Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Annotated Cinematic Batman: BATMAN RETURNS (1992, Tim Burton)

Writers: Daniel Waters, Sam Hamm
Director: Tim Burton
Producers: Denise Di Novi, Tim Burton
Batman: Michael Keaton

Time indexes refer to the 2005 Special Edition NTSC Region 1 DVD of the film.

00:00:11 -- Once again we get a special logo, as the sky behind the WB shield becomes dark and snowy.

00:00:17 -- Although the character first appeared as The Penguin in Detective Comics #58 (October, 1941) by Bill Finger and Bob Kane, it wasn't until a 1946 storyline in the Batman Sunday newspaper strip that Finger established his real name as Oswald Chesterfield Cobblepot. Further years of comicbook storytelling established the Cobblepots as an old money Gotham family of approximately equivalent age and standing as the Waynes, although with a much more shady reputation.

00:00:27 -- Penguin's Father, here portrayed in a cameo appearance by Pee-wee Herman himself, Paul Reubens. PEE-WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE, the character's big screen debut, was also the first feature film of Tim Burton.

00:00:57 -- Penguin's Mother is also a cameo role, Diane Salinger who played Simone in PEE-WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE.

00:05:27 -- Well, that was different. And bizarre. And kinda horrifying. An apt description for the rest of this movie. Burton has chosen to change the Penguin's origin dramatically. In the comics, the Penguin debuted initially without an origin and it was several years as one developed slowly. Set down most thoroughly in "The Killing Peck", a story by Alan Grant and Sam Keith in Secret Origins Special Vol. 2 #1 (1989), the origin of the Penguin in the comics is as as follows. Oswald is the son of the wealthy Cobblepots. The father dies of pneumonia after being out in a rain storm, causing the mother to insist on Oswald carrying an umbrella wherever he goes. Oswald is bullied as a child for his rotund body, beak-like nose and waddling walk. Having discovered that the father had in fact left the Cobblepot family in financial ruins, the mother kills herself and Oswald is sent to live with his Aunt Miranda, who ran a pet bird store. Oswald vows to restore his family's name and position and becomes a career criminal, taking on the nickname of The Penguin to reclaim it from those who used it to mock him. His original characterization by creators Finger and Kane was that of a Gentleman Criminal, who tried to bring respectability and good manners to the art of Crime. Burton, on the other hand, became drawn to the idea of Oswald as an outsider and wanted to portray him as a literal freak, with a circus backstory and a more exaggerated physical deformity. So in this film, Oswald's parents toss him in the sewer because apparently even as a baby he was malicious and evil and he ends up in the penguin tank of the closed/abandoned Gotham City Zoo because apparently the zoo's water lines and the sewer mains are directly connected (?) and comes to be raised by the freaks in the Red Triangle circus gang, a criminal outfit that fronts as a travelling circus, becoming their leader, but continuing to live in the sewers with the penguins for some reason. None of this is ever really said or explained, just shown or talked briefly about, leaving the audience to make their own connections. I know a lot of people who think, based on some visuals in the film, that baby Oswald was raised by penguins in the sewer. The movie doesn't really do much to say otherwise. I, for one, don't understand why the giant, art deco buildings and statues of the Zoo are left standing and decrepit if the place has been abandoned for over thirty years and why the animals were left to live there still. Who or what is feeding these penguins?

00:05:30 -- 33 Years Later. We're supposed to believe that 48 year old Danny DeVito's character is in his early thirties.

00:05:37 -- The mascot of Shreck's Department Store looks a lot like, but isn't, Felix the Cat, for reasons that could've been important if it had something to do with Catwoman, but it doesn't.

00:05:59 -- Anton Furst had envisioned Gotham City in a memorable "Dark Deco" style for BATMAN. Here, that vision is skewed towards expressionism and Romanticism, with these giant idealized human statues everywhere. Gotham seems less like a dark, alternate New York and more like a completely fictional fantasy city. While the look of BATMAN took inspiration from the roots of the character in pulp film noir, RETURNS reaches back farther to the seeds, and takes its inspiration largely from German Expressionist films like THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI.

00:05:28 -- Comic book Penguin's physical oddities are limited to a short statue, heavyset body and long, beaklike nose. For this film, Burton added bizarre flipper like hands where the last three digits have fused together, a balding head with long stringy hair, sharpened teeth, and a tendency to drool black bile. This version was used in the 1992 animated BATMAN series, although Oswald reverted to his comic book look for THE NEW BATMAN ADVENTURES in 1997. Portrayals since have alternated between the deformed and classic look, with cartoon THE BATMAN and the art of Tim Sale favouring the deformed version.

00:06:41 -- The Gotham Globe makes a reappearance from the previous film, but journalist Alexander Knox does not. Actor Robert Wuhl was disappointed he wasn't asked back for the sequels, but I've never run into any diehard Knox fans.

00:07:32 -- Maximillian Shreck, in many ways the main villain of the film, is a movie-original character portrayed by Christopher Walken. His name is a reference to German silent horror actor Max Shreck, who played the vampire in NOSFERATU. "Shreck" is the German word for fear. In Sam Hamm's original script, this character was Harvey Dent, as portrayed by Billy Dee Williams in BATMAN. Harvey is running for mayor of Gotham, and turns to darker and darker methods to win the election as he believes that he is the only one capable of cleaning up crime in Gotham. The explosion at the end of the finished film that kills Shreck (spoilers) would've been what scarred Harvey and transformed him into Two-Face, to serve as villain of the third film. However, Hamm was dropped from the project early on, and new writer Daniel Waters replaced Dent with Shreck. Waters, it should be noted now, had never read a Batman comic before working on RETURNS and instead took his story cues from Burton, who had hired Waters based on the success of his black comedy about high school angst, HEATHERS. In earlier drafts, Shreck was a corrupt industrialist, an evil mirror of Bruce Wayne who turns out to be the younger brother of the Penguin, the child his parents kept over him. In the final version, Shreck is a department store owner, but elements of the earlier versions remain -- his power plant plot to "steal power from Gotham City", his relationship with the Penguin, his political attempts to get Oswald elected, etc. Shreck is one of several great examples of how the many rewrites of this movie's script give it a fractured structure and storyline where characters have multiple and contradictory goals and personalities.

