Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Recap: Batman: The Movie Part 1: Pow!

Fifty years and two reboots later, it’s time to take a look at the movie that helped get the super hero genre off the ground.

“Wait a minute… Fifty? Two?”
“Holy fifty-two pickup, Batman!”

“Thought you could get away with it, didn’t you?”
No, really, what?

“But your own compulsion gave you away… Calendar Man!”

“Obviously, you’re planning some sort of scheme based around this event which will, no doubt, disrupt the 52 universes, allowing you to rule all creation.”
Or… maybe it’s just a coincidence and I’m not a supervillain?

“Possibly. There’s always a first time.”
Right. So without further ado, let’s take a look at one of the main catalysts of DC’s tendency to make everything darker and grittier.

Truly, this movie’s lighthearted fun is a double-edged sword.
The film opens with an acknowledgement from the filmmakers scrawled on a few walls. In chalk, because I think we all know Batman would not approve of graffiti.

"We wish to express our gratitude to the enemies of crime and crusaders against crime throughout the world for their inspirational example."

"That's absolutely right. The real heroes in this world are the brave men and women in uniform."
"Police officers, firefighters, and our brave men and women overseas!"
"Precisely, Robin!"
Um... right. Anyway, the acknowledgement continues.

"To them, and to lovers of adventure, lovers of pure escapism, lovers of unadulterated entertainment, lovers of the ridiculous and the bizarre--- to funlovers everywhere--- this picture is respectfully dedicated."

"Indeed, some of the best things in this world are simply things meant to bring joy to others."
"Gosh, you're right, Batman. Better to be a funlover than a warmonger!"

Anyway, it concludes with a small joke after cutting to a couple making out.

"If we have overlooked any sizable groups of lovers, we apologize. -The Producers"

"Truly, love not only between two people, but between the various peoples on this Earth...."
Okay, yes, we get it. All you need is love. Faith, hope, love, the greatest of these is love. I love you, you love me, we're a happy family.

"Apologies. I like to make speeches."
Don't worry about it. Just… cool it? You get to speechify quite a bit during the movie already.

“Excellent. Carry on, citizen.”
Anyway, the intro continues by illuminating each individual character with their own colored spotlight as the familiar na-na-na-na's play. The only way the intro could be more '60s is if we had some go-go dancing.

Which isn't unheard of for this Batman.
But I love how it looks like they caught Batman by surprise.

"What the f...."
"Oh, it's you."
After the opening credits, we cut to a mysterious yacht, which the omniscient narrator (producer William Dozier) is more than happy to tell us about.

Narrator: "This yacht is binging a revolutionary scientific invention to Gotham City."

But that's enough of that I guess, because we cut to a couple of people in a car.

Narrator: "On a peaceful afternoon motor ride, millionaire Bruce Wayne and his youthful ward, Dick Grayson, have been summoned back to Wayne Manor by an urgent but anonymous call for help."

Uh, I believe you mean STATELY WAYNE MANOR.

Bruce (Adam West) and Dick (Burt Ward) park by the door, passing a cameo from Aunt Harriet (Madge Blake) and she works in the garden by the loyal butler, Alfred Pennyworth (Alan Napier).

If you don't know who the heck this "Aunt Harriet" is, don't worry about it. She doesn't have any lines and will only show up once more. I'll discuss her someday when I go over the actual TV series.

As the narrator explains that both the inventor and the invention aboard the yacht are in great danger, Bruce flips the secret switch in the bust of Shakespeare in his study, activating the secret entrance to the Batcave.

And just in case there was any doubt, they've labeled it.
You know, just in case Bruce forgets where these secret poles lead to.
As they descend, Batman flips the Instant Costume Change Lever to neatly "explain" why they always exit the pole in costume, despite wearing their civilian clothes when they start down the pole. Fans of all ages have asked how this works, but the only answer they've ever gotten is "It works very well."

