Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders (2016) – An Enjoyable Animated Adventure in the 1960’s Batman Series

  Adam West is a man who has left quite a legacy on the world. I knew primarily as the neighbor of Quahog on “Family Guy,” but got an appreciation for him when I reviewed the film that came out of the  Batman 60’s TV show, which I’ll post later in the review. The longer I’ve been with dark and gritty Batman the more I’ve come to appreciate the anti-fascist Batman. The one who is a public servant and at the end of the day is honorable, rather than the sometime psychopath of the modern incarnation that has existed since at least Burton’s Batman. West is a man who is going to be missed and this review is in honor of him.

“Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders” was directed by Rick Morales and written by Michael Jelenic and James Tucker.

The story takes place within the same universe as the 1960’s tv show as Batman and Robin face off against Catwoman, The Riddler, Penguin and the Joker as they come up with a plan to turn Batman evil in order to pull of an devious heist and steal a powerful device.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The Writing – The writing is clever, from Robin’s word play and the articulation of Adam West to the many visual and verbal puns that cover this film like music…I really enjoyed the dialogue in this film and it is a big part of what kept me watching.

Batman and Robin – The dynamic duo are the only competent ones in Gotham as the Police Chief and Commissioner Gordon don’t know how to do anything but call Batman and Robin for help. I really like the duo, they have a great mentor/student and father/son relationship that is only further developed over the course of the film such as when Robin has to save Batman and we see Batman take his crime fighting to a fascist degree after he gets infected by Catwoman’s concoction. West’s Batman is wonderful in this as he always appeals to the villains’ better natures before fighting them. Like how Superman once was in film, he appeals to the good in people and Robin is the one striving to do the same. This innocence and lack of cynicism really lends power, especially in all the crap going on currently.

A Stand Against Vigilantism and Fascism – When Batman gets infected her turns into a dictator and takes over every role in Gotham City with the Replicator gun. He arrests everyone or takes their jobs and makes everything about him and his great nobility. It is a great critique of the Batman who does this and is rewarded for it…the Nolan, Snyder and Burton Batmans at the end of the day are not public servants…they are vigilantes that have no regard for the law outside of what they get out of it. This makes Batman an anti-hero, which isn’t bad but I hardly consider him a hero anymore…even though he is one of my favorite comic book characters. This Batman is an actual hero and his corruption to becoming like modern day Batman illustrates the flaws in the ideology of the current incarnations of the Dark Knight.

Okay: The Villains and their Plan – The villains just want to steal art…that is it and there is Penguin creeping on Catwoman. They are okay in that Joker just wants to have a good laugh and the Riddler needs clever Riddlers but they never become more than the one note villains which was a waste. I enjoyed when other classic villains from the show face off against them (an early Mr. Freeze!) as they each had potentially a bit more going on, given they were working with Catwoman and Robin to defeat the evil Batmen.

The Cons: Catwoman and Sexism – Catwoman pretty much only uses her sex appeal and the heroes’ chivalry as a weapon. This was a shame as her master plan to turn Batman evil is successful though she switches sides after being betrayed and again randomly wants to kill Robin and run away with Batman, implying she never changed before killing one of her lives? She is the only woman in the film and she is entirely defined by the male gaze, whether it is Batman or Penguin. This was a damn shame given how central she is the story. I really was hoping for better from her character and it was this issue that kept the film from being good, even though I found it enjoyable.

The film was a lot of fun and a lot better than the 1960’s film, which in many ways had camp that didn’t quite work and was really unfocused (https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2016/04/10/batman-1966-fun-camp-that-doesnt-quite-work/). This one was self aware but wasn’t insulting as I could tell how much passion was put into this project. I really hope that “Batman: The Caped Crusaders vs. Two-Face” which has Shatner playing a 60’s Two-Face. I really enjoy this Batman now and plan on checking out the show as whole, knowing that I’ll probably being seeing more of the sexism in regards to Catwoman, but I’ll also see Eartha Kitt who is one of the people I highly admire and of course Adam West in one of his most iconic roles. R.I.P. Adam West, may the good always defeat evil.

