Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders is easily my most favorite Batman movie – animated or otherwise – of 2016. Yes, I found this movie more gratifying than Batman: Bad Blood, Batman: The Killing Joke, and especially Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. And it’s not only because I had enjoyed the classic 1960’s Batman TV series this animated movie is based from (watched the reruns as a kid) – that was just the initial reason why I was looking forward to this film. But beyond being the nostalgic, campy fun that I expected it would be, it turned out being absolutely brilliant! This is a better, more delightful revisiting of the TV show than the excellent Batman ’66 comicbook series.
First and foremost, what’s great about Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders is that it makes the effort to capture the essence and charm of the Batman TV series. It brought back Adam West, Burt Ward, and Julie Newmar to voice the characters they had played in the series – Bruce Wayne/Batman, Dick Grayson/Robin, and Catwoman, respectively. Its plot is amusingly ludicrous and dumb. It has random juvenile lessons inserted in the narrative. Puns and histrionic lines relentlessly filled its dialogue. The fight scenes are onomatopoeia-packed, innocuous, and kid-friendly. And it references tons of elements of the TV show (my favorite was when Batman gets hit in the head and then hallucinates Catwoman splitting into three, which happens to be the three Catwomen actresses/versions of the TV show).
To put it simply, Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders impeccably replicates the storytelling structure, glorious campiness, and bubbly tone of the show. And just like the show, the movie succeeds in reminding everyone that Batman doesn’t always need to be dark and tortured. A goofy, light-hearted take on the character works wonderfully, too.
A significant aspect of this movie is being a throwback celebration of the TV show. But it actually has twists that make it something more distinct and well-layered. Heck, the second act even gets a bit edgy and more mature.
As for its humor, the campiness and absurd logic of its world make this movie innately hilarious, but the jokes are actually extremely clever, making allusions to not only the TV show, but also to other Batman screen adaptations (e.g. Tim Burton’s and Christopher Nolan’s) and Batman lore in general. True Batman fans will surely find these jokes and allusions immensely amusing.
All in all, I love Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders so freakin’ much. It had me laughing or chuckling many times, and even when I was doing neither, a smile was always on my face. It’s just that entertaining and gleeful.