The release of The Dark Knight is only a few weeks away, and lead-up hype has reached a fever pitch. I can tell because a picture of Christian Bale is on the cover of my latest issue of Tiger Beat.
And while the massive success of the first film, Heath Ledger’s final and reportedly masterful performance, and numerous glowing previews aim to make TDK the Summer Blockbuster of 2008, I'm about to break a news story that could rock the very foundation of the franchise itself, and leave The Dark Knight’s spine broken across the knee of the Bane of poor box office reception.
West, the original TV Batman and sometime cartoon mayor, has said that while he’s only seen “bits and pieces” of the new Batman films, he prefers the old days, when things were more “silly and funny.” Like how when Bruce’s parents got shot, instead of blood coming out, it was cotton candy!
West also praised the original series for being “Shakespearean,” a clear reference to the famous series finale, wherein The Penguin fed Batgirl’s corpse to Batman through the clever guise of meat pies, then revealed the same in blank verse soliloquy.
Well, I can’t in good conscience see this movie until I’ve taken all pertinent viewpoints into account, so as I see it there’s only one solution: a trumped up and self-important comparison of the two franchises, arbitrarily determining an ultimate victor. To that end, I proudly present:
(Unless you want to include the Burton or Schumacher movies)
Visuals: According to West, the new Batman films are “dark, gothic, sinister, and full of explosions,” whereas in the old series they “didn’t rely on special effects so much so everyone was challenged to use their imaginations.” Clear Winner: The Nolan Movies.
Dialogue: The new films feature sparse, matter-of-fact dialogue that keeps the action moving while remaining as transparent and on-theme as possible. The original series strove to put the word “bat” into a new word each and every episode, and often flashed the word “KaPOW!” onscreen. Clear Winner: The Original Series, mainly for effort.
Plot: While the new films slavishly follow a traditional Fieldian three-act structure, the original series took chances with a looser structure that could telescope to fit the needs of each episode, and/or to make room for the inclusion of a new Bat Dance. Clear Winner: The Nolan Movies.
Characterization of Batman: Batman’s been everything from a slick do-gooding playboy, to a troubled, brooding force of blind justice, to Adam West, who I can’t really describe with mere words. Clear Winner: Adam West.
Villains: The original series included nearly every major villain later used in the films: The Riddler, The Penguin, Catwoman, Two-Face, The Joker, King Tut, and so on. Meanwhile, Batman Begins featured Scarecrow minus his signature costume and Razz A. Ghoul, who doesn’t even exist in the four Batman comic books I’ve read. And Gordon’s not even Commissioner? Come off it! Clear Winner: The Original Series.
Bat Devices:Batman Begins turned the Batmobile into a modified Hummer, whereas the original series turned it into a modified Lincoln town car. And while both iterations featured batarangs and grappling hooks, the Nolan movies had that “bat call” that summoned thousands of bats, while the original series had shark-repellent bat spray, which either kept sharks away from bats or was made of bats (it was never really made clear). Clear Winner: Draw.
Social Commentary: The original series often lampooned celebrities of the day by including characters like newscaster “Walter Klondike,” oil tycoon “J. Pauline Spaghetti” (John Paul Getty), and TV personality John E. Carson. And while these represent a level of social commentary on par with weaker issues of Mad Magazine, it’s still more than we can say for the Nolan movies. Clear Winner: The Original Series.
Memorable Quotes: The Nolan Movies: “Why so serious?;” “We fall so we can learn to get back up;” “You need to lighten up.”
The Original Series: “Atomic batteries to power, turbines to speed;” “To the batpoles!” Clear Winner: The Original Series.
Sidekicks: The original series featured both Robin and Batgirl as sidekicks, and added a narrator character known as “Desmond Doomsday.” The new movies featured no one. Clear Winner: The Nolan Movies.
Inclusion of Eartha Kitt: If you don’t understand why the inclusion of Eartha Kitt as Catwoman in the original series should earn it a bonus point in this contest, then I don’t want to know you. Bonus Point: The Original Series.
There you have it. The scientifically-determined winner by a landslide is the original Adam West Batman TV series, with a special rogue point going to Mr. West himself. I know; I’m as surprised as you are.
Though the new movies may have some fancy effects and a well-structured plot, they’ll never beat the classic in terms of heart, social message, and the inclusion of Eartha Kitt. The final verdict? DON’T GO SEE THE DARK KNIGHT.
Although if you want to know what happens, just call me, because I’m going to the midnight showing.
When not blogging for Cracked, Michael is valiantly watching movies in your stead as head writer and co-founder of Those Aren't Muskets!