New “Caped Crusaders” Reminds Fans Batman Can Be Both Funny and Dark

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[quote_simple]”I’m the happy Batman. I’m the funny Batman.”[/quote_simple]

So said the original caped crusader himself, Adam West, after the world premiere of his new animated movie, Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders, at New York Comic Con on Thursday, October 6.

In a time of Christian Bales and Ben Afflecks, of Batmen who generally come across less darkly heroic as they do as rich assholes badly in need of cough drops, West and the team behind Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders appear as a welcome breath of fresh air.

What happened to all the funny? It’s a valid question to ask of superhero shows and movies, especially in recent years, beginning with the popularity of a markedly darker Batman in Batman Begins. Fortunately, shows and movies like Guardians of the Galaxy, Deadpool, The Flash, and even the Avengers movies have proven that humor in the kick-punch world of comic book heroes is still welcome, even celebrated, if done right. But what about Batman? Is the Dark Knight still too inherently—well, dark—to be touched with any degree of humor outside of an occasional wisecrack and cooly sarcastic remark? After all, Bruce Wayne has always been one of the cool guys, the kid on the playground with the coolest toys who knew just how popular he was. But there was a time when Bruce Wayne was lovably ridiculous and ridiculously campy in a way that only West could pull off with such ease, affection and flair.

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Adam West and Burt Ward as Batman and Robin in the original 1960s Batman series.

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Caped Crusaders brings back all of the camp and feeling of the original 1960s series but updates it with meta, self-aware humor that Batman fans — both old and new — can enjoy.

In the movie, Batman and Robin face off against a villainous team of some of their mightiest foes—the Joker, Riddler, Penguin and Catwoman — who have concocted a convoluted plot to get their way. But when Batman is directly affected by the villains’ plot, he begins to change in a way that makes even more trouble for Gotham. Add in an illogical trip to space, a nonsensical array of onomatopoeic action words during fight scenes, references to both the classic 1960s T.V. show and modern incarnations of Batman, nods to classic and contemporary superhero tropes and trends, an excess of “Holy!” exclamations from Burt Ward’s Boy Wonder, incomprehensible jumps of logic and extensive use of alliteration (a silly superabundance of sounds, if you will), and you’ve got every reason you need to check out the tongue-in-cheek hilarity that is Caped Crusaders.

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While Caped Crusaders could have easily presented a rerun of all that oldie-but-goodie glory of the original story, the movie never limits itself by sticking too resolutely to the original tone or narrative structure of its sixties predecessor; rather, it uses the classic camp, humor, stories and characters as a jumping-off point for the movie to make its themes and jokes a bit darker, a bit racier and a bit more self-aware than the old series fans might remember. In this shift exists (at its tamest) jokes or (at its more extreme) critiques of how the character of Batman has changed over the years, how sexualized female characters (in this instance, Catwoman) have been — and continue to be — portrayed and how many loopholes and flaws may exist even in the best of these heroic stories.

As West appears under the (animated) mask once again to voice Batman, Burt Ward also returns to voice Robin, as does Julie Newmar as Catwoman. While all of the vocal performances are on-point, it’s the addition of West, Ward and Newmar to the cast that really gives Caped Crusaders its authentic, throwback feel.

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The animation, which features the characters in their 1960s garb (complete with Batman’s unforgettable penciled-in eyebrows), feels classic and clearly reminiscent of the old show but with a refined shine and gloss that makes it a pleasure to watch.

(And in case you still don’t believe the hype, Caped Crusaders is already slated to receive a sequel, featuring William Shatner as Two-Face.)

If you’re a fan of Batman — a complex, self-aware Batman that can be funny and dark, smart and utterly ridiculous, all at the same time — Caped Crusaders is a movie you simply cannot miss. After all we Batman fans have endured over the years, perhaps this Batman—finally—is the hero we deserve and the one we need right now.

Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders premieres in theaters for just one day, October 10. It goes on sale digitally on October 11 and on DVD and Blu-ray on November 1.

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