Lets Watch: The Batman Films

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 5 years ago '05        #1
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DaOmega_1 271 heat pts271
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Lets Watch: The Batman Films
 

 
So, this is an idea for a new series of threads. In this series, I'll watch & discuss franchises, or a series of films and we'll talk about how the films have progressed (or regressed), and how they are setting the stage for their upcoming films. I plan on doing this with the Bourne films next. But, today, I'm gonna start out by talking about the Batman franchise (not counting the the 1960's TV series and movie).

Batman has an unmistakable appeal for reasons beyond that he is just 'cool'. There is something genuinely interesting about Bruce Wayne as a character. Whether it is his gadgets, or his complex psychological profile, or his obsession with justice, Batman has always been one of, if not the most iconic comic book hero out there. His power is his intellect, his self-discipline, and his force of will. That alone makes him more identifiable than a lot of heroes. In film, these qualities have been explored in interesting and wildly different ways. Each set of films (including the one animated film we'll also discuss here) have different voices when it comes to how to portray Batman & Gotham City. Whether they are all "good", well... Let's take a look.


[pic - click to view]


BATMAN (1989)
Director: Tim Burton
Starring: Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson, Kim Basinger, & Billy Dee Williams
Back in 1989, the hype for the Burton's "Batman" was deafening. The film had the advantage of nothing else to compare itself to (besides the 1960's film). It had a clean slate, and was able to give Batman it's own identity. Or, rather Tim Burton's identity. When you look at it, this Batman is not unlike a lot of Tim Burton's characters in films like Edwards Scissorhands, Ed Wood, Nightmare Before Christmas, etc. This Batman is lonely, misunderstood, brooding, and intensely passionate about what he does. The interesting thing is that listing those things, that seems right in line with the Batman we know from the comics. BUT, the problem is, we never spend enough time with Bruce Wayne (a great performance by Michael Keaton, btw), and instead focus on the villain.

Now, I understand why Burton did this. The Joker is SUCH an interesting, incredible character to have at one's disposal. And, Jack Nicholson's Joker is an interesting interpretation of that character that really works... In THIS particular film. Only because the focus is so much on The Joker, that Batman plays 2nd fiddle to the villains. This has always been a big stumbling block when it comes to embracing this film. The other stumbling block is that the tone just feels really confused and inconsistent. It wants to have it both ways: it wants to be comic-booky, but it also wants to be twisted and dark. But, it's not comical enough or dark enough to achieve this. So, as a result, these two tones cancel each other, and it just feels like a muddled mess of ideas. It's possible for a comic book film to be both of these things, but in this film, it feels like it is at odds with itself. The art direction is incredible, but it also feels like a distraction from the fact that, at its center, the script has problems, and Tim Burton (at that time) didn't know how to direct an action sequence to save his life. However, it did lay the groundwork for the future films, and a sequel that I personally feel is better than its original.


[pic - click to view]


BATMAN RETURNS (1992)
Director: Tim Burton
Starring: Michael Keaton, Michelle Pfieffer, Danny Devito, Christopher Walken
With Tim Burton's 2nd foray into the Batman franchise, I felt that he finally settled for a consistent tone. As a result, the film feels more confident and more sure-handed than the previous film. This movie gets a lot of flack for being "too dark" or "too violent", but I feel that it didn't wimp out... which is a good thing. The improvements right off the bat is that there is MORE BATMAN. In the 1989 film, Batman felt like a supporting character to The Joker. While watching this particular incarnation, I felt like Batman was actually a character, and was actually developed more than he was in the 1989 film.

I love Michelle Pfieffer's Catwoman. She plays the perfect foil for Batman, and I felt the love story happening there was more interesting than the love story between Bruce Wayne & Vicki Veil. Danny Devito as "The Penguin" was also an interesting choice too. However, if there's any weak link in the casting, it is him. The film feels grim, and dark. It is, for all intents & purposes, a film noir. BUT, his turn as "The Penguin" just felt too hammed up to belong in this particular film. The action still isn't up to snuff, and the movie becomes too silly when The Penguin comes up with the plan to steal Gotham City's firstborn, and have Penguins with missiles strapped to their back. AT the point, I check out of the movie, and it just got lamer & lamer after that. As per usual when it comes to Tim Burton, so why should I be surprised at this point. Of course, the powers that be thought this one was too dark, and seeked to lighten things up considerably.