00:08:29 -- Michelle Pfeiffer plays Selina Kyle/Catwoman. The character debuted as master thief "The Cat" in Batman #1 (Spring 1940), having been created by Bill Finger and Bob Kane as a way to inject some sex appeal into the feature by providing a recurring character whom the Batman would be torn between his attraction to and the fact that she was a criminal. Despite being such an early character, Catwoman would not gain a civillian identity or backstory until Batman #62 (December, 1950), when Bill Finger named her as Selina Kyle. In that story, it was revealed that Kyle was an airline stewardess who had suffered brain trauma during a crash. The amnesia had wiped her memories and she became the Catwoman. After recovering her memories, she swears off a life of crime and opens a pet shop. This was done in an attempt to write the character out of the series, as there had been complaints that she made a life of crime seem too glamourous to young girls reading the comic. However, she was too popular and soon returned, revealing the amnesia story to be a lie designed to trick Batman into letting her escape her life of crime. After that, a few different origins were proposed for Selina. The first, from Brave and the Bold #197 (April, 1983) by Alan Brennert and Joe Staton, has Selina as a young woman in an abusive marriage who divorced her wealthy husband and was left with nothing. She decides to steal his jewels and money as revenge and decides she enjoys stealing from the wealthy and becomes the Catwoman. However, after DC rebooted its comics line in 1985, a new backstory was developed for Selina in Frank Miller and David Mazzuchelli's 1987 BATMAN: YEAR ONE storyline. In that version, Selina Kyle is a dominatrix prostitute in the poverty-stricken East End of Gotham, who is inspired by the Batman to become a costumed thief in order to buy her way out of her situation. This was the current and modern Catwoman at the time of the film's production. Daniel Waters used none of this. Rejecting the version of Catwoman in Sam Hamm's script, Waters chose to emphasize the "female empowerment" aspect of the character and felt the best way to do this was to show Selina Kyle as a mousy put-upon secretary before her transformation into the sexually powerful Catwoman. Burton, on the other hand, wanted to show Catwoman as a shattered psyche who comes unraveled to use as a mirror to Bruce Wayne/Batman, continuing his "Batman is just as crazy as the villains" theme from the first movie. This added an element of crazy to Selina, who in all other portrayals of the character is one of the few sane Batman villains. Coupled with picking a blonde actress to play the traditionally brunette character, an we're left with a Selina very, very different from any previous comics version. Michelle Pfeiffer was not the first choice to play Selina. Mirroring the situation of Sean Young and Kim Basinger on the first film, Annette Bening had been cast initially, but had to drop out due to an unexpected pregnancy. During the subsequent casting scramble, Sean Young broke into the Warners lot wearing a homemade Catwoman outfit and strutted into Burton's office, hoping to impress the filmmakers and win the role. It went to Pfeiffer.

00:08:53 -- Andrew Bryniarski doing a delightfully hammy Chris Walken impression in his role as Shreck's son, Chip.

00:12:53 -- Pat Hingle reprises his role as Commissioner Gordon, his role reduced dramatically in this film into essentially becoming what he was on the Adam West TV show: an ineffective public official who calls Batman and briefs him on the situation.

00:12:55 -- Wayne Manor, now a scale model, looking nothing like it did in the last movie.

00:13:20 -- As dramatic as this sequence is, what we have here is a Bruce Wayne who is depicted as sitting in the dark in his library, doing nothing but wait for the giant reflectors he's had built outside the building to reflect the Bat-Signal dramatically into the room so he can be Batman. For one thing, what happens if the Bat Signal is lit while he has company? How is his identity a secret? And two, this is a pretty dramatic visualization of how unimportant the character of Bruce Wayne is to these movies -- in Burton's interpretation, Bruce is simply something Batman is when he's not being Batman.

00:13:58 -- So apparently, the Penguin's Red Triangle Circus Gang (though we don't know that's who they are yet) are here to kidnap Max Shreck. But he runs away and escapes... into a bunch of members of the Gang who keep wreaking havoc and comepletely ignore him. Said havoc appears completely pointless, chaos for its own sake, unless its to cover the kidnapping of Shreck, which seems to be low on the priority list.

00:15:21 -- Batman takes the time to use a gadget on the Batmobile to light a man on fire.

00:15:50 -- The new Batsuit. Basically the same as the old one in design and material, it does have a few differences. It's thinner, lighter and sleeker, appearing all around more streamlined and better designed, less cheap and heavy. It's got pretty much all the same limitations as the old one, but all around just looks better. It's more stylized as well.

00:17:00 -- "Thanks for saving the day, Batman." From outright panic and chaos and the police can do nothing, to the day is saved, and Batman hardly even got out of his car. What was the point of it all?

00:17:26 -- Shreck falls down a drain trapdoor that somehow takes him from downtown Gotham to the underground penguin aquarium zoo ruins Penguin Lair in the outskirts of town. If that's all they needed to kidnap him, why the elaborate Circus Gang attack?

