I wish to express my gratitude to the enemies of crime and crusaders throughout the world for their inspirational example. To them, and to the lovers of adventure, lovers of pure escapism, lovers of unadulterated entertainment, lovers of the ridiculous and the bizarre…
To funlovers everywhere… this review is respectfully dedicated.
If I have overlooked any sizable groups of lovers, I apologize.
Batman: The Movie
Starring: Adam West, Burt Ward, Lee Meriwether, Cesar Romero,
Burgess Meredith, Frank Gorshin, Reginald Dennny
Director: Leslie H. Martinson
Company: Greenlawn Productions, Inc./Twentieth Century Fox
Bang!! Pow!! Biff!! Zwapp!!
First off, if any of you have yet to experience Batman: The Movie, turn off your PC right now, go to your video store of choice, pick up a copy, and watch it RIGHT NOW. I’m not kidding.
For the rest of you, I’m almost positive you already know the basic plot of this flick, but in keeping with tradition, let’s talk a little bit about the story. The film opens up with millionaire Bruce Wayne (Adam West) and his faithful young ward Dick Grayson (Burt Ward) race out as their alter egos, Batman and Robin, in an attempt to rescue famous inventor Commodore Schmidlapp (Reginald Denny, in his last film appearance) from an attack on his yacht. However, Schmidlapp (and his ship) has already been captured, and after Batman battles off a massive exploding shark (with some help for his Shark-Repellent Bat-Spray), he and Robin regroup, only to discover that four of their rogues gallery are on the loose, and entertain the idea that they have teamed up for nefarious reasons.
At the same time, the Joker (Cesar Romero), the Penguin (Burgess Meredith), the Riddler (Frank Gorshin), and Catwoman (Lee Meriwether) formulate a plethora of plans to get rid of the Dynamic Duo; plans that include a magnetic buoy and a penguin-shaped submarine, kidnapping Bruce Wayne as bait for a high-powered Jack-in-the-Box and an exploding octopus, a comically oversized bomb, and dehydrated/rehydrated henchmen.
About 45 minutes in, we discover the villains’ master plan: use Commodore Schmidlapp’s Total Dehydrator machine to kidnap the leaders of the United World Organization and hold them for ransom! Of course, Batman and Robin save the day, capture the criminals (after a great mid-sea brawl, of course), and restore the NWO (mostly) to normal.
A Canary With a Machine Gun.. The Only Logical Answer
Let me start this section by saying that is is really difficult for me to come up with anything critical or deep to say about Batman: The Movie, simply because it is neither critical nor deep. The film was made and released the summer between seasons one and two of the similarly named ABC television series Batman, also starring Adam West and Burt Ward. I sure you already knew that. What is interesting is that the film was originally planned to be made as a pilot of sorts as an attempt to sell the series to any interested TV network. However, when ABC and Twentieth Century Fox picked up the show, they decided against making the film first, stating that they didn’t want to drop the money on what could have been an enormous flop.
Technically speaking, this flick looks and feels exactly like the original series, and that works just fine for me. The writers, the director, and the crew were all from the TV show. They weren’t out to set the world on fire or develop any revolutionary new way of filmmaking – they just wanted to make a good film in the spirit of the TV series, goof bits, cheap sets and all, and create a movie that viewers both young and old would enjoy on a few different levels. To me, they achieved their goal.
Some Days You Just Can’t Get Rid of a Bomb…
The acting in Batman: The Movie is so incredibly over-the-top and ridiculous, it circles past being “bad” and ends up settling at “pretty decent.” Adam West and his subdued delivery and overly dramatic tone are pitch perfect here, and signs of an off-stage overinflated ego creep in from time to time. He has a certain cadence to his dialog that only he able to perform successfully (although Nicholas Cage comes incredibly close in Kick-Ass). Burt Ward is also excellent as the eager young sidekick Robin, and his enthusiasm nicely complements West’s calm demeanor.
But the reals stars of the film are, of course, the villains. From Cesar Romero’s high energy to Burgess Meredith’s near war general approach to crime, from Lee Meriwether’s seductiveness to Frank Gorshin’s manic split-second switch from calm to crazed, the rogue’s gallery really make this movie. Special recognition goes out to Gorshin and Romero, the former for just emanating insanity so naturally, and the latter for portraying a character so far out of his usual comfort zone.
The Living End…..?
By now, I’m pretty sure you’ve all realized that I am a HUGE fan of this film. It was a large part of my childhood (as well as the original TV series), and helped shape the comic book and cheesy film fan I am today. The cultural impact the series and movie has had on pop culture is undeniable, and I’m pretty sure this review is “preaching to the choir,” as they say. While I can’t just give the flick 5 stars on nostalgia alone (’cause that would undermine my credibility as a phony-baloney movie reviewer), I do think for the time and tongue-in-cheek nature of the film, it’s pretty darn good. So, I give Batman: The Movie 4 out of 5 stars.