I’m not sure if you can tell but I love Batman. I may not have the biggest collection or the most knowledge of the character but since seeing the cartoon and movie as a kid I have loved the character. Another thing I’m not sure you’ve heard about but there’s a new movie coming out, The Dark Knight Rises. Now it has been awhile since I’ve seen the older movies so I figured what better time to watch the movies than the week it comes out. Now for my review I’ll be breaking it up into 5 parts; Batman, Villain, the action scenes, production and Plot. Basic, sure but it’s probably the best way to cover all of the important aspects. So without a further adieu I am happy to present Batman in Film: Part 1.
I was genuinely surprised at how well the movie captured Batman. More surprisingly is how close he is compared to the Nolan Batman. The dichotomy of Bruce Wayne vs. Batman is handled subtly and surprisingly well. Keaton portrays his coldness with a subtlety that is sorely missed in later movies. Then the moment happens. One of the few things I remember and it’s something I despise. Batman shoots a gun. Granted it’s not like Batman pulls out a glock and executes somebody but it doesn’t change the fact that Batman shot bullets at The Joker. Also Batman kills a thug in the end. I know it’s minor but it is something I just can’t get past.
I know that The Joker is the big bad of this film. With that said I find it hard to call him that. Now maybe it’s because this isn’t my view of The Joker but he feels less like a super villain and more like Jack Nicholson hamming it up in clown makeup. He has the comedy and dark humor down to a T. But for me Nicholson doesn’t have the killer edge I expect with The Joker. As a villain I think he is fine but as The Joker, I just can’t get behind it. With that said I think special consideration should go to Bob the Goon. He is throughout the film as Joker’s sidekick yet nothing is explained about him. No origin, no significant lines, nothing. He’s just this odd looking guy that is by The Joker’s side throughout. And yet he somehow steals the scene every time. I don’t know why but he’s an enigma of a character and I wish he was the main villain.
Maybe it’s because I’ve been spoiled with over 20 years of movies but they don’t hold up. Now I understand that Tim Burton isn’t known for action but I was surprised how much action this movie actually had. Which is a bummer because the action there we got was done pretty well. On the plus side there was a dance scene which was pretty boss.
Surprisingly not much to say here. At this point it’s kind of your typical superhero fare. From the revenge plot to the useless love interest it is all pretty mediocre. If it weren’t for the acting it could have easily been a snore by today’s standards. But between the acting and quick pacing you are never bored by the movie.
This is one of those movies where it makes me think “Tim Burton was awesome at one point”. The setting he creates is pretty awesome and holds up quite well. It’s the pseudo-20’s, pseudo-modern world that makes it feel dated and timeless all at the same time. Add in Burton’s usual gothic influence and it really makes for a cool Gotham City. This is also helped by music from Danny Elfman. Now the effects don’t hold up in the least; all come off terribly cheap. But with leniency for the time and everything else done these minor discrepancies can easily be forgiven.
Now it has been a while since I’ve watched this movie. The last time was a bit at a friend’s birthday party in high school. Besides that, absolutely nothing in the past 20 years. So how does it hold up? I’ll be honest it is kind of hard to answer. On the one hand gets a lot right. The look, the tone, the soundtrack, the movie gets a lot right. With that said it gets some minor yet glaring things wrong. While I wouldn’t say the movie is as good as I remember it was a treat to watch.
Batman Returns (1992)
Overall the same this time around. A solid performance from Keaton and he clearly gets the character. The thing is there isn’t enough of Batman in the movie for things to change or improved upon all that much. What we do get though is absolute Batman. All sorts of cool gadgets that are unrealistic yet you can imagine working. Given they are all totally 90’s (BAT CD PLAYER!) but it works. Also there is the interaction between Batman and Catwoman which I think was done quite accurately. In the end it was good but nothing too new.
I have to admit, I really dug Catwoman and Penguin in this film. Penguin done as a tragic figure was an interesting way to play it. Danny DeVito is able to make him hideous, sympathetic and comedic all at the same time. Giving him penguins with rocket launchers helps. More interesting to me was Michelle Pfeiffer’s portrayal of Catwoman. Given her origin kind of sucks but making her psychotic as opposed to just a cat burglar was a smart move in my opinion. Also while nothing unexpected the time spent with Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle was done quite well. Almost a two sides of a same coin type dynamic. As for Christopher Walken as Max Shreck… ummmmmm… he has wacky hair? He is so ridiculously evil that it is comical. The only thing missing was a thin mustache for him to twirl.
From the first one you can tell that Burton clearly improved in this area. There’s actually probably one of my favorites in the series with the opening fight between Penguins goons and Batman. It is far cooler than any fight from the first movie and, at this point, probably one of the better fights when it comes to the earlier Batman movies.
I am not sure if I like this movie’s plot or not. While certainly more intricate than the last film it’s also quite stupid at times. Penguin running for mayor? Clown based thugs for a villain that’s NOT The Joker? Cats bringing people back to life? All pretty stupid stuff. Yet somehow it works. Like the first movie it is solely due to the performances. Anyone else and I could see the movie’s plot seeming ridiculous. Well more ridiculous. Instead we have a cast that straddles the line between over the top and campy that makes it work in this wacky world.
I can’t help but think that Warner Brothers went up to Tim Burton and told him “Here’s the script, go absolutely nuts.” Extending past Gotham City we get some great set pieces with the Penguin’s lair and Gotham Zoo. It’s some very cool stuff from the eccentric director. Danny Elfman picks things up a notch adding some circus-esque music for Penguin. It’s kind of goofy but it totally fits in with the rest of the movie. Overall top notch stuff from the production crew this time around.
I don’t think I’ve seen this movie since it was in theaters in 1992. Imagine my surprise when it turns out I liked this even more than the first movie. The thing is, I’m not even sure why. It doesn’t have the tone of what I think a Batman movie would/should have. Hell it doesn’t even feel like a Batman movie at times. Yet for whatever reason I found myself liking this movie more. It’s far from perfect it is too goofy at points and the performances and get awfully cheesy. But still it veers so left from the last movie that it manages to be quite entertaining.
And there you have it, Batman: The Tim Burton years. Surprisingly enjoyable after all these years. Whether its minor things like Bob the Goon or the all around ridiculousness of Batman Returns these are fun rides. I am totally glad that I went back and watched these. Next time we get into the movies I have really been waiting for, the Joel Schumacher films. So until then enjoy some general mayhem courtesy of The Joker and Prince.