Are you tired of murderous fascists uttering guttural growls like “JUSTICE” and “VENGEANCE”? Or rather, are you bored with brooding alien gods? Perhaps exhausted from the stakes being locked in at 10 all the time? Well, join the club.
2016 has only just begun and some of us have already begun to brace ourselves for the relentless onslaught of superhero films that will soon bombard cinemas across the country. Thankfully there is a glimmer of light in this dark and gritty future. Adam West is coming to 5th Avenue Cinema to rescue us from grim superhero exhaustion. Camp is what will save us.
Batman: The Movie–1966–is the first silver screen adventure for the World’s Greatest Detective since the serials in the 1940s. Adam West stars as the titular character, reprising his role from the television series.
In much of the same manner as the show, it follows Bruce Wayne on his costumed escapades combatting crime and villainy with an air of joy and light-heartedness. In this case, Batman and Robin–Burt Ward-race against the clock to stop their Rogues Gallery–here it’s the Joker, the Penguin, the Riddler, and Catwoman–from using a dehydrating weapon to take over the world.
What’s beautiful about Batman: The Movie is that it’s refreshingly free from this tired formula. It isn’t afraid to have fun. This might be–okay, it most certainly is–projecting onto the past, but in our era inundated with superheroes defined by melancholy and contemplation it’s hard to not see this depiction of the Dark Knight as a breath of fresh air. There isn’t any doubt that this isn’t Christopher Nolan’s Batman. For lack of a better word, this Batman is just fun.
It’s not all gags, though. There’s depth here if you’re looking for it. It’s not difficult to see mid-60s commentary on the Cold War and the military-industrial complex. They might be surface-level pokes, but there’s something there more than the title-card fight scenes and childish exclamations from the Boy Wonder. It has its problems too.
The film is content with outdated and problematic depictions and perspectives on women and people from nationalities other than the United States. It could be easy to chalk this up with product-of-its-time explanations, but there’s no excusing some of its representations. Still, it has its endearing moments.
Is it a good movie? No. Not in nearly any sense of the word. It isn’t a shining example of the power of cinema or effective storytelling. I mean, this came out the same year as “Persona,” “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” and “The Battle of Algiers.”
It’s written like a long episode of the television series and would have benefited from a reduction to the serialized format length; it’s like it’s not aspiring to be anything greater. But that’s kind of the point. Where’s it’s most successful is its unabashed desire to have fun.
So as we boldly leap into this new year filled with inevitably broody and unnecessarily grim superhero films, take a night to cleanse your palette with a bit of joy, even if it’s only for an hour and 45 minutes.
As the Joker gleefully tells his fellow rogues, “A joke a day keeps the gloom away.” You’re damn right, Joker. You’re damn right.
5th Avenue Cinema is free for Portland State students, $3 for other students and seniors, $4 general admission. Visit 5thavenuecinema.org/upcoming-films for showtimes and a full schedule of other films screening over winter term.