Warner Bros. Animation and DC Entertainment take Batman fans on a journey into the iconic past with the full-length animated Batman feature film – Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders. The film features the vocal performances of Adam West (Batman), Burt Ward (Robin) and Julie Newmar (Catwoman).
It's back to the 1960s as Batman and Robin spring into action when Gotham City is threatened by a quartet of Batman's most fiendish foes – Penguin, The Joker, Riddler and Catwoman. The four Super-Villains have combined their wicked talents to hatch a plot so nefarious that the Dynamic Duo will need to go to outer space (and back) to foil their arch enemies and restore order in Gotham City. It's a truly fantastic adventure that will pit good against evil, good against good, evil against evil … and feature two words that exponentially raise the stakes for both sides: Replicator Ray. Holy Multiplication Tables!
Adam West steps behind the microphone to bring Batman to fully animated fruition. Burt Ward joins the fun as Batman's sidekick, Robin, giving The Boy Wonder his voice in animated form. And Julie Newmar, star of stage (Tony Award winner for The Marriage-Go-Round) and screen (Seven Brides for Seven Brothers), dons her feline ears to bring Catwoman to life.
'Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders' is such a fantastic idea for an animated movie, one can't help but wonder what took DC and Warner Bros. so long to make it happen. Although DC probably won't admit it, I sense the idea came about thanks to director and superhero fan-boy Kevin Smith, who – along with Ralph Garman, his co-host of a weekly podcast titled "Hollywood Babble-On" – suggested this very idea back when the original Batman series finally came to Blu-ray. Of course, the two Babble-buddies have nothing to do with this release, which is kind of insulting, especially since Mr. Garman is not only a master of voices (he does impressions on the podcast weekly), but a major Batman fan.
The movie reunites original TV series actors (or at least the voices of) Adam West (Batman), Burt Ward (Robin), and Julie Newmar (Catwoman) for a brand-new animated adventure that takes on the look and tone of the original episodes. Of course, no Batman reunion would be complete without the return of The Joker, The Penguin, and The Riddler, and since Cesar Romero, Burgess Meredith, and Frank Gorshin have all gone to that big Rogue's Gallery in the sky, DC has hired a trio of new voice actors who do a pretty good job replicating the originals' voices.
In keeping with the tone of the original, the plot here is pretty silly and involves – or at least starts with – the villainous foursome stealing a ray gun that has the capability of duplicating anyone it shoots. Naturally, Batman and Robin save the day, but unbeknownst to Batman, he's been given a chemical by Catwoman that slowly starts turning him into a self-centered, power-hungry Bat-jerk (just like Adam West...I kid, I kid!). Signs that all is not well begin when Bruce Wayne fires his loyal butler and lifetime friend, Alfred, and then things escalate from there. It's not long before Bruce Wayne/Batman decides to use the ray gun on himself, creating an army of "Batmen" that he uses to take over Gotham City (including using two of them to replace Commissioner Gordon and Chief O'Hara).
Robin eventually figures out what is going on, and actually has to enlist the aid of Catwoman (who has been ousted by the other three supervillains – those misogynists!) to help bring Batman back to the good side of things. However, even when they manage to do that, they still need to work together to get those dastardly criminals back behind bars.
The only negative I have to say about 'Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders' is that it seems to go on for a little too long (78 minutes, but keep in mind the series it's based on had half-hour episodes) and feels like several different stories jammed into one big movie. It might have been more fun if DC had instead given us three separate episodes, which would allowed for a couple of those great "cliffhangers" that used to end each show. But otherwise this is a really fun presentation containing everything fans used to love about the old series: quippy one-liners from Adam West, lots of fight scenes, Dutch camera angles, and even a little bit of the Batusi thrown in for good measure.
This is easily one of the more entertaining DC animated titles to date, and I've got good news for those who enjoy this release: DC is doing it again, using an old, never-filmed script from famed writer Harlan Ellison that pits Batman against Two-Face. Playing the villain? None other than William Shatner! Stay tuned for that release in 2017, Bat-fans...same Bat-website, same Bat-reviewer!
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders' bams, pows, and socks its way onto home video in this Blu-ray/DVD/Digital HD release. The 25GB Blu-ray and dual-layer DVD arrive housed inside an eco-friendly Elite keepcase that also includes two inserts: one with a code for an UltraViolet digital copy of the movie, and the other a request to take an online Warner Bros. survey. A slipcover with artwork matching that of the keepcase slides overtop. Both the Blu-ray and DVD are front-loaded with a trailer for Suicide Squad and an advertisement for DC's All Access app. The main menu is a still of the box cover image, with selections horizontally across the bottom of the screen.
The Blu-ray in this release is region-free.
'Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders' very much follows the visual style of DC's other animated releases, while still doing a pretty good job of making things look like they did in the old 60's TV series. As you probably guessed before even reading this (especially if you're a collector of DC animation), once again some banding issues occur here, although they're not as frequent or as obvious as I've seen on other DC titles. On the other hand, problems with pixelation and/or noise in the image isn't a problem at all. Keeping with the TV show that it's emulating, this title has a nice, bright and varied color palette, which adds to the enjoyment of one's viewing.
Overall, this turns out to be one of DC's better-looking and least-problematic releases, and fans of both the studio's animated titles as well as the 1960s TV series should be pretty happy with what they get here.
The featured audio track here is an English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio one, which doesn't show off as much as most of the other DC animated releases, but is still crisp, clean, and free of any noticeable defects. There's very little use of directionality throughout, although one instance that I do remember is when Bruce Wayne throws the red bat-phone into the fireplace at Wayne Manor. Despite having a number of action sequences, LFE use is almost non-existent. The spoken word is exclusively up-front, which leaves the surrounds to be used primarily to enhance the musical score. Believe it or not, 'Return of the Caped Crusaders' is very much a dialogue-heavy release with several scenes where no surround usage is being made at all. Still, in terms of any defects, there's no glitches with this lossless track.
In addition to the 5.1 lossless track, 5.1 Dolby Digital tracks are available in French and Spanish (Latin), as are subtitles in English SDH, French, and Spanish (Latin).
Holy blasts from the past, Batman! This wonderful release is like a gift from the comic book gods, bringing back everything we loved about the old 'Batman' television series in a brand-new adventure. Full of fun, action, and great bits of dialogue, this turns out to be one of DC's best animated releases. Highly Recommended!