[pic - click to view]


BATMAN: MASK OF THE PHANTASM (1993)
Directors: Eric Radomski & Bruce Timm
This animated film felt less like a children's film, and more like a deep dark film noir. At the time, it was the most faithful Batman adaptation yet. It also presented us with a morally ambiguous Batman, and a Gotham City that felt more in line with an actual city rather than the Gothic stylings of Burton's films. It gives us an interesting love story that is straight out of a film noir, and it allows us to probe into Batman more than the previous films allowed us to do. If you haven't seen this one, you owe it to yourself to do so.


[pic - click to view]


BATMAN FOREVER (1995)
Director: Joel Schumacher
Starring: Val Kilmer, Jim Carrey, Tommy Lee Jones, Nicole Kidman, & Chris O'Donnell
This is gonna be a very unpopular opinion, but honestly I don't particularly mind this movie. The thing with this particular incarnation of Batman is that it really is more in line with the crazier Batman comics of the 1940's. Bob Kane, the creator of Batman, was apparently on set to provide the director, writers, & actors the type of aesthetic to successfully replicate the 1940's version of the Caped Crusader. At least with this particular film, it had one consistent tone throughout, and stuck to that tone. It never got to the silly level that "Batman & Robin" did (more on that one in a second), and it gave us a different and interesting take on Bruce Wayne. For the most part, it explored Bruce Wayne's character better than any of the Burton films. It's art style is big, bright, and in-your-face.

The villains are well acted. Jim Carrey is overacting his a.ss off as "The Riddler", but for that character, it works. I don't particularly like this incarnation of Two-Face, but Tommy Lee Jones is a good enough actor to add something to that character that I'm sure the script didn't come prepackaged with. Nicole Kidman is there for window dressing, and Chris O'Donnell makes for an interesting Robin. But, the issues come in with the movie just seeming... really bigger than it needed to be. The homoerotic overtones didn't help matters either, especially with the weird (and very gay) close-ups of Batman & Robin suiting up. Ewwww... Don't like that. But, what I do like about this particular film is that it's just light fun, it doesn't take itself seriously, YET it still plays with the big themes that Burton's films tried to explore. It seemed like the right balance of silly fun to just go with it... Unfortunately, the next film made THIS movie seem a whole lot worse as a result.


[pic - click to view]


BATMAN & ROBIN (1997)
Director: Joel Schumacher
Starring: George Clooney, Chris O'Donnell, Alicia Silverstone, Uma Thurman, Arnold Schwarzenegger
This movie f*cking sucks. Right from the get-go, it feels like this movie spun out of control from the very opening credits. Everything feels like it was turned up to 11. The comical style, the costumes, the homoerotic overtones, everything. EVERYTHING feels like it was amplified. As a result, you get a sh*tty excuse of a comic book film the reeks of cynical contempt on the part of the studio. First of all, George Clooney was way wrong for the part of Bruce Wayne. WAY wrong. His acting is just terrible. Schwarzeneggar's puns... just damn. It feels like the very worst comic books have to offer. Uma Thurman is terrible as poison ivy... Visually, the movie is UGLY. disgusting and nasty, this film's visual style feels like a ton of crayons went melted on to celluloid... and then someone wiped their a.ss with it.

The movie was designed to sell toys. McDonalds was in the WB boardroom dictating script changes to accomodate toy tie-ins. The real problem isn't just limited to the acting or n*pples on the batsuit. The real issue here is that this film truly represents why people were so slow to embrace comic book films. Because, when they think of comic book films, this is the movie they see. Something juvenile, insulting, and childish in a manner that is unforgivable. It's not even fun anymore. It's just obnoxious. Really, this film not only nearly k!lled the Batman franchise... It nearly k!lled ALL comic-book films. After "Batman & Robin", it became a sign that things needed to change if the audience was ever to embrace Batman again. Change, it did.


