ONOMATOPOEIA. A phrase – probably coined before Adam West’s gaudy take on Batman – which really sums up the somewhat “in-your-face” nature of the Batman of the 60’s. Well holy shitballs Batman, Joe’s got his hands on a copy of “Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders” – the newest in the DCAU line, which sees the return of *some* of the original cast to voice this cartoon caper. Is it worth your time? Read on.
Adam West’s revisionary stint as Bruce Wayne/Batman remains a cherished property in cultural zeitgeist, with its over the top acting, effects, costumery and…well let’s face it, everything, it’s a fixed point in the history of Batman, and more importantly a footnote to a happier time in comics and tv.
Having not experienced everything in the Batman 66′ canon, I found it interesting at how immediately accessible Return of the Caped Crusaders was. Which is one of the strengths of this iteration of the character, it’s a simple and fun take on a character that’s increasingly gone the way of the psychopathic misanthrope. Well, Perhaps in sympathy then, for the rather murderous take on Batman that graced our screens this year in “Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice” here’s one that just wants to have fun, and probably kiss Catwoman (we know she wants him) and maybe embrace the homoerotic undercurrents between him and Robin…Do these things happen? Well, that’d spoil the fun of watching it!
To grasp my take of RotCC more fully, let’s discuss the animation first, which is purely functional here. In terms of pure likeness to the characters from the original TV series, they’ve nailed the look and mannerisms. It’s unfortunate then, that in watching this the sense is generated that perhaps this entry in the DCAU perhaps lost out on a bit of funding, and it’s clear to see – there’s a roughness to parts of the animation, and some elements of 3D animation that don’t quite gel with the 2D elements. But, in terms of producing multiple animations at any given time, the people in charge over the DCAU most definitely find themselves juggling budgets all of the time, and evidently concessions have to be made.
The voice acting is characteristically superb here, with Adam West, Burt Ward and Julie Newmar returning to voice Batman, Robin and Catwoman respectively. They deliver their lines in the same cadence and camp frivolity that made the original TV show so watchable, and it really goes to elevate RotCC to something that neatly slots in with previously established items in this particular wing of the franchise.
Narratively, this is where I found the most interesting aspect of this release, as it links into my discussion regarding the comparison between 60’s Batman and the psychopath Frank Miller popularised, as the story sees Batman slip into the latter behavior and it’s up to Robin and Catwoman to snap him out of it. It’s a really compelling set up, and perhaps for me at least, served as a massive middle finger to the Batman of recent years, who can’t have fun. There’s a particular scene that really cements this notion when Batman decides to put some knuckle dusters on and declares that he’s going to break some bones, the traditional “WHAM”,”BOP” etc. are replaced by harsher, much more violent terms. Hopefully, this is DC being a bit self aware and poking fun at itself, as it definitely promotes a healthy discourse around the subject of a hyper-violent Batman; particularly with people’s complaints about Batman being too grim in BvS. If you’ve got to give DC credit, give it where it’s due, they certainly want to please their audience.
Around this, the story is pretty standard campy stuff, there’s Bat-Gadgets aplenty, weird innuendos and even a space segment. It’s average stuff, with moments of brilliance; For fans of the original series and Bat-fans in general this is a must watch.
Joe Crouch is a crusty mollusc with delusions of grandeur and pretensions of artistic endeavour. His tea is served between two and four. He tweets, infrequently @Grost and Instagrams his food @Sourcrouch.