00:18:02 -- In case you haven't noticed yet, we're not watching a Batman movie directed by Tim Burton. We're watching a Tim Burton movie starring Batman.

00:18:22 -- The primary reason for the Penguin nickname in the original comics was that, in addition to Oswald's physical appearance, he commited crimes wearing a tuxedo and top hat as part of his Gentleman of Crime persona, which tuxedos long having been referred to as "penguin suits". Burton dropped this entire aspect of the character, with the character portrayed as mean-spirited and malicious, an amped up version of the Burgess Meredith version on the TV show, with the tuxedo replaced by a decidely late 19th century look with union suit, bow tie, heavy overcoat, etc. So instead we get the whole "raised by penguins" ridiculousness.

00:21:08 -- Penguin states a desire to become "respected", which mirrors the comic book versions desires to be perceived as respectable and to restore the Cobblepot name. However, this is one of like four different plans/goals/motivations that movie Penguin has. I'll try to sort through them as we go.

00:22:42 -- Penguin has gone to a lot of trouble to gather evidence to blackmail Max, so that Max will help him... ? He wants to rejoin society aboveground, but there's really no reason he can't at this point. He's the Penguin man of the sewers, sure, but he's also the Criminal Master of the Red Circus Triangle Gang, and with his implied but never seen or spoken of but apparently important to Burton circus freak background, he's obviously been aboveground before. He could find out who his parents are without Max too, so all he really gets from Max Shreck is an endorsement that may help him get "respect". But as we'll find out, all this parents/respect schlock may or may not be all just a cover for Penguin's real plan. It'd be a bit clearer if the script writer's knew what that plan was, but apparently that changed in almost every rewrite.

00:23:35 -- Selina takes care of stray cats, possibly the only thing she has in common with her comic book counterpart.

00:26:55 -- So here's Max's evil plan: his power plant is actually a giant capacitor that will stockpile power from Gotham rather than generate it. I don't really understand how that works, or why that would be beneficial to Max, but it doesn't matter because the power plant isn't the point. It's why Max wants the Mayor out of the way, which ends up motivating his plans with Penguin, but it never itself comes back in a major way.

00:33:45 -- Once again, that was bizarre. Selina is pushed out a window and falls like thirty stories to the ground, presumably dying. And this somehow attracts a shit ton of alley cats who sorta crawl around her and lick her and gnaw at her fingers and this... brings her back to life? Or something. And this snaps her psyche and causes her to go completely nuts and trash her apartment. Which is understandable. But then she decides to make herself a skintight black vinyl catsuit and adopt an entirely new Catwoman persona for no real reason other than "she's crazy now!" Given that insanity and the supernatural were never parts of the comics character, what we are seeing here is a Burton character, not a Batman one, complete with a dramatized rejection of American suburbia imagery in favour of fetishized Gothica.

00:33:47 -- Penguin has a giant rubber duckymobile that he's gotten from... somewheres? For the fact that he's rejected most of the comics story and imagery with his own, Burton still employs a lot of comic book logic in the sense of heroes and villains just having gadgets and lairs and vehicles and weaonry because.... they do, right? Also, why a rubber ducky?

00:38:06 -- Okay, so Penguin's been given access to the Hall of Records, ostensibly so he can find his parents, although I'm not exactly sure how looking through birth certificates would help in his case. Of course, the reason he's actually here is that he's looking up every firstborn son in Gotham for his later evil scheme. Why the firstborn children specifically is a little unclear, especially since the idea of Oswald having a younger brother who was preferred by his parents is no longer in the movie. Also, if the only thing Penguin really needed from the surface was these records, why the elaborate cover up? Why did he need Shreck? The Hall of Records, as dialogue said, is a public place, Penguin could've walked in at any time. Or hell, had one of his many goons walk in and do this for him. Also, he copied down the name of every firstborn son in Gotham by hand? That's like, millions of people, ain't it?

00:39:32 -- So here's the one scene that kind've explains who Penguin is and what he's doing with the Red Triangle, although how he got from a baby with the penguins at the Zoo to there is unknown. What is neat is that this is a scene that, like the offscreen discovering of the solution to Joker's poison in BATMAN, emphasizes Bruce as a detective. He's looking through old microfiche on the Red Triangle and discovers their link to Penguin. In addition to The Shadow, the other big influence on Batman's character was always Sherlock Holmes, and most Batman stories of the Golden and Silver Age had a mystery/detective element to them. After all, this was a character who debuted in Detective Comics. In the post-Frank Miller age, this aspect of Batman has occasionally been overlooked in favour of the violent vigilante aspect.

00:41:06 -- So ostensibly Penguin figures out who his parents are somehow through the Hall of Records. They're dead now, though and the scene of his gravesite visitation is an interesting parody of the standard Bruce Wayne at the Waynes gravesite scene, although Burton never in fact does a version of that scene, it still strengthens his themes of presenting Batman and his villains as mirrors of each other. Penguin is an orphan who was born into privilege, like Wayne, but was rejected by his parents and grew up twisted and evil. What's a little ambiguous is how much of Penguin's emotion here is genuine and how much is an act, given that the entire parents/respect motive is a cover for his real plan, a plan that is motivated seemingly by hatred of his parents and what they did.

00:43:11 -- Again, why does Penguin need to convince the public that he's a good person? Why does he need the respect? It's obviously not a genuine want, given his later goals, but it only makes sense in the context of his political run for Mayor, which wasn't his idea and hasn't been suggested to him by Max yet.

