Batman Movies

“You’re just jealous, because I’m a genuine freak and you have to wear a mask!”

Funny story. Back when my brother and I were doing our YouTube channel we had an impression-off where we had to pull random characters out of a hat.

I pulled “Charlie Kelly from It’s Alway Sunny in Philadelphia” which I had never seen before. However, my flustered confused, panicky, high-pitched rambling attempts managed somehow to translate into a near pitch perfect impression of a character I knew absolutely nothing about.

Segue. Tim Burton’s Batman.

Somehow, despite neither reading, understanding or even particularly liking Batman, Tim Burton’s sensibilities as a director were such a perfect fit for the character that he created probably the most influential depiction that there has ever been.

And it was huge, a box-office, critical and merchandising golden god that conquered all before it. Now, Burton had not enjoyed his time directing that film, so Warner Brothers offered him the one thing no Hollywood director can refuse; pure uncut Grade A coc…I mean, COMPLETE CREATIVE CONTROL.

“Whatever you want, Timmy Baby, you got it. You want to rewrite the script, you rewrite the script. You want Jon Peters demoted to executive producer? We can have him killed if you want ha ha ha! (seriously though, we have ways…). You want Kim Basinger gone? Kim who? Never heard of her. JUST MAKE US ANOTHER BATMAN TIM. JUST DO IT AGAIN, FOR UNCLE WARNER.”

And he did do it again for Uncle Warner, and what he did remains probably the most divisive Batman movie of them all. You probably either love it or hate it, there’s very little inbetween.

Whatever your opinion, I think we can all agree: It’s a Tim Burton movie.

In fact I would argue that it is THE Tim Burton movie.


“Hand me down… the shark…repellent…Batspray!”

“Inexplicably popular” is a phrase that gets bandied around a lot. There’s plenty of books and movies and so on that achieve monumental success despite being, by any fair assessment, fucking terrible. But what about things that are inexplicably unpopular? What about those works that attract passionate, fiery loathing despite being very, very good indeed?

Because the Adam West Batman series is just the tops. It is genuinely one of the best tv comedies of its decade. It’s smart, it’s funky and it just captures the vibe of the sixties so well.

No, no, no. Not THOSE sixties. THESE sixties.

There, much better.

And yet, for the longest time it felt like the Adam West series was loved by everybody but Batman fans. And sure, having to listen to the millionth tired joke about “BIFF BAM KAPOW!” and shark repellant got real old, real fast, but that wasn’t the show’s fault.

Less forgivable was the frankly toxic level of vitriol that a subset of the Batman fandom had towards this show. Not quite Phantom Menace levels but close. And this rejection of everything that even vaguely resembled Batman ’66 was, I would argue, a big reason why the nineties in comics were so fucking try-hard and asinine, as the medium went through its angsty adolesence loudly proclaiming that comics are ACTUALLY REALLY DARK AND MATURE, MOM.

Thankfully, things seem to have turned a corner. As comics became mainstream and lost their stigma, the show has undergone a reappraisal as younger generations have discovered the series and realised that

a) It’s fucking hilarious.

b) It’s supposed to be fucking hilarious.

c) This shit is meme-tastic.


“Saying “sorry” is stupid! When you do something wrong, learn from it! Then you won’t make the same mistake again.”

Thank GOD for Rifftrax.

I keep doing this, y’know. This is like when I reviewed the Universal Dracula and Frankenstein, and just assumed that because they were both horror movies made in the thirties by the same studio they must be roughly equivalent in quality.

Not so, dear reader. Not so.

Now, The Batman, the first big screen outing of the caped crusader, was not a good film. Even looking past its use of yellowface and a stance on the internment of Japanese Americans that could charitably be called “a bit unwoke”, it was very much a movie serial of its time: cheap, poorly paced and of interest to the modern viewer mostly as a curiosity. But hot damn, compared to its sequel it is a masterpiece.

Take it from me, the gap in quality between The Batman (1943) and Batman and Robin (1949) is on par with that between The Batman (2022) and Batman and Robin (1997).

So much so, that I genuinely needed to resort to watching the Rifftrax version to even make it through the damn thing.


“Another Batman killed, eh? I hope that this is the last of them.”

