Friday, May 27, 2011

John August SHAZAM script review

I finally got a hold of the John August script for Shazam! (or as it was officially titled at this point, Billy Batson & The Legend Of Shazam).  Unlike the William Goldman script, John August's draft is very heavily based on Jerry Ordway's Power Of Shazam graphic novel, even though August reworks some things, perhaps under the guidance of Geoff Johns, whom August said was his consultant.

The script opens on the fictional country of Kahndaq on an epic action sequence where Black Adam saves some people from a flock of monstrous hawk-men sent by the Pharaoh of a rival country.  Through out the script, Black Adam's actions are very violent and graphic, and I doubt they would make it to the screen as written, for it would get an R rating. Black Adam learns from one of the hawk-men that his wife is in danger. He speeds off to the Pharaoh, who is an eight year old boy.  After disposing of the Pharaoh, his high priest, and forty guards,  he speeds to his wife, but is too late.  She's dead.  Black Adam whispers that he can still save her.

Cut to the Rock of Eternity, where the statues of the seven deadly enemies speak in hushed tones, tempting all who pass.  Black Adam ignores them, and goes to the one he seeks.  Nope, not the wizard Shazam, but a young Central American girl named Maya, who acts soulless and seems to know past, present, and future.  Black Adam is about to take her, but then Shazam stops him.  Black Adam says Maya can bring his wife back.  The statues continue to whisper their temptations. Shazam takes a scarab, and imprisons Black Adam, Phantom Zone-like, in it.

From there we cut to the main titles, which is close ups of generic comic book panels.  It is revealed Billy Batson (age 13) is the one reading the comic book in the hallways of Fawcett City Junior High.  He is described as unmistakably good, and has a Norman Rockwell quality.  We also meet his best friend Freddy Freeman, who is a year older and described as quick-witted and crafty, and a survivor.  Billy is then bullied by an older kid and bravely stands up to him, calling the bully a coward. The bully is about to punch Billy out, but Billy is saved by a girl named Caitlin Bromfield (yeah, easy to figure out... August changed Mary Batson's adopted name from Mary Bromfield to Caitlin Bromfield).  Freddy has been videotaping the whole thing and the bully backs off.

It is then revealed Billy and Freddy live with their foster parents, Dale and Kitty Groot, in a small shack on the wrong side of the tracks. Why August created the characters of Dale and Kitty instead of just using Uncle Dudley in the role is one of those mysteries you can't figure out about Hollywood writers.  As it turns out, someone broke in, searching Billy and Freddy's room.  A cop questions Freddy outside while Billy goes to their room. He finds a man in his 40s, whom Billy assumes is a detective, in there.  He questions Billy, who explains his parents were archaeologists and have been missing since he was a baby.  Billy shows the man a stuffed toy tiger his parents gave to him.  The man, who is Theo Adam, quickly knocks Billy out, takes the tiger, rips it open to find the scarab.

Then there's a scene with Billy holding a cold can of pop on his black eye, as Freddy finds out the whole thing was a set up.  Billy and Freddy are afraid child services might get involved and they will be separated.  Billy gets suspicious that Theo Adam knows something about his parents.

Cut to a scene at Berlin University, where Theo Adam shows the scarab to a doctor who is 60 and is legally blind, forcing him to wear very thick glasses. Nope, not Dr Sivana, but a Dr Zehuti. Zehuti seems to have super strength, as he is able to lift Theo up as they argue about the scarab.  Then Zehuti exits, not to be seen anymore in the script.  The scarab begins to glow.  Theo touches it and it explodes into a halo of light and heat, transforming Theo Adam into Black Adam.  Black Adam is bigger than Theo was, as Theo's clothes have been torn and shredded by the "hulking-out" (yep, August uses the phrase "hulked-out" to describe the transformation, and there is no costume change with the transformation).  Black Adam flies up, and destroys a police helicopter that spots him.  Then it is revealed that Theo Adam and Black Adam have the "Firestorm" effect (for those not comics knowledgeable, Firestorm is a DC superhero who is a merger of a student and his teacher. In the Firestorm form, the teacher appears as a ghost to counsel Firestorm).  So it is here, Theo appears in a ghostly form to inform Black Adam as to where he is, and what is going on.

