Thursday, November 8, 2012

Guest Review: Batman Returns (1992)

By ScottDS
Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman was a huge hit and ushered in a wave of superhero films, which, despite several peaks and valleys, shows no sign of stopping. It was inevitable that one of those films would be a Batman sequel and in 1992, Tim Burton and Warner Bros. gave us Batman Returns. This film was criticized for being too dark, too violent, and too focused on the villains. As a Batman film, I can see how it might disappoint people. As a Tim Burton film, I think it’s great.

A deformed penguin-like man, Oswald Cobblepot (Danny DeVito), blackmails crooked industrialist Max Shreck (Christopher Walken). They arrange to have the mayor’s child kidnapped so Cobblepot a.k.a. the Penguin, can come to the rescue and look like a hero to the citizens of Gotham City. Meanwhile, Shreck throws his meek secretary Selina Kyle (Michelle Pfeiffer) out a window after she discovers that his proposed power plant will actually drain power from the city. Selina survives the fall and, after a psychotic meltdown, takes on the identity of Catwoman, hellbent on revenge.
While Shreck tries to have the mayor recalled and the Penguin elected in his place, Bruce Wayne (Michael Keaton) and Selina share a fractured romance, despite the fact that Catwoman's in league with the Penguin to rid the city of Batman. After Batman ruins the Penguin’s political ambitions as well as his plan to kidnap all the first-born sons of Gotham, the Penguin decides to destroy the city using penguins armed with missiles. Batman diverts the missiles to the Penguin’s secret lair. Catwoman unmasks herself and kills Shreck (and presumably herself) via electrocution. The Penguin succumbs to his injuries and his emperor penguin troops carry him to a watery grave. The film ends, like the first film did, with the flash of the Bat-signal, only for Catwoman to appear instead…

I want to make a couple things clear: 1.) Despite being a member of the demographic, I’m not a comic book reader, so I have no idea what I’m missing or what the filmmakers should or should not have done, and 2.) I can accept the film on its own, without going back to any source material. (This doesn’t work all the time, though.) I like this film. In fact, there are even days where I like it better than the first film. I’m sympathetic to the criticisms and I wasn’t surprised when, during the DVD retrospective, screenwriter Daniel Waters - who rewrote Sam Hamm’s original script and whose script was, in turn, rewritten later - admitted to not being concerned with the mythology or what fans might want. In fact, the studio managed to persuade Tim Burton to sign on only when they promised him that he could make “a Tim Burton film starring Batman” as opposed to simply “a Batman film.” Burton has since justified some of his decisions. For instance, he always felt that the nature of Batman was such that he wouldn’t go around making grand speeches and other PR-friendly displays of superheroics. He’s a creature of the night and would prefer to stay in the shadows, being seen only when necessary.
I was only six when the first film was released so I wasn’t aware of the “How could they hire Mr. Mom?!” controversy, but Michael Keaton acquits himself nicely. He has an easy-going personality and brings just the right amount of neurosis to Bruce Wayne and toughness to Batman. I absolutely love his reveal in this film: the Bat-signal comes on and we see Bruce in his study. What’s he doing? Sulking in the darkness. It’s like the man has no purpose, except when the city’s in trouble and in that regard, he’s very much like Sherlock Holmes or Captain Kirk, both of whom would cease to function without the Call to Action. And as much as I enjoy the Christopher Nolan films, it’s nice to have a balls-to-the-wall film where there is no “prophecy” or “chosen one” or any of those mythic tropes. This film gets down to brass tacks and is, in fact, the only Batman movie where the murder of Bruce’s parents isn’t mentioned.

Many reviewers seem to love Catwoman and hate the Penguin, or vice versa. I love ’em both. They’re almost sympathetic: the Penguin (at first) only wants what we all want, a normal life. He wants to find out what happened to his parents and why they felt the need to throw him into the river as an infant. Catwoman might be a villain but she’s not “evil.” She doesn’t want to watch the world burn; she only wants revenge on the man who killed her. (Yes, I’m simplifying a bit here!) Christopher Walken is at his slithering best as crooked industrialist Max Shreck, who only lives for power (literally and figuratively). Batman veterans Michael Gough and Pat Hingle return as Alfred and Commissioner Gordon, respectively. The rest of the supporting cast is rounded out by Michael Murphy as Gotham’s beleaguered mayor, Andrew Bryniarski as Max’ son Chip, and the late Vincent Schiavelli as a member of the Penguin’s gang of circus freaks. Paul Reubens and Diane Salinger (of Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure) briefly show up in the opening as the Penguin’s parents.

