Monday, October 10, 2016

Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders

Tonight I saw a Batman movie in theaters, which has not been a rare outing for me in 2016. The year started out with the messy, grimdark Batman v Superman; progressed with the messier, grimdarker, but at least Hamill-ful Batman: The Killing Joke; and then sighed and continued with the messiest Hot Topic mess, Suicide Squad. But despite the third time not being a charm, DC went forth (get it?) with yet another theatrical release.

Turning away from the grimy and the lurid, Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders harkens back to the 1960s TV show. In Batman: The Killing Joke, the Joker paralyzes Barbara Gordon/Batgirl, strips her, photographs her, and then shows those photographs to her father, Commissioner Gordon, whom he has also stripped and imprisoned in an X-rated roller-coaster, all so that he can convince Batman to kill him. In the 60s Batman TV show, Joker rigs the high school milk machine to dispense money instead of milk, thus robbing Gotham's youth of their passion for hard and honest work, because why be a productive citizen when you can just get money from the milk machine? (Dick Grayson/Robin, of course, is not tempted by this corrupting teat.)

Nice try, commies!

The wholesome zaniness was a boon for great thespians wanting to have a scene-chewing blast in the Rogues Gallery. Eartha Kitt prowled as Catwoman, Burgess Meredith chortled as the Penguin, and barely-in-the-closet Cesar Romero and Frank Gorshin got to be as flamboyant as they pleased with the Joker and the Riddler. However, Adam West and Burt Ward, the painfully earnest Batman and Robin, had a much harder time with the show's legacy.

Fortunately, they both seem to have reconciled with their preppy, do-gooding characters, and reunited as Batman and Robin (along with one of three Catwomen, Julie Newmar) to lend their voices for this animated feature, directed by animation veteran Rick Morales.

Fans who have been disappointed by past 2016 Batman movies might ask, "Do I really want to invest my time into this again?" That's a fair question, so first ask yourself these questions:

  • Would I be in hysterics (of the good kind) if the movie opened with Dick doing ballet?
  • Do I think deep down that what the Joker really needs is a guitar-gun that shoots paper streamers?
  • If Batman were to travel to space, would his spacesuit's helmet having adorable bat ears be important to me? 

If you answered "yes" to all of the above, there's a good chance you'll enjoy this.

Note the seatbelts. They're villains, not uncouth monsters.

And yes, space is involved, but surprisingly, it's not even the climax! The self-aware yet gleeful craziness just keeps coming long after our heroes and villains have fought in the International Space Station. The film's not completely perfect - it is very silly, Newmar clearly struggled with the voicework, and some won't like the adherence to retro gender stuff. But it's darn good fun, and definitely the best Batman movie I saw this year. It was also the only one I saw in a nearly empty theater, but this has been marketed mostly for home viewing. Hopefully the nostalgia factor and yearning for some fun Batman will win over burned-out Batfans.

Image info:
Serious Robin: Batman wikia
Extremely safe driving in a Jokermobile: SciFiNow

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