The Dark Knight Rises Batmarathon Part 2 – Batman (60’s)
My God, this is beautiful.
This is the first film to really take full advantage of the Batman name. As far as most people know, it is the first Batman movie made. It’s the Adam West cheese-fest! When judging the quality of a story, most often we look for things like strong characterization, well-structured plots, what have you. However, every so often, we find movies that, while technically awful, with hammy acting, poorly structured plots, and bombard the audience with events so ridiculous that they could never transpire in any universe you can imagine, are still incredibly entertaining.
Such is the case with Adam West’s Batman. The plot is simple: Batman and Robin stop four super villains who want to take over the world. It’s a basic villain team-up movie akin to later entries in the Batman film series (Batman Forever and Batman & Robin come to mind). While those movies are seen as disappointing, people look back on this film with fond memories. Why is that?
Simply put: it knows what it is, and never tries to trick anyone into thinking it’s anything else. Later Batman films tried to pull off both the tongue-in-cheek humor of the Adam West era while still trying to emulate the dark tone of the Tim Burton films. The problem is you can’t mix the two. This film never tries to implement anything really dark. Whenever it draws through any subject matter that might be in the least bit disturbing, it plays it for dry humor. It’s smooth, uninterrupted comedy gold.
On a technical level, it is awful. The plot is cliched and silly, the acting unconvincing and terrible, without any real hints of characterization or growth throughout the whole film. There is no trace of effort to make a well-written, nuanced film. Still, you should know what you’re getting yourself into when, in the first five minutes of the film, Batman flies past a building full of bikini-clad women in order to catch a disappearing yacht as a shark filled with mines flies up at them, only to be stopped with a can of Shark repellent.
I personally love Adam West’s Batman. He is perhaps one of the great actors to play Batman, and certainly one of the most memorable–if not the most memorable. No one has played the Caped Crusader quite like him. He rarely cracks a smile, even when delivering the silliest of lines imaginable. Burt Ward as Robin is fun, but he mostly bounces off of West’s antics. Even the other villains don’t compare to how awesome this character is.
Of all the villains, Catwoman was the only one I could take seriously. She cracks the least amount of jokes, actually develops a relationship with Batman–though how Batman doesn’t get suspicious when his squeeze starts purring is anyone’s guess–and even tries to hurt Batman on an emotional level. If anything, the Joker seems to me like the most laid back of the characters, actually telling the Riddler to cool off with the riddles, to stick to the plan, etc. Come to think of it, while the other three villains all get time to shine, the Joker mostly functions as the muscle of the group. When the Joker is the most muted and dull of all the villains in your movie, you know you exist in a world that no longer exists in the world of logic.
Perhaps that’s the beauty of this film. It’s the complete opposite of every single Batman film around. Instead of brooding darkness, you got hilarity. Instead of disturbed, twisted minds, you get goofy one-dimensional characters who never fail to leave you smirking at how goofy the whole world they occupy is. Despite being a technically bad film, it’s damn entertaining.