Like the other Batman films of the period, the story itself is more or less window dressing for the characters and their bizarre antics. However, in this film, there actually is some semblance of a story. Shreck wants a power plant but the mayor tells him he’ll have to go through “the usual channels.” Shreck threatens a recall and later finds in the Penguin a perfect candidate and willing accomplice, but only after the Penguin blackmails him. It turns out the sewer-dwelling Penguin has been collecting some very important waste throughout the years, including some shredded documents with Shreck’s name on them. It’s not exactly front and center but at least these guys have some kind of motivation – respect for the Penguin and a legacy for Shreck – whereas too many villains are just evil for evil’s sake. (As much as I enjoy the first film, does anyone really remember the subplot involving the Joker’s poisonous beauty products?) There are some witty lines of dialogue in this film and a macabre sense of humor on display.

It’s not all roses, however. I can’t buy Catwoman’s origin in the film. I understand being driven to the brink of insanity but she’s pushed out a window, falls a dozen stories to her death, and is brought back to life by… cats? And once she starts prancing around in her slinky leather get-up, she’s suddenly athletic? She can do cartwheels and back flips and this all came from… where, exactly? In any movie like this, there are certain leaps in logic to be expected but a film still needs to play by its own rules. Oh, and Batman manages to foil all the Penguin’s plans with relative ease, to the point where the climax isn’t nearly as exciting as it should be. The Penguin’s mayoral ambitions? Thwarted with a convenient audio recording. The kidnapping plot? Batman appears just at the right time. The penguins armed with missiles? Diverted via frequency jamming.

And there are some minor inconsistencies with the Batmobile. Early in the film, Batman activates a hydraulic “foot” which lifts the car and spins it 180 degrees… except there doesn’t appear to be any room in the car body for the foot when its not in use, not to mention Batman manages to punch a hole through the bottom of the Batmobile later on, and he even activates the “Batmissile” mode in which most of the exterior parts are jettisoned, making the car small enough to fit through a narrow alley… so where did the foot go?! Also, unlike the Nolan films, this film portrays the citizens of Gotham City as mindless drones, gullible and easily led astray. Nothing wrong with that per se but it's a bit cynical, and even worse than that, a bit lazy.
Like every Tim Burton film, the technical aspects are top-notch, but with one caveat. Gotham City looks awfully cramped in this film. Why? Because the first film was shot at the famous Pinewood Studios outside London where Gotham City was erected on the backlot. This film, however, was shot at Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank where Gotham City was a smaller indoor set... and it looks like one at times. The interior sets look great, though, especially Shreck’s conference room and the Penguin’s lair in an abandoned zoo. (As an aside, I guess I should mention that Anton Furst, the genius production designer who won an Oscar for the first film, jumped to his death in 1991. Sad but true.)

The costumes are quite beautiful, especially Catwoman’s outfit which (for obvious reasons) is one of the more memorable costumes in film history. And Christopher Walken’s cuff links are actually human molars... naturally. Danny Elfman’s operatic score reprises the famous Batman theme from the first film and features two new themes for the Penguin and Catwoman, both full of melancholy. The Oscar-nominated visual effects still hold up (mostly), including some early CGI, beautiful matte paintings of Gotham City, and animatronic penguins by the late, great Stan Winston.

Like I said above, I understand the problems that Batman fans have with this film. I even got into a brief argument with a friend (a big Frank Miller fan) who simply could not understand what I saw in this film. After all, how could I possibly like a Batman film where Batman barely shows up? Well, I just do. And I’ll watch it a hundred times before most of the generic cookie-cutter superhero movies we get today. (I'm looking at you, Green Hornet!) Sadly, I’ll also watch it a hundred times before Alice in Wonderland and Dark Shadows - it’s time for Burton to disengage the autopilot!

“You're just jealous, because I'm a genuine freak and you have to wear a mask!”

51 comments:

K said...

I enjoyed the film, but since this was a Tim Burton movie, the best part was the atmosphere and the set design. The Paul Reubens cameo was a pleasant surprise, which I thought at the time was the beginning of his rehabilitation after the incident in the adult movie house - but alas.