Final Score: 7.5 / 10

 

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Batman (1966): Fun Camp That Doesn’t Quite Work

Batman (1966)

     An important thing to remember in regards to “Batman” is he hasn’t always been the grim Dark Knight. For much of his history he’s actually been the one popularized by the live action show that brought about this movie where he was pretty much a mortal good guy with a side kick who used gadgets to solve issues and had a colorful collection of rogues. I’m going to state up front, I have a bias against the camp of this era. I grew up on Burton’s 1989 “Batman” and “Batman: The Animated Series” that came out of it, which in turn introduced me to “The Dark Knight Returns,” “The Long Halloween” and “The Killing Joke” all of which are some of my favorite Batman stories. I’ve always been a fan of noir and the early camp Batman had none of that noir feel to it.

     Given my bias, I am going to judge this film on it’s own merits though, even if due to the nature of my bias I did not enjoy it as much as the Burton or Nolan films, this is a film that can still compete against “Batman and Robin” and “Batman Forever.”

    “Batman” was directed by Leslie H. Martinson and written by Lorenzo Semple Jr. and produced by William Dozier.

The Pros: Bat and Penguin Gadgets – This is one bit of comedy that I actually enjoyed. Penguin has Rocket Umbrellas that the Rogues fly on, Batman has Bat Repellent and the list goes on. The list of gadgets was rather inventive and I like how it was this era of comics that inspired the Monarch and the gadgets in “The Venture Bros.”

The Rogues – The Rogues all have distinct personalities and work sort of…The Penguin and Catwoman are the only competent ones though. The Riddler and Joker could have been replaced by Pirate thugs and the story wouldn’t have changed at all.

Catwoman – Lee Meriwether is great as Catwoman as she is the one who actually manages to infiltrate and hurt Batman as a secret identity she takes is one Batman falls in love with and when he learns they are the same person it breaks his heart, which is sadly the only real damage anyone faces in this film. So she gets point for that. She clearly had fun in this role too.

The Penguin – The Penguin is all about the gadgets and they are fun! He also manages to infiltrate the Batcave too. Seriously, the Joker and the Riddler weren’t needed at all. The Penguin on his own manages to be the greatest threat of the bunch in regards to the capture of the device and turning the world leaders into dust (don’t worry, they are turned back). Burgess Meredith is fantastic.

Batman – Adam West makes a great Batman. He has charm and is easily the best part of this film besides Catwoman and the Penguin. Seeing him as Bruce Wayne is fun too as he goes through convoluted means to keep his identity secret.

Okay: Camp – The camp doesn’t always work. When it does (Penguin’s vehicles, Batman’s devices, etc.) When it doesn’t it is bad…from the Riddler ruining plans to our heroes being really really stupid.

Joker – The Joker has a great design but he basically functions as a minion. There is nothing he did in this film that couldn’t have been done by one of the pirate minions. He is a useless character in this.

Riddler – Like the Joker he has a great design but he spends most of the film sabotaging the Villains plans because of his need for riddles, making him also a useless figure in regards to the story. He isn’t a threat or is no more a threat than Penguin’s hired muscle.

The Humor – The humor is hit and miss…I liked all the Bat devices and Penguin devices as well as the Penguin’s submarine, but besides that it felt too forced. If it had been a funnier film I would have rated it higher.

The Soundtrack – The soundtrack is standard camp and isn’t anything I’d listen to again.

The Cons: The Cinematography – The filming looks cheap. This clearly looks like a made for television movie and there isn’t anything unique about it.

Authority Figures Who are Allies – Comissioner Gordon, the President and others appear in this but don’t really do anything but give Batman and Robin their missions. There is nothing unique about any of them, making them cons. Gordon in Burton’s movies had the same problem.

Robin – The wonder kid is just annoying. He is useful at least but he comes off like Wesley Crusher in “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” He is solving all of Batman’s issues and solving the Riddles when that should be Batman. Robin isn’t needed in this at all.

Don’t Drink and PSAs – I get kids watched this show but this was really annoying. It felt like the IHOP in “Man of Steel.” It wasn’t needed and had no place in the film.

Stupidity of our Heroes – Batman and Robin have to have every clue given to them, usually by the Riddler. Our heroes are not really competent at all, but everyone around them isn’t either so I guess it balances out?

  For what it is worth I did enjoy this film at times, even if at other times I found myself bored or the humor not quite working. Part of the issue was Batman and Robin had to have the answers handed to them in very obvious riddles by the Riddler most of the time and it was impossible to take any threats they made seriously since they took at 5 minutes to do a PSA about not drinking and remembering to stay in school. If this was a satire it would have worked a lot better, but because it was played straight it was brought down some. This was still fun camp and I’d honestly say it is worth checking out. This was Batman’s history for a long time and Adam West manages to be a very charming and corny Batman.

Final Score: 7 / 10