/\// tOrtUrE-jEssEl-A-thOn \\/\
I knew this day would come. I knew that at some point, doing this site, I was going to have to finally start talking about a film that I hold a polar opposite view point of than the entire world, it seems. Or almost. I don't mean to be defensive or use hyperbole here, but ... you know what, there's not point in postponing the torture any longer. It's time for me to destroy one of the absolute worst, most awful, poorly acted, poorly directed, terribly adapted superhero movies of all time ...
Tim Burton's Batman. Oh yeah, you heard me.
Rotten Tomatoes - Critics 71% ; Audience 84%
Flickchart - 222 of 28311 i.e. in the top ... just look at it, you figure it out
IMDB - 7.6 rating
Metacritic - 66
Amazon.com - 4.4 starsI have made no attempts to hide this in my life, but let me state it out and be perfectly clear: I love comic books; I love superheroes; and I love movies. Man comic fans get up in arms about adaptation. Adaptation is a tricky subject. You want to stay true to your source, but create something new. As long as the film is made well, I'm not looking for an exact copy of the comic. I'm looking for the characters to be true to themselves, even if the plots and details differ some. The Marvel films have proven that there is a lot of room to make a good film in all sorts of different genres based around comic book superheroes.
And yes, I'm perfectly willing to admit that part of the reason I have such a deep abiding hate for this movie is because I don't hear people talking about this movie badly at all. I don't hear anyone point out any of the things I will below, not a single thing. They just laugh it all off and say it is fine and even better, GREAT, and even worse, BETTER THAN BATMAN RETURNS WHICH IS A BOLD-FACED LIE IF I'VE EVER SEEN ONE! The only thing that keeps Batman fresh in the minds of those who defend it are nostalgia goggles, in my opinion. It makes me feel like I'm ... well, here, I'm just play the gif.
Says it all.
The movie opens, and we are introduced to some unknown family and their poor luck with taxis. Their luck continues to spiral downwards as they enter an alley for some reason, it doesn't make a lot of sense but whatever. Luckily, Batman was hanging out, watching this specific alley for plot-convenience purposes. We get some dumb criminals, some really obvious product placement, and finally Batman. But enough of that, we need to focus on other stuff in this Batman movie. Over the next handful of scenes we are introduced to our time wasting non-Batman side-characters that don't actually factor into the plot in any way but are given screentime anyway. These "characters" - more one dimensional story fillers, like packing peanuts or fondant - populate the entire film. Let's run down the list. We got Newsreporter Guy, Fat Cop, Commissioner Gordon, the Mayor, a severely unfortunate misuse of potential in Harvey Dent, Joker's henchman Bob. And the worst offender, Vicki Vale, for much different reasons.
Vicki Vale is not only a poor excuse for a shoehorned love interest slash sex appeal slash damsel in distress, but she serves as an audience proxy. What is an audience proxy you ask? Lemme lay some fat learning on you. An audience proxy is a poorly written excuse of a "character" that lazy writers add to films and television shows so that the audience watching it learns information about characters and setting "organically." The audience proxy learns something at the pace the audience is supposed to learn it. A lot of tv shows have them, you know the new kid who is the lead character now. Torchwood has one with Gwen Cooper, who ALSO ends up being a Mary Sue until later seasons. Oh, here's a good one. John Myers from Hellboy, who was such a waste of space that he was written out entirely in the sequel thank goodness. Sometimes an audience proxy can be useful, such as making a relate-able character, think Big Bird who stands for all the children watching Sesame Street. Vicki Vale is NOT a relate-able character that we can gravitate to, though. Ugh.
All right, I cannot put it off any longer, let's talk about Nicholson. He's playing Jack Napier, who becomes the Joker and BAH ALREADY this is off to a stupid start. In the comics, the Joker is a force of nature, a never to be understood mystery, an element that exists because Batman exists, a shadow created by his mere presence. He is the total lack of control to Batman's "10 steps ahead." That is why they are so compelling as arch-nemeses. Joker's origin has never been revealed in the comics, and never will be, only false leads and lies left about. For good reason: knowing who the Joker is ruins the Joker!
Not only that, Burton handles the creation of the Joker as deftly as a log rolling down a hill. We see Napier playing with playing cards. All the other bad guys make stupid loaded jokes and lines like "You look funny." Ugh, why do we see Joker's origin? This movie is upside-down and backwards. Batman, our protagonist (supposedly) just appears and we have to learn all our information about him through stupid awful Vicki Vale in a passive way, where as they dynamic story and character development is given to Jack Napier. And that doesn't even begin to talk about how Nicholson actually sucks at playing the role!
There's no way around it, this isn't the Joker. This is Nicholson in makeup. He is never really "the Joker," he's always just Jack Nicholson AS the Joker. Look how successfully Heath Ledger inhabited the role in The Dark Knight. The Joker was everything I was saying he should be above: a force of nature. Or look to Mark Hamill, reinventing the character and getting lost in the role for the animated series and games. It takes some huge, enormous overacting and ego to top the already outrageous character that is the Joker, and Nicholson does everything he can to chew up all the scenery and completely drown the character in his presence. People who defend this movie want you to only remember the Joker that electrified random gangster guy with the super hand-buzzer, but completely ignore all the overacting that is in no way shape or form believable or even EARNED.
