Classic Intel: Batman - DVD Review

'At this point in time there's just no argument any more that this is a film that has aged well. It hasn't.'

It is difficult to walk roughshod all over a film which gave Michael Keaton the line 'I'm Batman' and then had the temerity to present him in a way that made that fact both plausible and spectacularly endearing. Unfortunately, 'necessity' is the watchword, hindsight is the demystifier; Christopher Nolan the new Joker to Tim Burton's superhero. It is just impossible to watch Burton's 1989 Batman without being aware of what Nolan did with him in 2005.

And so, it becomes harder and harder to accept the little things; the out-of-place retention of the Yellow in the BatLogo, the fact Burton includes a shot of the hero and Vicki Vale (Kim Basinger) running down an alleyway (very much like something from the 1966 film), the curious, unexplained appearance of the BatWing during the finale. In Nolan's universe everything has a raison d'etre, a plausible back story. In Burton's, things happen because they just should for this to be Batman or, more simply, because they look good.

Some of the work here though is just too good to be erased by a film Burton didn't know about. Danny Elfman's score is incredible, possibly in the top ten of all time. It sweeps like its subject matter, pouncing on soaring crescendos that gently even out into metropolitan glides. The work on the miniatures too is top-of-the-game great. Nothing here is quite as easy to spot as the dodgy dam scene from Superman, everything will leave you needing a second look to distinguish miniature from set. Michael Gough is understated brilliance personified. Robert Wuhl does a good job imitating Diz Moore (Thomas Mitchell) from Mr. Smith Goes To Washington. Michael Keaton might not have been the actor Gotham wanted but he is certainly the brilliant Batman they deserved.

The whole thing though, watching it now, is tainted by Nolan's originality. Burton took the Batman he saw pre-existing on page and screen and placed it into this new wrapping - day-glow uniforms and badly motivated villains and all. Nolan reinvented what he saw and didn't stop there; he re-invented the wrapping. Even Jack Nicholson's Joker, once the height of villainy, portrayed by an actor who clearly had a ball cutting loose, has been super-seeded. At this point in time there's just no argument any more that this is a film that has aged well. It hasn't. And as such it comes out the other end of a viewing-with-hindsight looking 'just OK'.

Look further...

'The Gotham City created in "Batman" is one of the most distinctive and atmospheric places I've seen in the movies. It's a shame something more memorable doesn't happen there.' - Roger Ebert, 2/4

1 comment:

  1. Kim Basinger has aged fairly well at least.