We cut back to Billy and Freddy in their room.  They take an internet quiz that asks "Are you a champion?" Freddy reads the questions and Billy answers them, all correctly. There is a power failure, but the computer continues to work. On the last question, a tricky one, "you have the chance to save your family, but doing so would unleash great harm. Do you save your family?", Billy answers "No." The computer asks "are you sure, Billy?" Billy affirms his answer as Freddy wonders how the computer knew Billy's name. Billy passes the quiz, and the printer prints out his prize: a map to a subway stop. Billy and Freddy sneak out to go see where the map leads them. At the subway station, they look for the right train. Billy spots it and tells Freddy to come on. Billy jumps aboard as the doors close, but then realises Freddy is still at the station looking at the map. Billy bangs on the window to get Freddy's attention, but it's like the world outside the train has frozen in time. Of course the train takes him to the Rock of Eternity, and we get the origin sequence. Maya is also there, observing everything. Shazam "blinks" out of existence instead of being crushed by a granite block.  Also, Billy does not turn into Captain Marvel at this point.  He is simply transported back to the train station next to Freddy.

Back at the boys' house, they talk about what Billy just went through.  Billy tries to recall the word the wizard told him to say. Shaboom?  Shaquile? Shazam.  We get to see the first transformation.  As August notes, "this is when those THX folks earn their money".  Billy is now Marvel (as the script refers him as), but still in Billy's clothes, now shredded (remember, there is no costume change). As with the Goldman script, there is a sequence of Marvel clumsily and comically trying out his powers, but at least Marvel doesn't speak with Billy's voice.  Freddy tries to coach him through. One funny bit has Marvel concentrating to see if he has heat vision, only to have Freddy yell in a panic, "Don't look at me!"

Later, Freddy and Marvel run into their teacher, Miss Hall.  Freddy passes Marvel off as Billy's uncle, and Miss Hall starts hitting on him, but Marvel doesn't catch on.

We cut to Black Adam, who tries to find the entrance to the Rock of Eternity, but cannot.  Those whispering statues inform Black Adam there is a new champion, and only he can enter the Rock of Eternity.

Then, Dale takes the boys to the parade honoring the Fawcett City Thunderbolts football team. He has Billy and Freddy wear Thunderbolt jerseys (that are too big for them) to get them signed by the players, so he could sell them.  At the parade, Billy spots some trouble, so he slips away and says Shazam.  As Marvel, the red Thunderbolt jersey now fits snugly, but Billy's jeans have shredded off.  Marvel grabs a pair of red pants and a white cape with gold trim from the marching band's uniform rack.  He stops a jewelry robbery, but the Sivana Electronics blimp is damaged when Marvel disposes of a bomb.  Marvel has to fly to save the people in the blimp, one of whom is Beautia Sivana. There is a near tragedy caused by a wardrobe malfunction of Marvel's cape, but he is successful in saving the people.  Meanwhile, Freddy, with his camcorder, got footage of Marvel in action, and sold it to a TV producer.  With the money the boys run away from their foster home and check into a hotel.

There's a montage of Marvel stopping various crimes (including a cameo by Stanley Printwhistle, who becomes Ibac in the comics).  Marvel tries to get back into the Rock of Eternity in order to get the instructions on how to use his powers better.  He can't get in at the subway station, so Freddy has the idea to go to a comic book store, and get in by the adult section (why this works is kind of muddled).  At the Rock, Marvel meets Maya, who tells him about Black Adam.  Its revealed Maya is sort of a human incarnation of the Historama, and can go back to any point in time.  If she stays too long, history will be altered.  Marvel flies to Kahndaq to see Black Adam's tomb.  He also finds a photo of his parents holding Billy as a infant.

Black Adam goes to the country of Nanda Parbat, where he encounters the Crimson Avenger (an old DC hero pre-Superman) and Felix Faust (a JLA villain).  I have to ask why use these characters instead of more appropriate Fawcett characters like Spy Smasher and Ibis? Then it's back to the Junior High, where Billy and Caitlin share a moment, and Marvel and Miss Hall do some flirting and go on a date.

Child Services come to the hotel and take Freddy away.  Marvel arrives home from his date and sees that Freddy has been taken.  Then it's back to Nanda Parbat, where Black Adam gets some Hindu techno-babble from Rama Kushna that enlightens him to go after Captain Marvel.