Green Hornet was anything but "cookie cutter". I'll admit the set up was swiped from several previous superhero films, but the rest of the plot was uniquely craptastic.

shawn said...

The praise I have for Burton's Batman movies is the atmosphere and the actors. It was a far cry from the campy Adam West stuff. I liked both Batman and Batman Returns well enough, but I will admit that Returns somewhat turned me off with some of the Penguins antics, most notably eating the raw fish.

I liked the trailer for Dark Shadows it looked silly and like it might be fun and so bought the dvd, but I was really disappointed with the final product. It wasn't silly nor much fun.

Green Hornet didn't have any likable characters and was generally terrible.

ScottDS said...

K -

Green Hornet was a last-minute edit I made - I originally didn't reference any superhero movie in the last paragraph but I also didn't want to give the impression that I thought, say, The Avengers was a cookie-cutter movie. I needed a bad example, lest anyone accuse me of bashing a good movie!

"Uniquely craptastic" - I may have to use that one day.

Yeah, the Paul Reubens cameo was a nice surprise, though I'm not sure I follow your "alas." He seems to be doing well - in fact, I was able to see his Pee-Wee show on Broadway.

ScottDS said...

shawn -

I didn't know what to make of the Dark Shadows trailer when I first saw it. My friend and I looked at each other like, "Huh?" Ultimately, I just thought the movie felt small and, ironically, it felt like large chunks of story were missing yet some of the stuff they did include could've been cut, like Johnny Lee Miller's character. Nothing against him - it just didn't amount to anything.

On the plus side, Depp was fun to watch and Eva Green - man, talk about perfection. [sigh]

In hindsight, I think people reacted a little too positively to the Burton films, only because they weren't campy like the series. I love 'em but I've also spoken to a few people for whom time has been less than kind to these movies. (The Prince music dates the first film but it also wasn't Burton's idea.)

DeVito may have gone a tad overboard. :-)

MadMup said...

I love the Burton Batman movies, and Michelle Pfeiffer's Catwoman is THE Catwoman, in my opinion.

However, DeVito's Penguin was just too ... gross. Don't get me wrong, I still love this movie, but Penguin works better for me as a slightly-off aristocrat rather than a bizarre, misshapen freak who bites noses and eats raw fish.

ScottDS said...

MadMup -

I can't disagree and it's entirely posssible Burton and Co. just didn't understand the character. Even on the DVD retrospective, Burton says that he never quite figured him out, at least based on his comic book origins. "He's just a man with a cigarette holder and a top hat... what is he?"

I guess the way Burton found an "in" was based on the whole animal motif: bats, cats, penguins... as opposed to the aristocrat part of it.

MadMup said...

Yeah, I totally get that. Kevin Smith's biggest problem with Tim Burton directing Batman was that Burton was a self-confessed "non comics reader."

Of course, my list of what's wrong with Kevin Smith is much longer than that... ;)

Anyway, still a great film!

ScottDS said...

MadMup -

I'm a Kevin Smith fan... maybe I should write about him one day. His last few films disappointed me and I was ready to write him off but I started listening to some of his podcasts (like the hilarious Hollywood Babble-On and Fat Man on Batman) and I've become a fan once again.

I don't have a problem with a non-comic book reader directing a comic book movie so long as they do their homework. This film is a bizarre exception and, like I said, I'm not a comic reader either so maybe just I'm not a good judge when it comes to that sort of thing.

tryanmax said...

I really enjoy the Burton Batman films. Like Scott, I have to take them on their own terms, not being a comics guy. I do feel that the first film was more inline with Burton's usual style, though the second is a close follow. Frankly, I never noticed the sequel to be more cramped than the first.

The reveal on Batman is really one of those great cinematic moments where so much is said in very little. Film as a medium is often criticized for the way it condenses things. But when it is done right like that, it really reveals film's power to tell a complex tale in minimal time. And of course Batman, like all great superheroes, is more identifiable by his mask than his face, so it is fitting that he serves no other purpose. (Ask me about my "Superman mask" observation sometime.)

Admittedly, I'm not sure what to make of DeVito's Penguin. The nose-biting scene has never sat well with me. However, the otherwise Pygmalion-esque approach to the character was, IMO, inspired. At the risk of saying there should have been more emphasis on the villains, my only critique is that it wasn't explored further.

