Retro Classics: BATMAN: What Happened?

Retro Classics is a collection of articles and web posts I have written in the past, re-published verbatim in their original form.  I have been writing about my hobbies on various “free” websites dating back to my days in high school.  Now a great deal of my topics of then current events would be considered retro themselves.  Some of these may only be amusing to me.  Others might have more broad appeal, but I really doubt that.  Enjoy!

BATMAN: What Happened?

(Originally published 10/17/02 and written by tps1983)

In 1989, after many years of waiting, Batman finally hit the big screen. All of the images of the campy (and funny) 1960s TV show were gone, replaced by Michael Keaton’s scowl. Batman broke box office records when it opened, and helped start a franchise that would make hundreds of millions for Warner Brothers. Now, 13 years later, Batman is a thing of the past. D.C. Comics is no longer the top maker of comic book films, Marvel has taken the crown, and Spider-Man, X-Men, and The Hulk will likely make it stay that way for a while. What happened to a sure thing? Greedy company execs, a completely wrong director, and horrible writing, that’s what.

The original Batman was and is still looked upon as a great movie. Jack Nicholson’s Joker is remembered as one of the best villans in cinema history. The Prince music may date it, but the movie is still exciting. The movie was directed by Tim Burton who was brought in late in the game to direct it. Burton’s great visual style along with partner Danny Elfman’s music captured the nation and it seemed like Batman would remain a fixture in American cinemas for years to come.

Following Batman, Tim Burton wrote and directed Edward Scissorhands which was a huge box-office smash. This allowed Burton to get complete control over Batman’s sequel. Called “Batman Returns”, the sequel opened to positive reviews, but fell due to the fact that it wasn’t children freindly. The studio had hated the movie, but released it anyway due to the dollar signs floating in their heads.

News flash to WB execs, Batman ISN’T child friendly! Bruce Wayne became Batman because his parents were murdered when he was a child. It isn’t sunshine and roses. Batman isn’t fighting for truth, justice, and the American Way, he is trying to wipe out scum in Gotham City. Both of Burton’s Batman movies have villans that are actually scary. The Joker is killing random people because he is a psychopath. The Penguin is planning on killing all the first-born children in Gotham. Wow! Villans that actually are villans!

Looking back, I didn’t enjoy Batman Returns, but seeing it for the first time in a long time a few weeks ago, put it in a different perspective. It is a great movie, and a worthy follow-up to Batman. It isn’t for children. It has a complex plot, and complex characters. It has a great visual style, and excellent music. If Burton had been given a few more attempts, I’m sure Batman wouldn’t be as worthless as it is today.

After demoting Burton, Warner Brother’s found the perfect replacement – Joel Schumacher. I said Joel Schumacher. I have no clue where the thought to hire Joel freaking Shumacher to direct a Batman movie came from, but it didn’t matter as long as the movie was good. But it wasn’t. Batman Forever is a failure. First off, both villans constantly try to out act each other. Tommy Lee Jones apparently thinks he is the rightful follow up to Jack Nicholson. He is not. Jim Carrey really stretches his acting skills to play……Jim Carrey….I mean, the Riddler. Batman is played by Val Kilmer who has all the charasma of a floating piece of drift wood.

Apparently, that was enough to satisfy mainstream fans, as it made more money than Batman Returns. So, Schumacher thought that more would be better for the next installment and took everything that made Batman Forever annoying and multiplied it by 10 times. The result is one of the worst movies of all time, Batman and Robin. This travesty was unleashed on the unsuspecting masses in the summer of 1997. There has not been another Batman movie since. I wonder why.

First of all, there are WAY too many people in the movie to take track of. Batman, Robin, Mr. Freeze, Alfred, Batgirl, Poison Ivy, Bane, the list goes on. And to make it worse the writing makes no one memorable at all. I have no problem with Joel Schumacher personally. I thought Lost Boys and Falling Down were good movies, but as a director of Batman he absolutely SUCKS. The movie is so hap hazardly put together that it is not coherent at all and makes absolutely NO sense.

What is Arnold Schwarzenegger doing in this? I don’t know about anyone else, but the first person that I think of when I think about Mr. Freeze is NOT Arnold Schwarzenegger. Mr. Freeze’s lines are absolutely terrible, and Arnold isn’t exactly the best actor himself, so you can imagine how well they would go over. Uma Thurman tries to make the movie more enjoyable by overacting, but she is truely annoying.

Batman and Robin killed careers. Besides George Clooney, which actor from this has gone on to anything better? Arnold’s movies since this have all failed at the box office. Alicia Silverstone once had a bright career, has she done anything at all since B&R? Has Uma Thurman done anything since this, either? Is Chris O’Donnel still living? George Clooney has admitted that he was embarassed to be in this movie, big shocker there.

So what happened to Batman? Warner Brothers had the right person for the job, Tim Burton, but they let him go. Even people that don’t like his Batman movies have to admit that they at least show creativity. Joel Schumacher doesn’t have a single creative idea in either of his movies. They just scream “Market this!” Batman is no longer a tortured hero, but a gay ice dancer. Gotham City is almost comically absurd. Gangs wear neon face paint. At this point you realize why there aren’t any new Batman movies out. Well, at least there’s still reruns of the old Batman TV series and the great cartoon to watch.

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