Riddle me this! Why does Batman love jokes? Because of the "punch"-lines! "Ooof!" "Zap!" and "Boff!" are just the beginning when it comes to the poker-faced humor of Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders. Despite Batman's dark beginnings and his currently prevailing broodiness, most of the people responsible for telling his contemporary stories have an undying enthusiasm for his silliest incarnation: the 1966 Batman of the small and big screens, as played by Adam West. Now that longstanding rights issues have been cleared up, it's possible for the DC Universe Animated Original Movie team at Warner Animation Group to tell stories in the "Batman '66" universe. Re-enlisting original stars West, Burt Ward, and Julie Newmar, Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders serves as a gleeful exercise in nostalgia, a fun and family-friendly Batman story in its own right, and a running commentary on the character's flexible interpretation.
Co-writers James Tucker and Michael Jelenic have scripted a loving tribute to the iconic imagery and alliterative argot specific to the 1966 series and feature film. Wed to the DCU Animation style, the throwback becomes a fascinating pastiche that celebrates the brilliance of William Dozier's 1966 TV series (itself a hybrid of kid's adventure and adult satire), paints on the bigger canvas of the 1966 film, and remembers that West and Ward voiced the characters of Batman and Robin for years in TV animation, while offering something relevant to the current moment and the animated form of today.
The series' regular characters all return: caped crusaders Batman ("To the Batmobile!") and Robin ("Holy unholy alliance!"), trusty butler Alfred ("It's the Bat-Signal, sir"), Wayne Manor resident Aunt Harriet ("Land's sake!"), and those incompetent top cops Commisioner Gordon and Chief O'Hara ("What would we do without him?" "Saints preserve us!"). Like the 1966 film, the story assembles a superteam of felonious felons—Catwoman, Joker, Riddler, and Penguin—to vex the heroes, in a nefarious plot involving a Replica Ray and the theft of "priceless treasures and irreplaceable artworks." The action includes a trip on the Batrocket to a space station and, in keeping with the series' hallmarks, a couple of "cliffhanger"-style deathtraps, showcases for gadgetry (Bat-zooka, Bat-shield...) and vehicles (Batmobile, Whirly-Bat, Batboat), liberal use of dutch angles, and plenty of exclamatory fisticuffs.
Warner Home Video offers Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders in a colorful Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD package with a couple of nifty featurettes. The image packs punch with bright, bold hues and sharp delineation. Other than a bit of banding customary to animation, the picture is a beaut, and the lossless DTS-HD Master Audio mix delivers dynamic, full-bodied music, clear dialogue, and potent, well-placed effects.
"Those Dastardly Desperados" (10:29, HD) puts a particular focus on the villains and their voice actors, but also generally describes the Batman '66 tone. Interviewees include Adam West, Burt Ward, Julie Newmar, co-screenwriters/producers James Tucker and Michael Jelenic, Jeff Bergman, Wally Wingert, William Salyers, and Creative Director, Animation for DC Entertainment Mike Carlin.
The same participants show up—along with casting and voice director Wes Gleason—in "A Classic Cadre of Voices" (10:01, HD), which slightly broadens the focus to deal with the voice direction. The disc also includes the previously released "A Sneak Peek at Batman Vs. Robin" (10:07, HD) and "A Sneak Peek at Son of Batman" (9:28, HD), as well as Trailers, including one for the upcoming live-action Wonder Woman.
Bat-fans will definitely want to collect this entertaining addendum to the recently released complete-series Blu-ray set of Batman.
"Those Dastardly Desperados" (10:29, HD) Adam West, Burt Ward, Julie Newmar, co-writer/producers Michael Jelenic and James Tucker, Wally Wingert, William Salyers, Jeff Bergman, and Creative Director, Animation for DC Entertainment Mike Carlin.
"A Classic Cadre of Voices" (10:01, HD) casting and voice director Wes Gleason, West, Ward, Newmar, Wingert, Bergman, Salyers, Tucker, and Carlin.
"A Sneak Peek at Batman Vs. Robin" (10:07, HD)
"A Sneak Peek at Son of Batman" (9:28, HD)
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