I don't know if I would call Pfeiffer's Catwoman the Catwoman, but certainly is one of the best. I can personally suspend disbelief at Selina surviving her fall; after all, coincidence is one of the primary elements of drama--and don't you forget it! I don't view the cats as bringing her back to life so much as happening to revive her and imprinting on her freshly fractured psyche. As to the newfound athleticism, I'm just going to assume that Ms. Kyle had a cardio-kickboxing regimen that we just didn't get to see.

And for the record, I do recall the Joker's poisonous cosmetics scheme. Wasn't his only motivation to disfigure everyone else as he had been? Isn't it interesting that all of the Batman villains are individuals who were short-shrifted in some way and decided to take their frustrations out on society at large? This theme is not new to the Bane character as so many seem to suppose.

K said...

ScottDS: There's a "Pee Wee" show on Broadway?????

Hopefully it will be traveling to LA some time. I'm also going to have to pick up the DVDs of his TV show some day.

ScottDS said...

K -

There was! I don't believe it's still running. They taped one and it aired on HBO. You can get the DVD here. I'm at work right now so I can't check to see if it's streaming anywhere. :-)

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, Thanks for the article, but I need to say that I really don't like this film. I've tried repeatedly and it just fails on so many levels for me. The biggest thing is that it just never gets all that exciting... it kind of meanders.

Also, I think they completely failed in making the Penguin character menacing.

ScottDS said...

tryanmax -

That is interesting (re: the villains). I suppose that was the Joker's motivation - to disfigure everyone - but it's been a while since I've seen the film and that particular subplot just seemed to appear, then vanish before the third act, during which Joker decides to gas everyone.

I don't know - the first film is Burton, but the second film is Burton "unfiltered" so to speak. And I can't disagree with you re: Catwoman and the Penguin. Interesting thought about the cats "imprinting" a psyche on her. Again, I just can't buy it completely but I'm always willing to keep an open mind. :-)

I don't consider any one Batman villain "definitive" since so many people have put their stamp on this franchise.

ScottDS said...

Andrew -

You're welcome! (Post-election, I should've written about a better, happier movie.) :-)

I don't intend to change your mind but I never thought it meandered - hell, the first film meanders a little bit but this one goes almost too fast at some points (especially the ending).

Hmm... I suppose the Penguin could've been more menacing - what would a Nolan version of the Penguin look like? - but DeVito just played him too over the top. I like him anyway. :-)

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, The first one meandered a bit, but it still felt like everything you saw was moving toward the climax. The meandering explained the characters, built the relationships, and set up key plot points. In this one, it felt different to me. It felt like he was just giving you filler at times because the plot wasn't long enough to make the movie work.

I don't think the problem was DeVito, I think the problem was the way the character was written. It was like they wanted him to be sympathetic while also being evil, and it just made him sort of muddled. I would have preferred either that he was more evil or that they had a clean break to transform him from good to evil.

I suspect Nolan would have taken the character in an entirely different direction. He seemed to prefer realism, so I think the Penguin would have been a scientist who used robot-penguins.

AndrewPrice said...

In terms of the election, maybe we should have reviewed something more surly?

ScottDS said...

Andrew -

I mentioned above that, per the DVD extras, Burton clearly had no idea what to do with the Penguin (he may have been forced to include the character by the studio). He sort of latched on to the whole animal motif.

Watching Batman Returns again, I don't think it meanders but I'll meet you half-way and say that it does seem a bit stop-and-start at times. This film went through many drafts, including one last-minute revision which went uncredited - I'd love to see the original versions one day.

Remember, I was going to title this review "Defending Batman Returns" but I realized I couldn't do it! I like the movie but I can't defend it. :-)

ScottDS said...

Andrew -

Surly? If you haven't written a review for tomorrow, maybe you can tackle "surly". :-)

T-Rav said...

Eh, I liked this movie all right. It always bothered me that Batman seemed less in control of events in this one than the original, which is kind of inconsistent. Also, my siblings and I were pretty young when we watched this, and...you know, some of the talk is kind of inappropriate for a comic-book movie like this one. I think you know what I'm talking about.

But hey, I've also seen Batman Forever and Batman and Robin. Next to them, this is freaking Oscar gold.

tryanmax said...

Scott, I will agree that Burton does ask more of his audiences in general on "suspension of disbelief." And I personally am a lot more willing to comply with that than the average Joe.

