The movies were utterly revolutionary in look and atmosphere, as everyone will concede. BUT they were also SPECTACULAR in character and psychological undertones. I think it's fair to say plot was the weaker point of the two films.
These movies were the zenith of reborn modern Bat-mania and the DIRECT launch point for BTAS (best Batman ever) along with the bronze age comics.
Loved 89 Batman and was blown away by a portrait of two madmen on a collision course for the fate of a dark city. I liked Returns when I saw in in 92, but was a little disappointed because it was so subdued and Christmasy for a summer blockbuster. Pfeiffer's Catwoman was definitive, I've come to appreciate Devito's Penguin more and more, and I still appreciate the movie to this day.
Keaton's two performances as Batman are nothing less than understated leading man genius. Genius, yes I said it. There was something so human and organically real about it. I can watch so many of these scenes over and over again and glean so much of the subtle psychological insight and blackness that went into this character. Keaton's Bat was deeply wounded, distrubed, internal, conflicted, but not yet insane (as many claim). There was just this bottled up madness and anger at the surface seething and waiting to explode. This looming obsession. The way Keaton would *glare* as Batman was fantastic. No words. Just the LOOK. Probably similar to the dark and accusing look young Bruce Wayne gave to Joe Chill in the comics origin.
And I loved how Keaton *looked* in the mask. Besides his supernatural blue eyes, his naturally tented eyebrows fit beautifully with the high arched cowl. It just seemed right, y'know? The first actor to change the voices between Wayne and Batman and he beautifully succeeded. His voice was as chilly as the grave and sounded natural. Not like a kid putting on a tough guy voice. While Kevin Conroy, probably is definitive voice of Batman with the deep resonance and epic gruffness, I find Keaton's voice even more compelling on some level. It's just ice cold and repressed.
I loved the Keaton fighting style. I realize a lot of the "mechanical" quality of it was a function of an unwieldy suit (that looked great). I think the term "bat turn" was coined by the quick turn necessary because he couldn't turn his head. But somehow it worked. It was just quick surgical strikes and precise movements. To quote: "In his Batsuit, Keaton's movements are stylized, almost robotic, and the stiffness of movement carries Arthurian associations, as if he were indeed a dark knight, armored for battle."
On the other hand, I find the Bale's turn as Batman deeply uncompelling and forgettable (except for that voice!). I can really only enjoy the Nolan films for Ledger, marveling at the sheer portentousness, and their snuff film vibe, quite frankly. But this is NOT a bash thread, so I digress!
Back to the long lost Mr. Keaton. I LOVE his Bruce Wayne. Its without precedent in any age of the comic books, yes. But I still love it. I love the fact he's an aloof and reclusive and most people in Gotham wouldn't even know what Bruce Wayne looks like. I prefer the eccentric to the outright playboy act; at least in live action.
Here is the ultimate write-up on the BURTON/KEATON greatness:
Some interesting snippets from the article:
This is a true star performance, subtle, authoritative and sexually vibrant.there's genuine pain in the performance, signs of a wounded man trying to shake free of childhood traumas.
His psyche is scarred almost beyond repair. He's a vacuum, in danger of imploding. It is a riveting, understated performance
He only speaks when absolutely necessary, and when he does it's in a ghost - like whisper. When he does speak, you know without doubt he means what he is saying. The obvious way to play a superhero is a gruff yell, but Keaton dials it down to a whisper, which makes him seem all the more intense.
I thought a lot about the character. I wanted to deal with understandable human issues. Loneliness is a big part of it. The kid's 10 years old and he sees something very bad happen and he shuts down. He becomes a very lonely, isolated person
I wanted Michael from the start. I knew he could do it after working with him on Beetlejuice. And there is something in his eyes, a dimension of feeling, even with the mask on.
Again, I felt less is more with him in the sense of who he is. (â€¦) Michaelâ€™s eyes - it goes back to kind of like silent movie acting. I like when people sort of just look. Itâ€™s a movie so you kinda get more between the lines then you do [from] the actual lines (â€¦) There's a loneliness to that character and witheldness. Heâ€™s a character that is sad and is private"
"Even when he's standing there looking there's an electricity about him. Again this is why I wanted him for Batman because its all about that."
Keaton does locate the troubled human inside Batman's armature.
After all these years of internal pain and revenge driven life, he meets someone who is hurting as much as he does inside, and also as fractured, someone who shares the pain - someone who understands. In her he saw a reflection of himself, that she was another psychologically damaged person like him out for revenge. . .
I wanted to see and to show that transition when he goes from Bruce Wayne to Batman, the time when heâ€™s about to don the suit and go out and wreak some havoc. Thatâ€™s not a casual thing, obviously, itâ€™s not putting on a jacket to go out for the evening. So what is that transition like? So there was a thing we did early on that showed him going into a sort of trance and it justified this shift in him. So we did that scene and it never made it into the film but I think helped me in a way. It was part of the way he became this other thing and even if you didnâ€™t see it, it was part of the character and the way we created him
"You totally destroy your credibility if you show the literal process by which Bruce Wayne becomes Batman"