The Big Picture: Batman Revisited, Part 2

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Good grief, Bob. Decades of comic book lore to draw from means that every film-maker will select different interpretations of characters, possibly even ones that you don't enjoy. Deal with it.

I liked the Burton Batman films, mostly for their dark wackiness than for any sense the plot fails to make.

Trishbot:

But I do find it funny how parents flipped out over Batman Returns, while the modern The Dark Knight I feel is far more adult, violent, and emotionally scarring. Thematically, it's even more disturbing than Returns is and it is far more cynical and despondent than Batman Returns was.

Yes, I think it has to do with marketing again. Maybe I missed something, but Batman Begins and Dark Knight didn't seem to nearly have the push that Batman and Batman Returns did. Those toys were everywhere. They had Batman selling everything, like this
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KPU6rQ-PBao
or this
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qaWAFlIuUGo
Meanwhile, the marketing for the new Batmans seemed to skew much more adults and treated the movies more like what they were - for teenagers / adults, not small children. Just take one look at Heath Ledger's Joker or Cillian Murphy's Scarecrow and it's obvious it's not intended for young audiences.

I liked DeVito's Penguin only because the Penguin has always been one of my least favorite Batman villains. He works best these days as a crime boss with silly weapons. Making him a truly degenerate sub-human gave the character acres more personality.

I would have perferred Catwoman as less crazy, even if any S&M fetish I have is entirely her fault because of this movie.

This reminds me: I think the Penguin (or the Riddler) could have made perfect additions to Nolan's version of Batman's rogues' gallery. They're both villains that could be easily synthesized into his realistic Gotham without losing what made them what they are and they would both have something important to contrast in Batman.

At the end of the day, all of Batman's problems in Nolan's Gotham have eventually been solved by punching. Muggers are evil? Punch. Ras is evil? Punch. Joker's evil? Punch off building. Harvey's evil? Punch off different building. They give the indication that, eventually, if Batman punches enough people, Gotham will be fixed forever.

But the Penguin- at least in non-Burton media- is more of a white-collar criminal. Get elected Mayor, corrupt people, seek and abuse power and wealth. Batman has never had to deal with anything like that in Nolan's Gotham before. Nolan could easily do up the Penguin as sort of an evil opposite of Bruce Wayne, a wealthy, charismatic, and entirely amoral magnate secretly manipulating the criminal underbelly to take and hold wealth and power in Gotham from a seat of impunity. This would give WORLD'S GRAETIST DATECTIF a chance to actually do some detective work, present a devious enemy that Batman could also fight as Bruce Wayne- who hasn't done much of anything these past couple movies- and remains fairly in line with his old, campy, '60's incarnation.

Importantly, all these movies seem to hinge on asking how far Batman is really willing to go to fight for Gotham- by challenging him to give ever more of himself. But the Penguin's brand of villainy is one dependent on an endemic collapse of morality in Gotham. He requires a broken, corrupt system to exist at all. Even more important than asking, "What happens when you can't just suplex the evil out of Gotham?" the Penguin could present the question, "What does Batman do when he realizes Gotham is evil to its core?"

I'd laugh my ass off at the fanboy rage if a Batman movie ended like Chinatown.
(Penguin is escorted to safety by police)
Alfred:Forget it, Bruce. It's Gotham.

Careful Moviebob, remember the last time you were all pysched for a movie and spent a few weeks of Big Picture episodes giving background?

It was the lead up to the release of Green Latern.

Nah. Sorry. I just don't accept that "this isn't the penguin" is valid criticism for Returns. I had grown up watching the live action series in re-runs and Batman was the first film I ever went to see in a movie theatre, and I thought the Penguin was great here.

Maybe it was the fact that fans made such a fuss about Keaton as Batman (oh, yeah, I'm talking death threats here) but by the time Returns came out all I could think about is how Burton wasn't forced to put any Prince songs in the movie and how cool it all looked. I've always thought that this was the better of the first two films, and I stand by that today.

Things I didn't like, though:

- The stupid pre-programmable batarang.
- The fact that Batman takes out his cowl by ripping the rubber, and the shape of the dangling rubber bit he leaves behind.
- The fact that it's painfully obvious that he had black makeup under the mask and it's removed between shots.
- ... yeah, the whole Penguin running for office thing.

I saw this film as a child after seeing the first one. Let me tell you, I was not ready for it haha. The scene where the penguin bites off a dudes nose freaked the living shit out of my little child like psyche. However Catwoman was and still is the yardstick by which I measure sexy femme fetales.

