Back in Black and Yellow in the 90s
The Batman DC comic book series was created in 1939 by Bob Kane and Bill Finger. It went on to become a phenomenon, beginning with a 60s TV series starring Adam West and Burt Ward, a variety of cartoons starting in the 90s, and continuing with movies crafted by Christopher Nolan and Zach Synder.
We all know the story: Bruce Wayne is the sole heir to Wayne Enterprises after his parents are murdered after a show, and he grows up to become the Caped Crusader.
So, on May 4, Fathom Events is holding an 80th anniversary celebration by showing the 4 Batman movies from the 90s. They consist of the Michael Keaton “Batman” and “Batman Returns,” the Val Kilmer one “Batman Forever,” and yes, even the George Clooney bomb “Batman and Robin.”
I might as well share with you my opinions on certain aspects of these movies.
Released in 1989, it also celebrates the release date of Tim Burton’s take on the comic book hero. This is one of the many favorite Batman flicks of mine, not only winning the Oscar for Best Art Direction, but also because of how Burton guided Keaton as the Dark Knight and Jack Nicholson as the Joker.
Gotham City has such a remarkable art direction, painted by Leslie Tomkins, Terry Ackland-Snow, and Nigel Phelps. The buildings, vehicles, and characters are drawn with style and charisma.
But really we have to praise the actors. Keaton, as both Bruce Wayne and Batman, has a sense of charm that makes him such an iconic actor. And Nicholson steals the show as the Joker with his white face, big grin, green-dyed hair, and smooth dialogue. The best scene from the Joker is when he kills his gangster boss (the late Jack Palance), and that also applies for Batman when he pushes him against a bell.
And the cast also includes Kim Basinger as journalist Vicki Vale, the late Michael Gough as Bruce Wayne’s butler Alfred, and Billy Dee Williams as politician Harvey Dent.
Tim Burton gives “Batman” an old-fashioned sense of style, while today’s versions are updated to appease a new generation of movie-goers. I admire them very much, but this one has everything you need.
The 1992 sequel, directed once again by Burton, isn’t as vintage as the first, but it still offers some fresh qualities.
Keaton is back as Batman, and he’s fine, no less, but the real stars of the show are Danny DeVito as the Penguin and Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman. They portray some of the best iconic villains in superhero movie history.
The Penguin was so deformed as a baby that his parents (Paul Reubens and Diane Salinger) abandoned him by throwing him in the river, leading to the sewers where he’s raised by penguins. He wants to emerge into society, but clearly, it doesn’t work out for him. DeVito is beyond perfect as the Penguin. His real name is Oswald Cobblepot, for the record.
Parts of the movie tend to be confusing, because of how Max Shreck handles things as an antagonist, mostly in the third act. And I do cover the screen every time I watch the Penguin die with him spitting out green and black blood.
In 1995, Joel Schumacher took over the director’s chair for this sequel, while Burton served as a producer. I didn’t think Val Kilmer was more memorable than Keaton as Batman, but I still liked this sequel, because of the other actors.
I’m talking about Tommy Lee Jones as the politician-turned-deformed-baddie Harvey Dent, A.K.A. Two-Face; Jim Carrey as the questioning lunatic the Riddler; and Chris O’Donnell as the trapeze artist Dick Grayson, who becomes Batman’s ward Robin.
Schumacher gives this sequel a campy tone, because of its own sense of humor and soundtrack (with classic hits by U2 and Seal). And he also guides the actors with the right intentions. I love how Dick has to pretend to be Batman without the tights and mask on, how Jones flips his coins, and when Carrey uses his comic gimmicks to morph with the Riddler character.
There’s not much of a story or a real character development in “Batman Forever,” but because of its interesting aspects I’ve mention, it is a lot of fun.
“Batman & Robin”
This is one of the most talked-about movies of all time, because it is hailed by critics and fans as one of the worst movies of all time. The late critics I look Siskel & Ebert both didn’t hate it, but didn’t like it. I’m in the same aspects as them. I didn’t hate it as much as most fans did, but I still think this is the weakest of the four 90s Batman movies.
Some fans complain that this sequel was given a gay approach, because of its homosexual director Joel Schumacher. He gives the Batman & Robin suits nipples, and he assumes that showing us their suit buttocks is supposed to be hilarious. I obviously have no problem with this side, but there’s no script, no character development, and no charisma that Tim Burton offered. In fact, he’s out of this one.
The heroes are George Clooney as Batman, Chris O’Donnell as Robin, and Alicia Silverstone as Batgirl; and the villains are Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze, a scientist in a cryogenic suit powered by stolen diamonds, Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy, another scientist poisoned by chemicals and plants, and the late Jeep Swenson as Bane whose powers are charged by venom.
It has its moments like when Poison Ivy and Bane break Mr. Freeze out of Arkham, and I actually thought some of Mr. Freeze’s one-liners (“Always winterize your pipes”) were funny. So, that’s why I didn’t hate it that much.
But who cares about Clooney, O’Donnell, or Silverstone as the heroes? They’re all bland, pathetic, and embarrassing; and they’re lacking scripts or intelligence. I’ve seen YouTube Top 10 videos and fan comments that were more meaningful than their side to the movie.
I guess the only reason why anyone would watch “Batman & Robin” against is the same reason people would see “Plan 9 from Outer Space” again: to mock it.
Fathom Events will host these movies on May 4, 6, 12 and 14.