The Caped Crusader has become arguably the most popular superhero today. Some of his iterations have turned into our favorite movies, such as the sleek Batman 1989 and the grim Dark Knight. However, when people discuss the different versions of Batman, they usually fail to recall his earlier appearances in film. Here’s a look at the campier side of Batman in 1966’s Batman: The Movie! The following review will be spoiler free.
Batman: The Movie is directed by Leslie H. Martinson and stars Adam West as the Dark Knight along with Burt Ward as Robin and Lee Meriwether as Catwoman. We follow Batman and Robin as they jump into action to stop the fiendish acts of a villainous team made up of The Joker, Penguin, The Riddler, and Catwoman. Our heroes catch wind of a device that has fallen into the villains’ hands that turns people into dehydrated dust and must whip into action before the villains use the device to disintegrate the U.N. Security Council.
1966’s Batman: The Movie marked the first time that the Batman was featured in a full-length film (discounting the serials made in the 1940’s). The character was already ingratiated into the minds of many as the movie kicked off the second season of the Batman television series after Fox Studios refused to make it before the series was made. Although the film didn’t initially perform well at the cinema, Batman: The Movie has stayed within the public conscience, albeit somewhat ironically.
Batman: The Movie is mostly known for being incredibly campy in sharp contrast to the incredibly dark and brooding Batman that we have today. From the cheep looking costume to the undefined muscles, Adam West isn’t what we think of when we think of a superhero (he’d probably be close to cosplay at Comic Con). However, as part of the history of arguably the best hero we have, people endear Adam West for his troubles.
But what’s the point of savoring the character if his movie isn’t that good? Let’s take a look at the film itself.
The word “campy,” while maybe a competent description of Batman: The Movie, it does not fully reach the depths of how cheesy this movie truly is. Other than maybe Adam West’s Batman, not a single character utters a line without some type of camp factor to it. Even Batman’s dialogue, which is void of cheese, has a purpose, since someone has to play it straight in a zany movie. From Catwoman calling things “purrr-fect” to Robin exclaiming “holy Halloween,” Batman: The Movie may have the most puns per minute of run time of any movie.
Even story elements are altered to fit this goofy tone that the actors establish. You know exactly what you’re getting into in this movie when Batman becomes partially submerged in the ocean, only to be attacked by a very “real” shark and gets loose by spraying his patented Batman can of shark repellent at the animal. The movie even has the gall to dip its feet into the idea of antimatter for the villains’ dehydration device.
But all this talk of camp and silliness begs the question: what separates Batman: The Movie from a more maligned feature film such as Joel Schumacher’s Batman and Robin?
From my perspective, Batman: The Movie is completely focused on its campy tone, making it a focal point of the movie on purpose. Batman and Robin definitely tries to be light-hearted, but most of its gags are unintentional from actors such as Chris O’Donnell, Uma Thurman, and Arnold Schwarzenegger and has a ton of character inconsistencies and moments of stupidity where it can’t be enjoyed without the most cynical view. Batman: The Movie, while ridiculous, is a completely streamlined story where characters act consistently and rationally with the world they’re given. The film is tongue and cheek, completely aware of how silly it is (as seen in a comical moment where Batman can’t seem to get rid of a bomb). Batman and Robin have multiple riddles they must decipher, but with their brand of silly reasoning, they figure out the scheme. It’s in these moments where Batman: The Movie continues to possess its goofiness, but also adds its own warped version of logic that stays consistent throughout the movie.
But that doesn’t mean that the film is without flaws, however. The plot of Batman: The Movie fails to continue to up the ante on a consistent basis, forcing you to latch onto every word of dialogue to maintain some level of entertainment. I won’t knock the film’s plot for being silly, since it’s consistent with the rest of the movie, but it fails to escalate and often drags at times, making the film feel even longer than its 104-minute run time. The film’s second act dips heavily in pure enjoyment as it gets bogged down in an ultimately worthless (and one-sided) relationship, leaving you wanting more from the film.
A lot of the fight scenes in the movie are only worth watching in an ironic manner. You can clearly see the actors intentionally whiff on punches and stutter their feet to correctly time the choreography of the fight. However, these issues are fixed in part by the hilariously cheesy large action texts like WHAM or KAPOW that come on screen at times.
Batman: The Movie may be very dated, but there’s still much fun to be had that has since been parodied time and time again. It gets a B. This movie is a nice piece of nostalgia that will definitely entertain you during your next Netflix session.
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