Wednesday, 19 October 2016
Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders (Film Review)
This film is arguably one of the single best releases of 2016. Really, there are no other words for it. Right from start to finish, this is an absolute joy to watch and will leave you grinning from ear to ear. This is the Yang to Batman Vs. Superman's Yin, managing to be bright, colourful and thrilling from start to finish. Nailing the rare lightning-in-a-bottle effect cheesiness which made Flash Gordon such a classic, it manages not only to play many ridiculous scenes absolutely straight faced, but still somehow shifts into self-parody without ever hurting this effect.
The story here involves all the villains teaming up once more, returning to plague the citizens of Gotham with their fiendish schemes. In response, the dynamic duo once more leap into action, but things might be slightly different this time.
There are ultimately going to be two camps of audiences watching this film, those who have seen the 60s television show and those who have not. Trying to focus upon one or the other is always going to be problematic, as it means you're cutting off a significant chunk of your viewership, while trying to cover both is a balancing act few films nail. Thankfully, this one gets it absolutely right. There are enough subtleties and details here for fans of the franchise to pick up on, from certain adapted quotes from the comics to some surprisingly smart turns when it comes to commenting on the direction of the character post Silver Age. Those who lack this context will find just as much fun in the sheer ridiculousness of it, sheer volume of jokes and the ability for the script to lean on the show's better known scenes without turning them into a crutch.
The beauty of the film is that even if you don't get one gag, there will be four or five more along in a minute to make you laugh. While it doesn't completely bombard the viewer with jokes until it becomes exhausting, each is so well worked into the script that it never becomes bothersome. Seeing it is akin to watching Airplane! where, many of the visual aspects work seamlessly around the scenes themselves, and those inserted into the dialogue fit naturally into conversations. Because the film sells you on the idea that it's in it's own little world so early on, many of the quirky or odd elements quickly just fit into place. The fact it manages to keep gearing this up as the film goes along means by the end, you're willing to accept damn near anything without it ever feeling at odds with the world.
The animation is definitely spot on, arguably even more so than in other DC Animated productions. While The Killing Joke's adaptation has been better known for its story problems more than anything else, there's no denying that the animation proved to be surprisingly low grade at points. While it was certainly great for anything on the small screen, and still featured Bruce Timm's distinctive qualities, it suffered from odd choppiness or limited movement. This was most evident during the Joker's dance number, and despite being of a similar quality, Return of the Caped Crusaders manages to get away with it. Much of this is admittedly down to style, emulating elements of Hanna Barbera animation and visuals; yet at the same time the smooth movement and ease at which certain complicated fights are handled cannot be denied.
As for the voice actors, do you even need to ask? An unfortunate number of the older actors have sadly passed way in the decades since the series ended, and finding a good replacement is difficult at the best of times. This said, while they aren't performing full fledged impressions of Cesar Romero or Meredith Burgess, many of the key choices do nail the exact style of the characters. In fact, the only ones who do seem out of place at times are the leading men who, it has to be said, do sound definitely older compared to the show. It's an unavoidable issue for sure, but in the case of Adam West it's hard not to pick up on how certain terms or statements are dragged out. Of course, this thankfully hardly hurts his performance, but it can seem jarring to those who have recently seen the show.
At the end of the day, is Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders worth seeing? Do you really need to ask. While it's hard to say anyone will enjoy watching this, those with a difficulty accepting the sheer zaniness of the concept will probably find many of the jokes jarring. That aside however, if this trailer makes you even start to crack a grin, definitely grab this one at the earliest opportunity.