I find it perplexing: people go to watch what is essentially a fantasy film and complain about the lack of realism. I don't mean that a film shouldn't play by its own rules, but one must accept those rules as a starter. Surviving tremendous falls and technology that doesn't quite add up both fall well within the rules of this particular universe.

ScottDS said...

T-Rav -

Actually, I'm not sure what you're talking about. Given that Catwoman is in the film, is it the Penguin's groan-worthy "pussy" jokes? Or something else? :-)

My brother and I were young, too, when this was out. I think my mom let me watch it once it came on HBO, but she wasn't going to take this 9-year old to the theater!

Yeah, I suppose Batman is more of a reactionary character in this movie, at least at the beginning. And yes, next to the Schumacher films, this one is Citizen Kane, though I never thought Batman Forever was that terrible.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I haven't written anything yet, sadly. I need to write something. Maybe I'll think about surly. :(

ScottDS said...

tryanmax -

I am also willing to comply. It's just one of those funny things. You can be watching the most fantastic far-out movie and yet one character will do something that will make you ask, "Wait, would that really happen?!"

Weird.

And I only pointed out the Batmobile stuff after someone else pointed them out to me and I felt it was worth mentioning. :-)

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, It's never smart to start a film where you don't know what to do with a main character!

ScottDS said...

Andrew -

You're right! But again, I think he was forced to use the Penguin (though I'm not excusing him because of that). It's all explained here, which you can watch at your leisure.

I also once glanced at an essay written by a fan that attempts to tie in the characters as seen in this film with their comic counterparts.

As for surly, whatever you come up with, I look forward to reading. :-)

Tennessee Jed said...

Scott - I grew up on the Superman and Batman comics. The Adam West television show was done as high camp. That never appealed to me, probably because I was invested in those two characters as real super heroes. All of the films seemed much darker than the comic books. That is meant to be a statement of impression, not a criticism per se. I happen to think Michael Keaton is an actor with a greater range and talent level than he is generally credited with.

It is hard for me to keep all the Batman movies straight. I felt like Nichilson, Schwarzenegger, De Vito were all supersized versions of the high camp methodology developed on t.v. Until, Heath Leger broke the frame, and took it to an entire different level. BTW, I am hardly an aficionado of the caped crusader on screen. As such, this is pretty much free association bullshit tumbling from my mind directly to keyboard, and should be considered as such. :)

ScottDS said...

Jed -

Ha! I never grew up on the comics but I did, in fact, grow up on the 60s series because it aired every day on the Family Channel, and like kids 25 years earlier, I took it completely seriously, only enjoying the camp elements later.

I do agree Michael Keaton is underrated as an actor. The highlight of the Will Ferrell film The Other Guys was seeing Keaton in the film as the police chief. He was also great in this Ron Howard movie from the 90s called The Paper.

This may border on sacrilege but I don't think Schwazenegger was that bad (in the context of that movie!). Campy and over the top? Absolutely, but he's also clearly having a blast - I only wish he had a director like Nolan working with him instead of Schumacher.

BIG MO said...

As an oddball Tim Burton film, Batman Returns is fine. But I am a huge Batman nut -- comics, animated movies and TV shows, and Nolan's movies -- and I dislike this film. I've disliked it since I first saw it in the theaters in 1992 before I became a Batman nut. I felt let down after leaving the theater, because Burton's first film was awesome.

I don't hate it, but just don't care for it much. You've touched on one of my big reasons: the greater focus on Penguin and Catwoman than Batman, so much so that I call it "The Adventures of the Sultry Cat and the Repulsive Bird, featuring Batman."

I think the story is thin -- more like a series of bare-bones vignettes a la "prequel" George Lucas than a well-plotted and -paced story. The dialogue at times sounds like a rough draft that was waiting for the details to be filled in. Max Schrek is too cartoonish, Catwoman's "birth" is silly, and Batman/Bruce Wayne is a flat prop. The flirtation between Catwoman/Selina and Batman/Bruce didn't work for me.

Penguin's "fall from grace" when Batman plays the recording at Cobblepot's speech was unbelievable, and dashed what little suspension of disbelief I had left -- and made me laugh at the whole rocket-bearing "penguin army".

Plus, the title still doesn't make sense. "Batman Returns" -- from what and where? Did he disappear at the end of Burton's film? The ending of that movie says otherwise. Unless it's to mean "Batman returns to the theaters."

