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Western Animation / Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders

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Holy animated tribute! They're back!

Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders is a 2016 Direct to Video animated movie which is part of the DC Universe Animated Original Movies. A 50th anniversary tribute to the 1960s Batman series, it sees three of the show's original actors reprising their roles: Adam West as the Caped Crusader, Burt Ward as the Boy Wonder, and Julie Newmar as Catwoman.

It's back to the 1960s as Batman and Robin spring into action when Gotham City is threatened by a quartet of Batman's most fiendish foes — Penguin, The Joker, Riddler, and Catwoman. The four supervillains have combined their wicked talents to hatch a plot so nefarious that the Dynamic Duo will need to go to outer space (and back) to foil their arch enemies and restore order in Gotham City.

The trailer can be seen here. The movie was released on Digital HD on 11 October 2016, and on Blu-ray and DVD on 1 November 2016.

A sequel, Batman vs. Two-Face, came out in 2017.

Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders provides examples of:

  • Actor Allusion: When under the influence of Catwoman's Batnip, Batman clones himself and replaces all of Gotham's authority figures with his clones. One of the clones becomes the Mayor.
  • Adaptation Name Change: In a retroactive sense, this animated film gives Chief O'Hara's forename as Miles, when his first name was never revealed in the original show and the mainline comic's interpretations of the character established his given name as Clancy.
  • Adaptational Badass: Most characters get a mild version of this, since animation means they can do more impressive stunts and have bigger, flashier fights than their live-action predecessors. Surprisingly, the one who gets it most might be King Tut, who had zero fighting skills on the original show but here has enough Stout Strength to take out three evil Batmen.
    • Batman himself gets a bit of this as the storyline makes him do things that would never have been allowed in the original series.
  • Art-Style Dissonance: The art direction and animation style of the film is similar to that of the recent DC films and shows. The campy content, on the other hand, is as far as you can get from its direct predecessor in the DC Animated Movies, Batman: The Killing Joke.
  • Attention Whore: Evil Batman describes this as his motivation for taking over Gotham Palace and rigging everyone's TV sets to explode if they don't watch.
  • Backported Development: Alfred being depicted as someone who's worked for the Waynes since Bruce's childhood and who therefore has a very close bond with him. This was an idea that was only introduced in the comics as late as Frank Miller's Year One story-arc published a good twenty years after the series originally aired, and was thus never a part of the original series or even the comics of the time.note 
  • Badass Bystander: Unlike in the original series where the ordinary Gotham civilian tended to cower in fear ineffectually until Batman and Robin showed up, the audience at the Gotham Palace tries to charge and capture the four villains until the police arrive, something NO OTHER GOTHAM CIVILIANS who aren't superheroes, in ANY continuity, have ever tried to do.
  • Bat Deduction: Wouldn't be a true tribute without it.
  • Batman Can Breathe in Space: Played painfully straight as Catwoman gets blown out of an airlock with zero ill effects. (That said, in the original series Catwoman had an almost supernatural ability to avoid death, which is likely revisited at the end of this film, and confirmed in the sequel which has her alive and well.)
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: The Joker, the Penguin, the Riddler, and Catwoman team up, just like they did in the film of the series.
  • Broad Strokes: Not story-wise (since the original show never had much in the way of continuity), but definitely in how much the animated characters resemble their live-action predecessors. Batman and Robin are fairly dead ringers for how West and Ward looked back in the 1960s, but more minor characters like Commissioner Gordon take almost entirely after the comics versions. And Batgirl is nowhere to be seen.note 
  • Camp: The whole film is an attempt to recapture the campy essence of the 1960s series with modern animation.
  • Conservation of Ninjutsu: Downplayed, to the point of near-aversion, in the big Bat-fight between the army of evil Batmen and the army of second-string villains Robin and Catwoman have assembled. The Batmen mop up the villains without too much difficulty, and each villain takes out one or two Batmen at most before falling.
  • Continuity Cavalcade: The army that Robin and Catwoman assemble to fight Evil Batman consists of fourteen second-string villains from the original show, from almost-A-listers like Egghead and King Tut to one-shots like Archer and Minstrel.
  • Continuity Nod: Dick Grayson claims that their greatest foes have RE-united. Nodding to the first time they united in the 1966 movie.
    • The credits reference the famous "Some days you just can't get rid of a bomb" scene and the Batusi.
  • Continuous Decompression: When Catwoman is Thrown Out the Airlock, the air continues to rush out for long after it should have ended.
  • Conveyor Belt o' Doom: Batman and Robin are strapped to a giant meal tray by the villainous foursome. The Joker then activates the conveyor belt the tray is on and it starts heading towards a giant oven (with "Giant Oven" written on it). It doesn't prevent Robin from indulging in punny Casual Danger Dialogue on their seemingly hopeless situation, just as he did in the original live-action series.
  • Cool Car: The 1960s Batmobile is back too. The Joker and Catwoman also have themed cars; the Jokermobile can be turned around during chases to face pursuers and fire a grenade launcher at them.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Evil Batman knew Robin and Catwoman would be trying to trick him into taking the Bat-Antidote. So what does he do? Well, create an Bat-Anti-Antidote of course!
    • Robin knew that Evil Batman might capture him and Catwoman and most likely use the radiation from the rocket silo (Evil Batman raised its edges so they couldn't swing out of it) to kill them, so he sprayed himself and Catwoman with the Bat-Isotope.
    • Batman even has a backup plan for when he turns evil! Batman and Alfred have an agreement — given their long history together, the only logical reason that Batman would ever fire Alfred is if he weren't acting of his own free will. Therefore Alfred would have standing orders to gather ingredients for a mind-control antidote.
  • Day of the Jackboot: Evil Batman inflicts this on Gotham, installing his clones into every single government job, and several non-government ones.
  • Dead Artists Are Better: When Penguin complains that the Sad Clown painting Joker stole wasn't that valuable, Joker responds that it'll be worth a lot more when he bumps off the artist who made it.
  • Disc-One Final Boss: Subverted. The Joker, the Riddler, and the Penguin's plan is seemingly foiled halfway into the movie. The rest of the run time is about Evil Batman...until it turns out he was just a distraction for the first three to go knock over a bunch of museums.
  • Driven to Suicide: As with her debut episode and "Scat! Darn Catwoman", Catwoman falls to her apparent death from the Penguin's blimp in the end when Batman refuses to join her and she is not willing to go back to face jail-time. Still, knowing Catwoman's later appearances in the show, she may return. She does indeed return in Batman vs. Two-Face.
  • Dutch Angle: Used heavily, as it was one of the most prominent elements of the original '66 show and is one of the first clues to Batman's slow descent into evil. Later given an absolutely hilarious lampshade, as one of the cameras at the Gotham Palace has a specific "Fight Scene" setting that does exactly this.
  • Enemy Mine: Robin teams up with Catwoman to return Evil Batman to normal. Catwoman helps the heroes to get revenge on her former partners in crime after they betray her and at one point directly saves Robin's life.
  • Exactly What I Aimed At: While fighting the villains in zero gravity, Batman flings a Batarang at them. The villains laugh as it whizzes past them harmlessly, but the Batarang ricochets off a column and hits the switch to turn the gravity back on.
  • Expy: Miranda Monroe is a very obvious stand-in for Marilyn Monroe.
  • Fanservice: Catwoman prominently shaking her tail during the credits.
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!: Robin indignantly declares that Batman will succumb to Catwoman's blandishments "When Heck freezes over, you shameless Bathsheba!"
  • Handbag of Hurt: Black Widow does this to one of the evil Batman clones. It doesn't really work, and she gets KO-sprayed for her troubles.
  • Humiliation Conga: Joker gets one right at the end, courtesy of a circus.
  • Ink-Suit Actor: Every major character greatly resembles their respective 1966 live action counterpart. However, due to most of the original cast being deceased when the movie was developed, only Batman, Robin, and Catwoman are voiced by their original actors. The Joker, who is modeled after Cesar Romero, is missing his moustache covered by makeup.
  • Instrument of Murder: When attacking the Gotham Palace, the Joker uses an electric guitar that fires entangling streamers that tie up the audience.
  • Interquel: While the original show never had much in the way of continuity, seeing as how the live action film was set between seasons 1 & 2, this could be set either sometime in season 2, or, more likely, between seasons 2 & 3 of the show given the absence of Batgirl.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Evil Batman has a point when he upbraids the Commissioner and Chief O'Hara for being pretty much useless, especially after we see they can't even catch shoplifters without help. In reality, both would likely be out of a job.
  • Last-Second Chance: Batman keeps trying to convince Catwoman to give up crime and turn herself in to no avail.
  • Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: To a variety of degrees with the escapees from Gotham State Penitentiary. It's fairly obvious whose likenesses they were able to get permission/licensing for (Victor Buononote , Otto Premingernote , Vincent Pricenote ) and whose they either couldn't or didn't care enough to get right. (Milton Berlenote , Van Johnsonnote , Art Carneynote .) The main four villains vary as well — Catwoman is the most faithful as she's being played by her original actress, Joker and Penguin are reasonable likenesses of Cesar Romeronote  and Burgess Meredith, while Riddler looks only barely like Frank Gorshin. At one point, Batman has a hallucination in which he sees the two other versions of Catwoman from the series and the 1966 movie; while the Eartha Kitt version is a dead ringer for the original, the Lee Meriwether version from the movie is less so.
  • Lighter and Softer: When compared to the dark tone of the past decade's DC animated movies starring Batman, especially The Killing Joke, which came out the same year. It's similar in tone to the earliest episodes of the original series, which included some occasional Darker and Edgier things like the murders of the Waynes being mentioned and the Riddler's moll dying in the Batcave.
  • Lying Finger Cross: Catwoman does this when allying with Robin. Subverted; she sticks to their deal with no attempt at betrayal.
  • Me's a Crowd: The function of Professor Nichols' duplication ray (which the villains promptly steal). After getting his hands on it, Evil Batman uses it to turn himself into an army that overruns Gotham.
  • Mistaken for Gay: Aunt Harriet gets nosier than usual about Bruce and Dick's "relationship" here. No one ever voices the implications out loud, but given that one of these scenes concludes with Alfred going off to polish doorknobs, it's safe to say the creators knew exactly what they were doing.
  • Mugged for Disguise: The villains stuck Hector and the Hoe-Daddies into a backstage broom closet and went onstage disguised as the band, playing a few cacophonic notes before revealing themselves.
  • Murder by Cremation: The villains strap the Dynamic Duo to a giant TV dinner tray and use a Conveyor Belt o' Doom to send them into a giant flaming oven.
  • Mythology Gag:
    "Riddler, this is an operating table — and I'm the surgeon."
    • At one point, when Batman hallucinates three Catwomen, the three versions of Catwoman from the series (played by Lee Meriweather, Eartha Kitt and Julie Newmar) appear.
    • In addition to the usual giant T-rex in the Batcave, earlier versions of the Batsuit from The Golden Age of Comic Books appear in trophy cases.
    • The host of Gotham Palace is a woman named Miranda Monroe, a reference to "Miranda", the Batman novelty song Adam West sang in the 60s.
    • The comic covers in the opening are actual comic covers.
    • Both Catwoman and Evil Batman suggest killing Robin, referencing a scene in Batman: The Movie.
    • Also like in Batman: The Movie, Joker, Riddler, Penguin, and Catwoman team up for a larger plan. And Batman with a large bomb in the credits.
    • Catwoman suggests that she and Batman could move to Europe, sit in a cafe, and drink tea together, describing the end of The Dark Knight Rises.
    • Batman's sudden Stealth Hi/Bye through an open window. Lampshaded by Gordon and O'Hara remarking on how unlike (this version of) Batman it is.
    • One of the biggest ones yet when Batman and Robin are put into a death trap at around the 22-minute mark - the classic series was a half-hour show with a Cliffhanger ending every odd episode, usually involving a death trap.
    • One of the circus clowns who captures the Joker during his final Humiliation Conga resembles Gaggy, a Silver Age Joker sidekick.
    • The first Riddler clue that Batman and Robin decipher was lifted word-for-word from the riddle that Ed used to introduce himself to the Penguin in Gotham.
  • Neutral Female: Catwoman plays this straight in the early Bat-fights, but begins subverting it in the later ones.
  • Never Going Back to Prison: In the film's climax Catwoman is faced with the possibility of being sent back to prison. Instead she opts to leap off a blimp and into a factory smokestack.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: At one point, the Gotham Palace TV show makes a reference to a band from Manchester called The Bedbugs.
  • No Gravity for You: An obligatory part of the big Bat-fight aboard the space station.
  • No Honor Among Thieves: Much to Catwoman's dismay.
  • No Smoking: In the original '60s series, Burgess Meredith's Penguin was never seen onscreen without his trademark cigarette and long cigarette holder. In fact that was the origin of Meredith's iconic Penguin laugh (the "waaugh waaugh waaugh" laugh), as it was invented by him on the spot to cover up a coughing fit from the cigarettes. In the animated film, that cigarette is nowhere to be seen.
  • Not in the Face!: What the Riddler begs when Batman begins his No-Holds-Barred Beatdown.
  • Not Me This Time: Having become familiar with Riddler's habit of giving away riddling clues to the Dynamic Duo, Penguin and Joker initially accuse him of being the cause of the Crusaders finding them aboard the space station. Riddler denies responsibility, saying he had resisted the urge.note 