[pic - click to view]


BATMAN BEGINS (2005)
Director: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Liam Neeson, Katie Holmes, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Rutger Hauer, Ken Watanabe, Cillian Murphy, & Tom Wilkinson
After eight years, 1 failed sequel, and 1 failed reboot later, Batman Begins seeked to re-energize the Batman franchise. It was to be a Batman that would be darker, more serious, and more cerebral in its examination of Batman & Bruce Wayne. Armed with a critical-darling indie director, and a powerhouse cast of wall-to-wall talent, Batman Begins was just what the doctor ordered after "Batman & Robin". In this film alone, Bruce Wayne gets a more developed story arc than he EVER got any ANY of the previous movies. First, we get Bruce Wayne overcoming his guilt. Then, we get Bruce Wayne overcoming his fear. Then, we get Bruce Wayne learning to turn that fear outward through trial & error. Lastly, we get Bruce Wayne embracing the new identity he has crafted for himself while dealing with the question of who is actually wearing the mask... Bruce Wayne as Batman, or vice versa...

The entire cast is playing it straight. Unlike the previous films, no one is winking at the camera as if to say "Hey! We're in a comic book movie! Isn't this wacky?!?!"... No. Christian Bale is surrounded by immensely talented actors that bring class & weight to the movie rather than just personalities. Nothing feels cartoony. Batman is more of a menacing character than he was in the previous films. There are scenes that feel like they are straight out of a horror film. The scene on the docks feels like it is shot & edited like a horror film. It makes Batman SCARY. And, that's awesome. The "fear toxin" could've been stupid & cartoonish, but Nolan & Goyer make it terrifying by the fact that it is actually a visualization of these character's greatest fears. It is Batman the way the populace sees him, as a menacing, psychotic, intense beast of a man. The movie deals with fear better than any Batman film. Of course, there are issues... Mainly that they do what I always hated about the previous films. They k!ll the villain. BATMAN doesn't k!ll, and can't allow others to be k!lled. There are issues with pacing. Katie Holmes just wasn't up to snuff as Rachel Dawes. Some of the f!ght scenes could've been shot & edited a little better. BUT, thankfully, those issues got correct (and then some) in the next film...


[pic - click to view]


THE DARK KNIGHT (2008)
Director: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Heath Ledger, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman
The Dark Knight is an incredible movie. Incredible. The acting is great top-to-bottom, the pacing is brisk, the script is tight, the direction is superb, the score is awesome. Even watching it now, I can still get as invested in the movie as I did when I first saw it back in 2008. The movie captured lightning in a bottle. It created a zeitgeist that made it THE movie of its time, and made it timeless really? Disagree? Why are people STILL talking about "The Dark Knight" today besides the fact that a sequel is being released? Why is every comic book movie compared to The Dark Knight? Because it transcends the genre, and becomes not only an engrossing tragedy, but also an interested character study, a badass action movie, a mature crime drama, etc.

Heath Ledger is incredible in the movie, but he alone is not the only thing that is wonderful about the movie. The entire cast is great in their roles. Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent aka Two-Face has the most tragic story arc in the film. Bruce Wayne gets to explore more complex issues regarding justice, his ethics, and what is right & wrong. The Joker is really the perfect villain for Nolan's films. It makes Batman question whether his ethics are truly working, and it pushes him to the limit of his abilities. The movie, more than anything else, represents Batman completely and totally in a way that we haven't seen before. Combined with Batman Begins, and we have an excellent series that really allows us to get to know & identify with Batman. Man... I haven't even scratched the surface of what is so f*cking good about this movie.

So, there you have it. We have a franchise that has seen its ups & its downs. We've seen multiple storytellers trying to make the character of Batman their own, and we haven't even seen what may be planned for the future when Nolan's trilogy is complete......


Last edited by DaOmega_1; 06-19-2012 at 02:04 PM..

124 comments for "Lets Watch: The Batman Films"

 06-19-2012, 02:02 PM         #2
Illstreet 
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"Mask of the Phantasm" is unquestionably one of the Best Batman films ever made...

Good looks @ including it.
 5 years ago '10        #3
Agentzer0oo0 209 heat pts209
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Reserving my spot, will return.

Interesting thread 'Mega
 5 years ago '12        #4
Tha 23rd Buchan 8 heat pts
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Props
 5 years ago '08        #5
Hiero 112 heat pts112
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Do one for "Under the Red Hood".
 5 years ago '05        #6
DaOmega_1 271 heat pts271 OP
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 Cooked Brickz said:
Do one for "Under the Red Hood".
I'll give it a watch soon, I haven't seen it yet.

