Elitist Reflections on Hollywood Interpretations of Batman

Please excuse the lack of music-related material in this post, but I have been on a Batman trip for a while.

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Almost every actor who plays Batman can’t fill the role. Why is that? Michael Keaton is certainly the least pretentious, so find I him to be the most watchable. And we’ve been over this here at CRM; it’s partially because he’s such a charming fellow. Not to mention — da man has some chops! How long did it take for you to recognize him in Beetlejuice? Forever, I know!! Ha, and people say Alec Baldwin is a serious actor (he was the other male lead in Beetlejuice). Wrong! Watching an Alec Baldwin movie is like giving to charity, except it doesn’t benefit society — just Alec Baldwin.

Batman Returns is the real legit Batman movie in my opinion. The cast is so good, the Penguin is so likable, pathetic and disgusting all at the same time, and we get to see that it’s the politicians of the city who are the real scumbags and villains. Oh man, this one is a gem. This is probably my favorite Tim Burton movie. Now if we could only get someone to direct good action scenes with Batman.

Batman Forever was rather strange; Batman and Robin were poorly cast. Val Kilmer and Chris O’Donnell? Talk about chemistry. People gotta remember when they’re casting this stuff, Batman isn’t a one-trick pony (like the Ice-Man in Top Gun). He’s as crazy as the villains he goes after, only richer. Did you notice the abundance of purples and greens in Batman Forever? And riddle me this: why didn’t the movie cover the history of Two-Face? We don’t even get a flashback. Superhero plot devices revolve around the villains to a huge degree, and the relationship between the protagonist/antagonist. Didn’t anyone see that shitty movie, Unbreakable? Well, no worries. You didn’t miss anything good (or even watchable).

The only background on Two-Face we get is that some mob boss threw acid on his face in a courtroom during a trial (we see a video of this from CNN, in which Two-Face used to be the Gotham District Attorney). Yes, somehow the mob boss brought acid into the courtroom, onto the witness stand, and managed to throw it at the DA’s face without any interference. In the movie, the CNN reporter is like, “although Batman tried to save him, he was unable to …” and you see Batman jumping out from the courtroom audience in full batsuit as Harvey Dent/Two-Face tries to use paper to shield his face from the acid. And thus, Two-Face hates Batman.

Nay, in Batman Forever we get Robin’s background instead. Kind of a bizarre direction to go when you consider Robin isn’t a strong lead character. Hell, Robin’s not a very strong character at all. Supposedly Burton really hated Robin as a character. An aside: I had a pretty sweet comic miniseries called ‘Robin II: The Joker’s Wild’ from the early-mid nineties, where Batman is out of town for a while and Robin has to combat the Joker’s Arkham Asylum breakout on his own. It was pretty scary stuff, actually. Of course, they paint Robin as the most quintessential cool kid at his high school (!). Handsome, friends with everybody, fighting crime at night, blah blah blah. I’ll try to post some images if I can find it.

Also, does anyone else find it interesting that Johnny Depp has never appeared in a Batman movie? Not that I care, but he’s Senor Burton’s bosom-buddy and so on and so forth, and Tim Burton directed the first two big-budget Batman films. I guess the problem is Johnny Depp always has this smug look on his face. You know what I mean? He never wipes that smug grin off his face. Bruce Wayne never has a smug grin on his face unless he’s about to clean some unsuspecting clock.

Batman & Robin and George Clooney was like…a spoof of the Batman story. I know it wasn’t supposed to be serious either, but still… it was like an Ed Wood film. But I guess it can be perceived as some kind of B-movie-goes-blockbuster genius by crap artists and ironic teens. The funny thing is it was almost good! If certain things had been done a little differently, it would have been a successful comedic take on Batman. ‘Cause they had the excess number of intentionally hilarious crotch-shots on the Batsuit, the absolutely wretched one-liners by Ahnold as Mr. Freeze, and the always-cast-because-the-joke’s-on-her Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy. Some of the hokey script was even okay, it was just the weird sappy parts, the attempts at drama, etc. Maybe if it had been a 3-D movie… Yeah! That’s the ticket!

And now for something totally random:

A CRM review of Batman Begins!

After watching it recently, I must conclude that Batman Begins was a rather flawed movie. It was like watching an Eli Roth-directed Batman movie (it felt grimy). Everything in the film is in green and brown tones, the villains are remarkably weak and underdeveloped (the leads are atrocious!), the Batmobile for some reason is a tank (lame!), and even the usually interesting Christian Bale is pretty uninteresting as Batman.

It was admirable how they tried to make the series dark again, but that’s mostly because this one is based on a Frank Miller comic (who is the Tarantino of comic books) and also because the trend of mainstream movies being bleak, grim or cynical is the opposite of fresh for a Hollywood film right now. It’s nothing new, and doesn’t break any artistic ground. I also didn’t find it effectively dark as there was no balance. The first Batman movie was kinda gothic, which I think a lot of people don’t remember. The Joker sprayed acid in people’s faces and Batman killed people, and yet these things weren’t glorified in the film. When Batman was Bruce Wayne in the first one, the movie had some more light-hearted moments. There was something of a contrast between when he was in and out of his uniform. You won’t find much of that in Batman Begins. Sometimes you’ll think you’re watching a Saw-type film, especially when the Scarecrow-character is on-screen or when it’s in the Arkham Asylum.

Oh and also, the Scarecrow sucked in Batman Begins. He was a total loser! Not to mention, the Scarecrow’s fear gas effect looked kinda dumb. It looked like the special effects on a show on the Sci-Fi channel. The real Scarecrow was bad news and serious business. He was also insane, in a watchable and yet horrifying way. Right after I watched this one, I happened to see an episode of Batman: The Animated Series on cable and it kicked so much more booty. It was much more grim despite being a kid’s show and it had even more character development in 30 minutes than Batman Begins did in 90! And the cartoon female leads were more convincing than Katie Holmes, and possibly even more attractive, even though they were 3-line, 3-color drawings.

Speaking of which, Katie Holmes should exclusively do roles in horror films. Lady effectively scares me sideways. Anyone who can sit across from Tom Cruise at dinner every night has got to have some serious, uh, crazy going on in her medulah oblongata (?).

I think it’s not a bad idea that they’re making another Batman movie (Knightfall) with the Joker in it, and this one should be better than Batman Begins — if only because there’s a villain who won’t put audiences to sleep. Oh also, I never thought Jack Nicholson was such a splendid actor. He’s better than Alec Baldwin, but… I don’t know, I’ve always fantasized about what kind of world it would be if Gary Oldman or Willem Defoe had played the Joker. And what’s up with Gary Oldman getting such a tame, tepid role as Commissioner Gordon in the new Batman movies? Also, I thought it would be a good idea if they had Alfred played by old Batman actors, like Simon West. Ahaha! Now that would be a spin! It could turn out the “cape and cowl” has been handed down from butler to Wayne for generations! How original my ideas are… *gazes into the distance with a sense of smug self-satisfaction*

So we’ll see about all that. Knightfall is a pretty boring (pun) title. Personally, I’d have called it Nightfool. Ah, but isn’t that why I don’t direct? Because I have good ideas? I’m kind enough to let those hacks in Hollywood keep their jobs out of raw compassion. It’s my selfless charitable service for society! But who knows who names these movies, really. Probably some Illuminati Lizardmen, amirite?

What does the future hold for Batman films? Only time and a lot of money can tell. Mostly money, actually, since Mother Earth’s biological clock is ticking. I’d say we’ve got about two more Batman movies left before everything in the world goes completely haywire.

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~ by chaosrexmachinae on March 14, 2008.

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