Monday, August 11, 2014



In Defense of the Indefensible

A buddy of mine posited on his own blog that Joel Schumacher was the filmaker that "ruined" Batman with Batman Forever and Batman & Robin whereas I contend that Christopher Nolan's interpretation of Batman in his trilogy was far worse and "ruined" Batman (at least for me, and finding out that Ben Affleck is gonna be Batman in the next Superman movie has sent the caped crusader to his grave for me).
So, for discussion's sake, I'm going to try and justify why I believe the above statement.
However, before I begin, I have one caveat that has be expressed in no uncertain terms:
Batman & Robin is one of the worst comic book movies of all time in a way that is almost indescribable.  It is such a wretched movie that it is painful to watch and it is undeniable that it sent the Batman movie franchise to a premature death (and made the studios so paranoid of another debacle that they turned to Nolan with a more realistic approach to Batman that didn't work for me at all).
But what about Batman Forever?
Well, Batman Forever is not a great movie either but I don't think it is as bad as many say that it is.
I grew up watching the 1960's Batman TV show and I remember loving it as a child.  I didn't really understand the "camp" element of the show and since I had never read any of the Batman comics, I didn't know any better or any different concerning Batman.
Simply put, I believe that Batman Forever is the TV series brought to the big screen.
Think about it, the movie features many aspects of the TV series including the bright colors, over the top villains, death-trap scenarios, non-sensible plot devices, deadpan humor, outrageous costumes, and a young man as Robin (as opposed to the Boy Wonder of the comics).  Its all there.  The only thing missing from the movie is the POW!! BANG!! stuff.
To elaborate further, lets first address the villains in Batman Forever.  Jim Carrey plays the Riddler straight out of the Frank Gorshin playbook (Gorshin played the Riddler in the TV series) and Tommy Lee Jones plays Two-Face as a Joker rip-off that Cesar Romero would have been proud of (Romero was the Joker in the TV series).  Now, its true that Two-Face isn't the Joker and shouldn't act just like him but that was the style that was asked of Jones and I think he pulled it off as did Carrey as the Riddler.  I thought they were both sorta hilarious.  Over the top, yes, but hilarious nonetheless.
The movie also featured Robin in the Burt Ward vein as a young man and he had a decent plot mixed with Two-Face that worked very well in the movie  (and I gotta say that when Robin first appeared in the movie in full costume I sorta freaked out in a childish way at seeing one of my heroes onscreen for the first time).
The real flaw with Batman Forever lies in the completely asinine plot that the Riddler concocts concerning the brainwave-drain-TV-signal-thing.  Not good, and it really distracts from an otherwise decent plot structure.  Had they left that out and just made Riddler envious and bitter with Batman for ignoring and firing him and then trying to prove his superior intellect over Batman, the movie would have worked fine and combined with the Two-Face/Robin plot, the movie would have been pretty sound (and speaking of sound - the music by Elliott Goldenthal is not too bad for this movie).
As a side note, after Batman Forever came out on video (before DVDs were born), I took two VCRs and made an edited version of Batman Forever that removed all of the Riddler's plotline of the brainwave-drain-TV-signal-thing.  I also removed a few lines of cheesy (or campy?) dialogue that I didn't find funny - 

Alfred - "Can I persuade you to take a sandwich with you, sir?"
Batman - "I'll get drive through." (he says as he's standing beside the Batmobile)

Batman - "Its the car, right?  Chicks dig the car."

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that Batman Forever is a great movie, but if you view it through the prism of style of the TV series its really not all that bad.
Bottom Line - If you loved the TV series (and a lot of people do admit they loved that show), you should be able to appreciate most of Batman Forever as a kind of homage to that series.

Now, a quick word about the Nolan Batman trilogy.
If you know me at all, then you know that I fairly despise those movies and I have one main reason.
Aside from Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard's score for Batman Begins, I don't like anything about the conception and rendering of those movies.  
Nothing - the sets, costumes, casting, characters, storylines, and most especially the Batmobile.  
The Batmobile in the Nolan movies exemplifies best why and what I don't like about those movies.  It doesn't look anything like any Batmobile that has ever existed!  And this departure of conception carries over to every aspect of these films.  To me its just not Batman.  
I heard a movie reviewer describe these films as what Batman would be in reality while the comics represent what he is in fantasy.  
Well, I want the fantasy!!
I want to see my favorite comic book heroes in their iconic stories onscreen with as little change as possible (updating technology is OK, like in Iron Man) and if that's not what is presented onscreen then I can just leave it where it is - playing onscreen to my absence.

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