The parts at the end when the Penguin is leaking black blood out of his mouth and nose and when Max Schreck gets electrocuted by Catwoman also scared little me quite a lot. Despite this, it introduced me to the darker side of human nature and was one of the earliest examples of my exposure to the 'adult' world. In my mind, this movie is a classic Christmas movie that I watch every year along side the Gremlins and Die Hard.

Michelle Pfeiffer > Anne Hathaway

that is all..^^

and if you bring up Halle Berry I will murder you. :P

Norix596:
Careful Moviebob, remember the last time you were all pysched for a movie and spent a few weeks of Big Picture episodes giving background?

It was the lead up to the release of Green Latern.

Which was just okay, and not the horror everyone makes it to be. 0.o

You know, I wonder if Bob recognizes that he gets a lot less responses to his videos after his BS views on the fans of ME3 were expressed. I suspect he does not care.

BTW Michelle Pfiefer? Super sexy in that movie. Does that mean I am revealing dark secrets about my sexuality? Maybe....

I've gotta ask, Bob, because I'm curious. If not the thick rubber suit that looks like some solidly defensible pseudo armor for the Caped Crusader, then what? The cloth suit of the Adam West Batman? Guns, knives, fire, dogs, darts, shrapnel, glass, small explosions, banging into walls, pipes, and cars--these are all things Batman is more or less required to deal with. All of these kind of start to take their toll on an unprotected body, and the rate he deals with them, that toll would pile up quite fast. Do you have an alternative preference that would actually make sense?

I'm gonna have to echo the: "it's not like the comics! WHAAAAAAAAA!!" thing.

I also don't look at Catwoman in that movie as a simple "they explained her by just making her crazy, thumbs down." In fairness, her conformity to a meek gender role is shown as a factor in leading to her freakout and something vehemently rejected in her rebirth; and as I see it, the resulting character and how it operates in the narrative holds up quite well on-balance to feminist values, at least comparatively speaking.

Holy shit, next week is gonna be so bad that is gonna be great.

DVS BSTrD:

Lucane:

DVS BSTrD:
Did they have the age-rating system back then?

And I don't like crazy Catwoman either. Staples aren't sexy!

Do you mean on her suit? That was cartoonishly large tread holding the patches of leather together not staples.

I always thought of that Catwoman as a freed and/or uninhibited version of herself from a quiet straight laced secretary, which yeah can look and actually seem or be crazy but only doing so to serve the purpose of enjoying herself and not Joker crazy or Two-Face Crazy.

There is a difference between uninhibited and putting a live finch in your mouth to show how dedicated you are.

So anyone on Fear Factor or similar shows is crazy?
(Well yeah they are but they don't have a near death experience as an excuse.)
good point though,but it's not like she took a bite afterall.

captha: good day
Good day sir or madam.

Uhhhh Bob you forgot to include how antisemitic Batman returns is. Regardless of whether it was intentional or not the characterization of the penguin is really offensive towards Jews. Strange how you forgot to mention this considering how you're always talking about racial and gender inequality.

esperandote:
Holy shit, next week is gonna be so bad that is gonna be great.

Yes it will be bad, but let's face it Bob saved the best(worst) for last.
Batnipples anyone?

Two weeks more can't wait!

It's an adaptation. The Penguin and Catwoman are perfect for the movie.

"I'll revisit the steps they took that changed the course of the series and the history of comic book movies... forever."

...Not to mention putting the Batman franchise into a coma for nearly a decade. Can't wait...

It may be a bad movie, but I was too young to notice any of it's flaws. Batman returns is still one of my favorite childhood movies. And like all boys of my age I had a thing for Catwoman.

Adam Jensen:
It may be a bad movie, but I was too young to notice any of it's flaws. Batman returns is still one of my favorite childhood movies. And like all boys of my age I had a thing for Catwoman.

Sorry Adam, but I gotta call bullshit, you weren't even born when the Movie was released.

I remember those Happy Meal toys, I had that Catwoman car thing.

BehattedWanderer:
I've gotta ask, Bob, because I'm curious. If not the thick rubber suit that looks like some solidly defensible pseudo armor for the Caped Crusader, then what? The cloth suit of the Adam West Batman? Guns, knives, fire, dogs, darts, shrapnel, glass, small explosions, banging into walls, pipes, and cars--these are all things Batman is more or less required to deal with. All of these kind of start to take their toll on an unprotected body, and the rate he deals with them, that toll would pile up quite fast. Do you have an alternative preference that would actually make sense?

