Television & Film

A Bat-Trek to Planet Rusty…

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Greetings folks! Yep, it’s that time again…………..

So over the Memorial Day weekend I finally managed to haul my carcass out to see Star Trek Into Darkness. So a quick shot review? I LOVED it! I walked out of that one wanting to see it ready to buy another ticket to go right back in and see it again! But there was one flaw that popped out at me, (SPOILER HERE! Oh who am I kidding, you’ve seen it!) that being the origin of Khan and his people wasn’t really delved into, just brushed over. If you aren’t a Trekkie, and haven’t seen Space Seed from the TOS, or Wrath Of Khan for that matter you may be asking a few questions about this fella whose tossing Kirk around like a rag doll. Despite that, WOW, what a flick!

[Of course, not everyone likes it, but that’s OK, too!]

So speaking of movies, over the same weekend, I decided to go back and revisit an old friend that I had written off some time ago. That friend you ask? None other that the first Tim Burton Batman film. Back when this one came out in my early teens, it was the end all be all of movies for me. My parents said that when I first saw it in the theater I was on the edge of the seat the whole time, jaw dropped, eyes blinking only when they had to, you get the idea. When the second movie came out it was pretty much the same experience, but the the Schumacher films happened. My joy for Batman films crashed and burned like so much Buddy Holly (too soon?), and I had nothing but scorn for the series.

Then the Nolan trilogy happened, and the love of Batman on the big screen came rushing back to me. Only now I was verbally throwing the other movies under the bus. The Schumacher movies rightfully so, but what about the Burton ones, namely the first one? When I saw a steel box Blu-Ray reissue at one of the big box stores I decided that it was time to see what I had written off all those years ago and give our friendship another chance.

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OK, so let’s start off with what I didn’t like about the movie. Most of this I’m gonna to what I’ll just call the “Hollywood Method”, where I think that a writer has to throw things into the screenplay to appeal to the masses, but just look kinda lame once done.

"Boys, it's the scoop of the century, I'M LAME!"
“Boys, it’s the scoop of the century, I’M LAME!”

— Knox the reporter. OK, the idea of a newspaper reporter trying to get the story on the Gotham urban legend of the Batman, that’s all well and good. But, to make him comic relief, BAD comic relief at that, when we have plenty of black humor from the Joker. If he was written as a bitter, jaded type instead of a wisecracking smart-alec, he would have been a better character, but alas, the “Hollywood method” to drag some laughs out with a stereotype character.

You made me!  No, YOU made me!  ToMAto, ToMHAto.
You made me! No, YOU made me! ToMAto, ToMHAto.

— Young Jack Napier/Joker killed the parents of Bruce Wayne. Yes, the murder of his folks is what inspires Bruce to take up the mantle of The Bat and put oh so many criminals into traction and seek therapy. It’s logical that Batman is going to go after the Joker, he’s the biggest criminal in Gotham, and he’s trying to commit mass murder with different schemes. What other motivation does Batman need? Back to that “Hollywood Method” again to make this fight “personal”. Folks, you know as well as I do that Batman isn’t about revenge, he’s about justice. And speaking of something else Batman won’t do………

— Batman kills folks. OK, we don’t see it right out, but it’s implied like crazy! The scene where Batman uses the Batmobile to blow up Axis Chemicals, the henchmen pop out shooting the Batmobile, the armor plates come up, bombs get dropped, then BOOM! Yeah, those henchmen doing all that shooting are very, VERY dead. Something else we all know that Batman would NEVER do.

— The parade scene. So it’s a comic movie, and I gotta have a suspension of disbelief, but come on! The biggest criminal in the city announces his plan on TV, then holds a parade in the city streets. WHERE ARE THE POLICE THAT SHOULD BE TRYING TO STOP THIS? Was there a meeting at police headquarters that day with Commissioner Gordon telling the force, “So guys, we have a homicidal maniac that’s gonna have a public outing tonight and probably kill a bunch of folks. But let’s let this strange, mysterious vigilante whose already caused a buttload of property damage handle this one and we sit this one out. Drinks are on me!” I wondered about this when I first saw and still wonder it today. And don’t get me started on the gun that Joker uses to shoot down the Batwing; that one still stings.

So enough with the griping and nitpicking, let’s move on to the things that I enjoy to this day about the movie……….

— Gotham City. I love the look of this city! It looks like a combination of the city from the classic silent movie Metropolis, and the alternate Hill Valley we see in Back To The Future II when Biff is running the town and it’s all nasty ghetto looking. From a distance this city looks tall, majestic, and proud, but scratch the surface and we see urban decay that will rot the city from the inside out unless someone steps up to defend it.

— The casting. Regardless of what anyone still says, to this day I defend the casting of Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne/Batman. It makes sense! When you look at him and the way he presents himself it’s the perfect facade for a costumed avenger, and he’s not built like a huge muscle mountain of a guy that tips people into knowing this guy could knock you silly before you know it. And even though Heath Ledger’s Joker is fantastic, Nicholson did set the standard for the Joker. For me it was interesting ’cause as Jack Napier he’s a guy who is just one little step off losing his marbles, and you know that all it takes is one thing for him to completely lose it. It just so happens that thing is getting thrown into a vat of chemicals and getting deformed. From there on we get the crazy, unpredictable, grandstanding, scheming Joker we all know and love.

— The Danny Elfman score. Need I say more?

— The Batmobile design. Once again, need I say more?

But the most important thing that I enjoy about this movie, and it’s the thing that makes me (and hopefully everyone else) truly enjoy this movie, regardless of the flaws that Batman has, is the Caped Crusader that we got. This presentation finally gave the Dark Knight that we needed to show those not in the know that the Batman they knew from the Adam West days was long gone. The slate needed to be wiped clean — no Batusi, no POW! — and show the public the true face of Batman. We need to show the vigilante that lurks in the shadows, strikes and vanishes before you know it was him, a grim avenger that had been given to us by Frank Miller not too long before the movie, and boy howdy, did this film do it!

If we never got this film, if it sat and lagged around in development hell, I shudder to think of what we would have not have had. Think about it. This movie spawned the animated series that ran four seasons, which spawned the great Superman animated, that spawned two Justice League shows! No Burton movie and we never would have had some great animation that is still highly regarded to this day! And it’s my opinion that the Burton films set up a template for the Chris Nolan trilogy to follow. Though I do regard the Nolan Bat-Trilogy as the better, the Burton set up a template and a water mark to hit for the continuing Bat films (and the Schumacher movies showed what NOT to do!).

So let this writing be my peace offering to the Burton Batman and my apology for dismissing you for oh so long. Let’s consider it water under the bridge that the Cobblepots pitched a baby Penguin off of in Batman Returns.

That wraps up this round for me folks, hope you enjoyed the walk down the Bat memory lane. And just to let you know I have the Twitter up and running! Any ramblings or burning missives you want to throw my way can be done at @RusWJ. Until next time geeks and geekettes!

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