Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Pose Reviews A Movie. #24: Batman Returns (1992)

Well, at least they didn't go with the originally proposed title, Batman, Again.

Alright, I'm just going to go ahead and say it. It's really, really hard to take the old Batman movies seriously now that Christopher Nolan has given the whole franchise a masked facelift, making the Caped Crusader (and his villains) appropriately badass once again.

However, I don't mean to assume that Tim Burton's 1992 follow-up to Batman was necessarily meant to be taken seriously in the first place. Or maybe the early nineties were a simpler era than I remember, having been five years old at the time.

Regardless, Batman Returns is a fine though irresistibly campy piece of film with a solid gothic aesthetic--art direction may be the only thing Tim Burton does well, but you have to admit, he does it really well.

Batman Returns also spawned a trend in villains which would be followed with the arguably more crappy Batman Forever and Batman & Robin whereby an already established baddie is joined by a newer scoundrel who develops their evil counterpart part-way through the movie.

In this case, we have Oswald Cobblepot, The Penguin, whose deformity at the time of birth led his parents to abandon him in the sewers of Gotham City in order to:

a) have him raised by penguins
and b) allow for a lengthy opening title sequence

Catwoman, on the other hand, arrives on the scene when her mortal alter-ego is thrown out of a window and bitten repeatedly by black cats--a process which apparently turns you both feline, evil and crazy if the cats go at it long enough.

These are probably two of the weirdest origin stories in the Batman villain catalogue, but once their plans to take over Gotham City are in place (despite rather flimsy motivations), their villainous agenda turns to the one force that can stop them...

...Michael Keaton?

OK, OK, I know that Michael Keaton used to be Burton's right-hand man, having starred in Beetlejuice and Burton's first Batman, and yes, he's certainly no worse than Val Kilmer in Batman Forever or George Clooney in Batman & Robin and sure, his Batman voice isn't as ridiculous as Christian Bale's but...Michael Keaton?

I didn't buy it. I just feel like he doesn't have Bruce Wayne's cool charm (which is odd, considering his performance in Johnny Dangerously) OR Batman's cunning and machismo. All in all, I just don't think he fits the bill.

Could it be that Tim Burton just gets attached to certain actors, and casts them in places they don't belong just because he wants them in his movies?

Nahhh! Helena Bonham Carter was a GREAT choice for The Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland! (Nervous laughter).

I do want to applaud two of Burton's casting decisions though.

One? Michael Gough as Alfred. I love that guy! He's so old and awkward and scrawny, a kind of Hans Moleman in the flesh. So you almost don't expect him to do anything the entire movie, and then all of a sudden he bails Batman out of a dicey situation and you're like, "Ohh, that Alfred!"

It's just the best feeling.

And two? Christopher. Fucking. Walken.

It's so good to see you, Mr. Walken. And your major role as Max Schrek (and its accompanying hair) makes my heart sing. If only you had been cast as Batman. Now that would be worth Returning for!

For me, Christopher Walken is totally the highlight of this movie. Hands down, 100%. But if you're in the mood for a campy superhero movie, but you don't want to go the Adam West route, take a nostalgia trip and join Penguin, Catwoman, Christopher Walken and the big black bat for a Christmas you'll never forget!

...oh yeah, I forgot to mention. It's also a Christmas movie.

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