Monday, January 12, 2009

Post Titled: About a Bat.
Post Subtitled: I hereby prove my bat-dorkiness in that I just wrote this in one sitting off the top of my head.

The 1989 Tim Burton Batman film was a break from previous live action Bat-camp (as in overtly campy: the 1960s TV series) in much the same way as Batman Begins is a break from the Schuhmacher-imposed Bat-camp of the mid-to-late 1990s. I am just wondering: WHY did the studios feel the need to bring the camp back? Was it that Batman couldn't keep being dark and "cool"? Or that the 90s themselves had reached or called for some level of silliness? What? Why?
The 1995 crossover film Batman Forever, also the first film in which neither Michael Keaton nor Tim Burton were involved, was the gateway to the death of the 90s batman franchise: aka 1997's crap-campfest Batman and Robin. Since I have been following this all fairly closely since age 9 (when the first Burton/Keaton Batman came out) I can't help but wonder why these overhauling waves of re-imaging and re-imagineering have occurred, but actually looking at the history of the Batman comic itself it almost makes sense. Bob Kane's original 1938 Bat-Man was somewhat cool, but still fairly campy- and then the character goes through a dozen re-inventings of the Bat, most notably by artist Frank Miller, who made him notably dark with the Dark Knight Returns (I think), -but I'm not talking about comics here.

Upon re-watching Batman and Robin for the first time in 10 years (since seeing it in the theater and being horrified, for even in the first 5 minutes this film lets you know that it is just pure silliness. 90% of the script is one-liners delivered shamelessly by Schwarzenegger, Clooney, Uma Thurman (aka ONLY good thing about the film), the intolerable Boy Wonder, (the since-vanished) Chris O'Donnell, alongside that girl from Clueless who joins the cast as Batgirl. In general, I like George Clooney, but Clooney is no Batman. Or maybe Clooney just isn't Batman with this script. No, no- Clooney's eyes are just too friendly. He can't be Batman (but he was).
The previous Schuhmacher film, Batman Forever (Forever what?) was the highest grossing film of 1995. So, I suppose the studio might've figured that it really didn't matter what they did next, that people would probably show up to see whatever they slapped together so long as it was "Batman."
What was initially amazing to me upon viewing Batman and Robin this (2nd) time around was that I had completely forgotten about Bane, the character who, in the comics, breaks Batman's back (note: this was done shortly after the Death of Superman presumably to boost Batman sales.) Rather than being a terrifying muscle-bound giant freak of science, he is instead a hokey bio-enhanced thug, a big goofball. Tragic. Actually, I had originally thought that Bane might be a good concluding element to a Nolan/Bale trilogy, assuming the idea of a laboratory-created superfreak doesn't break too far from the realism of the Nolan films, (which is kind-of does.) By realism I mean that the films go to some effort to make things as believable as possible given the circumstances, i.e. the bat-gear coming mainly from a back stock of unused commissioned military prototypes which just happen to be laying around in the basement of Wayne Enterprises' R&D department waiting for Batman to come along and make his Batman-ness possible.
(Side-note: in a recent article which Dan sent this was noted as a potential hazard for the Avengers, where characters such as Iron-Man (who live in a fairly realistic world) team up with the Hulk, who are more fantastical.) I also wondered if that might be why we haven't seen a Batwing since Batman Forever - for example, the Skyhook scene in Hong Kong featured in the Dark Knight. Previous Batmen would've Batwinged that stunt, right? But no, the Nolan Batman reaches for some semblance of believability, even if it is unbelievable- they demonstrate how the things Batman does are at least possible.

Batman Forever gives us the stoic Val Kilmer Batman, definitely a passable Bruce Wayne/Batman, and the comic appropriateness of Jim Carrey's Riddler, who very much echoes the original Frank Gorshin Riddler, seen in the Adam West series, aka bright green, funny, an harmless-seeming villain whom the audience never really feels is "evil" in any way, just ridiculous and misguided. The color palette for this film changes completely, not only is there the Riddler-inspired green light everywhere, but there is neon and color to juxtapose the black of the bad. Usually the films' logos are often a dead giveaway for the color palette, for example the Burton films were mainly just black (and the rich honeybee yellow backdrop for the cool new oval-shaped bat-insignia, then there is purple via Prince/Joker), whereas Batman Returns, like Batman and Robin, went with the ice and snow motive- the difference however is that Batman and Robin -despite the red-lit logo- enter a super-neon color scheme, even the Batmobile has a weird sort of twinkling rainbow engine in the front. Batman Begins is presented with a sort of dirty India-yellow sunset, and The Dark Night is cold white-blue with the occasional fire-orange explosion (congrats on not going for purple and/or green.)

My guess is that if Christoper Nolan's Johnny Depp Riddler continues with the palette of the first two Nolan Batman films, that the Riddler will be just as dark as any other character we've seen thus far: dark forest green coupled with black humor. How can this next film be as dark and effective as the Dark Knight? I don't think it can, but I do have faith in Nolan's handling of the franchise.
Since rumors of Cher entering as the Catwoman for the upcoming film seem to have been proven false, I am pretty curious as to whom Nolan might choose to take the role along those lines. The potential choice of Cher hints that the Catwoman might perhaps inclined less towards pure sex appeal and more towards cougar-style mature-lady-vampire succubism. Nolan will nevertheless definitely have to recruit someone who is as un-Halle Berry as Cher is. Can we just bring Michelle Pfeiffer back? I know that would be world-shattering since the 1090s Batmans do not cross-pollinate with the 2000s Batmans at all, (heck, the only elements which I can think of that carry-over from Burton to Schuhmacher are Commissioner Gordon and Alfred the Butler and that Bat signal, everything else changes, notably Gotham itself) but still... Michelle Pfeiffer would work, as she has proven.

Anyhow, there were a few thoughts on that.
Other random notes which I didn't expand upon: Batman and Robin is notably more acrobatic than any of the other films. Just for fun check out the Batman Forever soundtrack songs U2 - HOLD ME, THRILL ME, KISS ME, KILL ME, which if you were a teenager in Europe during the summer of 1995 you probably saw about 1 billion times (for better or worse), along with Seal's Kiss From a Rose
(Also note: are there ANY pop songs on the Nolan Batman soundtracks?)
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Blogger PALS said...

Batman: The Dark Knight earned the most of all batman movies.


4:18 pm  
Blogger "Post-Google" by TAR ART RAT said...

isn't it the highest grossing movie second only to Titanic?

5:26 pm  
Anonymous DLR said...

Late commenting, but...

I guess the major issue with Batman compared to other superheroes who were created around the same time was that he actually had a(n un-fantastic) back story, what Michael Chabon refers to as the "Why" of the character.

What always made Bruce Wayne more interesting was the Why - his parents murdered by a non-descript criminal (rather than Burton's update with the Joker being their murderer) he was essentially scarred by it permanently, then cursed with a guilt about how he inherited their wealth and what he should do with it.

Superman or Spiderman's "Whys" were pure fantasy, so prone to more outright silliness. Batman was always darker, and he's fluctuated between camp and cool since he was created.

But yes, Batman & Robin is a truly awful movie. Couldn't sit through it all when I rewatched it last year.

7:45 pm  
Blogger thomaspa said...

them more i think about it, they really succumbed to the temptation of bigger, brighter, faster, more! on Batman and Robin

3:00 pm  

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