7 Random Thoughts on 1966’s “Batman”

17Apr12

My indoctrination process has begun. I’ve begun showing Henry the old Adam West “Batman” movie. I “accidentally” left the DVD in the player. Playing. As h came out of his nap. “Why, I don’t know how that got there… but it looks pretty good. Would you like to watch, Henry?” All it took was that rocket on the back of the Batmobile and BAM! Got ‘im!

Here are some random thoughts:

1.) I Like It. I’m not one of those Batman fans who only like “the real” Batman stuff. I’m a junkie. I’ll take anything, and I still like this as much as any other version. I think I first saw this movie when I was 5 or 6, in the West Theater in Galesburg, IL (thanks, Mom). I liked it then, but grew into a bitter teen who didn’t like it. It wasn’t taking things seriously. But now as a nostalgic adult, I appreciate the humor and I still contend that it’s a solid Batman story. And seeing it through the eyes of my son, I can see it’s structured for kids, and that’s wonderful.

2.) Solid Structure? Part of me wants to say it’s a well-structured movie, particularly where kids’ attention spans was concerned. In the first 20 minutes, you’ve got a secret passage, the Batmobile, the Bat-copter, the Bat-boat and an exploding shark attack. Actually, that’s all in the first 10 minutes. The film is also filled with things that are just plain fun: there are flying rocket umbrellas, and huge fights and traps, and lots of bright colors.

3.) On the Other Hand. . . there’s some fat in this film. They don’t exactly play by the rule of “If one character knows something, then everyone knows it.” For example, after the scene in Gordon’s office, where Batman and Robin seem to piece together that there’s 4 super criminals involved, we get a scene confirming it, then Batman investigates the buoy. . . and then goes back to Gordon’s office to confirm that it’s the four super criminals. Yeah, we got it, Batman. Everybody knows.

4.) Humor. As I alluded, I took this film and series seriously as a kid, only to have my heart dashed when I became a young adult and saw it for what it truly was (then later saw it again for what it TRULY truly was, but anyway). In showing this to Henry, I’ve been expecting him to have more excited reactions to things, and he has. He likes the car and the helicopter, and he actually giggled with what I think was giddy excitement when they climbed a building with a rope. He said, “Uh-oh!” when the bad guys ganged up on Bruce Wayne. These were all to be expected. But then he started laughing at the Batman-carries-a-bomb scene. I’m flabbergasted. Not that I wanted him to be on the edge of his seat, but was he really laughing at the intended humor of that scene? That’s impossible, right? Or is that scene so goofy that it transcends age and reaches some sort of comic zenith? Which brings me to. . .

5.) A Good Comedy Film or Just Funny? I can’t tell, but I want to know where people would rank “Batman” among the great comedies of movie history. I’m not making some argument that it should be in AFI’s Top 100 Laughs or something. . . but I do know that I love it more than many of those films, and I believe it’s jokes are more sly and funny than still others.  Is it as good as, say, “Hot Tub Time Machine?” Is “Batman” as funny as “Emperor’s New Groove?” I can’t tell. It’s such an odd movie, that it defies definition and therefore falls between the cracks. But there’s so much imagination going on, from a writing standpoint, that I can’t completely dismiss it. Say what you will, but it takes serious creative juice to come up with “the nobility of the almost human porpoise” to get Batman out of a jam. I have the same respect for Dozier on this film as I do for soap opera writers: instead of writing themselves out of a corner, they simply build another corner. It’s kind of incredible, the disregard for normal logic and sense.

6.) Adam West as “Your” Batman. Weird to say, but I think he’s my favorite because he’s the one you’d want to hang out with. As time goes on and the Nolan movies prove to be the best versions of Batman filmmaking, that Batman isn’t a great guy. He’s not a buddy or friend or anything. He’s kind of a maniac. It seems like I’m always complaining about this. I understand how they came to this conclusion, but I hope people understand why it feels weird to a guy like me, having grown up with a guy like Adam West’s Batman. Sure, he’s corny, but he’s always on the right side of things. The moral questions of later-period Batman come up because of the normal question, “Would you trust one guy with all this authority?” It’s never been a real question for me, because if that guy is Batman — particularly based in Adam West-Batman-ness, — then yes, I would. Maybe it’s just me, but it feels like an uninteresting story when it’s based on questioning Batman’s morals. Who wouldn’t trust Batman?

7.) Kill? Bruce Wayne threatens to kill the rogues if they’ve done anything to Miss Kitka. This feels like more of a confirmation of Wayne’s virginity than anything else.

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