Blu-ray Review: Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders

By , Contributor
Warner Bros. Animation and DC Entertainment have delivered an absolutely delightful blast of nostalgia with Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders. Animated to approximate character likenesses of the old '60s live-action TV series, it presents a lighter, more colorful Gotham than what is often seen in DC's animated features. The voice cast boasts the much ballyhooed return of Adam West as Batman, Burt Ward as Robin, and Julie Newmar as Catwoman. Publicity-wise, the casting was a stroke of genius—but more importantly, it works. The trio of Bat-vets seems to relish the opportunity to revisit their signature roles, with no one phoning it in. While the unmistakable toll of senior citizenship is audible in both West and Newmar's nonetheless sturdy performances, you'd never think Robin was being voiced by a 71-year-old (Burt Ward definitely does not sound his age!). 

Batman Return of the Caped Crusaders Gordon.jpg The villains are each conceived as tributes to the TV series as well. Looney Tunes voice specialist Jeff Bergman perfectly evokes Cesar Romero's over the top take on The Joker. Likewise The Penguin (voiced by William Salyers) and The Riddler (Wally Wingert) are portrayed with a terrific tip of the hat to Burgess Meredith and Frank Gorshin. Several villainous "cameos" enliven the film's "Blam!"- and "Kerplow!"-laden climax. The fight scenes are all punctuated by such title cards, regularly evoking the '60s series (a tad overused if a wee bit of criticism can balance out the overall praise for this film). 
 
Batman Return of the Caped Crusaders batman robin.jpg The plot revolves around the quartet of villains (Catwoman is along for the ride with Joker, Penguin, and Riddler but her motives constantly waver) and their Replicator Ray. The device can create a perfect clone of anyone. When Bruce Wayne is replicated to create a virtual army of Batmen, each predisposed to do The Joker's bidding, all hell breaks loose in Gotham. The plot is as silly as anything in the original series (which, of course, was the whole point in Michael Jelenic and James Tucker's screenplay). The fun is found in all the throwback references and winking humor: Robin/Dick's Aunt Harriet (voiced by Lynne Marie Stewart) constantly befuddled by her nephew's regularly disappearances in the company of Bruce Wayne, the ever-present Neil Hefti "Batman Theme," occasional sly meta-references to later Batman incarnations, and much more.

Warner's Blu-ray includes two all-new featurettes: "A Classic Cadre of Voices" (10 minutes) and "Those Dastardly Desperados" (10 minutes). Not surprisingly, the focus on each of these is the return of the iconic cast members. We get to hear from West, Ward, and Newmar as well as see them in the studio at work. The voice actors who handled the other villains check in, too—each sharing their enthusiasm at being able to recreate such beloved versions of their characters. We also hear from director Rick Morales, who brings a much more serious tone to his thoughts on the film. Overall, these provide a neat look at the creation of Return of the Caped Crusaders.

Warner Bros.' Blu-ray Combo pack offers a Blu-ray with 1080p high definition picture and DTS-HD MA 5.1 sound, a standard DVD version, and a Digital HD download.

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Chaz Lipp is a Seattle-based freelance writer whose focus is film and music. His new jazz album Good Merlin is now available.

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