Before the horrid pangs of castrated computer graphics and slick, charmless colour palettes made the rounds, tight spandex and a tongue-in-cheek whimsy dominated. The turn of the century left something to be desired, but make no mistake, newer issues merely replaced the problems of yesterday. When removing the comedy from Batman, a difficult challenge indeed, it is hard to display much passion or interest for what remains. One of the sole draws of Adam West’s era as the loose-fitting trailblazer was the fun he brought to the screen. Even a staunch comic book avoider would have to admit the positives presented by this era. But saturation back then was an issue for the birth of colour television, rather than of market fears, and Batman’s leading draw is the unique chance to see an episodic comic book show on the big screen.
Capturing the caped crusader at the height of his adaptive prowess, the Leslie H. Martinson adaptation provides the first feature-length exploration and exposure for DC Comics’ famed hero. It is a fine adaptation, one that captures the spirit of the swinging sixties and all the jolly, pop-culture drives that came from such a period. Candid conformity and an acceptance of the weighty narrative found in the written material is of no interest to Martinson and West, who display a wry, experienced series of charming, parodical knocks to the film they’ve been tasked with adapting. Burt Ward also appears, providing the ever-present sidekick role Batman apparently needed. His performance as Robin is fine, but it is West who strives for that balance between comedy gold and narrative portrayal.
He manages it well enough, but the story and real humour of the piece is lost, either to Father Time or to poor writing. A mixture of both is likely, mainly just to play it safe and not take the risk of being incorrect. It is the two together that blend rather poorly. For every decent line, four others lack a punch or pow necessary to delivering them. Burgess Meredith and Cesaro Romero are both fun, but their one-note performances are better suited to the episodic format, rather than that of the feature. At its core, that is the clear issue with Batman, its characters lack the depth necessary to keep up with its hour and forty of plodding story, an issue not found on the television show this film originated from.
Surely harmless, and an entertaining time that riffs on the semi-serious comic books and the not so stoic attempts of the series it spawned. Batman is fine. Like many adaptations, it gets the core of the story correct, and the mould is there. How it is shaped and what an audience may prefer is entirely up to the viewer, and it is easy to conceive that West will have his fans. It should be said, however, that Batman is light on laughter and lighter still on narrative threads that are rewarding for a performer, or interesting for an audience.