On the school bus, Billy sees Freddy, and Freddy explains he was taken to a group home.  Freddy is angry at Billy because he's always Marvel, and treats Freddy like a kid.  Suddenly, a giant meteor made of ice starts falling to Fawcett, chunks of it leading the way, causing destruction.  Billy slips away to change into Marvel.  Caitlin follows him. As he takes off his outer street clothes revealing his makeshift costume, he notices security cameras. Billy jumps off the roof to avoid the cameras, yells Shazam in mid air, and turns into Marvel in a slapstick manner, crashing into the street.  Caitlin witnessed the transformation.  Marvel flies up to stop the ice meteor, but cannot figure out how to do it.  Suddenly Black Adam whizzes past Marvel, and stops the meteor using his lightning to smash the ice into harmless hail.  The two meet in mid air for a conference.  Black Adam is now dressed in a black outfit with a gold sash he got from Nanda Parbat, the first time we see him in anything resembling the traditional comic book costume. He hovers like a regal warrior, while Marvel is like a newborn deer struggling to stay aloft in mid air.  Adam tells Marvel to meet him later.  Freddy says Marvel shouldn't trust Adam, that its a trap.

Then Marvel breaks up with Miss Hall. In the hallway Caitlin tells Marvel she knows. She tells him her real name is Mary, and he can trust her.

At the meeting between Adam and Marvel, Adam tells Marvel how he needs Maya to bring his wife back.  Marvel refuses, and the big fight is on.  Punching, destruction, Adam killing a few people just for fun.  Then they start fighting with their lightning bolts, but unlike the comics, Adam's bolt doesn't transform Marvel back to Billy, it just hurts Marvel really bad.  Likewise Marvel's bolt on Adam.  But Marvel's bolt turns him back to Billy, and Adam is able to grab him before he can say Shazam again.  He throws Billy down to his death, but saves him at the last minute, warning him he will not show mercy again.  Give him Maya or he will destroy Fawcett City.

Back at Dale and Kitty's house, both Billy and Freddy moved back in.  Dale shows that he really cares for the boys, as Billy and Freddy end their argument.  Caitlin comes over, and the three of them use comic books to find a solution to the Black Adam problem.  Billy figures out who Theo Adam is when he sees an old photo of his parents on an excavation, with Theo in the picture with them.  Billy goes to the Rock, and the Wrath statue shows Billy how his parents were murdered by Theo Adam. Maya approaches.  Billy changes to Marvel and takes Maya to his house.  There Freddy and Caitlin did detective work to find out more about Theo Adam.  Black Adam arrives, and Marvel has Maya rupture the time steam, so that the past and present start merging.  World War I bi-planes start flying in the sky... dinosaurs crawl up from the sea... Marvel goes back through Billy's life... he is able to get the stuffed tiger before Theo Adam gets it... back in time to Black Adam's wife's death... we see she is even more evil than Adam.  Marvel takes the scarab from the stuffed tiger, says Shazam, and allows the lightning to absorb Black Adam and his wife into the scarab. Theo Adam and Black Adam are now separated.  Theo taunts Billy with how he killed his parents.  Billy is about to say Shazam, but Maya takes him back to the day Theo Adam bought the knife he would kill his parents with.  Billy gets to have a moment with the parents he never knew.

Back in the present, Theo demands Billy to hand over the scarab, or he will kill Freddy.  Suddenly, a pteranodon scoops up Theo and rips him in half.  Maya then sets the timeline right again.

Back home, Billy discovers the picture he has of his parents is only half, there is another half with a second baby (in a pink blanket) in it.  He's interrupted by Freddy, who enters the room to tell him a giant shark has attacked a yacht.  Billy says Shazam, and is off to save the day.  Closing credits.

Post-credit scene.  Caitlin in her bedroom at night,  She has an identical stuffed tiger toy on a shelf. She whispers "Shaza--"  cut to black.  End of film.

Sidenote: There is also an earlier draft of this script I have read. The only real difference is with Black Adam.  After the pre-credits sequence, he is only seen in nightmares Billy is having.  A 60 year old university professor, Dr Theodore Adams is introduced into the story. Its slowly revealed he is aware of Black Adam's existence, and at one point there is a flashback to a scene lifted directly from the Power of Shazam graphic novel, where Adams and Billy's parents are in Egypt, and they find the scarab. Adams kills the Batsons and takes the scarab.  Later, Adams discovers how to transform into Black Adam (although there is still the "Firestorm effect"). 

If there were a choice between the Goldman script and the August script, the one that would make the best Captain Marvel film would be... well, neither. Neither one would make a truly great movie. Goldman's script is very short on action and adventure, but it does have heart, good suspense, and some great moments. August's script has much more action (and in the case of the finale, with all the time ruptures, one might say slightly overdone), but his script has minimal suspense and lacks heart.  It all seems very mechanical and sterile.  There's no magic.