Maybe Superman taught him how to do this?
Once the two are in both their costumes and the Batcave, they hurry inside the Batmobile so the stock footage can play.

Robin: "Atomic batteries to power. Turbines to speed."
Batman: "Roger. Ready to move out."

Yes, this footage is in nearly every episode of the show. And it’s a great gag; one that sort of metafictionally comments on the nature of stock footage and repeated filler sequences.

Surprisingly meta for a goofy 60s show.
As Batman drives, Robin calls up the airport on the Batmobile's built-in phone, telling them to prepare the Batcopter.

The Batcopter was one of the ways the filmmakers intended to get the most out of their budget. By introducing a new, costly gadget in the movie, that would allow them to use it in the TV show without worrying too much about the cost. Unfortunately, it didn't actually appear as much as one would think, given how often Batman zips around in the Batplane these days. A shame, because I really like the humor in Batman driving to the airport to fly his licensed and registered civilian aircraft.

You won't see this Batman flying unregistered experimental aircraft too low within city limits, nosiree!
And what's more, the control tower even tells all the planes to standby and enter a holding pattern so the Batcopter can take off without whacking into anybody. I find that touch of realism and attention to detail funny, considering the utter absurdity this movie revels in.

As the Batcopter flies through the city, everyone takes note of it. The bikini-clad girls exercising on a building all wave at the Caped Crusader while a group of policemen take their hats off in respect.

“There goes the man who cleans up the city while we take bribes from the crooks he ends up putting in jail.”
And half of a random picnicking couple remarks that seeing them up there doing their job gives him a good feeling.

"After all, our police department is a joke. I don’t know if they’re corrupt or just incompetent."
The Batcopter soon comes across the yacht. Robin drops the Bat-Ladder and gets in the pilot seat as Batman begins to make the climb down to the yacht.

But it seems as though Batman has not yet collected the Ghost Ship Chart from Diamond Steppe Island, because the boat disappears when he gets near. With nothing to land on, Batman takes a quick dip in the water before the Bat-Copter pulls up. Unfortunately, Batman has to deal with an unexpected guest on his leg.

Robin: "Holy sardine!"

In an effect only slightly worse than the shark from Jaws, a shark has grabbed onto Batman’s leg in one of the most iconic scenes in Batman history.

Before Joker kidnapped Vicki Vale.
Before Bane broke the Bat.
I think you’ll agree, this scene blows those out of the water. Pun intended.
Batman smacks the shark around for a while, but its rubbery jaws firmly grasp his leg.

Batman: "Hand me down the shark repellant bat-spray!"

I'd make the traditional joke about how over-prepared Batman is, but it seems to me that he's woefully underprepared for a jellyfish attack.
Robin climbs down the Bat-Ladder to hand it to him, allowing Batman to finally repel the poor fish before it falls into the water and explodes for no reason, giving a young Michael Bay a few ideas....

We then cut to a press conference in the office of Commissioner James Gordon (Neil Hamilton), with his trusty Irish stereotype Chief O'Hara (Stafford Repp) by his side.

Batman: "You there, Mr. Merrick of the Gotham City Times."

Yes, Batman really is giving a press conference. Because the best way to cultivate an aura of mystery and strike terror into the hearts of criminals… is to talk to reporters.

Mr. Merrick: "Well, according to rumor, Batman, a transatlantic yacht approaching this city simply disappeared."
Batman: "Nonsense. How can a yacht... simply disappear?"
Mr. Merrick: "Well, you mean it isn't true?"
Batman: "I stand on my answer, Mr. Merrick."

I don't think cryptic interviews are what people usually think of when they think of how mysterious Batman is.

"Yes, Mr. Kent of the Daily Planet?"
"Batman, your answer to the previous question doesn't actually explain what you were doing out in the ocean by helicopter, nor why you decided to climb down your ladder..."
"...Your Bat-Ladder in order to get your knees attacked by an exploding shark."
"I stand on my answer, Mr. Kent."
The next reporter, Mr. Stanley of the Globe, continues asking about this mysterious yacht, noting that it was owned by Big Ben Distilleries.