00:44:07 -- Catwoman and her appearance. Burton, like with Penguin, has gotten rid of the original rationale for the name Catwoman. In the comics, Selina is a cat burglar, and thus her name and persona are a play on that term. Makes sense. But Burton's Catwoman does no thievery whatsoever. Here she engages in some feminist vigilantism and thunder stealing from Batman, but for the majority of the movie she either wants to get back at Shreck or at Batman, her motives being unclear for the same reason everyone else's is. So instead the Catwoman name and persona come from... Selina's mystical connection with cats? I guess? The costume designed for her here soon became iconic -- skintight black vinyl with a ragdoll pattern of stitches that Burton meant to suggest that Selina had stitched her psyche back together with the Catwoman persona -- note how the costume comes unraveled along with her sanity as the movie progresses. Like he did with Batman and Penguin, Catwoman's appearance is a revision from her comic book look. In her first appearnance "the Cat" did not wear a costume, but in Batman #35 (June, 1946) Bob Kane finally designed a memorable costume, but a cowl like Batman's that freed her hair in the back, with a dress and cape, in purple and green (standard comics villain colours, see Joker, Riddler, Two-Face, Green Goblin, etc). That costume lasted in numerous variations (the skirt becoming pants, exactly how pointy the ears were, etc) until the 1966 BATMAN TV series, which featured Julie Newmar as Catwoman. This costume was a complete departure, a onepiece catsuit with a gold belt, domino mask and cat ears that sat on top of the head and was the first time Catwoman was dressed in black. By 1992, Catwoman had four additional comic book looks, and was currently dressed in a skintight grey catsuit with ears, whiskers and a tail. Burton's version was in black (of course) but otherwise a gothic fetishized version of the comic book look, without the whiskers and a bullwhip instead of the tail. The original comic's version used a "Cat o' nine tails",  of course.

00:49:36 -- Of course Oswald likes raw fish! Because he's a penguin! Wait, I think we're getting the difference between a nickname and some kind've genetic hybrid confused. You guys know he's not literally a penguin man right?

00:50:03 -- How did Shreck get all this stuff down here without anybody upstairs hearing anything? If he did it while Oswald was away, how did he get upstairs without seeing it??

00:50:46 -- The entire plotline of the Penguin running for Mayor is from a second season episode of the Adam West Batman show, "Hizzoner the Penguin, Dizzoner the Penguin", where Penguin runs for Mayor in order to legalize all his illegal activities. Despite the fact that the Burton movies were praised for moving public perception of Batman away from that TV show, they were in large part more inspired by the show than the comics.

00:52:15 -- Why is this movie set at Christmas? It doesn't add to the plot or themes in any way, and in fact creates a plothole that has to be addressed and explained given that Penguin is running for office in December instead of November. I mean, I understand Burton wanting snow on the ground for his "black, white, blue, shot in an inkwell" colour palette but why Christmas?

00:52:39 -- Penguin's mayoral platform is freeze the planet? In earlier drafts, believe it or not, Penguin's plan was in fact to freeze Gotham City... for... some... reason...

00:55:29 -- The computer controlled batarang is stolen by a poodle. Batman makes no effort to get it back, for some reason.

00:57:35 -- Batman takes a ticking TNT time bomb from a goon and attaches it to a strong man goon and blows him up. That happened.

00:57:40 -- This sequence, where Catwoman puts some aerosol cans in a microwave and it blows up Shreck's department store, was cut from UK prints for fear that children would repeat the action at home. Which does leave it hilariously unexplained as to why the building explodes at the end of the scene.

01:00:06 -- This moment, where Catwoman complains about Batman hitting a woman and he falls for it, would be right at home in the Adam West show. This is a Batman who has no problem with stone cold blowing up a dude, but feels bad about hitting a woman.

01:00:40 -- This is perhaps the worst directed action sequence of all time, with an appaling misuse of eyelines, screen direction and axis that makes it headache inducing to try to understand where the characters are at any given time. Batman is hanging over the side of a building, Catwoman standing on top of the building holding him up. For some reason, he thinks throwing a glowing blue something at her arm is a good idea in his position. She falls off to the right, landing on the side of another building, scrambling to get up to the right. Batman falls directly downwards, landing on a ledge. He looks down and to the right, so somehow he's now above her and to her left despite falling down from her position. As she scrambles up and to the right a pair of hands reach down from the right and pull her up, and it's Batman on his ledge.

01:01:17 -- Batman punches Catwoman off a building, into an openbed truck of kitty litter (no shit!) and doesn't bother to go after her.

01:04:32 -- Okay, so Catwoman's gone to Penguin's to convince him to team up with her to destroy Batman. Except, how does she know he's against Batman? So far as anyone knows, Penguin is a respectable citizen (from the sewer and with sociopathic tendences and physical deformities) running to impeach the mayor because of... crime, or something. She doesn't know that Penguin controls the Red Triangle gang (well, she does now that she's in his apartment, which is above the campaign headquarters, because the gang is all there too -- which would make it really easy for anyone to figure out Oswald's a fraud). So if Oswald is anti-crime, why is he anti-Batman? Hell, ignoring the whole mayoral thing, why is Penguin against Batman at this point any way? He's already plotting his "discredit Batman" campaign, having already stolen his batarang, but why? How does discrediting Batman discredit the mayor? Also, Catwoman's motivation up til now (at least the one that made sense) was to get back at Shreck, the guy who is bankrolling (presumably) everything the Penguin's doing!

01:04:56 -- How did the Penguin get blueprints to the Batmobile? Seriously?

01:05:13 -- All right, so check this out. Catwoman is the one who suggests the plan to frame Batman to Penguin, claiming that turning him into a criminal would destroy him more than killing him. But Penguin has already set the plan to frame Batman into motion by stealing the batarang and plotting to sabotage the Batmobile? But his mentioning of the Batmobile plan is what causes Catwoman to suggest framing him! None of this makes sense!