Billy and Freddy, foster brothers in this script, are both portrayed in a very likable way.  Billy very honest and good, Freddy with more of an edge.  This is an improvement over the Ordway graphic novel and series, where Billy was usually a whiny brat. But August's take on Caitlin/Mary comes off as too aloof, perhaps even slightly creepy.

The August script, based heavily on Jerry Ordway's graphic novel, also comes with some major flaws. Unlike the Goldman script, where Sivana is a mad scientist, as he should be, August's script casts Sivana as a millionaire businessman, a copy of Lex Luthor (Sivana doesn't actually appear in this script, but we see all kinds of advertising for Sivana Electronics, and Beautia does have a small cameo). There is the link that Marvel looks like Billy's father, C.C. Batson, a concept that never sat right with me. Marvel, himself, is somewhat bumbling and awkward. The attempt at a romance between Marvel and Miss Hall seems like space filler, and has no heat at all, unlike the Billy/Marvel-Jenny Richee-Beautia triangle of the Goldman script.

The things that kills both scripts are the themes they share in common: attempting to be a superhero version of Big, and having Billy "learn" about being a superhero by reading comic books.  In the August script, both these themes not only give Black Adam more stature, and his scenes more epic, while Captain Marvel comes off as clumsy newbie, but it gives the script a schizophrenic nature, where the Adam scenes are typical superhero fare, while the Marvel scenes border more on parody, not unusual since Geoff Johns served as August's consultant, and Johns is responsible for building Black Adam's popularity in the comics at the expense of Captain Marvel.  (The earlier draft, perhaps because it has much less Black Adam, seems less schizophrenic and is a slightly better, more cohesive draft.)  Since both scripts contain these elements of Big and having Billy learn from comic books, it's obvious these are mandated aspects to be included in the film by either Michael Uslan or Warner Brothers powers-that-be, and that is really a shame, because it is those aspects that will kill this film, and should it ever be made, make it a critical and box office failure.

Now, to locate the Cohen-Sokolow script...!

Friday, May 6, 2011

movie review: THOR

When it comes to superheroes, I am pretty much a DC guy (although, ironically, I have no interest in seeing the upcoming Green Lantern movie).  But there are a few Marvel Comics superheroes I enjoy, at least in small doses. One of them is The Mighty Thor.  As a kid, I watched reruns of the old Grantray-Lawrence Thor cartoons.  I liked the early adventures, that seemed to be a take off of the original Fawcett Captain Marvel. In those stories, crippled doctor Donald Blake would tap his enchanted cane on the ground, which would transform him in a blinding explosion into the super powered Thor, while his cane transformed into an enchanted hammer that could be used as the ultimate weapon, and could control the weather.  Thor would battle some of the most powerful villains on earth.  Romantic drama was provided by Blake's nurse, Jane Foster.

However, a couple years into the series, the exploits on earth began to take a backseat, as Thor began to spend more time in Asgard, and his adventures took more of a galactic nature.  It was also revealed Don Blake didn't turn into Thor, but rather Thor's father Odin created the Don Blake persona as a way to teach Thor humility.  Needless to say, it all became very convoluted as the creators moved away from the Captain Marvel inspired roots, and moved more into Norse mythology and cosmic story lines.

As a fan of the earlier version of Thor, I went to see the new movie.  For those wanting those early comic book stories transferred to a live action epic, that's not really what we got.  The whole concept of blending Norse mythology with a mortal-to-superhuman Captain Marvel aspect has been dropped (which ultimately could be very good news for the Shazam movie, since there now no way critics and naysayers could deem Captain Marvel a copy of Thor).  In it's place, director Kenneth Branagh seems to have merged Norse mythology to a Superman archetype.  Asgard, in this movie, echos Krypton (and could be a problem for the upcoming Superman reboot if it looks too similar to Asgard).  Instead of the classic Thor costume, we get an outfit that merges Asgard trappings with a heavy metal/biker sensibility. 

