I have to say, I used to really dig the old Adam West Batman TV series. West, of course, passed away in 2017. But before he died, he did record a pair of animated direct-to-DVD movies reprising his most famous role.
And hey, Amazon Prime had both of them included free with their streaming service.
Now, not only was Adam West back, but so were Burt Ward and Julie Newmar, reprising their roles as Robin and Catwoman, respectively. Sadly, most of the rest of the cast of that old series had since passed on, but second Catwoman Lee Meriwether did have a small role in the second movie.
So, the first was Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders, and showed Batman and Robin going up against Joker, Riddler, Penguin, and Catwoman as they ran around Gotham City stealing things, most notably an experimental device from a lab that can only cause trouble. From the very beginning, the movie channels the old series. It has the iconic theme music, the layout of Stately Wayne Manor, the general cluelessness and helplessness of Commissioner Gordon and Chief O’Hara in the face of super-criminals. West’s dry delivery is on full display as he lectures Dick Grayson/Robin on the importance of things like crosswalks, generally prompting Ward’s equally familiar, “Gosh Bruce/Batman, you’re right…” Catwoman wants Batman to be a bad guy, and he wants her to reform. He’s the ultimate straight-arrow. There are giant props, many of the voice actors have the characters they are playing dead-on in terms of sounding like the original actors, colorful word balloons for when someone gets punched, and the movie manages to capture the spirit, tone, and humor of the old series with plenty of easter eggs for longtime fans. About the only thing they didn’t do is give the Joker a make-up covered mustache.
And that comes in part when some of West’s lines reference other Batman incarnations in his own deadpan manner.
The first did well enough to get a sequel, this one featuring the one major Batman foe to never appear on the old show, and that would be Batman vs. Two-Face.
And hey, if you’ve got one actor in the form of West who found a lot of success in his old age basically playing off his own reputation, than who better to cast as Two-Face than another old actor who found success in his old age for also playing off his own reputation in the form of William Shatner. Heck, they even drew Harvey Dent to look like a young Shatner. Once again, the story, plot, characters, and so forth wouldn’t have looked too out-of-place on the old show if it had a much higher budget, and I just had a really good time with this one. The animation may not have been the best there is, but it was good for a direct-to-digital sort of movie, and Batman vs. Two-Face was from the looks of things West’s last role, and there was a dedication to the man at the end.
If I had one criticism, it was simply that West, Newmar, and Ward all sounded much older than they were when they first played the roles. That’s to be expected considering fifty years have passed since the original series aired, but both West and Newmar both sound a little tired in their voices, and Ward, well, he may not have been a teenager when he first made the show, but he certainly doesn’t sound like one now. There’s nothing wrong with any of their performances. It’s just they all sounded roughly their age, and as much as that is to be expected, it was a factor for me all the same.
But I had a really good time with these.
9 out of 10 Bat-tusis over the closing credits for each of them.