Thursday, January 19, 2023

Isn't Any Time a Good Time for a Batman Rewatch? Part 1

I planned to watch either Batman the Animated Series or the Adam West Batman show while exercising, but I couldn't decide. This led me to accidentally rewatching all of the live action Batman films that came out in my life...except that one.
Oops!

I asked Rosa if she wanted to join me, but she declined. This is not for the usual reasons normal wives could supply. Instead it was because we were in the middle of yet another Godzilla rewatch, which she suggested.
I am a very lucky man.

I enjoyed the Batman film experience a great deal. I must be mellowing in my old age.

Here are some random thoughts:

In general, we have never gotten a bad Alfred and even at the lowest points of the franchise, he shines brightly.
Batman 1989

I know it was state of the art then, but now the opening of this movie looks like a bunch of folks got together, made models and costumes, and shot a proof of concept for the Animated Series.

Everyone in this film acts like they are comic book characters...
except Batman/ Bruce Wayne. 
He's in an Eighties action film. It makes for a weird mix.

I am still puzzled why "Alexander Knox, Ace Reporter" did not become a recurring character in the later films and ALL other Batman media. 
Robert Wuhl was awesome.

There's no denying Nicholson's Joker is an excessive version of Nicholson himself...
But it's also the first adaptation reflecting how dangerous and scary (yet  entertaining) the Joker had become in the comics by this point. The performance still holds up.

It is impossible to convey just how cool that Batmobile looked when it was first revealed. Up until that point in time, in every cartoon, comic book and show, while it was awesome, the Batmobile was still "a car." 
This ... thing ... changed the paradigm forever more.


Batman Returns 1992

I found this to be a quirky, weird, fun, dark and twisted Tim Burton film...
or I would have if Batman wasn't in it. 

I'd have loved to see what this story could have been with completely original characters, rather than a bizarre warping of fictional individuals I'd known my whole life.

There were some outstanding Batman visuals however. 
The first Bat-signal scene,
Batman rescuing Selina Kyle, and
The charge of the Bat-Sewer-Skiier, or whatever the heck that was.
Catwoman had a bunch of truly "in character" moments too.

Bruce facing down Schreck in the board room was a great confrontation as well. Each film group has a minimal number of fantastic Bruce scenes, when he briefly allows the steel behind the softness to show. They should expand on that.


Batman Forever 1995

Tommy Lee Jones plays an excellent Joker in this film, doesn't he? This movie and the previous outing both had Circus themes. It's a shame they offed Joker in the 1989 Batman, he would have fit into both of these stories better than the Bat-Villains they chose.

This is a weird one, which is probably why I'm writing the most about it. 

I liked it a huge amount when it came out, possibly because of how much I didn't like Returns. I had the poster on my door for years. Watching it later on, I liked it less and less and would find all kinds of problems with it. Older and wiser me (or at least less crabby about this sort of thing) appreciates how well a lot of the characters are handled. Val Kilmer does some cool things with both sides of Batman and Bruce. He's a more mobile superhero and while not as complex as Keaton does brood and give weight to the flashback narration well.  Chase adds a lot to the story and it's themes. Nicole Kidman does fantastically with what she's given, and brings a Classic Age of Hollywood type "stunning" to the picture. 
(Yet another reason 25 year old me had that poster up for so long, perhaps?)

Jim Carrey is fun to watch, and terrifying. He does a unique take on Gorshin's transitioning between quiet thoughtful menace and unbridled manic lunacy.

Chris O'Donnell is a bright spot in both of his films. Honestly, I don't think there was ever a more "Dick Grayson" moment in any adaptation than him looking hot while doing laundry.

Jones is a hoot and a half, but, again, more like the Joker than Classic Two Face, which is a shame since the whole focus of this film is duality. There's the classic comic book love triangle with Chase's connections to both Bruce and Batman. Nigma is specifically targeting Bruce, and only going after Batman to get Harvey's help. Additionally, there's the dual identities of the heroes, along with their choice between justice and vengeance.

Having Bruce shut down Batman to protect Dick and hook up with Chase doesn't match the comic book character at all, but works with the (wrong I tell you! WRONG!) "lethal force" Batman we've seen in the previous two stories. His statement of being Batman now because he chooses to be works in this context as well. This was a fantastic way to have him transition into the "classic" Batman, and keep Robin from going down a murderous path...

Or it would have been if the two of them didn't stand there with dumb looks on their faces while Harvey plummeted for a very long time to a horrible death. 


Batman and Robin 1997

Know what? This movie is awesome and anyone who disagrees is a humorless toe fungus waffle.  (That may have been a bit harsh, but I have multiple family bonds with this one.)

It was advertised completely incorrectly as fitting in with the theatrical Batman adventures that came before it.  This film is 100% a kids' Batman movie, and like the '66 Series, the little ones can enjoy the action and adventure while the grown ups can laugh at the asides and the self references. 
It has goofy henchmen gangs and Dutch Angles for crying out loud.

Also, the stylized, fluorescent Gotham (and gang members) look straight out of some of the older (or newer but lighter) comic books. This ridiculous outing thumbs its nose mightily at the Frank Millerized "Batman must always be dark and serious" and I am here for it.

Also, all of the actors (especially Arnold and Uma) are clearly having a blast, and I am here for that too.

Clooney speachifies really well as both Bruce and Batman. He's playing an older Caped Crusader, trying to get a handle on being the "father" of the Bat-family. As to be expected he leans heavily on Alfred for fathering advice. 

I'll repeat myself stating we've always had great live action Alfreds, but Michael Gough gets extra points for being spot on perfectly caring and sass filled in the constantly shifting tone of all four of these films. Since the connection to Gordon is far less than the normal Bat-mythology, tying Batgirl into the Pennyworth family gives both characters extra depth, and more things to do.


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