Hello everyone, and welcome to a new series here on Unshaved Mouse where I review every Batman movie except for the ones that I’ve already reviewed. Well, most of them. I mean, some of them. Look, the character’s been featured in over eighty films at this point and I have a life, allegedly. But let’s kick this off with a thematically appropriate question. Riddle me this! What is the first superhero movie?

Well, not to get all Bill Clinton on ya, but that really depends on your definition of “movie”, “superhero”, “first” and “the”. You can argue, and many do, that the superhero genre has always been with us. That Superman and Batman are just the latest iterations of characters like Enkidu, Herakles, Thor and CĂșchulainn. At the opposite end of that maximalist take is the concept that the first superhero was Superman, because he was the first to embody three fundamental elements; a secret identity, superhuman powers and a comic book origin. And between these two poles there are characters that are kinda liminal, sort of superheroes and sort of not. Characters like Zorro and The Shadow. Pulp heroes? Superheroes? It’s not entirely clear. I know one guy who claimed that the first true superhero was Baroness Orczy’s 1905 creation the Scarlet Pimpernel. And since that guy was frickin’ Stan Lee. Yup. Good enough for Mouse.

If so, that would make the now-lost 1917 silent film The Scarlet Pimpernel the first superhero movie.

Well, clearly all the pieces are in place.

So, (if you’re willing to stretch your definitions), the superhero movie genre is over a century old, and even pre-dates superhero comics. And yet, if you ask the average person what the first superhero movie is, what do you think they’ll say? 1978’s Superman? The 1966 Batman? Why has around half of the genre’s history been essentially memory holed?

Well, part of the problem is that most superhero cinema prior to the 1950s came in the form of serials. Serials were essentially the precursors to TV shows. A cinema would screen a new episode every week. Each episode was typically between 10 and 30 minutes long, low-budget and would end with a cliff-hanger to get you back in next week. In the forties, many famous superheroes were adapted to the form, including Captain Marvel, Captain America, Superman and, of course, Batman.

The second reason why this era of superhero cinema is so obscure is that they were all mostly terrible.

Okay, let me walk that back a little. They are products of their time. Because of the nature of the format, serial plots tends to cycle in place for around ten episodes before abruptly sprinting to the climax. This makes them, as you might imagine, not exactly bingeable.

And yet, I feel like Colombia’s 1943 picture The Batman should have a bigger pop culture presence. It’s the first Batman film, after all. And it was influential, in its way. It created several hugely important parts of Batman’s mythos. And the sixties series was arguably more an adaptation of this serial than the actual comic it claimed to be based on. And yet, if fans even know about it it’s usually “that weird old Batman movie that’s super racist”. And you know what? That’s unfair.

It’s not just racist. It’s also very boring.

And look, I’m just going to say this up front. I’m not doing my usual scene by scene analysis on this one. Why?



“Some of it is very much me. Some of it isn’t.”

One of the most persistent and unkillable myths in the history of comics is the “saving” of Batman by Frank Miller. You’ve probably heard it. The Batman comics were just a giggling campy mess after the sixties TV show and it was only with Frank Miller’s seminal The Dark Knight Returns in 1986 that Batman became dark and gritty again. Cool story, but complete guano (and one I’m pretty sure I helped spread at a much earlier point in my career as a semi-professional nerd rodent). Truth is, the comics had been pushing back hard against the BIF BAM KAPOW image from as early as 1970 in an attempt to bring Batman back to his roots as a grim, brooding nocturnal hero.

What The Dark Knight Returns did do was bring that darker Batman that was already present in the comics to a much wider audience. DKR was published in 1986, the year that also saw the release of Watchmen, and the release of these two comics in the still relatively new graphic novel format made about as big an impact as it is possible for comics to make.

Batman was the first attempt to reframe Batman in the popular consciousness from the Adam West incarnation into something closer to his comic depictions. Did it succeed?

“Yeah. Yeah, just a bit.”

To put it another way, this is by far the single most influential depiction of Batman in any medium in the eighty year history of the character. This movie was where Batman went from “Flagship comic book character and star of a pretty popular TV show” to “Modern Secular God”. In terms of box office, merchandising revenue and pop culture impact it was on the Star Wars tier.  “Fine Mouse”, you say. “But what’s it done for us lately? Does it stand up?”

To which I say, “Yes. It does stand up. And then it flaps its wings, like a pretty, pretty butterfly.”