Batman: "That's right."

So first you cryptically deny the yacht in question disappearing, then you specify the yacht in question? All somebody has to do is ask where this specific yacht currently is to catch you in your poorly-thought-out responses.

Mr. Stanley: "Isn't the firm's proprietor, Commodore Schmidlapp, bringing with him a fantastic new invention from the Big Ben's research laboratory?"
Batman: "Please, no more questions about that ship."

Which naturally makes people wonder about that exploding shark.

Batman: "Doubtless an unfortunate animal who chanced to swallow a floating mine."

"An unfortunate animal which I beat within an inch of its life before spraying it with chemicals.”
Next up is a Russian reporter named Kitanya Irenya Tatanya Karenska Alisoff who doesn't seem to get the idea of a "secret identity," since she asks Batman to take off the mask so she can get a better picture.

Commissioner Gordon: "Great Scott, Batman take off his mask?"
Chief O'Hara: "The woman must be mad!"

Not exactly Lois Lane, this one.
But Batman politely explains that he and Robin wear masks to protect their loved ones from the dangers of their crime fighting escapades.

Robin: "In fact, our own relatives we live with don't know."

She asks about their costumes next, so Robin explains them by... not actually explaining them.

Robin: "Under this garb, we're perfectly ordinary Americans."

Pff. “Ordinary.” Sure you are, 1%.

Russian Reporter: "You are like the masked vigilantes in the Westerns, no?"
Commissioner Gordon: "Certainly not!"

"You didn't have to say that like it's a bad thing...."
Commissioner Gordon: "Batman and Robin are fully deputized agents of the law."
Robin: "Support your police! That's our message."

And so, the film has neatly addressed Batman's outlandish methods for crimefighting.

The mask is to protect himself and his loved ones from reprisals, the costume... is something he wears for some reason, and both he and Robin are officially deputized, meaning that this clean-cut Boy Scout is not breaking any laws regarding vigilantism.

With Robin's impromptu PSA, the conference ends as all the reporters reluctantly shuffle out while Batman discusses the truth of the matter with Commissioner Gordon.

Batman: "If I'd told the truth, panic would grip the city."

The truth being that the whole thing was staged. Someone called in a phony anonymous tip, leading Batman straight into a trap meant to kill him once and for all. And at the same time, with Batman off getting killed, the real yacht done got stole.

The only question remaining, apart from why someone did this and how they did it, is who did this?

Gordon has his secretary bring up the latest report on which supercriminals are still at large, and the crime-fighters all take a gander at the TV screen.

First up is the Penguin (Burgess Meredith).

Commissioner Gordon: "That pompous waddling master of fowl play, maestro of a million criminal umbrellas.”

Then the Joker (Cesar Romero).

Chief O'Hara: "Devilish Clown Prince of Crime. Oh, if Oi only had a nickel for every toime he's baffled us!"

Then the Riddler (Frank Gorshin).

Batman: "Loose to plague us with his criminal conundrums."

Finally, Catwoman (Lee Meriwether). She doesn't get any additional comments.

It could be any one of them, but they pause to consider another possibility.

Batman: "Pretty fishy what happened to me on that ladder."
Commissioner Gordon: "You mean where there's a fish, there could be a Penguin!"
Robin: "But wait! It happened at sea! ...C? C for Catwoman!"
Batman: "Yet... an exploding shark... WAS pulling my leg!"
Commissioner Gordon: "The Joker!"
Chief O'Hara: "It all adds up to a sinister riddle. ...Riddle-er. Riddler?"

Apophenia, guys. Look it up.
Batman: "The four of them... their forces combined."
Robin: "Holy nightmare!"

Naturally, they need more information before they jump to any conclusions.

...Too late.

