Saturday, 23 March 2013

Film Review | Batman (1966)

With Nolan's Dark Knight Trilogy fresh in the minds of many, it's easy to dismiss or even forget that the Caped Crusader's inaugural big screen appearance was a much more lighthearted and comedic affair. 1966's Batman, a feature length adaptation of the TV series which started in the same year, is in many ways a world away from the most recent incarnation of Gotham City and its flying-mammal-themed hero. But there are things that the '60s version of Batman brings to the table that Bale's troubled vigilante never could or would.

It's clear from the very start what kind of superhero film Batman is, with Batman (Adam West) and Robin (Burt Ward) launched straight into a rescue mission which sees them flying the Batcopter, climbing down the Bat-Ladder (complete with "Bat-Ladder" nameplate hanging from the bottom) and utilising Bat-Shark-Repellent to dislodge a shark from Batman's leg. A dark and brooding Gotham this certainly is not. This is unashamedly camp and tongue-in-cheek with intentionally dodgy props (there's more rubber in the shark than in Christian Bale's Batsuit) and a pantomime plot. Batman's approach to the character and his world certainly won't be to everyone's taste, but it lays its cards clearly on the table from the very start, so at least any misery guts out there can switch off within the first ten minutes and do something depressing instead.

West's Batman may not channel the trauma of his parents' death when he was a nipper, but he fills his  spandex Batsuit amply and entertainingly. It's as alter ego Bruce Wayne that West's talent truly shines through, bringing the suave playboy side of Wayne to life better than any big screen Batman since. It's not hard to see from his performance here why West was offered the role of James Bond following Connery's departure (West only turned it down because he felt that Bond should be played by a Brit, movie trivia fans). Burt Ward's support is exactly what it needs to be: memorably full of youthful eagerness, but always allowing West to take centre stage.

Batman offers four of the hero's greatest foes, and four more sublimely extrovert performances. However, with a quartet of supervillains it's inevitable that at least one will feel pushed to the sidelines; sadly here it is Cesar Romero's Joker, who is never given much to do beyond take orders from Burgess Meredith's Penguin. That said, Batman manages multiple villains much better than many more recent offerings into the superhero subgenre.

One or two other key problems mean that Batman never threatens to become a true classic. The plot is regularly meandering and disparate, feeling like a collection of ideas from the TV series connected by a story stretched to fit an overlong running time. A late moralistic message about world harmony feels unnecessarily tacked on, and whilst it's never distracting enough to do any major damage, it does mean that the end of the film feels a little anticlimactic. But these are minor issues. Go into Batman looking for pure, straightforward entertainment and you'll find yourself grinning throughout, with several genuine laugh-out-loud moments that will reside pleasingly in your memory long after the film's end.


1 comment:

  1. What if Christopher Nolan quits INTERSTELLAR and decides to do one more film on BATMAN.