Speaking of terrible casting, I sure am glad [note: read this as "am very unhappy "] that instead of casting someone with gravitas, they just went with Keaton and then added a whole bunch of terrible comedy schtick for him to do as Bruce Wayne. Comedy is NECESSARY for establishing the characteristics of Bruce Wayne [note: read this as "waste of time, out of place, and tonally dissonant to the film."] Terrible comedy seems to be a necessity of this script, with non-jokes and fumbling and bumbling, not to mention all the garbage Nicholson does. Michael Keaton is a mindboggling casting. Did you know he was cast for his quote "edgy, tormented quality." Nah, he was cast because Tim Burton + Keaton = Beetlejuice = big money, repeat the process. Hmm, sound family to Burton's modus operundi now, except with Depp and Helena Garbage Carter. Now, looking back and including Batman Returns, it really is true, Keaton is an excellent Batman, but I would dare say that beyond looking fine in the suit, he doesn't prove he's capable of pulling off the character until Batman Returns.
So let's get back to talking about the plot. The plot is swiss cheese. Absolutely riddled with plot holes so big you could drive your I don't care about finishing this analogy. How does a bullet defy all rules of physics and ricochet around like it does in the chemical plant? What chemicals ARE those, anyway? How does Jack get into the river after falling into a closed off vat? Is the film expecting me to believe that there is a drain large enough to have a man fit through it at the bottom of a vat of chemicals? The chemical tank doesn't get refilled or anything, it is sitting stagnant, so if there was a drain that big that lead to the river, the entirety of the vat would be in the river, and we'd have a Gotham FILLED with Jokers.
And after all that, we are back with the stupid reporters, where Vicki Vale tells them she has a date with Bruce ... which doesn't make any sense in the timeline since not 12 hours have passed since the last scene, which was Batman in the chemical plant. When the HELL did they set up the date? It wasn't when they were talking even earlier at the party. Looks like we get to just see important things FEATURING OUR PROTAGONIST happen off screen I guess. This movie needs a name change to "Plucky Reporters That Do Stuff That Is Ultimately Inconsequential To The Plot!" And then the electrocution scene happens.
This scene is a reference to the above, and just like everything else, doesn't tonally match the movie at all. This film was created in an era with the Killing Joke and The Dark Knight Returns having just hit comics stands. Those were the inspirations, supposedly, for the movie. So let's take some of the old hokey tv stuff and lampoon it and make it dark and edgy! That's how you make a compelling Joker, not by USING THE COMICS BOOKS YOU ARE SUPPOSEDLY INSPIRED BY TO INFORM THE CHARACTER! And how in the ever-burning hell did he even get the hand buzzer? Let alone the fact that it just doesn't make sense as a thing that could exist, we can put that aside because we are in a world with chemical treatments from hell and a dude wearing bulletproof rubber that is designed to look like a bat. No, I can put aside the science. But when did he even have the TIME to get it!? It has been MAYBE 2 days since the chemical accident, at least 1 full day of which he spent crawling his way to get emergency surgery! ALSO, if you have a handheld electrocuting buzzer, USE IT ON BATMAN YOU IDIOT! WHY DO YOU NEVER USE IT AGAIN!?
This movie constantly does this garbage. He has a boxing glove set up to smash his TV in his hideout just in case the news says something that mildly upsets him. WHAT THE HELL!? How in the hell did he set that up in 2 days?! Was that his normal hideout? Was it already decked out with Joker stuff before hand?! IT HAS BEEN 2 DAYS!!! Two days to get a superpowered electrocution ring the he NEVER USES AGAIN, as well as set up his henchmen in matching outfits, buy new suits, and set up a boxing glove to punch the tv JUST IN CASE!!! IT DOESN'T MAKE ANY SENSE!!!!
Let me go bitch about a different character, to shake things up. Now in the movie, Vicki Vale is stalking Bruce Wayne, but that is totally ok because she's the love interest so this doesn't raise any concern or suspicion or anything. And Bruce Wayne, you know, BATMAN, doesn't notice this extremely obvious high heeled stalker at all. PLUS, how can she not know about the Wayne's tragedy? Even if she is new in town, THIS IS A BIG DEAL?! The Waynes owned a HUGE organization and were TRAGICALLY MURDERED orphaning their son. This is NATIONAL NEWS kind of stuff, and SHE WORKS AT A NEWSPAPER IN THE SAME TOWN IT HAPPENED IN!!!! ARGH!!
Let's just keep going ... to the museum scene. You know, Joker and his henchmen come in and spray paint things, "hilariously" to music. See normally, people crap on this kind of shameless and out of place music video section in a film. Kids films would do it all the time in the last 80s, early 90s. It is utter garbage and has no place but to stop the narrative flow to a HALT just to establish ... nothing. Nothing is established, we already know that Jack is crazy and that his henchmen, who are 0% crazy, are all willing to just do whatever. But oh no, in Batman this scene is great and fun! Screw you, people who say that, it is just as out of place and disruptive as it is in EVERY movie that does it.