"This fabric looks and moves just like cloth, but it's actually super-durable ultralight bullet-proof armor. My company also makes tanks that drive on roofs, microwave-vaporization machines that can somehow distinguish between the water that makes up the human body versus "regular" water and magic capes that turns you into a giant kite if you put electricity on them, so it's really not much of a reach."

Something like that :)

Huh, Batman Forever next week? Not going to take time to cover the animated series? That's a shame, because the original Batman animated series is arguably still the greatest comic book-based ANYTHING ever made.

I have to say though, I don't care about how Catwoman was characterised in the comics- nothing any version of the character EVER does could match this iconic moment:

While I agree with you on many points and am very delighted by the immense nostalgia trip this episode provided ( I even owned the happy meal joker car back in the day) I must say that it makes a lot of sense that FOREVER was so completely deluded, Warner Brothers of course opting for a more "kid friendly" film what with it having a wackier setting but still being completely insane, for example when Jim Carrey's awesomely weird portayal of the riddler murders his boss by tossing him out a window by unplugging a helmet or whatever.

Thanks for a great episode bob, long time viewer here, have never commented at all though, but I look forward to intermission, escape to the movies and the big picture every week as much as anything, who needs TV when one has an xbox, the pirate bay and the escapist magazine at the tip of ones fingertips?

LiquidGrape:

I still maintain it is the best Batman film to this day. Not from a cohesive narrative point of view, granted, but when you've got art deco, biblical retribution and third-wave feminism aplenty...I'm inclined to give that a pass.
It's thematically and intertextually *dense*, and not in the philosophy minor didactic fashion of Nolan's films.

Pfeiffer's Catwoman is particularly fantastic because it's one of few examples of real gyno-rage in mainstream American cinema; undiluted by 'maternal instinct' or any such simplistic qualifiers.
She is an outright rebellion against the patriarchal status quo. Being a sole catalyst of that movement, however, is both trying and fraught with relentless opposition, causing her psyche (and her suit, in a clever visual device) to fracture and split at the seams.

The script by Daniel Waters is obviously laboured by rewrites, but his sardonic humour and attention to character dynamics is apparent throughout, and not entirely unlike his brilliant Heathers.

I love it. Every wacky and oddly-paced minute of it.

Part 1 and 2 vie for my affections of the first 4, but DK is, at this time, my all time favorite movie of any kind. I've watched it a million times. But 2 is in many ways, the best of the first 4.

I think Bob got it right on calling it episodic. They're all tiny little stories mixed together and that can be exhausting. Of course I'd prefer cohesion, but review the movie you got.

I agree with you about the gyno-rage. Catwoman was less insane than liberated to voice the frustrations building inside her over a lifetime of thinking, "I should have let my last boyfriend win at tennis." That anger is on display with the unconscious clown she uses the taser upon. I simply cannot imagine a big screen version that will EVER match her. Sorry Ann Hathaway. Maybe you will surprise. (Arkham City's Catwoman, obviously, is hard to match in gaming.)

Batman was, before the comic code, a killer, but I prefer the one with a code against killing (which, IMHO, he failed in Begins by allowing Ras to die.) It gives him one more difficulty to overcome and creates a more complex character. He'd love to kill the Joker, but saves him.

Interesting review by Bob though, looking forward to more.

is it wrong that of the previous 4 i still like Batman forever best? :P

Jim Carry as Riddler is best thing ever >:D

03:14 What was that from?

Also, I kind of liked this Penguin version. Normally, you'd see the "freak turned evil" because of his appearance understand that people are afraid of abnormality and shun it whenever possible. Where of he either leaves in exile, turns himself in or commits suicide because of what he as done.

But in Batman Returns, he doesn't do any of that. He has an emotional side. You could almost see him acting out the situations in his head, but Burton let the classic method twist off as the Penguin reverts to his manical state.

I was about 12 or 13 when batman returns came out so Michele Pfeiffer might have a part of my preference for blondes to this day.

I thought this movie was fantastic as a kid. When i watch it now i still think it's fantastic.

But... I like Batman Returns. Sure, it's all over the place, but you have on hell of a good time watching it :D

I liked this one, hell, not being a fan of Batman and superheroes in general, I liked Batman Forever as well.

Bob, seriously, stop harping on the batsuit costumes! I don't know if you've seen the extra features on the Batman Begins DVD, but it showed that Bale was able to move perfectly well, including able to turn his head, in the new costume. Also, why would a guy setting out to kick the ass of thugs wielding knives and various firearms wear anything but armour?

