Here is my take on every Batman movie known to man except for THE DARK KNIGHT RISES, because I don’t want to spoil that for folks who haven’t seen it yet.
Fire up the time machine.
Do you remember the hype for this first Batman movie? It was insane.
Just seeing the intro, where the camera zooms around something that looks cool and immense, and turns out to be the bat symbol — it blew our little minds.
Looking back at it, the thing seems incredibly cheesy and low-budget. But still fun.
The fight scenes were the best thing around aside from movies involving (a) Bruce Lee, (b) lightsabers or (c) Bruce Lee wielding a lightsaber.
Jack Nicholson was also on fire.
HOWEVER: Tim Burton did go a little wacky with the mix of time periods, cars, costumes and musical choices. This movie was a combination of cheesy, trippy, awesome and weird.
The Michael Keaton sequel followed the iron-clad law of comic-book movies, which says: “The first movie must have the origin story of the hero plus the best villain, then the second movie must have two villains and the third movie THREE FLIPPING VILLAINS, then you reboot the franchise with a cheaper star and cheaper director.”
Bad news: the sequel had Danny DeVito instead of Jack Nicholson, though Danny did a pretty decent job of being creepy and threatening.
Good news: the sequel had much higher production values. Darker, grittier, less Prince-flavored and cotton-candy colored. Dark looks good on Batman.
Best news: Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman, which is glorious.
Now we’re talking: bring on the craziness.
BATMAN FOREVER goes first. I actually didn’t mind Val Kilmer as Batman, or Tom Cruise’s 5th wife as whoever she was supposed to be.
And shockingly, Jim Carrey does a great job as The Riddler while the more honored actor, Tommy Lee Jones, was boring as Two Face.
HOWEVER: The movie is kind of like Lindsey Lohan: a good-looking mess.
I did like the ending, though. The final confrontation with Jim Carrey in tight pajamas, and the choice Batman has to make in saving his friends — good stuff.
BATMAN AND ROBIN
BATMAN AND ROBIN is where the franchise jumps the shark.
This may be the most expensive mistake George Clooney ever made as an actor. He’s a tremendous actor, one of the best ever, but he’s completely wasted in this film, which is a bit like IRON MAN 2 in that we have 14 subplots involving sidekicks (Robin, Batwoman, Alfred, whoever) along with another 8 subplots involving Uma Thurman, Arnold Schwarzenegger and whoever else was one of the villains in this mess.
Bane is in here as some kind of wrestler thug. Big waste.
So, this is the movie that gives us Batman on ice skates and batsuits with nipples. This movie should be nuked from orbit.
The Christopher Nolan / Christian Bale movies are obviously the best.
This movie is under-rated. Seriously. I just watched it again last night, along with THE DARK KNIGHT, and it’s rock solid.
The beginning is hard core. Bruce in a Chinese prison, his parents getting shot during the mugging, Liam Neeson showing up with a lightsaber and talking about how the Force helps you be a ninja for justice or whatever.
Loved every second, especially when Bruce rejects the League of Shadows and their plan to destroy Gotham for the 14th time, and instead destroys their base. Beautiful.
The middle is great, especially since you get to watch Bruce Wayne tinker and try out new things. He doesn’t just flip a switch and turn into Batman: he evolves into it, painfully, and it doesn’t happen in a Rocky montage set to the music of Prince, Usher, Eminem, Rihanna or Justin Bieber, which is a possibility if you handed the reigns to this franchise back to Tim Burton or Joel Schumacher.
Liam Neeson actually being Ra’s – a great surprise, as was Liam burning down Wayne manor and leaving Bruce for dead, just like what happened to him back at his Jedi ninja lair in the mountains.
The ending is also satisfying. Every payoff has a setup, and things tie together perfectly.
THE DARK KNIGHT
Now, THE DARK KNIGHT is both more brilliant and more uneven. The beginning scene with the Joker robbing the bank is shocking. Every scene with the Joker is shocking and brilliant, to be honest.
But this film — as genius as it is — is uneven compared to BATMAN BEGINS. The beginning and middle are better than the end, though the closing bit is awesome.
I’m not saying its a bad movie. Love it. I’m saying the beginning and middle are awesome and the end is merely great, and the genius of the whole thing completely overshadows the parts that are a bit talky or slow.