Oh, hey, who remembers the completely inconsequential, incredibly convoluted sub-plot poisoning scheme that wasted some time in the middle of the movie? Yah, I see a few hands, but I would wager that a LOT of people completely forgot those scenes even happened. I certainly didn't until I tortured myself into watching this again. And hey, guess how this little waste of time ends? With Joker blowing up his TV. What, you didn't want to reset the punching glove machine you have BUILT FOR THIS SINGULAR PURPOSE, DESTROYING YOUR OWN TELEVISIONS?! ARGF@IFJ@vRIjvrv30v8h3n!!!!
I am getting genre whiplash from every single scene being so out of place tonally with the rest of the film, especially scenes with Vicki Vale. Like the scene where Bruce is going to tell Vicki his secret identity. Wait, what?! REALLY?! This is the most out of character garbage yet for Bruce! He's known Vicki for how long ... 2 weeks? A month? You know what, maybe a year has passed, I don't know! There is absolutely no sense of time passing in this film, it is just all crammed together. Luckily, Jack stops Bruce from sharing his identity. Think about that. The villain of the film stops the hero from ruining his identity. Something here is TERRIBLY wrong. Oh, and we get ...
What a terrible stupid addition to this already terrible and stupid movie. You do not need to make things PERSONAL between Batman and Joker to make us care. It is absolutely unnecessary and just lazy screenwriting. You know what would make us care at all? If we actually were watching this movie from BATMAN'S PERSPECTIVE NOT DAMNED VICKI VALE'S!!! The scene ends with Bruce shot a bunch, but he's immune to bullets so whatever. Soon Vicki does learn Batman's identity, and the film finally shifts focus to actually following and being about Batman. We no longer need an audience proxy, so get rid of her, turn her into a damsel, and we can focus on the hero. You know, like we should have been in the first place! Too little too late.
The movie stumbles to a finale through parades and stupid guns and Batman firing a MILLION bullets and rockets, as well as shameless pandering, and then a bunch of non-fights where Batman throws no punches in the clocktower, people just jump to their death, eliminating themselves. Including Joker. And finally it is over.
This film is a mish-mashed, uneven, unfocused frivolous piece of nostalgia that cannot hold up to even the slightest but of scrutiny from a discerning, objective eye. And it is very hard to be objective considering how much I utterly hate the film, too. And you know what, that is crazy unfortunate, because Tim Burton had a really strong eye for theme and vision as a director that has slowly chipped away and evolved into the caricature of a career he currently has. Look at the far superior adaptation made by Burton, Batman Returns. It is focused, driven, has a strong plotline, great characters, and while the focus may not be on Batman in that film either, that is by design. Keaton requested lines and scenes cut from the script to showcase the villains and make a darker world. And they didn't shoehorn in another audience proxy/love interest. I'll defend Batman Returns to my dying day, to my final breath.
Later down the timeline, you get the Schumaker films and then the Nolan ones. You look back and you see the West era. All of those films, regardless of how good or bad they are, are focused. This movie is a mess, cannot tell a good story, is filled with terrible or pointless characters, is filled with overacting and terrible dialogue, all of the "action" in this movie is the pits ... Tim Burton's Batman fails in every conceivable way I can think to grade it. The only good thing I have to say about this movie at all is that thank goodness it happened, so that other superhero movies could be seen as profitable and get made. This movie made a whole heap of money. Oh oh oh, the main theme is also really good. The rest of the music is completely forgettable, but the main theme is great. Those things do not make Tim Burton's Batman stop sucking, though.
June 3rd – Gigli (from Rachel Runion)Grade: C June 4th – Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen (from Joel Gould)Grade: D-- June 5th – Lenny the Wonder Dog (from Jason Schmidt)Grade: F+ June 6th – The Cat in the Hat (from Josh Hendricks)Grade: F--- June 7th – The Cat from Outer Space (from Nicole Clockel)Grade: B+ June 8th – Popeye (from Drew Turner)Grade: F-- June 9th – Tim Burton's BatmanGrade: F---
Oh, and one more thing. When discussing Batman you eventually get down to "who is the best Batman?" So I'll do this real quick: Keaton is the best singular Batman, Val Kilmer is decent all around, Clooney is a good Bruce Wayne only, Bale is ridiculous everywhere, Adam West is Adam West, and the only REAL Batman is Kevin Conroy. But that's just my opinion.
Batman Returns ........................... Grade: A++
Batman Forever ............................... Grade: C
Batman and Robin ......................... Grade: F+
Batman Begins ................................. Grade: B
The Dark Knight ............................... Grade: A
The Dark Knight Rises ................... Grade: D--
Batman the Movie .......................... Grade: D+
Batman Mask of the Phantasm ..... Grade: A++
Batman Under the Red Hood .......... Grade: B+