Canister X Movie Review #4: Batman (1966)
Written by Lorenzo Semple Jr.
Directed by Leslie H. Martinson
Runtime 105 min.
4 out of 5
Atomic batteries to power. Turbines to speed!
The dynamic duo, Batman and Robin, hit the big screen in this 1960s action/adventure camp-stravaganza!
When the caped crusaders’s most dangerous foes—Joker, Riddler, Catwoman, Penquin—team up and plot to dehydrate the United Nations Security Council, Batman and Robin find themselves in over their heads and must pull out all the stops to put an end to the evil villains’ dastardly plans in this big screen adaptation of the hit TV series.
This movie rocks! And here’s why:
It’s fast-paced, exciting, and is the definition of superhero fun. What? You mean superheroes can be fun? Of course! Remember dressing up as a kid and flying around the house as Superman or climbing the stairs as Spider-Man or swinging from room to room as Batman? Remember laying waste to all those imaginary villains while also saving the damsel in distress and trying to ignore your parents when they called you for dinner? That was superhero fun. Easy-going, super adventure.
This film is the same thing . . . but with grownups. Of course, it’s also a giant Batman TV episode complete with such goodies as the animated THOKs and POWs bursting across the screen, crazy bat-gadgets for every occasion (i.e. the [in]famous bat-shark repellent), a host of bat-vehicles, and goofy special effects that work well in the context of the movie.
What’s brilliant about this Batman movie are the jokes. First, it’s meant to be silly and funny, but the humor is both overt and subtle, whether it’s the dialogue, facial expressions or even actions in some cases. It’s also amazing that despite it being purposely campy, Adam West and Burt Ward—Batman and Robin, respectively—played their characters straight. What I mean is, they played these guys seriously in the crazy, colorful world they inhabited—the characters matching the story, the environment and those they interacted with—and not once did it seem like actors goofing around and simply scoring a paycheck. That’s a feat on its own, in my books.
Nowadays, superhero filmmakers have a hard time trying to do more than one villain in their movies. Why they don’t go back and look at this flick for help, I don’t know. Granted, the four villains in here all had their TV history backing them up, but they still were able to each stand on their own and each share the spotlight and fulfill their roles. No one is second stringer to anyone else.
If there is a movie out there that represents superhero fantasy, this flick is it. Everything is so over-the-top that it actually works and you feel like you’re watching an old school comic book come to life. Joel Schumacher tried to recreate this with Batman Forever and Batman & Robin and wasn’t able to pull it off. The big reason, in my mind, is because he tried to merge the old with the new and that’s like mixing black and white—you get a bunch of gray and no one knows what’s what.
Anyway, I love this movie. My kids love this movie and I let them watch it because compared to the ultra dark Bat-flicks of today, I need to know they’ll have fun watching a Bat-movie, will have at least a general sense of what’s going on, and won’t get nightmares after. (I mean, Heath Ledger’s Joker creeps me out and I’m an adult.)
Batman is one of my all-time favorite movies. It’s lighthearted, it’s funny, it’s exciting, and is a showcase of everything that made the TV series such a hit, even now, nearly fifty years later.