01:11:14 -- And here we kinda get an explanation of where Vicki Vale went, since BATMAN decided to end with that relationship happy and strong and yet she's totally gone here. According to KeatonWayne's mumbled ramblings, Vicki left him because she had issues with his duality, despite seeming to be totally cool with him Batman at the end of the last movie. Oh well, that happens, what's more crazy is that this means there's a prize-winning photojournalist running around who KNOWS WHO BATMAN IS.

01:12:05 -- This movie's kinda trying to do a standard Tim Burton "it's okay to be weird" message, but it sorta comes across as "it's okay to be weird, so long as you're not a murdering psychopath", as well as "it's okay to be a murdering psychopath as long as you're rich and the police are cool with it".

01:12:45 -- Bruce Wayne's TV magically turns on to reveal a plot point. It wasn't even in the room in the wide shot.

01:16:11 -- Where did the Circus gang get a radio transmitter to open up the Batmobile's shields? Probably the same place they got the blueprints, but where the hell was that?

01:16:22 -- Okay, so Penguin has goaded Batman into coming to the relighting of the tree, with the plan to frame him for the Ice Princess' murder. But Batman only ends up at the same place as the Princess because he sees her tied up through a window in the building across from the one he's standing on. How did Penguin know Batman would choose to be on that building? Also, he spots her directly across from him, then grapples DOWN to land on TOP of the building she's in?

01:16:44 -- Good thing Penguin joined the only freak show that's not only filled with criminals, but also technical geniuses capable of rewiring the Batmobile!

01:18:27 -- Burton's Batman is probably the worst Batman in terms of actually accomplishing anything. Seriously, he just sorta stands and watches as the Ice Princess falls to her death. What, couldn't save her with a grappling line? He pretty much is responsible for her death, by inaction.

01:19:37 -- While it's not explicit, the subtext of this movie is indeed that Selina Kyle was revived by mystical alley cats and granted nine lives, of which she's now down to seven.

01:19:39 -- Batman claims he tried to save Catwoman when she fell, but he is the one who PUNCHED HER OFF A BUILDING.

01:20:25 -- Yes, Bruce, I'm sure flying around the site of the Ice Princess's death, which is also filled with bats released by the Penguin, is really gonna help with clearing your name.

01:21:18 -- Penguin actually gives Catwoman a wedding ring. Seriously, in some scenes this guy is emotionally stunted, doesn't understand social interaction, and is a horny degenerate -- in others, he's a criminal mastermind adept at playing to the City's sympathies and manipulating public opinion. Then again, they do keep comparing him to Nixon.

01:22:21 -- Let's take a brief moment to examine this version of Catwoman. A lowly secretary killed by her boss, reanimated by alley cats, takes on a new, more confident persona, but is unable to deal with the duality and her psyche slowly fractures. Here she is rejected by Penguin, and after falling and crashing into a greenhouse, screams (for some reason) so loud it shatters the windows. In short, trying to be anything better than what she was drives her crazy. I can't believe some people prefer THIS to Anne Hathaway's version in THE DARK KNIGHT RISES.

01:22:48 -- So if we've bought that Penguin has blueprints to the Batmobile and technology to control it and henchmen smart enough to reprogram it, I guess we can buy that he has a dummy Batmobile made to look like a kiddie ride that he can use to remote control the real one.

01:23:47 -- Why write a line like "my licence is expired" for Penguin when logically this Penguin would not have a driver's licence, and just saying that would accomplish the same meaning?

01:25:254 -- I present to you a street that runs right into two buildings, narrows into an alley for about two meters, then widens back out into a street again. Uh-huh.

01:26:27 -- Also, rather than stop or turn, Batman has a function built into the Batmobile to deal with just this emergency, where the Batmobile strips off all it's outer layers and becomes like some kinda Bat-Rocket-Car. Which was made into like a dozen toys when this came out, but according to Alfred's dialogue later, essentially ruins the car. Also we never see the Rocket-Car again. So what's the point of this?

01:26:35 -- I'm gonna stop here to point out that Batman never clears his name in this movie. So far as the public knows, he killed the Ice Princess, along with a bunch of cops and civillians who he ran over or crashed into with the sabotaged Batmobile. This movie ends with Batman as a wanted criminal.

01:28:08 -- The line where Bruce jabs Alfred for letting Vicki Vale into the Batcave was screenwriter Sam Hamm's jab at this oft-reviled moment in the first film, which was put into the script by Warren Skaaren's rewrite.

01:28:33 -- We where never shown the entrance to the Batcave from Wayne Manor in the first film. Here, it's an Iron Maiden with trap door. In its original appearance in the 1943 BATMAN serial, the Batcave was entered using a trick door built into a grandfather clock. The comics adopted this and added the detail that the clock is activated by changing the hands to 10:47, the time the Waynes were murdered. Oddly enough, no subsequent live action adaptation has used this method. The 1966 series famously used firepoles concealed behind a bookcase activated by a bust of Shakespeare, while Christopher Nolan's films also employed a bookcase that opened after the playing of three random keys on a piano.

01:30:15 -- I don't think this movie has any idea how CDs work.

01:31:42 -- Penguin jumps into the river at the same spot where his parents abandoned him (and presumably swam underwater all the way back to his lair?), and it seems like Burton is trying to make us feel sorry for Oswald, who has once again been rejected by society, except that Oswald is a bizarre, misogynistic, antisocial, violent creep who was actually accepted by everyone anyway until he pullled a machine gun on them in a homicidal rage.

