyers, The Riddler, voiced by Wally Wingert, and Catwoman, voiced by Julie Newmar, are joining forces to pull off the heist of the century! Can the dynamic duo of Batman and Robin stop the four?

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So, what makes this DC’s best film? Well, it’s because it takes full advantage of its setting and characters. Unlike the previous movies that tried to either a.) shove two comic book storylines into one, b.) have two cuts, and release the one that people were criticizing due to its editing, c.) add additional story that hurts the main story, or d.) have a story focus on the most unlikable characters of all time, Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders knows what it wants to be. It loves its setting, and the writers and director took full advantage of it. You get corny lines, captain obvious lines from Robin, Adam West trying to connect current events to them fighting crime, the police being utterly useless, and cheesy lines everywhere. Oh, and I do mean everywhere! It’s easily one of the most consistently funny films that I have seen this year. And in a year where we have had Sausage Party and Storks, that’s saying something. It also has some not-so-subtle commentary about the darker incarnations of the iconic superhero. Listen, I love stuff like Tim Burton’s Batman, The Dark Knight, and the Batman Arkham games, but there is a point to where being “dark” comes off as “trying too hard” and “edgy”, which seems to happen a lot to Batman. Not to say I like the corny fun Batman over something like Batman: The Animated Series, but when you can do well with both, then both have a reason to be entertaining to watch. You even get a cool little twist about halfway through the film with commentary about a darker Batman. I was at first concerned about how they were going to handle this, but in the end, it still felt like one giant joke, and it was pulled off perfectly. It’s one of those rare experiences where the entire story and the characters are enjoyable from beginning to end. I think my favorite part about the experience is the trope of how easy it is for the dynamic duo to solve the riddles when they seem like something out of a Sierra adventure game, or how overly, and I mean overly prepared they are for situations.

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The animation is leagues better than Batman: The Killing Joke, since it feels like characters have actual movement. It can be a bit stiff, but it doesn’t become super-distracting. The voice cast is also pretty solid. I have some complaints, but I feel like Burt Ward, Adam West, and Julie Newmar give off the best performances. The cheesy music is nothing too memorable, but it fits the mood of the story.

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If I had to complain about something, it would be some of the voice acting. The villain’s dialogue comes off as clunky, and it might be due to how the actors behind them deliver it. Some of the main characters’ dialogues also felt weirdly delivered at times, but that’s probably due more to their age. I also wish the ending could have been more over-the-top in silly action. I understand they didn’t want to put all of their eggs in one basket, but when you have a plot as funny and goofy as 60s Batman can get, you want to go out on the ultimate high note.

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Still, even with some weird line deliveries and an ending that could have gone further, Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders is definitely the funniest animated film I have seen this year in terms of comedies, and is no doubt DC’s best movie of 2016. It’s easily their most well-received film, and is one I would highly recommend purchasing. They even announced a sequel where William Shatner will voice Two Face. Well, this was a fun review to write, since I didn’t have many kind words to DC’s other projects. Next time, we will head upward with the French/Danish film, Long Way North. Thanks for reading, and see you all next time!

Rating: Go See It!

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