Great video, sadly once again tarnished by Bob's undying belief that if it's not like the comics, it's automatically 'bad'.

As far as I'm concerned, Danny DeVito and Michelle Pfeiffer are the two strongest villains ever portrayed in a Batman film, alongside Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger as respective versions of the Joker. The fact that DeVito's Penguin isn't just a mob-boss, but a deformed man who was abandoned in the gutter allows the film to bring a deeper level of anger to the character. Despite the fact that the Penguin's schemes get progressively dafter, you can still understand why he's so hellbent on lashing out at Gotham. After all, his parents abandoned him in a sewer simply because of the way he looked. The Penguin is as much a victim as he is a villain, and part of what makes Batman Returns work as a film is that it is in part a tragedy about the rise and fall of Oswald Cobblepot.

Part of the other reason why BR's Penguin works so well is that, before the film properly establishes him as a character, he's responsible for setting up a great horror vibe for the film. We see him at the start getting literally abandoned by his parents for the way he looks. We see him looking out from sewer drains and clutching at draining bars with his deformed hands, breathing in that horrible, gurgly way. Before the film shows him properly, he is very much the 'alligator in the sewer' character who helps build up the dark atmosphere, by contrasting the scenes of wealthy characters and corporate excess with hints at something more primal and horrible lurking underneath Gotham. And in many ways, even after the character is properly introduced, he still maintains that role, hatching by far the darkest and most disturbing plots of any of the three villains from his lair in the sewers.

As for Catwoman... what is there to say that everyone else hasn't already? She may be different from her comic version, but Michelle Pfeiffer's portrayal of the character is the most famous for a reason, and it's not just that damned fetishistic catsuit. She isn't a character who you can simply write off as 'crazy'. She's a character forced to be subserviant in a patriarchal society, who through a freak bit of luck is given the chance to lash out at the society which has forced her to be so submissive her whole life. As others have said, she is one of the few cinematic characters who is allowed to be a badass female without having 'maternal instincts' or similar traits foisted on to justify her. Ellen Ripley in Aliens is only badass because she has a symbolic daughter that she's looking out for. Sarah Connor in Terminator 2 is only badass because she's looking out for her son, John. It's a well worn trope in Hollywood to allow women to be strong and capable only if they have something young and innocent to protect. Catwoman subverts that entirely. She beats up policemen, criminals, anyone who gets in her way, she engages in high-level theft, and she's doing it all because she wants to. She doesn't need anyone else to justify why she's so good at kicking ass, she simply does it because she's decided that she's not going to be the submissive type anymore.

Either way, for better or worse, the only person who dictates Catwoman's fate in this film is Catwoman herself. Precisely because she goes 'crazy', as Bob puts it, she refuses to simply do whatever the men in charge tell her to do, and is entirely responsible for her own actions, and her own ability at kicking arse. The fact that the film does this while also managing to successfully portray the human side of her which is actually attracted to Bruce Wayne, as well as the fact that she's ultimately struggling under the weight of everything she's gone through... in all honesty, it's a minor miracle of characterisation, in a film as densely populated as Batman Returns.

At the end of the day, both Burton Batman films are highly stylised and have their flaws, but they also have things that they do far better than even the Nolan films. While the Nolan films are intellectually engaging, the emotional content has always been somewhat cold and sterilised. The Burton films are the opposite. Where Batman and Batman Returns may not have TDK's existential ponderings, they have instead a genuine emotional core that provides more of a gut punch than Nolan's heavy-handed philosophizing. There isn't a single scene in Batman Begins or TDK that has the sheer emotional clout of the costume ball scene in Batman Returns, and it's worth celebrating for that alone.

Honestly, this movie is so tangled up with my childhood that I couldn't pull it out far enough to comment on whether or not it's actually a good film.

It's aesthetic and tone is probably in no small way, responsible for the taste in films, comics and books that I have now.

I will say this however, Catwoman and Penguin have never been as good as they were in this movie.

Devito was truly disturbing in this, and the more disturbing a Batman villain is, the better. Not to mention how tragic his character arc is. Born with a silver spoon in his mouth, only to have it snatched from him because of his appearance and quite literally cast into the gutter. Then through years of torment as the feared and reviled boogyman, he comes up and manages to grab back at his birthright, making grand schemes and outlandish master plans, only to have it all taken away from him again, back in the sewers where he lived the majority of his life.