01:32:37 -- Penguins aren't coldblooded, Ozzy. If they were, they wouldn't live in Antarctica, and if you were, you wouldn't want the AC cranked.

01:33:13 -- So Penguin's big master plan, which he's been enacting presumably this whole movie, is to kidnap all the firstborn sons of Gotham while their parents are out at Shreck's Annual Max-querade Ball (he invited every single parent in Gotham??) and then toss them into the sewer and drown them. The movie acts like he's only kidnapping and murdering defenseless babies but he never actually specifies an age limit. I must point out that this plan relies on a) Every parent in Gotham being out at the Ball, b) none of them hiring a babysitter, and c) no cops patrolling anywhere to notice the Penguin's Train of Death out stealing children.

01:34:48 -- For a guy who's department store was blown up, who's plot to replace the Mayor has failed spectacularly, and who thanks to said Mayor and Bruce Wayne won't get to build his evil Reverse Power Plant, Max seems surprisingly unfazed. But then, the script's forgotten what his motives were about an hour ago anyway.

01:36:06 -- Selina's dialogue implies this Ball is actually being held in the department store. Which was blown up two days earlier in the movie.

01:39:22 -- Notice the penguins with the remote control skullcaps and rockets on their back. They're part of a plot Penguin actually hasn't developed yet.

01:40:37 -- Penguin has had a giant, man-sized cage in his sewerquarium this whole time, all so that Max can be in it at the end of the movie here.

01:41:12 -- The implication is that the water is lethal toxic sewage water, but then how have the penguins been swimming around in it this whole time?

01:42:28 -- And just like that, Penguin's entire scheme, which he has been plotting this whole movie, is foiled off-camera by Batman's shadow.

01:42:09 -- So now, out of the blue, Penguin has a new, different plan. Added to the film in one of the final rewrites, this plot to destroy the entire city using remote controlled penguins armed with rockets was added after Warner execs expressed concern that Penguin did not seem to have a clear, coherent master plan. So instead we're left with a movie where he has three jumbled, incoherent ones. Somehow, Penguin has managed to get a hold of hundreds of destructive rockets and a RADIO MIND CONTROL APPARATUS for ordering the penguins around between cuts. He's also somehow managed to assemble the Penguins in the bleachers of the aquarium so he can deliver a Pattonesque speech to them (???). None of this was really planned or implied earlier in the movie, it appears to be something Oswald as cooked up in desperate frustration at the foiling of his last plan, yet it's infinitely more elaborate and expensive than his last plan.

01:44:02 -- The Batboat, here called the Batskiboat because that doesn't sound dumb at all. A version of the Batboat first appeared in Batman #4 (Winter 1941), where the Batplane could transform into a boat when it hit the water by jettisoning it's wings. A true Batboat made it's first appearance in Detective Comics #110 (April, 1946) by Don Cameron and Win Mortimer, where it is given to Batman and Robin by Scotland Yard so they may assist in their search for Professor Moriarty (comics, everybody!). It memorably appeared in the 1966 BATMAN movie and later appeared in the TV series tied in with said movie. Here it's got two sort've big support things that actually have it sitting above the water in the sewer and that extend out just as wide as the sewer conveniently enough, and really I have no clue how this thing is supposed to work.

01:44:19 -- So Alfred is tracking the penguins using radar (huh?) and this all implies that somehow Batman knows about Penguin's new rocket penguin plot and is working to stop it -- how did he find out about it? Also, I don't know how fast penguins walk, but I doubt they could get from the zoo to City Hall in the time shown here.

01:46:24 -- So then Alfred is able to hack into the mind control frequency and turn the penguins back around to the Zoo.

01:48:06 -- And while they were with him for kidnapping and murdering children, and with him for blowing up the entire city, here Penguin's goons abandon him because it seems like Batman may be coming. While this plays into Burton's themes of outsider angst and rejection, it never made any sense to me, even as a kid.

01:49:28 -- And Batman's got a remote control button for the rocket penguin's rockets that he got from... somewhere...

01:50:00 -- Batman just let Penguin swat the remote control out of his hand with an umbrella that he easily could've blocked or grabbed with his other hand. Or he could've just moved his hand. Anything. Dude is supposed to know martial arts.

01:50:15 -- Penguin launches the penguins' rockets on himself because he (or this movie) is stupid, and then a bunch of bats fly out of a compartment in the Batskiboat for no reason and attack him. Am I the only one noticing how this movie makes no sense?

01:51:00 -- How did Catwoman get here? How did she even know to come here?

01:52:17 -- Batman, the guy who murdered a dude with TNT earlier, says that the law is important and does in fact apply to him.

01:53:02 -- Remember the mascara that Batman wears to make the eyes blend with the mask?

01:53:10 -- MAGICALLY GONE! Done so that when he rips his mask off he doesn't have giant mascara circles under his eyes and look stupid, but it's still hilariously weird and only highlights what a weird choice the mascara thing is. I mean, the mask looks odd without it, but the fact that it magically disappears implies that it's not... actually there... in this movie's fictional world... or something?

01:54:58 -- Oh shit! It's the tazer she picked up off the clown an hour and a half ago! Where was she keeping it in that catsuit... ?

01:56:16 -- This film has a reputation for being a darker, mature, serious psychological take on the Batman mythos. Hence the hilarious burnt-to-a-crisp Christopher Walken corpse.

01:56:58 -- I'm not exactly sure what kills Penguin here. It wasn't the fall, because he's walking just fine. Dialogue suggests its either the heat because the AC is destroyed, despite the fact that he's not Mr. Freeze, or that it's the sometimes-toxic sometimes not water that's poisoned him somehow.

