Holy crackpot! There’s a theory I’ve had for a while now that determines how mature you are based on your understanding and enjoyment of the classic 60’s Adam West and Burt Ward Batman TV show. No, wait – hear me out.
Those who think all the vibrant colours, eccentric villains and giant sound effects infested fight scenes are the greatest things ever are most likely a child – or childlike: immature but open minded and innocent in their love for all the campiness.
Then there’s the people who think the whole thing is just utterly stupid and that Batman is simply too badass to be treated in such a silly way and THESE people are more in tune with an arrogant teenager. Close minded and unwilling to see any version of the Caped Crusader except ONLY the one they like.
Finally there’s the people who see it as it REALLY is, a loving spoof of the genre that’s actually extraordinarily clever as to how it lampoons the medium it’s adapting with every joke, every bizarre set and every dramatic pause deployed by Adam West for maximum humor. These people are the realists, the more open people who realize that every attempt at realizing the character is valid if it’s done well.
Nowadays such a valid theory isn’t so silly (The Lego Batman Movie being excellent living proof that the Dark Knight doesn’t always have to be quite so dark) but way back then the primary colour overload of the 60’s Batman TV was the only game in town and if you wasn’t down with it’s far out humor. Tough.
Explaining the plot for a movie like this really is an exercise in futility considering how truly ludicrous it is but screw it. I got a column to fill, y’know?
Gotham City is in vast amounts of deep shit as four of it’s greatest and most notorious criminals have joined forces to launch a masterpiece of crime the likes of which has never been seen (gotta have a hobby, I suppose). This pantheon of purveyors of perfidy consist of Cesar Romero’s cackling Joker (complete with face paint over his moustache), Frank Gorshin’s giggling Riddler (doing wonders for green spandex and purple peek-a-boo masks), Burgess Meridith’s umbrella obsessed Penguin (snagging the best villain in show prize by an elongated nose) and Lee Meriwether’s purring Catwoman (the second of three actresses to play the role: quoth Adam West himself “That’s 37 lives, baby!”). Squaring up to the quartet of chaos is the caped crusader Batman and his sidekick Robin: the boy wonder who desperately try to foil the gangs multiple plots while avoiding ludicrously protracted attempts on their lives.
Cutting to the meat of of matter, Batman: The Movie is an utter hoot, best taken as broad comedy it’s literally jam packed with sight gags (check out the flippers on the back of Penguin’s submarine), acres of snappy wit (“Underneath this garb, we’re perfectly ordinary Americans.”)
and scene after scene of impressively straight faced, top notch comedy: “You risked your life to safe that riff raff at the bar?” Questions an incredulous Robin “They may be drinkers, Robin, but they’re also human beings.” Retorts Batman dryer than a vermouth loaded martini.
And of course, let us not forget the delights of the timeless set piece of Batman desperately trying to dispose of an explosive device in an extremely busy neighbourhood (surely one of my top ten funniest moments film film with a killer punchline to boot – you know the one).
Batman: The Movie’s influence extends to a huge amount of Bat-output even to this day. Why, are not the Batmovies from Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher – with their insistence on “guest” villains laughing maniacally as stealing the show – just a far more theatrical update? Are the five seasons of TV show Gotham, with it’s weekly dose of ever eccentric grotesques cooking up murderous antics not the 60’s version taken to a violent, almost Se7en-like, extreme?
Virtually critic proof (it’s intelligently naff by design so any complaints concerning Shark Repellent Batspray can be logged firmly up the rectum) and dynamite on the eyes, Batman: The Movie smacks you harder in the face than a massisive “KA-POW” title card smeared across the screen and is legitimately great for all ages. Plus, at no extra charge it comes coated in a thicker layer of 60’s swagger than a Mad Men box set and contains still the greatest Batmobile ever on film (yeah, I said it. Fight me).
So set atomic batteries to power old chum, because this is one comic book movie that’s entertained generations at the same bat-time, same bat-channel since the 60’s and is still a hugely loved take on a iconic character even today.
Holy men in tights, Batman! It’s a classic!