“You wanna get nuts? Let’s get nuts!” exclaims Batman as he brandishes some brass bat-knuckles.
I grew up watching reruns of the 1960s Batman TV series on Nickelodeon on weekday evenings (which was nicknamed Nick-At-Nite). Adam West brought such hilarious deadpan humor to the character (originally created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger), and the show was bizarrely entertaining (from over-the-top villains to canted camera angles to Batman’s usual incredible leaps of logic in deciphering clues). When it was announced that there would be an animated film featuring West (as Batman) and Burt Ward (as Robin) reprising their iconic roles to commemorate the show’s 50th anniversary, I was very excited (even more so when I found out that the film would have its world premiere at NY Comic Con!). I saw Rick Morales’ Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders recently on the first night of the 2016 NY Comic Con at the Main Stage 1-D in the Jacob Javits Center, and it was just a wonderful experience.
2016’s Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders follows the dynamic duo as they attempt to foil the schemes perpetrated by the combined forces of the Joker, the Penguin, the Riddler, and Catwoman. Morales brought together a terrific voice cast that included West (as Bruce Wayne/Batman), Ward (as Dick Grayson/Robin), Julie Newmar (reprising her role from the 1960s TV show as Selina Kyle/Catwoman), Jeff Bergman (as the Joker), William Salyers (as the Penguin), Wally Wingert (as the Riddler), Steven Weber (as Alfred Pennyworth), Jim Ward (as Commissioner James Gordon), Thomas Lennon (as Chief Miles O’Hara), Lynn Marie Stewart (as Aunt Harriet), and Sirena Irwin (as Miranda Moore). West and Ward fit back in to their most famous roles quite comfortably (by the sound of their voices, you can’t even tell it’s been 50 years since the show first aired). Newmar’s age is a bit more noticeable in her voice work, but in an odd way it seems rather fitting considering she’s voicing a character named Catwoman and it’s quite alluring as well. Wingert faithfully channels Frank Gorshin in his voice work as the Riddler.
The screenplay by James Tucker and Michael Jelenic delivers a solid Batman story with some interesting twists and turns, plenty of humor (the jaywalking bit, the amazing leaps of logic, etc.) and action, and is just downright fun. The computer animation was superb (the artwork was inspired by the Batman comics of the 1960s). The score by Kristopher Carter, Michael McCuistion, and Lolita Ritmanis makes great use of Neal Hefti’s theme from the 1960s TV show, adding to the film’s 1960s feel. The film was followed by a panel discussion at NY Comic Con featuring West, co-writer/producer Tucker, co-writer Jelenic, and director Morales. West was praised, and fans were already demanding a sequel (which ended up being officially announced at the very end of the panel, along with the name of the main villain and a video message from the actor who would be providing the voice of the main villain). Morales’ Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders is a welcome return for West and Ward to their most famous roles (in animated form). It retains the spirit of the live action 1960s TV series and is just entertaining from start to finish (you’ll want to watch the credits for some more hilarity).