Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders full movie review - easily the best 2016 movie with Batman in it! a treat for fans of the West/Ward series
I'm not sure if I would've rated this as highly as I am had I not seen Batman appear in three other films this year and (with the exception of one that was a cameo) they were disappointing entries in the Batman world.
Maybe I'm just tired of having a "dark" Batman, and I say this as someone who collects the comics and has read many, many trades (yes, even New52 for you nerds going "wh-what?"), and seen the Burton Batman films countless times (the Nolan films get a little trickier for me, though Batman Begins is still a quality origin story). Definitely, not maybe, after the LEGO Movie, and with the upcoming LEGO Batman Movie, it seems difficult to find Batman as serious as he is when you have Batman singing about "Darkness! Dead Parents!" So enter in this, the return of Adam West and Burt Ward in a feature in 50 years, and I found it a complete delight and blast to the solar plexus.
Return of the Caped Crusaders isn't for the Batman fan that only grumbles about it being dark all the time, though interestingly this does reference the Dark Knight Returns in one line (and I had an especially riotous reaction to that). This is for the Batman fans that appreciated the campiness and the total self-referential attitude of the 60's series. I think that this was a great time for West/Ward/Newmar to return and for the filmmakers to try an animated movie since, oddly enough, after about 30 years of almost nothing but Dark Batman stories and movies (sure sure, with the exception of the Schumachers, but best to forget that for now), there's now at least some room, if not a turn around, for the campy and jokey and pun-explodingly-packed Batman series to return.
I could go into the plot but suffice it to say it's appropriate that it's for a cartoon - it involves a Bat-formula that Catwoman concocts and gets on Batman's cheek so that he becomes a "Bad" Batman, eventually making multiple Batmans (or, Batmen, which one, not sure), and it's up to Robin and Catwoman(!) to stop him or try to turn him (but can they when Batman has an Anti-Antidote?) This is thoroughly silly and yet it's as inventive as the show was. If you've seen the 66 movie then you should look at this as not so much a sequel as a simple follow-up, another in a series like when a new Pink Panther movie would come out.
What I appreciated the most is how much attention is paid to alliterations, to puns, to fully embracing the silliness and getting even a little meta about the impact of Batman over the past 50 years. There was a time this was seen as fun AND sophisticated, but that's been turned around by a lot of years of (often good, sometimes really great) Batman stories that returned it to its 'roots'. But isn't having a guy in a Bat costume with all of his Bat objects (there are too many to list here, but rest assured each one has its name written out right above it so you *know* what it is - this extends to the food factory having a sign outside saying "ABANDONED FROZEN FOOD FACTORY" hah!) kind of... silly? Or that the Joker has his slew of jokes or the Riddler with his riddles and Penguin with his "Rar!" sounds? Return of the Caped Crusaders is easily the best film with Batman in it in 2016, and probably my personal favorite in over a decade. I laughed, I laughed, and then I laughed some more.