Back in November, I wrote about the recent fascination with the 1966 Batman television series by modern pop culture. A lot of that is due to the fact the show has finally been released on DVD/Blu-Ray, as well as the publication of many comic books based on the series. The thing a lot of people forget when discussing that series is that it spawned a feature film which actually has been available on home video for years; namely, Batman: The Movie. Since this was the only legitimate video of Batman ’66 available, it’s been largely ignored and relegated to the discount bin. Funny how now that the show is seeing a resurgence in popularity, the movie is too (by me at least).
I never really watched Batman ’66 as a kid, so it has no nostalgic or sentimental value to me. Until recently, it was something I, and a lot of fans of the Batman comics, disowned because of how radically different it is from the badass we consider the character to be today (it wasn’t too far removed from the Silver Age comics at the time, though). But I’ve come to appreciate the 1966 TV show for its place in pop culture history, even artistic history. And when viewed within that context, Batman: The Movie is actually really fun.
I suppose the timing couldn’t have been better for me to have watched this, considering I recently viewed the very campy Batman Forever and Batman & Robin (even though they shouldn’t have been) and the 1943 Batman serial. This story of this film is told almost like that of a serial as there isn’t exactly one central plot that runs from beginning to end, but rather a series of smaller adventures that add up to one big one. I think it actually works well because of this format; as the hijinks, shenanigans, pratfalls and other comical elements are fine in sporadically small doses rather than anything continuous.
Much like the Batman movies of the 1980s and 90s, Batman: The Movie is too silly to be viewed as a genuine thriller or adventure of any kind. I doubt anyone other than a small child was on the edge of their seat while watching this. This is a comedy first and foremost and it works quite well as such. Actually, it’s more a work of intellectual pop culture satire; I would consider the film “cute” rather than laugh-out-loud funny. For example, consider the infamous Batman-versus-the-shark scene. It’s so clearly obvious that it’s a rubber shark, but that the Batcopter would happen to have a can of shark repellant spray on board is either ridiculously corny or completely brilliant. Another scene later in the movie involves Batman and Robin about to crash in the Batcopter but just happen to land on a pile of foam rubber. This isn’t really the kind of comedy that inspires belly laughs authentically, but does make me smirk because of how unapologetic it is for this cartoony nature.
Batman: The Movie isn’t the type of film that can or should be critiqued on its merit as a film. Either you get the joke or you don’t, so either you’ll like it or hate it. And while I’m not saying it’s the funniest movie of all time, it still holds up after all these years because it’s so unique and memorable. Even though the entire Batman ’66 phenomenon was well before my time, it’s a craze that pop culture refuses to forget (and for good reason). Any Batman fan worth his or her salt owes it to themselves to add this movie to their collection.