01:58:00 -- And then six Emperor Penguin pallbearers come out of nowhere and somehow drag Penguins body (with their flippers hardly touching him!) into the water in a bizarre funeral procession! Seriously! This happens! In a "dark and serious" Batman movie!

02:00:41 -- Originally, there was going to be a Catwoman spin-off from this movie, starring Michelle Pfeiffer. After all, this ending is pretty obviously setting her up for further appearances. That spin-off would remain in development hell for years, sifting through countless rewrites, at one point with Winona Ryder attached to star after Pfeiffer left, finally emerging in 2004 as the piece of shit, waste of space CATWOMAN film starring Halle Berry as a completely seperate character who has even less in common with the comics Selina Kyle than this one.

02:00:44 -- BATMAN RETURNS was considered a disapointment by Warner Bros. While it made a healthy amount of cash, it wasn't the success BATMAN was. It also generated a fair amount of controversy, with parents groups protesting the film's dark, macabre tone, violent nature, horrific scenes and general unsuitability for children. Nevermind that it was rated PG-13, same as the last Batman film, a primary piece of complaint was that the film was being marketed for children because it had a toy tie-in with Happy Meals at McDonald's. When told that children were leaving screenings mid-movie in tears, writer Daniel Waters and Burton reportedly replied that this meant they had achieved their goals in making the film. Whatever that means. I myself saw it for the first time when I was three years old, and the worst thing it did to my psyche was convince me it was a fantastic movie for the next twenty years. Seriously, it was my favourite Batfilm until THE DARK KNIGHT, and even then I didn't start noticing its terrible, terrible flaws. Viewed as a whole, BATMAN RETURNS comes across as a bizarre "blockbuster art film". Either way, Burton was removed from the next Batfilm, the plan for which featured Marlon Wayans as a garage mechanic who fixes the Batmobile named Robin, and replaced with Joel Schumacher, who was given the marching orders to produce a more family friendly, big blockbuster smash.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Annotated Cinematic Batman: BATMAN (1989, Tim Burton)

Writers: Sam Hamm, Warren Skaaren
Director: Tim Burton
Producers: Jon Peters, Peter Guber
Batman: Michael Keaton

Time indexes refer to the 2005 Special Edition NTSC Region 1 DVD of the film.

00:00:00 -- If you can believe it, BATMAN was the first feature film to alter its studio's logo, a now common stunt. It was controversial and unpopular and Burton had to fight with WB execs to be allowed to do it. All that happens is the normally bright sky behind the WB logo shifts to dark, night, storm clouds.

00:00:14 -- Danny Elfman composed the score for the film, having been chosen by Tim Burton. WB execs didn't think he was suited to the film, but Burton insisted they listen to "the March", the stirring theme that Elfman had created for Batman. WB was sold, and the music went on to be the theme music for the sequel as well as the 1992 Bruce Timm animated series.

00:02:34 -- Gotham City. For the first couple of years of comic book Batman stories, the adventures were explicitly set in New York. Original writer Bill Finger realized that this was limiting from a storytelling standpoint and decided to ficitonalize the city's name to Gotham in Batman #4 (Winter 1940). Gotham is a traditional nickname for New York dating back to 1807, and comes from an Old English expressing meaning a home to fools. Eventually, however, the name came to be associated with the term "Gothic", and it is generally in this sense that it is applied to Batman's home. For this film, Burton wanted to envision a city that was like New York with no civic planning, a city that just built and built on top of itself, grotesque and sprawling.

00:02:52 -- The Monarch Theatre. Before this film, the theatre outside which Bruce Wayne's parents was shot was never named. Here it is called Monarch, and this name has since stuck and found its way into other Batman media. The area in which it is located is called Park Row, or unofficially, since the Wayne murders, Crime Alley.

00:02:56 -- We've got a nuclear family of husband, wife and son coming out of the theatre and stumbling their way into the Alley. From their clothes and dialogue they're obviously tourists, but I remember when I was a little kid seeing this for the first time I was sure this was the Waynes. Even though it's not, it's clearly meant to echo the Batman's origin, which we're actually not going to have revealed to us for some time in this movie.

00:04:30 -- Our first glimpse of the Batman is from high above. Like, way high above. He's standing on the balcony of a skyscraper so high up that it seems unlikely he'd be able to hear the screams of the woman in the Alley below. Also this whole shot is a matte painting and Batman himself is a badly animated shadow. Seriously, first shot of the hero in the movie and it's probably the cheapest looking thing in the whole picture.

00:05:24 -- This film begins with an already active Batman, who has become an urban legend among the crooks he preys upon. This difers it from SUPERMAN (1978) and later superhero movies, including BATMAN BEGINS (2005), which generally spend about an hour of the running time telling us how the hero became a hero. Hamm's decision to structure the story this way mirrors Batman's first appearance in Detective Comics #27 (May, 1939), which begins with Batman an already active mysterious figure, then introduces Bruce Wayne and Commissioner Gordon, and ends with the surprise reveal that Wayne is Batman. Batman's origin would not be told until Detective Comics #33 (November, 1939), thus leaving his motives for crimefighting a mystery intially. Hamm follows this structure in his screenplay, first showing us Batman, later Wayne, then revealing them to be the same, and then waiting a long time before revealing why Wayne does what he does.

