Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Thinking About Batman.

With The Dark Knight coming up, I was in the mood to watch the first four Batman movies, but I don't have any of them. I wanted to find out how much it would cost to buy them, so I looked up "Batman: The Motion Picture Anthology 1989-1997." This is a box set with 2-disc special editions of all four Batman movies (it would be stupid to try to buy any of them without getting the cool extras). But this box set is like, already out of print. It only came out in 2005, to promote Batman Begins. And now if I want to get it, I have to meet whatever price I can get for a used copy. That's so not Raven.

I found it a lot easier to enjoy these movies after Batman Begins came out. Before then, there was no live action Batman that really encompassed everything cool about Batman in a solid way. They all had good things about them. Even the two Schumacher ones (mostly Batman Forever). But they were always frustrating because they all had flaws, and there was no better live action Batman alternatives. Batman Begins changed everything, and I can now appreciate Batman, Batman Returns, Batman Forever, and Batman & Robin for all their strengths, without forcing them to shoulder the burden of "representing Batman correctly."

The Schumacher movies are cool and interesting. But they are not proper Batman movies. They're outrageous, shiny, and gay. I don't mean that in a bad way. I just mean that one day, I watched them and I realized, this guy put in a lot of homosexual overtones, in both the heroes and the villains. The recurring imagery of sculpted rubber asses and nipples. The way Batman and Robin go on about being partners. The way Riddler and Two-Face flamboyantly mince around in costume jewelry. This interpretation is not necessarily crazy or wrong. It completely fits the style of the movie. But I can't ignore the fact that Joel Schumacher himself is gay. I have to believe that had something to do with the fact that he made a movie where everyone is a little gay. If Schumacher weren't gay, I don't know if I would've thought about it so much. It's an interesting discussion point.

The biggest atrocity the Schumacher movies commit is ruining five good Batman villains. The Riddler is a self-sabotaging genius. Two-Face is a tragic former friend of Batman, whose deformity leaves him a cold slave to chance. In the movie, they're both just hyper clowns. But they are both slightly redeemed by the brilliant actors portraying them, making them still be funny in a world that is otherwise without subtlety. Mr. Freeze is another cold, tragic figure. In the animated series, his backstory made you care for him, despite every horrible act he committed. And Poison Ivy is an inhuman monster who controls people with her sexuality. In the movie, they are both just gimmicky pun factories. And Bane, who, in the comics, was so formidable a foe that he actually broke Batman's back, is reduced to a grunting henchman. It's like they scrounged up a few minutes extra screen time and decided to assassinate another priceless comic book legacy while they were at it. They also turned Batgirl into a complete joke.

But in the end, it's good that these movies exist. Partly because their shittiness prompted the uproar that led to the faithful Batman Begins. But mainly because Batman is a character that has lived through the ages in countless thankfully unique interpretations. And every incarnation of the character is a part of who "Batman" is. Batman is the sum of every comic book, movie, and breakfast cereal boxtop about him.

Even that piece of shit indie movie where some guy captures Batman, then rapes and kills him. That's a part!


No comments: