Batman – Return of the Caped Crusaders is the first DCAU film I’ve even remotely had a desire to watch in the past year or two. After the godawful Son of Batman, Batman vs. Robin, Killing Joke CCCCC-combo I was not looking forward to wasting another 90 minutes on DC’s weird fetish with making Batman as lame as possible on film (BvS: DoJ deserves a lot of credit for my hate here as well, but I digress). Regardless, the central conceit – that they were making this as a tongue-in-cheek love letter to the 60’s television show was enough to pull me back in. The good news is that it wasn’t a wasted trip, because this is the first Batman film in a long time that didn’t leave me feeling like I don’t even enjoy the character anymore. “Return of the Caped Crusaders” isn’t perfect, mind you, but it was good enough to warrant its existence, which is increasingly rare for me to admit in today’s Batverse.
Full disclosure: I’ve always loved the 60’s television show. Growing up in the 80’s the reruns were on television frequently so I watched pretty much the entire run as a child. As I matured and really started understanding Batman as the character portrayed in the comics of the 80’s and 90’s, I realized the 60’s show was completely ridiculous. Yet that didn’t make me dislike it one iota, it just was… I had read Gold and Silver-age Batman comics and enjoyed them. The campy, ridiculous Surrealism of it all was great fun and I never once stopped to think “Why isn’t he brooding more?”….
My chief complaint with Batman and the subculture of fans which are so heavily invested in it, is the way in which said fans obstinately proclaim Batman to be one singular thing. In most cases, it can be described as “dark”. Yes – the idea that a grown man dressed in a Bat costume punching evil clowns must be taken deadly serious. How absurd and boring. Blah. Now Batman in films, games and comics is some sort of hulking, armor-clad Militarized idiot who never deduces anything beyond the obvious and solves every problem with punching and guns.
Now, don’t get me wrong – I love “dark” Batman – IF it is told well… because here’s the thing: I just like well told stories.