Those are all my general criticisms of the film as a movie. But I have a specific nerdish fanboy criticism -- one that general audiences not wedded to the whole Batman mythos would care about.

The real kicker for me is that Burton's Batman kills. I didn't think this way in 1989 and 1992, but I definitely do now. In the 1989 film, the hero destroys Joker’s chemical factory with a remotely detonated bomb, which kills scores of Joker’s stooges. They never have a chance to even think about escaping. Batman also makes one of Joker’s goons fall to his death from the top of Gotham Cathedral. In Batman Returns, the hero is assaulted by a bomb-wielding member of the Circus Gang. Batman turns tables on the thug, fixes the bomb to him, grins wickedly and flips him down a shaft to his explosive doom. The scenes are completely out of character for the Dark Knight.

Of course, take my criticisms for what they are: the groaning and moaning of a hardcore Batman fan. Perhaps I've been spoiled by Nolan's incredible films, the animate shows, the DC animated movies and the comics.

As I said earlier, as a Tim Burton film, it's fine and often fun, with decent music (not as great as the first) and interesting performances and scenery. As a Batman film... it has its moments, but not enough for me. Certainly better than the disappointing Batman Forever and the wretched Batman and Rubber Nipples, but weaker than Burton's earlier film.

Anonymous said...

Of the two Burton Batmans, I think Batman Returns is the film I enjoy more and a lot of it is due to Walken's character. Shreck didn't need a vat of chemicals or freak explosion to initiate his descent into villainy, he's already rotten to the core by the time the film begins.

A lot of superhero films have ordinary humans who are villains (ordinary in the sense they don't have a masked persona or countless minions at their disposal), but they are never quite so front and center in the action of the film as Walken is.

Also, considering the film goes more into depth to explain the troubled psyche of the Penguin and Catwoman's character is simply in it for the revenge, then Shreck comes off as more of a villain than the two masked baddies. I don't know if that's enough to make it a first-rate film, but it does help make it a unique and rather interesting comic book movie.

ScottDS said...

BIG MO -

Yeah, the story is kinda thin, though I think you can say the same for all of the Burton and Schumacher films. I wouldn't call the Penguin's fall from grace unbelievable, just very convenient, like the filmmakers had to rush to the ending and that was the best idea they could think of. At least during the making of the first film, there was a WGA strike, which is why Vicky Vale shows up in the Batcave - they just needed to get to the ending by any means possible.

I know Batman killing people is a big problem for people. I sympathize. The killing of the Circus Gang bomber is pretty egregious in that respect.

No worries about groaning and moaning - I'm the same way in the Star Trek comments. :-)

Elfman's score isn't as good as his score for the first film (which was a landmark score for his career) - it's a little more out there given the nature of the film.

ScottDS said...

Anon -

Interesting thoughts re: the villains. Shreck was originally supposed to be Harvey Dent who would've been transformed into Two-Face at the end. I don't know why they didn't go with that but I think they may have had to pay Billy Dee Williams some money (he played Dent in the first film for folks who don't remember) for not using him again.

T-Rav said...

Scott, I have to disagree. I saw Batman Forever once. NEVER AGAIN.

ScottDS said...

T-Rav -

Fair enough. :-)

It's not great but I guess I have fond memories of my dad taking me to see it. I was 12 and thought it was the bee's knees. That was back when I read all the movie magazines and was generally much more excited for summer blockbusters than I am now.

There are things to admire about the film (the set design, music, etc.) And next to Batman and Robin, it's Shakespeare!

rlaWTX said...

I saw both Keaton Batmans at the theater. (and since I don't generally think of directors, that's how I think of the 1st 2 of the "90s" Batman movies)

Penguin was interesting and repulsive, but, for me, he wasn't interesting enough to outweigh the repulsive. Catwoman was great. I had watched the old TV show (in reruns) and enjoyed it, but Catwoman was fully - um - formed for that (some great performances there - she's by far my fav TV character), and having this Catwoman start out "mousey" was great!!

I liked Keaton's Batman. I like Bale's more. Kilmer's & Clooney's were worse.

I've seen the first one when it comes on TV. I've watched pieces of this one when it comes on, but I channel surf during Penguin parts...

ScottDS said...

rla -

Yeah, she does start out as mousy, though there's a great shot just before Walken throws her out the window where she looks up at him but she's lit from below and her glasses cast a cool whisker-like shadow on her forehead!