As Batman and Robin head back to the Batcave, the Russian Reporter from earlier enters Ye Olde Benbow Taverne down by the seedy Gotham docks. She steps around the big bar brawls and cavorting couples to head up the stairs in the back. A man dressed up as a pirate identifies her as Catwoman and gives her a hearty "Ahoy," only to get a slap in return.

Catwoman: "Imbecile, how many times have I told you, never use my real name in public!"

And "Selina Kyle" is... what, your slave name?

In the upper levels of the tavern, the logo for the United Underworld is painted on the wall, illustrating that this is the headquarters for the allied forces of the Penguin, Catwoman, the Riddler, and the Joker.

Did they hire a guy to make them a logo, or did the Riddler whip out his unknown talents with a paintbrush?
The Joker is busy amusing himself with simple magic tricks as Catwoman enters. All the while, the Riddler berates Penguin and his "trained exploding shark."

Penguin: "How should I know they'd have a can of shark-repellant Bat-Spray handy?"

You know what? That's a valid excuse.

As the two argue, the Joker gives them a good zap with his electric joybuzzers just for kicks and giggles. Not one to be left out of the fun, Catwoman throws her cat into the action to get them to all stop their in-fighting.

Catwoman: "'United Underworld.' Ha! We're about as united as the members of the United World Headquarters on Gotham East River."

Man, that line might as well have been labeled SUBTLE IMPORTANT PLOT POINT. Everything else in this movie is.

But this is enough to snap them all to their senses. Penguin even quotes Ben Franklin.

Penguin: "We must hang together, or most assuredly, we shall hang separately."

They get down to the matters at hand and ask Catwoman how the press conference went. Naturally, the answer is "purr-fectly."

Catwoman: "In my disguise as Kitka, I penetrated their press conference. The fools are completely baffled."

Well, of course Batman didn't recognize you. You're usually played by Julie Newmar.
And as for their prisoner, Penguin notes that he still has no clue he's been kidnapped.

Penguin: "He just keeps ringing for his confounded tea."

And like clockwork, the tea bell rings, so the Joker gets it for him. So... he's not going to notice that he's being served by a world-famous criminal? Or at the very least, a clown?

Commodore Schmidlapp (Reginald Denny), under the impression that he's in a private cabin on his yacht, is quickly brought his tea. Lo and behold, he does notice something odd about this steward.

Commodore Schmidlapp: "I say, steward, your face has the most ghastly pallor."

"Why, your pale complexion even affects your mustache!"
"My what?"
Commodore Schmidlapp: "Are you sure you're getting enough of the good ol' sea air?"
Joker: "Oh, my duties keep me mostly undercover, sir."

The good Commodore believes that the yacht is simply waiting out the fog, and he's just glad to have a chance to read Charles Dickens. But as much as he like laughing over the end of The Old Curiosity Shop, he'd like to get to Gotham someday to show off his company's invention.

Commodore Schmidlapp: "Should be worth millions of Yankee dollars, pip-pip?
Joker: "Ooooooh, hee-hee-hee, well 'pip-pip' to you, sir. And if you wish anything further, just ring."

As the Joker leaves his prisoner, we get to see exactly how the dastardly villains have been faking the sea view outside the Commodore's window.

It's very possible that the good Commodore's as blind as a bat, all things considered.
Back in the main room of the hideout, the Riddler rants for a bit about the possibilities the Commodore's invention offers them... and how Batman and Robin could still foil them. The Joker returns to announce that everything is still fine with the prisoner, but that still leaves Batman and Robin. And they're probably working to figure out how they made that yacht disappear as they speak!

So it's time for Penguin's prates to prepare the submarine while Robin develops the photos he took of the phantom yacht back in the Batcave.

Robin: "Holy Merlin the magician!"

It seems as though none of their pictures of the yacht developed, meaning that Batman's hunch was right.

Batman: "As you truly remarked, no one can make a seagoing vessel simply disappear..."

G.O.B. begs to differ.

Batman: "...provided it was ever really there at all."

Yep, Batman has finally caught up with the audience.

