By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)
Holy Double, no Triple Take … Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Batman! The Return of the Caped Crusaders should have my coffin co-writer (James Shaw) wake up from his post-Halloween coma, do the Batusi, dust his cowl off (from all the dirt I dumped on him) and fly to the nearest big box store to buy this animated video release and give a review. He loves the 60s Bat more than I do but his steadfast refusal to review any product on his own is his loss and my gain. Some readers may have wondered why his content is few and far between and I don’t comprehend why he behaves this way.
I picked up this product just because I find the creative heads at Warner Bros Animation never fails to disappoint. Just like the vintage show, lessons in morality are offered and advice in how to overcome obstacles are offered. Maybe James did not hear those messages and apply them to his life.
This video, like the series, is made for the yuk yuks and camp we all recall the TV series represented instead of being taken seriously. Though the show was not blatant in saying we should all be boy scouts, the throwback style was obvious in the many television programs from this era and it is recreated in all its memorable glory. The Andy Griffith Show is the best example of leads imparting infinite wisdom, and other programs like My Three Sons and Bonanza followed suit. Because the two are deputized as duly appointed representatives of Gotham Police, Batman has to remind Robin to do what’s right. From properly crossing the street at a corner instead of jaywalking to get to the other side to stop crime, the humourous examples remain!
Adam West and Burt Ward reprise their roles and West’s voice is older, if not wiser. Fortunately, it is not distracting. Ward sounds like he has never aged. Even Julie Newmar returns and there’s more meow in her raspy voice. To hear these characters interact with their doublespeak and euphemisms bring back fond moments I recall from the television show. All the style and panache from the original program are updated to give more zing to the style. Instead of mimicking the 60s intro, the movie length narrative has the feel of a modern cartoon. Some computer-rendered effects are used on top of the cel-animated form and Cat Woman looks as fetching as Newmar at her prime. Her role in this story elevates the once 24-minute program into a fully realized movie. She romantically wants Bats. She has a special liquid to incapacitate the hero, and the story sees him turn dark in order for The Penguin, The Riddler and The Joker to carry out their usual plot to steal precious jewellery to fund their criminal enterprises. While the caped crusader is off not caring anymore, the super criminals can run afoul!
West does his best to give the Wayne character more mojo. As for emoting the dark knight in new ways, the animation can not do the job alone. This later act defines this product more and I like to see more of West being West, instead of a typecasted. Ward slipped into the golly gees very easily even though I wished he had more of a role as a character who can eventually become Nightwing.
Nothing new was found with Aunt Harriet, Commissioner Gordon and the supporting characters. Jeff Bergman is very good channelling some of that Cesar Romero charm as the Joker, but to recreate the magic Burgess Meredith had as the Penguin was tough with William Salyers taking on the task. I remember John Austin as the Riddler more and Wally Wingert does nail the panache bang on because of his prior work in the video-game Batman: Arkham.
Each iteration of the Batman lore will have their legions of fans. As enjoyable as this movie is to bring back all the nostalgia and love for the classic series, I find myself to be dedicated to the Kevin Conroy, the proper DCAU, version. The entire superhero mythos is worked into the Batman: The Animated Series. George Reeve’s Adventures of Superman was syndicated in ’65 and the head scratcher here is in why William Dozier, creator of Batman, never considered tying the two DC properties together when it first aired in 1966. I never expected the two heroes to meet but because I read the comics, I knew the two belonged in the same universe. All I wanted to hear is that other superheroes exist. The crossover with the Green Hornet was not enough.
4 Batarangs out of 5