I watched the old TV show too (thanks Family Channel!) but I was too young to have such thoughts about Catwoman - now if the film had been released a couple years later... :-)

I own the Blu-Ray boxset but I still have to at least watch the Burton films if they're on TV.

ScottDS said...

I'm off to school - I'll be back in a few hours!

Tennessee Jed said...

back to Keaton, and his range. Breaks out with comedy, Mr. Mom and the one about the guys from the mental hospital who help solve a crime. Hooks up with Burton to do the very weird Beetlejuice. Begins to go dark with Batman and does a film I liked a lot called Pacific Heights, and another one called Desperate Measures.

I always thought of Arnold as being really smart in choosing his roles. It was o.k. for these guys to play the characters with a little bit of camp. That can actually help keep the mood from going completely dark. Kind of reminds me of Alan Rickman in Die Hard and Robin Hood. Neither film was meant to be camp, but that is what he decided to bring to the table. And, he's pretty good at it.

T-Rav said...

Scott, I remember that scene with the shadow trick. It was pretty cool.

Doc Whoa said...

I enjoyed this one, but not the next two. I do agree with RLAWTX that the Penguin was simply unpleasant to watch and I usually skip his scenes when it comes on television.

ScottDS said...

Jed -

I haven't seen every Keaton movie but he just seems so underrated. He's one of those guys that can make a bad movie watchable (not every actor can do that).

And Beetlejuice is another favorite of mine going back to childhood.

I guess that explains a few things. :-)

ScottDS said...

Doc -

I guess that seems to be the consensus here. And from the reviews I've read, even though they were often mixed, many folks just didn't like Burton/DeVito's take on the Penguin.

I remember the rumor mill for The Dark Knight Rises and people who thought Nolan was going to cast Philip Seymour Hoffman as the Penguin. That obviously didn't happen but it would've been interesting.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I think Keaton is a guy who hurt himself with his film choices. For every Batman there were 3-4 films that just really weren't that great.

Putting that aside, I too agree that he's an actor who deserved better. I have a lot of good will for him on film.

Tennessee Jed said...

Scott - l.o.l. about Beetlejuice. I wasn't knocking him for it, just saying it shows off his ability to pale different roles. The film I was trying to think of earlier was called Dream Team. If you haven't seen either of them, Dream Team and Pacific Heights are two films I think you would really enjoy.

Tennessee Jed said...

Oh and a P.S. to Andrew . . While trying to find anything to watch, I came across a film on Sony Movie Channel called "All the Real Girls" only to discover it starred . . . omg Zooey Deschanel. Boy did I hit the remote in a hurry.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, I saw Dream Team cold... no idea what it was about and I laughed my butt off. That was a clever, funny film with a great cast!


Nice work on Zooey D.! :)

ScottDS said...

Jed (and Andrew) -

I'm gonna have to watch Dream Team one day. I like all those guys so how bad could it be? :-)

And I know you weren't knocking Beetlejuice - in fact, while I don't think it's Burton's best movie, I think it might be his most interesting movie.

P.S. Andrew, I left a late Star Wars comment earlier in the other thread.

obiwan2009 said...

I always enjoyed the actual Burton Batman films, for the angle that Burton gave us Batman. In the Burton films, he gave us a dark, mysterious, version of Batman, which gave the audience a perspective closer to the people in Gotham, as opposed to that of Batman himself, which we got from the Nolan trilogy, where you are essentially given details in a way to essentially feel familiar, or even sympathize with Batman for the most part.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, It's absolutely right up your alley. They end up doing advertising and the slogans they come up with are hilarious! I should review it at some point. :)

ScottDS said...

obiwan -

That goes back to Burton's initial idea of the character. When asked about the criticism ("We barely see Batman in the movie!"), he would always say that he saw the character as more mysterious, a literal dark knight who preferred the shadows to grand speechifying.

With the Burton films, I think the strange attractor for him was not so much Batman but the villains and the ability to create a world that, up till then, had never really been fully realized on film.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Great review, Scott!

I liked this one. Despite the weaknesses you already covered its still watchable and entertaining.

I don't think anyone can match Nolan's take on Batman, but that doesn't mean the Burton Batman is unwatchable or uninteresting.

ScottDS said...

Ben -

Thanks for the kind words and you pretty much summed up my feelings exactly. :-)

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