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business:
    • As Batman becomes evil, Robin looks on his partner's deteriorating behavior with more and more alarm, especially during the No-Holds-Barred Beatdown of Penguin, Riddler, and Joker.
    • This becomes a plot point to resolve the Evil Batman story arc, as Batman and Alfred have an agreement — given their long history together, the only logical reason that Batman would ever fire Alfred is if he weren't acting of his own free will. Therefore, Alfred would have standing orders to gather ingredients for a mind-control antidote.
  • Painting the Medium: As Catwoman's poison starts taking effect, Batman's Hit Flash onomatopoeia becomes more and more brutal. The Bat-scene transition starts changing too, becoming an upside down bat when Evil Batman is on screen and a cat and an "R" for scenes where Robin teams up with Catwoman.
  • Police Are Useless: To the point of not even being able to catch a shoplifter without Batman there to tell them what to do.
  • Retraux: And how. Complete with a '60s-style poster.
  • Self-Deprecation: Quite a bit of the film's humour is this, mainly aimed at how the franchise has changed since the '60s.
  • Ship Tease: A lot between Batman and Catwoman of course. There is also a bit between Catwoman and Robin, or at least she likes flirting with him to see his reactions.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Single Malt Vision: A non-drunk variation. After receiving a blow to the head, Batman looks over at Catwoman and sees three of them; the hallucinatory ones being the Lee Meriwether and Eartha Kitt versions.
  • Slowly Slipping Into Evil: Catwoman's poison does work, it just takes a while.
  • Smokestack Drop: In the film's climax, Catwoman is faced with the possibility of being sent back to prison. Instead she opts to leap off a blimp and into a factory smokestack.
  • Stealth Hi/Bye: Unlike Batman in almost every other incarnation, he doesn't really do this. This is due to Batman actually being pretty happy in this continuity. He does this on Gordon, Robin, and O'Hara when the evil serum starts to take effect.
  • Stylistic Suck: The movie heavily references the Limited Animation of 1960s cartoons. Characters have very few facial expressions and tend to stare into space a lot, and sequences take several milliseconds longer than modern scenes.
  • Take That!:
    • To The Dark Knight Rises when Catwoman offers to turn herself in if Batman will run away with her to Europe where they can sip tea in a cafe and live happily ever after, only for Robin to retort "Holy unsatisfying ending!".
    • The entire film is one to the current state of the Batman franchise in general, especially to the overly violent and incredibly dark takes seen in some of the more recent adaptations of the character, arguing that wonder and excitement are being lost in favor of out-of-place moodiness and extreme violence. This is illustrated vividly when Evil Batman delivers a vicious beatdown to Penguin, Riddler and Joker after considering killing them. And pulled a Stealth Hi/Bye on Gordon...which is rather disturbing to see the Adam West version do this.
  • Temporarily a Villain: Batman is turned evil by Catwoman's slow acting poison, but he gets better by the climax.
  • Thrown Out the Airlock:
    • The Joker, Penguin and Riddler attempt to dispose of Catwoman by jettisoning her through the airlock on the space station.
    • Evil Batman threatens to do the same to the rest of them.
  • Verbal Tic: Robin's "Holy [insert word]!" are back.
  • Unplanned Crossdressing: After the Riddler is thrown from the top of the Penguin's blimp, he falls into a frilly pink dress hanging on a clothesline.
  • Villain: Exit, Stage Left: When Batman rejects her advances for the last time and even her loot abandons her, Catwoman jumps off Penguin's getaway blimp and into a smokestack.
  • Villain Has a Point: Considering just how ineffective Gotham's police department is shown to be Evil Batman's decision for taking charge of it actually makes some sense. On the other hand his following decision to take over the world might not.
  • Vocal Evolution: Given it was decades since he originally played the role and was 88 years old and fighting leukemia at the time he recorded his lines, Adam West's Batman sounds much more low and worn sounding than in the original show. Curiously, this is averted with Burt Ward, who was in his early 70s while recording his lines, but his voice was almost identical to how he sounded in the original show, when he was in his mid-20s! The same, however, cannot be said of Julie Newmar, who was in her 80s like West and sounded her age. It's very distracting seeing as Catwoman is supposed to be somewhere in her 20s or 30s as she was in the show.
  • We Can Rule Together: Just as Batman tries to convince Catwoman to give up her life of crime, she is just as persistent at trying to convince Batman to give up crimefighting and become her partner.
  • Written Sound Effect: As in the original live-action series, any punch or kick during a fight is punctuated by an onomatopoeia.