An important thing to remember in regards to “Batman” is he hasn’t always been the grim Dark Knight. For much of his history he’s actually been the one popularized by the live action show that brought about this movie where he was pretty much a mortal good guy with a side kick who used gadgets to solve issues and had a colorful collection of rogues. I’m going to state up front, I have a bias against the camp of this era. I grew up on Burton’s 1989 “Batman” and “Batman: The Animated Series” that came out of it, which in turn introduced me to “The Dark Knight Returns,” “The Long Halloween” and “The Killing Joke” all of which are some of my favorite Batman stories. I’ve always been a fan of noir and the early camp Batman had none of that noir feel to it.
Given my bias, I am going to judge this film on it’s own merits though, even if due to the nature of my bias I did not enjoy it as much as the Burton or Nolan films, this is a film that can still compete against “Batman and Robin” and “Batman Forever.”
“Batman” was directed by Leslie H. Martinson and written by Lorenzo Semple Jr. and produced by William Dozier.
The Pros: Bat and Penguin Gadgets – This is one bit of comedy that I actually enjoyed. Penguin has Rocket Umbrellas that the Rogues fly on, Batman has Bat Repellent and the list goes on. The list of gadgets was rather inventive and I like how it was this era of comics that inspired the Monarch and the gadgets in “The Venture Bros.”
The Rogues – The Rogues all have distinct personalities and work sort of…The Penguin and Catwoman are the only competent ones though. The Riddler and Joker could have been replaced by Pirate thugs and the story wouldn’t have changed at all.
Catwoman – Lee Meriwether is great as Catwoman as she is the one who actually manages to infiltrate and hurt Batman as a secret identity she takes is one Batman falls in love with and when he learns they are the same person it breaks his heart, which is sadly the only real damage anyone faces in this film. So she gets point for that. She clearly had fun in this role too.
The Penguin – The Penguin is all about the gadgets and they are fun! He also manages to infiltrate the Batcave too. Seriously, the Joker and the Riddler weren’t needed at all. The Penguin on his own manages to be the greatest threat of the bunch in regards to the capture of the device and turning the world leaders into dust (don’t worry, they are turned back). Burgess Meredith is fantastic.
Batman – Adam West makes a great Batman. He has charm and is easily the best part of this film besides Catwoman and the Penguin. Seeing him as Bruce Wayne is fun too as he goes through convoluted means to keep his identity secret.
Okay: Camp – The camp doesn’t always work. When it does (Penguin’s vehicles, Batman’s devices, etc.) When it doesn’t it is bad…from the Riddler ruining plans to our heroes being really really stupid.
Joker – The Joker has a great design but he basically functions as a minion. There is nothing he did in this film that couldn’t have been done by one of the pirate minions. He is a useless character in this.
Riddler – Like the Joker he has a great design but he spends most of the film sabotaging the Villains plans because of his need for riddles, making him also a useless figure in regards to the story. He isn’t a threat or is no more a threat than Penguin’s hired muscle.
The Humor – The humor is hit and miss…I liked all the Bat devices and Penguin devices as well as the Penguin’s submarine, but besides that it felt too forced. If it had been a funnier film I would have rated it higher.
The Soundtrack – The soundtrack is standard camp and isn’t anything I’d listen to again.
The Cons: The Cinematography – The filming looks cheap. This clearly looks like a made for television movie and there isn’t anything unique about it.
Authority Figures Who are Allies – Comissioner Gordon, the President and others appear in this but don’t really do anything but give Batman and Robin their missions. There is nothing unique about any of them, making them cons. Gordon in Burton’s movies had the same problem.
Robin – The wonder kid is just annoying. He is useful at least but he comes off like Wesley Crusher in “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” He is solving all of Batman’s issues and solving the Riddles when that should be Batman. Robin isn’t needed in this at all.
Don’t Drink and PSAs – I get kids watched this show but this was really annoying. It felt like the IHOP in “Man of Steel.” It wasn’t needed and had no place in the film.
Stupidity of our Heroes – Batman and Robin have to have every clue given to them, usually by the Riddler. Our heroes are not really competent at all, but everyone around them isn’t either so I guess it balances out?
For what it is worth I did enjoy this film at times, even if at other times I found myself bored or the humor not quite working. Part of the issue was Batman and Robin had to have the answers handed to them in very obvious riddles by the Riddler most of the time and it was impossible to take any threats they made seriously since they took at 5 minutes to do a PSA about not drinking and remembering to stay in school. If this was a satire it would have worked a lot better, but because it was played straight it was brought down some. This was still fun camp and I’d honestly say it is worth checking out. This was Batman’s history for a long time and Adam West manages to be a very charming and corny Batman.
Final Score: 7 / 10