The film starts in New Mexico with Jane Foster (who is not a nurse as in the comic, but a physicist who has been injected with a fair amount of Lois Lane's personality) and her crew (Kat Dennings as the Jimmy Olson type character and Stellan Skarsgard as the Perry White type character - neither of whom are from the comics) discovering Thor who has just been banished from Asgard.  From there we cut back to see how Thor got banished, due to his arrogance and recklessness. There is a great action sequence with Thor fighting Frost Giants, and we get to see images right out of the comic of Thor using his hammer.  Indeed the two biggest gimmicks of the character (besides the mortal-to-superhero transformation) are the hammer and the helmet.  Unfortunately, though, Thor only wears the helmet in one brief scene.  In fact, once he is banished to earth, we don't see him in costume again at all until the very end of the movie.

Once on earth, we get  humorous fish-out-of-water scenarios, with even a Dr Donald Blake reference for the hard core fan.  It even seems to go into Batman TV show mode with an interesting use of tilted camera angles (tilted camera angles always make a film look more interesting and fresh, even when its not). At this point, the film becomes more about relationships, as we see one develop between Thor and Jane, and see interspersed scenes back on Asgard of Loki who is revealed to be a Frost Giant whom Odin saved/abducted as a baby, and how Loki manipulates himself to become king when Odin falls into the Odinsleep.

Of course, there are the mandatory references and cameos setting up The Avengers, as Thor attempts to reclaim his power and hammer, which he fails to do because he is no longer worthy. When the Warriors Three and Sif travel to earth to bring Thor back, Loki send the Destroyer to... well, destroy earth.  There is the other main action sequence, where the Destroyer mortally wounds Thor, but now he is worthy, having become a better person since being banished to earth, and the hammer flies to Thor, and restores him back to full power, and gets him back into his costume (minus the helmet, of course).  After taking care of the Destroyer, the Asgardians go back to Asgard to stop Loki.  The Rainbow Bridge is destroyed, and it looks like Thor will never be able to come back to earth or to see Jane Foster again.

Overall, the movie was fairly enjoyable.  The actors all did very well in their roles.  Chris Hemsworth, who played Thor and looks a lot like pro-wrestler Chris Jericho, had very good charisma as Thor, and at times, his personality seemed very similar to Eric Allen Kramer's portrayal of Thor on a 2 hour episode of the old Bill Bixby Incredible Hulk TV series.  In fact, Kramer (who now currently stars on the Disney Channel sit-com Good Luck Charlie - Disney owns Marvel Comics) was slated to have a cameo in Thor, but I did not see him in the film.  Anthony Hopkins, who played Odin, did the role comparable to Marlon Brando's Jor-El. Tom Hiddelson's Loki was very good.  At different times in the movie, you weren't quite sure if you should feel sorry for him, cheer him on, or boo him. Branagh was successfully able to mix the humor driven earth scenes with the grand and picturesque Asgard scenes.  Thor's flying scenes were good, but not overdone.  But some of the shots of the final fight scene between Thor and Loki had an almost Joel Schumacker Batman & Robin look to it where the actors look like they are being pulled by wires.

And I think it would have been nice if they could have worked the old Thor theme song from the cartoons in there some where, as well as maybe a few bars of Wagner's Ride Of The ValkyriesThor was a good and entertaining movie, but I feel it could have been better.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Jackie Cooper passes away. RIP

Jackie Cooper, the Hollywood icon, passed away on May 3, 2011 at the age of 88. 

He was a member of Our Gang in the early sound era, starring in what is known as the "Miss Crabtree trilogy", perhaps the best sound films Our Gang ever made.  He was the youngest actor ever nominated for an Oscar, for the film Skippy (directed by his uncle, Norman Taurog, who also directed several Elvis Presley movies).

Later he co-starred with the Dead End Kids' spin-off group, The Little Tough Guys.  He continued to act, and by the 1960s, he started working behind the scenes.

He ran Columbia's "Screen Gems" TV division, and was responsible for green lighting The Monkees.  By the 1970s, he became an Emmy winning director for the TV series M*A*S*H*

In the late 1970s he returned to acting to be, in my opinion, the unquestioned definitive Perry White in the Superman movies.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, let perpetual light shine upon him, may he rest in peace.

Review: the BATMAN serials

Being a life-long Batman fan, and since I recently posted a column on the 1966 TV show, I thought I'd give my review of the two Batman serials produced in the 1940s by Columbia Pictures.

First was Batman (often referred to as The Batman) released in 1943, starring Lewis Wilson, Douglas Croft, and J. Caroll Naish, produced by Rudolph C. Flothow and directed by Lambert Hillyer.