The next "Lets Watch" thing I'm gonna do is probably for the Spider-Man trilogy because of The Amazing Spider-Man coming out.
 06-19-2012, 03:30 PM         #7
youknowmystelo 
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Are there good ones that do justice to Poison Ivy?
 5 years ago '05        #8
DaOmega_1 271 heat pts271 OP
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 youknowmystelo said:
Are there good ones that do justice to Poison Ivy?
Only in the animated series.

 5 years ago '08        #9
Hiero 112 heat pts112
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 DaOmega_1 said:
I'll give it a watch soon, I haven't seen it yet.

The next "Lets Watch" thing I'm gonna do is probably for the Spider-Man trilogy because of The Amazing Spider-Man coming out.
Aww man... Listen. It's arguably the best Batman animated film ever made. I'll look forward to hearing what you thought once you've seen it.
 5 years ago '05        #10
DaOmega_1 271 heat pts271 OP
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 Cooked Brickz said:
Aww man... Listen. It's arguably the best Batman animated film ever made. I'll look forward to hearing what you thought once you've seen it.
Yeah, I've heard nothing but great things.

I was gonna write a short one for "Batman: Year One". Maybe after I see "Under the Red Hood", I'll add shorts ones for both of those two.
 5 years ago '05        #11
kriskross00 103 heat pts103
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 DaOmega_1 said:
I'll give it a watch soon, I haven't seen it yet.

The next "Lets Watch" thing I'm gonna do is probably for the Spider-Man trilogy because of The Amazing Spider-Man coming out.
u havnt seen that sh*t wooow ur missing out...do one for "batman : year one"
 5 years ago '05        #12
DaOmega_1 271 heat pts271 OP
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 kriskross00 said:
u havnt seen that sh*t wooow ur missing out...do one for "batman : year one"
I should probably say before I type one up that I am a GINORMOUS fan of "Batman: Year One", the original graphic novel. While I have some reservations about the animated film, those can be discussed when I write one up. But, that graphic novel was really my gateway drug into comic books as a kid.
 5 years ago '04        #13
!!! 220 heat pts220
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 Illstreet said:
"Mask of the Phantasm" is unquestionably one of the Best Batman films ever made...

Good looks @ including it.
I grew up with "Mask of the Phantasm". Loved it then, love it now.

When I see it now, I always picture it being live-action and it's still dope as hell.

Batman the animated series era >>> your favorite superhero cartoon. Fact.
 5 years ago '08        #14
Hiero 112 heat pts112
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 !!! said:
Batman the animated series era >>> your favorite cartoon period. Fact.
Fixed.
 5 years ago '09        #15
BrooklynStiles 82 heat pts82
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as a huge batman fan, i this well-thought out, articulate and informative thread. most people only view batman as a 'comic book hero' but u 'get it', he's way deeper than that he's a symbol of hope.
 5 years ago '06        #16
dfresh174 
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That was a good read homie!!
 06-19-2012, 04:36 PM         #17
youknowmystelo 
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 DaOmega_1 said:
Only in the animated series.

That's fine with me.
 5 years ago '09        #18
TraV 77 heat pts77
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 DaOmega_1 said:
Yeah, I've heard nothing but great things.

I was gonna write a short one for "Batman: Year One". Maybe after I see "Under the Red Hood", I'll add shorts ones for both of those two.

I've watched both and I would still say Batman: Under The Red Hood >>>

But they were both great. Got a box set for all of the old ones too (everything before BB). Watched all of them a few months ago, but since TDKR is about to release soon, I think I will go do it again and contribute to this thread later.
 5 years ago '05        #19
DaOmega_1 271 heat pts271 OP
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 dfresh174 said:
That was a good read homie!!
 BrookLynnStiles said:
as a huge batman fan, i this well-thought out, articulate and informative thread. most people only view batman as a 'comic book hero' but u 'get it', he's way deeper than that he's a symbol of hope.
Much obliged, fam.

Thank y'all for reading...
 5 years ago '06        #20
hooligun 12 heat pts12
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should have never let schumacher do those movies
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