1990s Batman Movie Issues

03Dec13

The internet doesn’t need more arguments, yet that won’t stop me. I’m going to weigh in on some (young)age-old Batman debates:

Issue 1.) Which is better: “Batman” (1989) vs. “Batman Returns?” A divisive issue since their release. Generally speaking, if you enjoyed the first one, you were disappointed in the second. If you were bored with the first one, then you prefered the second. I’m in the first camp, and I’ve given way more thought about it than I ever should have. Because, really, neither is a cinematic triumph. Both have story problems, they make questionable choices concerning the characters, and they seem more concerned with style than with substance. So when dealing with this level of film, I think it’s best to look at it simply, and I’ll say that the original film works better than the second. True, “Returns” has some darker elements, and some weirder humor, and even my personal favorite version of Catwoman. But that doesn’t mean it works. At all. Often times the argument in favor of “Returns” is for those elements, but I think they actually weigh the whole thing down. As I’ve said many other times, “Batman” works because it’s a crowd pleaser. The crowd forgives lapse in logic (Vicki just shows up to the Batcave, Batman rarely stopping* crimes, etc.) because that forgiveness is rewarded with a happy ending. With “Returns,” the audience is asked to work really hard to follow along, like the characters, understand the weird plotting, and their reward is a gross anti-climax with 2 deaths, possibly a third, the unmasking of Batman and a penguin funeral. Its climax is both uncharacteristic of the comics and just plain strange.

Issue 2.) Which Is Better: The Burton Movies or the Schumacher Movies. It’s a common belief that Schumacher is a hack who should have never done Batman movies, and that Burton’s sensibility best suited the tone, therefore resulting in better films. I’m not going to invite trouble by saying Schumacher is a better filmmaker, but I think his skill level is much closer to Burton’s than people give him credit for. At least in terms of Batman movies. Basically, I think both have a Batman win and a Batman loss in their canon, and while the “Batman & Robin” loss is a greater one than “Batman Returns,” I believe the quality of “Batman Forever” is close to the level of “Batman.” Yeah, it’s a little lighter. That doesn’t automatically mean it’s worse, and the camping around of Jim Carrey is no worse than the scenary chewing of Jack Nicholson. What I’m trying to say is that drawing a hard line between them is a foolish, which assumes that one guy hit two homeruns.

I think we’ve accomplished a lot today.

*I get this one, but I don’t think it’s as major of a flaw as the fanboys would have us believe. Take the opening scene, where the young family is mugged in the alley, seen by Batman, who proceeds to beat up the muggers. First off, it is very difficult to anticipate a crime. You wanna talk “realistic,” Nolan fans. That’s realistic. You just can’t do it. So following the flow of the movie (which is an important key to enjoying the movie), Batman may have just happened upon seeing that crime and instead of rushing to help the family decided to go get the criminals. OK, we go to the rooftop, and the muggers are divying up the money when Batman shows up and kicks the crap out of them. I’ve heard people gripe that he didn’t even turn the criminals in to the cops, which is TECHNICALLY true, but in the next scene, the cops are there, rounding up the muggers. I think we can safely assume that the mother called the police and Batman gave an uncredited assist.

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