Despite a non existent budget and Trick-or-Treat costumes, this serial is very entertaining and faithful to the early comics. Lewis Wilson plays a definitive Bruce Wayne, bringing the character to life for the first time on film as a bored and somewhat shiftless playboy. His Batman is dark and grim, yet fun, able to shoot off one-liners with Robin. But when he threatens a thug he's holding hostage in the Bat-Cave, Batman means business. His Chuck White disguise is the forerunner of Matches Malone. The design for Batman's costume is far superior to the Adam West TV show costume, however the tailor did not have the proper materials or measurements to make it fulfill its potential. The utility belt is perfect, though.

A twist in the legend has Bruce a government agent, predating Marvel Comics' SHIELD concept by decades. As such, he is assigned to capture the Japanese terrorist Prince Tito Daka, played by J. Caroll Naish, in an over the top performance that could be the blueprint for the villains of the TV series, and virtually all live action comic book villains that followed.

Douglas Croft plays Dick Grayson as a carefree teenager who still has sense enough to warn Bruce not to take his playboy masquerade too far. His Robin is a wisecracking daredevil who seems both younger and far more capable than the TV show counterpart.

Beautiful Shirley Patterson plays Linda Page, Bruce's love interest with some real emotion. William Austin makes such a perfect Alfred, that DC redesigned the comic book character to resemble Austin (previously, Alfred was drawn to look like Alfred Hitchcock).

The serial introduces the Bat-Cave and its grandfather clock entrance, which would be added to the comics, but Bruce's limo doubles as a nondescript Batmobile. There are some good gimmicks, such as a car that repaints itself and has revolving license plates, and Daka's alligator pit. Another thing I really like is, even in costume, Batman and Robin still call each other Bruce and Dick. Its a subtle touch of sophistication.

Even the musical score is good, with a dark and somber theme that hints at the theme Danny Elfman would compose for the Tim Burton movies.

Sadly, there are some racist moments against the Japanese, but this serial must be watched in the context of World War II. The narration does mention how FDR and the US government put many Asian-American citizens into detention camps (just as Hitler was putting Jews into concentration camps), a fact ignored by most modern history accounts for fear of FDR's legacy being tainted.

The racism notwithstanding, this is a very fun serial and one can easily imagine kids in the 1940s cheering and applauding Batman and Robin, and booing and hissing Daka and his henchmen, and probably cheering the one henchman who turns on Daka, in a moment of patriotism.

Six years later, Columbia released Batman And Robin in 1949, starring Robert Lowery, John Duncan (who did a short stint with the East Side Kids), and Lyle Talbot, produced by Sam Katzman and directed by Spencer Bennet.  Curiously, there is no continuity with the 1943 serial.  It is, what we call today, a "reboot".

This serial is essentially the prototype for the Adam West TV series. Robert Lowery plays a nondescript Bruce Wayne and a business like Batman who is a deputized officer of the law, and pulls some of the most unlikely things out of his cheap looking, plain belt, such as a gas mask that looks like it was made out of a drinking straw, and a full size blow torch. Ironically, Adam West, in his autobiography, said plans were made to bring Lowery on the show as Bruce's often mentioned (but never seen) uncle, but the concept never came to pass.

John Duncan's Dick Grayson and Robin are both far more mature that either Burt Ward or Douglas Croft, and he's also a lot more dull. Lyle Talbot's Commissioner Gordon is flat and one-dimensional. Jane Adams plays a very forgettable Vicki Vale, and Eric Wilton plays an Alfred who looks very much like the TV show's Alan Napier, but has little to do except wear a spare Batman costume when required to, much like a few episodes of the TV series.

The villain is a masked mystery man called the Wizard who has some outlandish scientific devices. Presumably, the plot is a mystery to figure out who the Wizard is, but the detective work leaves a lot to be desired.

The costumes and budget are worse than the 1943 serial, with Batman's cowl looking like a Halloween devil mask, but it is cool to see that huge bat across Batman's shirt a la "Batman Year One". The only advantage either serials' Robin costume has over the TV series is the longer (and in John Duncan's case, dark - presumably green) cape vs. Burt Ward's short, almost feminine cape, and the boots vs. Ward's elf shoes.

There is no Batmobile, as both Bruce and Batman drive the same plain gray Mercury convertible, and the Bat-Signal appears to be the size of a portable TV set. However, this serial did improve over the 1943 production in some regards: the fight scenes are better choreographed and the cliffhangers are a little more inventive.

The serial has some good moments, and you can really see how the TV series was a camped up version of it, but its just not nearly as fun or entertaining as the superior 1943 serial.