Batman: "The yacht we thought we saw was a mere illusion, a tricky projection akin to the common desert mirage."

Um, mirages are just water molecules in the hot air refracting light is a way that resembles water rippling on the ground. The yacht was a hologram.

Batman: "It deceived our naked eyes, but was blocked by the Bat-Camera's polarized filter."

And when he puts the photo under a Bat-Magnifying Glass, he spots a suspicious buoy in the water. When he has Robin enter the coordinates of the fake ship into the Bat-Computer, it seems that there's no legal buoy there.

Batman: "An il-legal projection buoy cleverly camouflaged."

Yes, a buoy disguised as.... a buoy. Clever.

So the Dynamic Duo rushes off to dust the buoy for fingerprints in the Batmobile, which they take to some random dock where the Bat-Boat is anchored. Which is just asking for the Joker to show up with a can of spray paint.

Anyway, our heroes head out to the buoy while closing up some plot holes.

Robin: "If that ship was just a mirage, what happened to the real one?"
Batman: "Taken to some secret island hideaway with every soul aboard, save one."
Robin: "Commodore Schmidlapp?"
Batman: "Precisely. For some baffling reason, the hijackers needed him or his invention as part of their criminal scheme."

Unbeknownst to the two, the Penguin is also heading to the buoy in his tricked-out submarine.

Because decorating a vehicle that depends on stealth makes all the sense.
The Penguin revels in commanding his own submarine, though the Riddler (who has taken the time to change from his spiffy suit into his tights) just hopes he won't screw it all up. The Joker, on the other hand, is very likely to actually screw something up, since he's leaning on a control panel. The Penguin chastises him for this, though the Joker doesn't exactly like how the Penguin has taken to bossing everybody around.

Penguin: "My dear sir, as the poet says, 'On land, you may command, at sea, it is me.' Hweeeagh, waugh waugh."

Wow, I never realized how hard it was to actually spell out the Penguin's signature laugh. Or how awkward it looks.

The Penguin walks over to the plastic penguin...

Batarang! Batarang!
Dang it, why isn't this working?
Oh, wait. Just because I'm watching this on my PS3 doesn't mean I can throw batarangs at penguins. Dang ol' Arkham City reflexes.

Anyway, he gives the announcement through the penguin-shaped PA system to prepare for the upcoming skullduggery as the Bat-Boat approaches the buoy. The three costumed fiends watch through the periscope as Batman arrives to check the buoy out, discovering an underwater shark cage. With their suspicions confirmed, the heroes begin dusting the buoy for prints while the villains have the torpedo tubes loaded.

Due to the salt and corrosion, Batman is unable to get any prints off the buoy, but they manage to find a plate on the side of the buoy that, when unscrewed, reveals the "tricky mirage projector." While Robin looks it over, Batman spots the periscope from the Penguin's submarine. In response, the Penguin has a henchman activate the magnet inside buoy, attracting the Dynamic Duo by their belt buckles.

With the Bat and the Bird having been turned into sitting ducks, the Penguin orders the launch of the torpedoes. But not before Batman whips a transmitter out of his utility belt.

Batman: "If I could just reverse the polarity..."

The Third Doctor called. He wants his schtick back.
Batman: "...send out waves of superenergy...."

Batman uses his transmitter to detonate the first few torpedoes, but the final torpedo threatens to hit its target when the battery in his transmitter dies.

Or would that be a… Bat-tery? …Please don’t laugh at that one, I don’t need your pity laughter
Suddenly, an explosion.

The Joker is happier than ever.

The Penguin celebrates the work of his pirate crew.

The Riddler simply stands there and thinks, no doubt imagining what future lies ahead in a world without Batman.

Have our heroes found themselves in a watery grave? Will the villainous alliance run rampant in the streets of Gotham with only the police attempting to stand in their way?

And will Catwoman actually get to join in on the antics as opposed to running around disguised as a Russian?

Find out in Part 2! Same Newt-Time, same Newt-Blog!

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