At this point, any discussion of 'Batman: The Movie' must begin and end with the word "camp." It's hard to imagine anyone taking this film seriously today (or back in 1966 when it was first released, for that matter), as it seems as if was engineered to be a self-satire from the first frame. Exactly what its title promises to be, 'The Movie' is an extension of the famous '60s 'Batman' television series, complete with all the silly costumes, overacting, bad special effects, and visual gimmicks (you just know that every single punch and kick is going to be accompanied by a thought balloon with the word "Pow!" scribbled in it). That doesn't make it a bad film at all -- in fact, it's quite entertaining -- but anyone looking for a serious Batman movie should certainly look elsewhere.
Armed with a bigger budget, Fox was able to entice just about the entire cast of the original "Batman" television series, and give them a slightly larger canvas to play around in. Back as Batman is Adam West, and as Robin the boy wonder, Burt Ward. Alan Napier is back as Alfred, and Neil Hamilton as Commissioner Gordon. And foreshadowing the highly-populated 'Batman' movies of the Joel Schumacher era, there are no less than four villains on board, including Cesar Romero as the Joker, Burgess Meredith as the Penguin, Frank Gorshin as the Riddler, and Lee Meriwether as Catwoman (subbing for an unavailable Julie Newmar). The plot is of little consequence -- Batman and Robin must face off against this quartet of evil, who are planning to rid the world of the caped crusaders by holding members of the United World Security Council hostage. The real fun of the movie is in how the villains go about trying to destroy Batman and Robin, and all the ingenious methods the pair must devise to defeat their foes.
Your appreciation for 'Batman: The Movie' will depend entirely on your appreciation for the series. It's almost exactly the same in style and tone, often feeling like a TV movie-of-the-week digest version. The same silly humor is on display here, with the actors (especially West) delivering every line with such fake sincerity it feels postmodern before such a thing existed as part of the popular vernacular. The villains are completely over the top, especially Gorshin's gay spin on the Riddler, and Meredith's wonderfully croaky Penguin, who can barely gruff out his lines between chomps on his long cigarette. Meriwether may not have the same ferocious charm as Newmar, but she brings a much-needed dose of distaff energy to an otherwise male-dominated movie. Throw in a few fun setpieces and chase/fight scenes, and 'Batman: The Movie' certainly entertains.
Unfortunately, 'Batman: The Movie' doesn't really succeed as anything but forgettable camp. The parody doesn't deliver even a hint of pop culture significance or dissection of the comic book genre (such as say, the 'Scream' series managed to do for horror). The sameness of the approach to every situation in the film (usually Batman and Robin trying to solve a dilemma or riddle with absolutely zero plausible logic) also begins to wear thin. It's a film that is purely and simply a hoot -- but one that, even at a brisk 105 minutes, wears out its welcome fairly fast. Like a postmodern house of cards, it all kinda collapses under the weight of its own lack of seriousness. 'Batman: The Movie' is a hard movie to hate, but because it aims so low, it's also hard to regard it as anything more than a nostalgic, dated time waster.
Wow. I really wasn't expecting such a great transfer for 'Batman: The Movie.' Given that the film is over forty years old, and suffered from a low budget, I figured it would look just okay -- but this 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode sparkles. If only all vintage catalog titles looked this slick.
I was quite impressed with how cleaned up the source elements are. Grain is present but thin for a film of this era, and there are no real blemishes to speak of. Colors are quite robust, particularly the great use of comic book primaries, which are stable and consistent. Fleshtones, too, look natural. Detail is way above average for a catalog title, with excellent depth throughout, and ample sharpness. Granted, shadow delineation falls off a bit, lending a softer look to darker scenes, but all things considered it's still a great effort. There are no major compression artifacts, and only a few minor instances of jaggies distracted. Kudos, Fox.
Presented in a new DTS-HD Lossless Master Audio 5.1 Surround track (48kHz/16-bit), 'Batman: The Movie' also gets a nice sonic upgrade. It's not as revelatory as the video transfer, but certainly this is as good a mix as possible considering the material.
Typical of a '60s soundtrack, dynamic range is limited. However, the subwoofer was more active than I expected (love those "Pows!" and "Bangs!"), and highs, while constrained, didn't sound hard-edged. The original audio elements have also been nicely spiffed up, and dialogue sounded stronger and better balanced than I anticipated. Surround use is relatively meager, with some obviously processed discrete effects that add to the camp appeal, and only nominal atmosphere and score bleed. Still, 'Batman: The Movie' sounds pretty good for its age.
I never thought there could be so many extras possible for 'Batman: The Movie,' but Fox has left no stone unturned. There is a virtual Batcave of material here that fans will undoubtedly love. Plus, most of the material is in full 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 video. (I could find no optional subtitles or Close Captioning.)
'Batman: The Movie' appears to divide fans of the classic comic book character. Some love the camp appeal and self-reflexive humor, while others hate the lack of darkness and action. I find the film amusing, if a bit overlong (I prefer a quick episode of the TV series), but can certainly understand the haters. Few will disagree with this Blu-ray, however, as it looks terrific and sounds good, too. With a ton of extras, there are many additional hours of fun to be had. If you're at all a fan of 'Batman: The Movie,' this Blu-ray is a no-brainer.