And Pfeiffer.... Well damn, she is the iconic catwoman as far as I'm concerned.

She's a much stronger character because of everything that happened to her in this film. In the comics and most of the live and animated media, she's boring. Her sexual innuendo seems to be for the benefit of the viewer whilst in this film, it was entirely for her. She was exerting her new found confidence and attitude onto a world that had oppressed her up until that point.

And the delight she took in tormenting Shrek simply by coming into work as if nothing had happened after he'd pushed her out of a window. Well it was downright sadistic.... see brilliant.

I'm sorry but neither of these characters have been done better anywhere else.

MovieBob:

BehattedWanderer:
I've gotta ask, Bob, because I'm curious. If not the thick rubber suit that looks like some solidly defensible pseudo armor for the Caped Crusader, then what? The cloth suit of the Adam West Batman? Guns, knives, fire, dogs, darts, shrapnel, glass, small explosions, banging into walls, pipes, and cars--these are all things Batman is more or less required to deal with. All of these kind of start to take their toll on an unprotected body, and the rate he deals with them, that toll would pile up quite fast. Do you have an alternative preference that would actually make sense?

"This fabric looks and moves just like cloth, but it's actually super-durable ultralight bullet-proof armor. My company also makes tanks that drive on roofs, microwave-vaporization machines that can somehow distinguish between the water that makes up the human body versus "regular" water and magic capes that turns you into a giant kite if you put electricity on them, so it's really not much of a reach."

Something like that :)

Okay. Fair point. I keep my point about percussive impacts, however. But touche on everything else.

BehattedWanderer:

MovieBob:

BehattedWanderer:
I've gotta ask, Bob, because I'm curious. If not the thick rubber suit that looks like some solidly defensible pseudo armor for the Caped Crusader, then what? The cloth suit of the Adam West Batman? Guns, knives, fire, dogs, darts, shrapnel, glass, small explosions, banging into walls, pipes, and cars--these are all things Batman is more or less required to deal with. All of these kind of start to take their toll on an unprotected body, and the rate he deals with them, that toll would pile up quite fast. Do you have an alternative preference that would actually make sense?

"This fabric looks and moves just like cloth, but it's actually super-durable ultralight bullet-proof armor. My company also makes tanks that drive on roofs, microwave-vaporization machines that can somehow distinguish between the water that makes up the human body versus "regular" water and magic capes that turns you into a giant kite if you put electricity on them, so it's really not much of a reach."

Something like that :)

Okay. Fair point. I keep my point about percussive impacts, however. But touche on everything else.

The problem is that as silly as the rubber Batsuits can sometimes look from the wrong angles, they still look a thousand times more intimidating than any possible cloth-and-fabric costume could.

Compare and contrast:

The Adam West costume is actually far more faithful to the Batman costume as it appears in the comics, even today. Yet it looks ridiculous. Michael Keaton looks far more like what Batman should look like in real life, despite the fact that his costume is actually drastically different to any iteration of the costume in the comics. The reason is simple: Batman can only get away with a cloth costume in the comics because he is a fictional drawing, and therefore the artists can give him a ridiculously bulky physique that is all but impossible to achieve in the real world. For a real Batman costume to work, the costume itself has to provide the bulk and menace that Batman's physique is able to carry in the comics, simply because no actor (or possibly any human being) is as ripped as Batman as drawn by Jae Lee or Frank Miller.

In short, the demands of cinema require a drastically different Batsuit than the one in the comics, simply because the rules and logic of cinema are themselves different to the rules and logic of comics. I for one much prefer the approach of the Burton films, where Batman doesn't wear his underpants outside his trousers, and the all-black costume provides a greater air of menace than the grey with patches of black costume seen since the early days of the comic. Batman in the Burton films just looks shit scary, whereas the Batman of the comics looks kind of ridiculous.

Conversely, I personally think the Nolan films have gone too far the other way in the Batsuit design. It was a nice mix of classic Burton-era design and practical utilitarianism in Begins, but the suit seen in TDK just looks like a SWAT suit that's got a pointy eared helmet. I know they were kind of gunning for that approach, but it just makes Batman look so much less intimidating when he looks like a COD soldier with a funny helmet. The whole idea with Batman is that he's supposed to come across as this scary Batmonster to those crooks who've never seen him before, and the TDK suit really doesn't get that across. He just looks like a rather short man dressed in kevlar.

...wow, that was quite the rant. Dunno where that came from.

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