Holy exploding sea creatures! Judge Clark Douglas thinks this definitely IS your father's Batman!
Our review of Batman: The Movie, published August 13th, 2001, is also available.
Men die! Women sigh! Beneath that bat-cape…he's all man!
"Holy costumed party!"
Facts of the Case
It's another bright and cheerful day in Gotham City.
What did you just say?
Bear with me. It's another bright and cheerful day in Gotham City, and humanity's two greatest heroes are getting ready for another action-packed adventure. There's nothing that Batman (Adam West) and Robin (Burt Ward) love better than taking a pleasant drive in the Batmobile on a nice sunny day…
Hold on a minute…
No, you hold on a minute. Batman and Robin move from the Batmobile to the Batcopter, and head out to investigate a mysterious yacht. However, on the way, Batman is attacked by a giant leaping shark! Thank goodness he just so happens to have some Shark Repellant Bat-Spray on-hand…sure, that shark had sharp teeth, but it was also filled with dynamite! Holy exploding sea creatures, Batman! See, The Joker (Cesar Romero, Falcon Crest), Catwoman (Lee Meriwether, filling in for Julie Newmar), The Riddler (Frank Gorshin, Twelve Monkeys), and The Penguin (Burgess Meredith, Rocky) have all teamed up, and they're going to…
Uh, okay, I'm just going to leave now.
All right, I'll explain. You see kids, once upon a time…well, Batman wasn't much of a Dark Knight. In fact, he was pretty much the cheesiest superhero around.
Yeah, we remember. I didn't think George Clooney made much of a Batman, either.
No, no, you're going to have to go back a little bit further than that. This is before Batman Begins, before Joel Schumacher's travesties, before Tim Burton's unique reinvigoration of the character, before Frank Miller's Batman: Year One. This Batman existed during the 1960s. He was played by Adam West, known to you young scallywags of today's generation as "Adam West" on Family Guy. This version of Batman was the very definition of "camp," featuring an extremely corny superhero battling extremely corny villains in an extremely corny television show. However, television audiences of the 1960s found the show immensely enjoyable, and a theatrical film based on the show made its way into theatres in 1966.
I'm a huge fan of Batman (and DC Comics in general), and I'm thrilled that the talented Christopher Nolan has finally brought the film franchise back to a state of respectability. I absolutely hated the Joel Schumacher films, and that might lead you to believe that I hate this particular incarnation of Batman, as well. However, that's simply not true. While Schumacher's films were bad in an unwatchable and headache-inducing sort of way, this movie is bad in an immensely entertaining and wonderfully good-spirited sort of way.
The movie provides giggles both intentional and unintentional from start to finish, making Batman: The Movie required viewing for any fan of camp cinema. It's hard to tell precisely how much of the humor was intended and how much wasn't, but the important thing is that the film provides some terrific entertainment. Much of this comes from the performance of Adam West as Batman, who has a unique way of delivering dialogue in a manner that is hilariously insinuating. "If they touch that woman," he declares, "Then…I will have to…brutally…beat them." In another scene, he hints that he is imagining a very sensual moment in his mind, and then declares, "Ah…it's…reaching a climax." He's also immensely good at wacky physical comedy…just watch West during the hilarious scene in which he has to dispense of a giant bomb. It's great stuff.
A few more exchanges that will give you a good idea of just what to expect from this film:
Robin (referring to a group of drunks): "You risked your life to save
those disgusting people?"
Robin: "Holy hallucinations, Batman!"
Batman (attempting to re-form U.N. members from their dehydrated state):
"Robin, I'll activate the computer link. Re-institute the various ethnic
and national factors.
The villains are occasionally amusing, but frankly they tend to be heavy on noise and light on everything else in this big-screen version. Their scenes provide a giggle or two here and there, certainly. However, the real fun in the movie primarily comes from Batman himself. Sadly, the film decided not to include the funniest (and silliest) villain of the television series, Vincent Price's memorable Egghead. Oh, Egghead…how your presence is missed. There are also a good chunk of laughs that come from visual gags, such as Batman's fetish for putting giant labels on everything he owns…the Bat-Ladder, the Bat-Calculator, the Bat-Scanner, etc. "Have a sip from the drinking fountain," he tells one villain. "You'll find it clearly labeled."
The hi-def transfer is quite impressive, though this film is hardly going to knock your socks off visually. Still, the bright color scheme is offered up quite nicely here, and there are very instances of scratches or flecks. The sound is pretty good, even portions of Nelson Riddle's swinging score are a little bit less pristine that one might hope for. A solid balance is maintained between all sound elements, with dialogue usually coming through strong and clear.
Extras from the previous DVD release are included, along with some new ones. The notable new extras are three featurettes. First up is "Batman: A Dynamic Legacy" (28 minutes), a solid discussion of the popularity of the show and the film during the 1960s. Comic book fans will be pleased that the likes of Paul Dini, Alex Ross, and Geoff Johns are among those who participate in these featurettes. "Caped Crusaders: A Heroes Tribute" (12 minutes) focuses on the dynamic duo, and "Gotham City's Most Wanted" (15 minutes) focuses on the villains of the film. One minor complaint: absolutely atrocious nightclub music of sorts is used during portions of these featurettes, which is rather distracting. In addition to the new stuff, we get the 15-minute 2001 featurette, a 5-minute look at the Batmobile, an interactive tour of the Batmobile, a trivia track, an interactive map, and two commentaries. The first features Adam West and Burt Ward, and it's an absolute riot. The second, featuring screenwriter Lorenzo Semple Jr., is a little less engaging but still worth a listen for Bat-fans.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
The film's charms to start to wear off after 75 minutes or so. Unfortunately, Batman: The Movie runs about 105 minutes. The third act is bloated and sluggish, and attempts to make the movie genuinely exciting. Unfortunately, this takes the film from "amusingly awful" to "blandly formulaic." The movie is still fun overall, but I can almost guarantee that most of your laughs will come during the film's first two acts.
Batman: The Movie is a lot of fun. Pure, unpretentious, unadulterated camp escapism that will provide entertaining viewing for those willing to have a large slice of cheese with their Bat-meal.
Holy Verdict! Not Guilty!
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Scales of Justice
• Commentary w/Adam West & Burt Ward
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