The Many Faces of Batman: Toledo Library’s 75th Anniversary celebration continues with movie marathonWritten by Jeff McGinnis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
As the Toledo Public Library continues its celebrations of the 75th anniversary of the Batman character this month, it cannot be denied that while the Dark Knight’s origins may lie on the comics page, for many fans, he is defined by his adventures on the silver screen.
“I do think it’s huge, because the bulk of the populace does not read comic books. A lot of it was shaped by the ’60s TV series, obviously. But there was a lot of time between that and the 1989 film,” said comic expert and Batman aficionado Jim Beard. “I’m going to say a lot of weight is placed on those, because it really is the way Batman has gotten out to the greater portion of society.”
In celebration of that fact, the library is holding a week-long marathon of five different Batman movie adventures, in free screenings held at the McCaster Center of the main library at 325 Michigan St.
“Here at the library, we love to offer film screenings,” said Traci Montri, manager of the library’s audiovisual department. “It’s just great to have the community together, to sort of enjoy that nugget of pop culture together. And to experience the excitement and adventure of some of the ‘Batman’ films together as a group is great fun.”
The marathon kicked off on July 21 with a screening of “Batman: The Movie” from 1966, a film directly inspired by and featuring the same cast as the hit television series, with Adam West and Burt Ward under the masks as Batman and Robin. Originally intended to precede the first season of the show, it was instead made immediately after the show became such a huge hit.
“They did the movie, for the larger part, to be able to sell the movie overseas,” Beard said. “The movie was supposed to, literally, represent the series and show everything that was done in it, so it has all the tropes in it and you get the main villains. This was sort of a calling card for overseas markets, to say, ‘This is what you can get with the series.’”
The camp that the 1966 series and film introduced to the character remained inexorably tied to the Batman franchise (on film, at least) until 1989, when a new “Batman” emerged with Michael Keaton in the title role and Jack Nicholson as his iconic archrival, the Joker. It is a version that Batman fan and horror comic author Dirk Manning said is the one closest to his ideal of what makes up a great Dark Knight.
“Despite the fact that Tim Burton was very public about the fact that he wasn’t a fan of the comics (at all), I feel he struck a nice balance between the inherent cheekiness and gothicness of a guy who dresses like a bat to fight criminals,” Manning said.
Burton’s film would eventually spawn three sequels, though even this rebooted series would eventually descend into the same level of camp that was the trademark of the 1966 version.
“I remember sitting in the theater, watching ‘Batman and Robin,’” Beard recalled. “And I remember, maybe not quite halfway through, I had a lightning bolt from Zeus hit me in the head, and I suddenly realized what I was watching. I said, ‘Well, this is a big-budget remake of the 60′s TV series.’ It suddenly dawned on me, the point that they had reached with that.”
It would take a new filmmaker — Christopher Nolan — to reimagine the Dark Knight yet again for a new series, which was launched with “Batman Begins” in 2005. “I think it took Nolan’s last three very dark and gritty theatrical representations of Batman to finally steer the public perception away from the old TV show,” Manning said. “So than in and of itself was a pretty huge accomplishment.”
But no matter what kind of hero fans prefer when they think of the Caped Crusader, the mythology of Batman is so malleable that there is certainly a film version to appeal to their tastes.
“I think it’s sort of the mystery of that sort of double life, and the motivation — we always guess as to the motivation,” Montri said. “And so Batman has always seemed that much more mysterious. So, I think, that lends itself to the various interpretations.”
“You wouldn’t think that, at the beginning, that this would have ever happened,” Jim Beard added. “That back in 1939, 1940, that it would become what it’s become.”
The Toledo Public Library’s “Batman @ 75! Movie Marathon” continues at the McMaster Center at 6 p.m. July 23 with “Batman Begins,” and concludes with shows of the 1989 “Batman” at 1 p.m. July 24 and “Batman and Robin” on at 1 p.m. July 25. All shows are free and open to the public.
Tags: 1966, 1989, Adam West, Batman, Batman and Robin, Batman Begins, Batman: The Movie, Burt Ward, Caped Crusader, Christopher Nolan, Dark Knight, Dark Knight Returns, Dirk Manning, Jack Nicholson, Jim Beard, Joker, McCaster Center, Michael Keaton, Movies, Television, Tim Burton, Traci Montri