In 1966, Batman: The Movie opened to theaters two months after the show’s first season finale. The first superhero film to be shot in color, as well as the first Batman film ever, Batman: The Movie is the project everyone makes fun of when joking about Adam West’s tenure as Batman. Campy, silly, and nonsensical, Batman: The Movie probably deserves a lot of the jokes made at its expense.
But watching it now, I can’t help but think that there are some valuable lessons to be learned for Batman films, going forward. Especially in light of the recent films, Batman: The Movie is a bright, candy colored exercise in silliness, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The nonsensical writing doesn’t demonstrate a lack of respect for the source material, but a reverie in the concept of a Batman. In fact, modern filmmakers have already borrowed from Batman: The Movie. The main villains use a “Total Dehydrater”, which sucks the moisture out of any living being. This is just like the main weapon stolen by Liam Neeson’s Ra’s al Ghul in Batman Begins.
In a time where we have had to back-to-back sad Batmen played by Christian Bale and Ben Affleck, the next Batman movie could do well by recalling what worked well in Batman: The Movie.
Proper Detective Work
For all the detective work on display in Batman v Superman, it basically amounted to Ben Affleck hacking a computer, and having a second computer analyze the results. That’s not detective work — that’s glorified hacktivism.
Adam West, meanwhile, does real detective work. In the film, he deduces the Joker’s involvement in a boat-jacking based on the fact that an exploding shark attacked him and was pulling on Batman’s leg. Pulling his leg. Joker. Perfect deductive reasoning.
In reality, what seems like logic silliness on the part of Batman actually reveals a recurring moment in Batman: The Movie: Batman doesn’t jump to conclusions. As opposed to the Batfleck in Batman v Superman, who automatically assumes that Superman is a threat, West’s Batman is always willing to learn all the details before assuming that a man named P. En-Guin is the villain Penguin (He is).
BvS acted as a three hour mea culpa for the senseless destruction caused in Man of Steel. Batman: The Movie is an hour and half PSA about respecting one’s elders, abstaining from alcohol, and preventing harm from befalling on every living creature, including a bunch of ducks Batman refuses to throw a large bomb at. If the recent Batman movies wallowed in meditations of nihilism and good vs. evil, then Batman: The Movie is all about inspiring the next generation of do-gooders. A worthy goal.
It’s been a long time since we’ve seen a proper Robin on screen and in costume. It’s about time we bring him back in full regalia and not like that Joseph Gordon-Levitt cop-out from The Dark Knight Rises.
Yes, the newer films do their best to showcase the modern technological marvels which fit into Batman’s arsenal. From exo-skeleton fighting armor, to Batmobile tanks, every Batman film has taken advantage of visualizing his armory. However, Batman: The Movie goes above and beyond when it comes to Batman branded technology. This includes Bat Ladders, Shark Repellents, and “super blinding bat pellets”. Basically, Batman shouldn’t be afraid to spread his licensing agreements across a more varied platform of products than just vehicles and weapons.
If there’s one thing that’s been missing in billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne’s life, it’s romance. Poor bastard needs someone to give him hug every now and then, and Adam West is no stranger to the ladies. Not only does he get close to a certain reporter over the course of the movie, she is a Soviet national, thereby bridging the two disparate nations of the US and USSR together. But wait, turns out the reporter was Catwoman all along! How’s that for a twist?
I’d like more Bruce Wayne romances of that caliber if you don’t mind, Warner Bros.
The Sense of Fun
This is actually important. Batman may be a dark character, but from his portrayals by Adam West and even the animated Justice League cartoon, we know that Batman can quip with the best of them. He’s downright Spider-Man levels of quippage in Batman: The Movie. In the hands of a writer who could deliver sardonic puns at high velocity, Batman would not only be a joy to watch on screen, but nigh invincible to his poor enemies.