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Member Since: Sat May 17, 2008
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America's Captain 

Location: Bayville New Jersey
Member Since: Sat May 17, 2008
Posts: 12,139
Subj: Re: New banner! Looking back, how do Tim Burton's BATMAN films hold up?
Posted: Sat Feb 09, 2019 at 05:25:14 am EST (Viewed 236 times)
Reply Subj: New banner! Looking back, how do Tim Burton's BATMAN films hold up?
Posted: Fri Feb 08, 2019 at 06:41:58 am EST (Viewed 420 times)

    Two with Michael Keaton. One with Val Kilmer. One with George Clooney. Along the way we got the Joker, the Penguin, Catwoman, the Riddler, Robin, and others I can't recall. The aesthetic was one part Kane/Fingeroth and one part Nightmare Before Christmas. The first Batman actor might legitimately, under another director, have been cast as the Joker - and I've sometimes wondered if that was the point, that Batman could have been the Joker, and the Joker could have been Batman, or so Tim Burton was trying to imply.

Fingeroth? Don't you mean Finger? And in any case Bill Finger and Danny Fingeroth are/were writers, so I'm not sure what their (visual) aesthetics are/were.

    How do you rank these films? Best ever? Worst ever? Better than the 60s film with its celebration of campiness? Worse than the Christopher Nolan films? Better than the Ben Affleck stuff? Worse even than that?

As far as I am concerned, "Batman" (the first Burton/Keaton film) is the best, it had the right mix of darkness and craziness. "Batman Returns" was a good film, but not as good and had a few weak points, especially in the Penguin story. I think that the four films demonstrated that it can cause problems if you set up a solo superhero against more than one villain, something which I'd say is also to blame for the drop in quality in the Spider-Man movies after Spider-Man 2 (Superman II is not really an exception to the rule - Lex Luthor had already been introduced in the previous film and so could afford to be downgraded to a supporting role to Zod, while Ursa and Non essentially were Zod's henchmen, did not pursue goals that brought them into conflict with him, and shared his origin story, so the three functioned as a unit). It did not help that the Joker was killed in the first movie and that Burton and his successors felt that the Batman's recurring other villains were not "big" enough to carry a movie on their own, hence the combinations of the Penguin and Catwoman (also Max Schreck), Two-Face and the Riddler, and Mr. Freeze and Poison Ivy (and Bane), all with separate origin stories and goals.

    I think Burton's strong point was the villains and the City. I think his weak point was Batman. What do you think?

Well, I could have done without the Red Triangle Gang (unlike Tim Burton, I'm not hung up about evil clowns) and the sillyness of Oswald Cobblepot being raised by actual penguins. That broke my suspension of disbelief. And the villains of the third and fourth movie veered too much into "camp" territory. But Michael Keaton convinced me as Batman. The soundtrack, especially in the first film, was another strong point. It's no wonder that Danny Elfman's main theme was adapted for TV. Ah, yes, let's not forget that Burton's films to a large extent set the tone and paved the way for the best Batman adaptation of them all, Batman: The Animated Series. One definite weakness of the tetralogy was the lack of cohesion. Two directors, three actors playing Batman (and two playing Harvey Dent), no follow-up to the romantic subplots (in four films Bruce Wayne goes through four love interests, none of whom makes a return appearance, even though Vicki Vale, Selina Kyle and Chase Meridian all figure out his secret and you essentially have the same type of plot four times in a row with four different characters, only two of which - Vicki and Selina - can be described as memorable). This is in marked contrast to the way e.g. Margot Kidder appeared as Lois Lane in all four Christopher Reeve Superman films or Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane was a huge factor holding together Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy. And the odd thing is that Batman really is a character who does not need to be in a romantic plot to "work", so one could easily have done "Batman Forever" and "Batman and Robin" without a perfunctory romanatic subplot for Bruce Wayne (indeed, the fourth movie could have focused on Robin and Batgirl, if they wanted romance so much).

    BONUS QUESTION: How did you react back then?

    I was strongly anti-Burton because I was strongly anti-Keaton. I liked Michael Keaton a lot in roles I considered meant for him. I didn't think Batman was meant for him and I couldn't get past it. He would have made a better Joker. Sort of in the Keith Ledger vein.

I was impressed with him, but I did not get why he got so much hate beforehand. Also, since I did not get to see Beetlejuice until after I had seen Batman, I did not see him as predestined for nothing but deranged characters. (I note that when Mad Magazine did their parody of the film they upbraided him for his previous comedic roles, calling him "Mr. Bat-Mom".)

    I also, at the time, wanted zero camp. I wanted all dark all the time. Which of course is what we got with Christopher Nolan's version, pretty much, and I wasn't thrilled with that either. In the end, I think Burton was moving in the right direction. I wonder what Joss Whedon would have done. Probably something closer to Burton than to Nolan.

Nolan, I think, erred too much onto the dark side. I saw Batman Begins and at the end was left with the half-serious question: "Why doesn't the US government drop an A-bomb on Gotham already, the city is clearly beyond redemption." And I didn't watch the sequels. Just think of what a killing I could make at Humiliation(1), a superhero fan who hasn't yet seen "The Dark Knight"!

(1) Humiliation is a party game invented by Professor Swallow in David Lodge's campus novel "Changing Places". A player has to name a book that s/he hasn't read (by extension: a film s/he hasn't watched) and gets a point for each of the other players who HAS read the book (watched the film). Since this is set in an academic milieu, mentioning that one hasn't read a certain book can lead to humiliation, and the winner is the one who humiliated themselves the most.

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