00:05:49 -- Batman's appearance. The molded rubber suit seen here comes from a few places. In terms of its basic design, it's actually pretty spot on with how Batman was being drawn in the comics at the time, only translated from spandex and Kevlar into hard rubber and leather. These material choices mean that the head can't turn (hilarious!) and the cape weighs something like 20 pounds. The molded rubber look was Burton's solution to the fact that the actor he chose to play Batman, Micheal Keaton, was like five foot five and 100 pounds soaking wet. Burton rationalized this by saying that if Wayne was actually intimidating to look at he wouldn't have to dress as a Bat to scare people. This is the first of many rationalizations of Burton's that I will touch on that cover up the fact that he basically didn't get the character because he only ever read two comic books -- THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS (1986) and THE KILLING JOKE (1988). Burton was also behind the decision to recolour the costume. In the comics, Batman's cape and cowl were traditionally black, with blue used as a highlight colour. Originally designed by artist Bob Kane with input from writer Bill Finger, the main outfit was grey, with a yellow utility belt and a black bat logo. By the 1960s, the blue highlights had become the dominant colour, with black as a shadow, and a yellow oval had gone around the bat. By 1989 the cape and cowl was entirely blue. Burton wanted all black because a) he felt it would fit the "darker" tone he was looking for and invite less comparison to the Adam West Batman and b) he's Tim Burton, goth director. The all-black costume has remained the norm in the movies ever since, and was briefly adopted in the comics during the mid-90s, before returning to more traditional colours. All black looks great on film, but it doesn't work well in art.

00:06:15 -- The batarang. First introduced in Detective Comics #31 (September, 1939), it is a standard part of Batman's arsenal. Occasionally it's a big boomerang used to bop bad guys on the head, occasionally it's more like little throwing stars, and occasionally (as in here and the Adam West TV show) it's attached to the Bat rope and used to lasso crooks.

00:06:23 -- In the comics, Batman has whited out eyes when wearing his mask. This was a visual technique invented by Bob Kane that he felt made the character look more mysterious (also it's easier to draw), and has since become standard in comics. No live action portrayal ever really tries to replicate this, but instead tries to make the eyes blend into the mask visually by... having Batman wear heavy mascara. Remember this when we get to the end of BATMAN RETURNS, it'll be funny. I promise.

00:06:40 -- "I'm Batman." It all started here, including, I believe, the idea that Batman's voice is sort've gravelly and Clint Eastwood esque. Keaton sounds pretty good doing it. Serious, but, y'know, intelligible.

00:07:03 -- Harvey Dent first appeared in Detective Comics #66 (August 1942), created by Bill Finger and Bob Kane. The dashing District Attorney of Gotham City, his name was originally Harvey Kent, but changed to Dent after a few stories to avoid confusion with Superman's alter ego, Clark Kent. Thematically, the name Dent suits the character better anyhow. In the original stories Dent was dashingly handsome, nicknamed Apollo, and had a sculptress named Gilda for a wife. Mob boss Sal Maroni throws acid in his face during a trial and Dent's psyche breaks down and he becomes the villain Two-Face, who commits either good or evil deeds based on the flip of a coin. Here, Harvey is played by Billy Dee Williams, the only time where Harvey has been portrayed as black (and with a moustache!). Williams signed on for the role with the understanding that the character would become Two-Face in the sequels, and had a pay-or-play stipulation in his contract, so that when the role was recast with Tommy Lee Jones in BATMAN FOREVER (1995), Williams was payed the same amount he would've gotten if he'd been in the movie! Here, Dent has been recently elected to clean up crime in Gotham.

00:07:18 -- Boss Carl Grissom is a character invented for the movie, but fits the standard archetype of an all powerful mob boss who runs Gotham until Batman shows up. In the comics, this role is prominantly filled by Carmine Falcone, a character created by Frank Miller for his 1987 BATMAN: YEAR ONE storyline, but that comic was published too late to in any way influence the creation of this film. Instead, Grissom more closely resembles Rupert Thorne, who first appeared in Detective Comics #469 (May, 1977) by Steve Englehart and Walt Simonson during the STRANGE APPARITIONS storylien, was a character who was a gangster with a clean public face, and who featured in earlier drafts instead of Grissom. In those drafts, Thorne is revealed to have placed a hit on the Waynes, and that their murder was set up only to appear to be a random mugging. This would make the movie character a version of the Silver Age mob boss Lew Moxon, as well as tie together the fact that a younger Jack Napier, who appears in the main film as a mob enforcer, was the killer instead of crook Joe Chill. But this plotline was dropped during the several rewrites the film went through, and Thorne became Carl Grissom. Writer Sam Hamm took much inspiration from the STRANGE APPARITIONS storyline, although numerous rewrites erased many traces.

00:07:47 -- Police Commissioner James Gordon first appeared in Detective Comics #27 by Bill Finger and Bob Kane, same as Batman and Bruce Wayne. Originally an older character who was friends with Wayne and hunted the Batman, Gordon eventually came to see the Dark Knight's worth and deputized him. A one note character who mostly sat behind a desk and gave exposition, Gordon's character was greatly strengthened by Denny O'Neil and Neal Adam's work on Batman in the 1970s was further revised and improved by Frank Miller for his YEAR ONE series. However, this movie's version, played by Pat Hingle, is largely based on the earlier version of Gordon -- older, deskbound, somewhat useless. Enjoy him here because he gets less and less to do as these movies go on.

00:08:09 -- Jack Napier, a character sort've/kind've invented for this movie. I mean, obviously, he becomes the Joker later on, and he first appeared back in Batman #1 (Spring, 1940) by Bill Finger and Bob Kane, but we'll talk about that when we get there. Jack Napier, as an identity of the Joker pre... Joker, is invention of this film, however. In the comics, the Joker's pre-crazy identity has never been given a name. That being said, Jack Napier does have comic book antecedents. Despite claiming inspiration from THE KILLING JOKE by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland, Burton surprisingly uses basically NOTHING from that book's influential depiction of the Joker. That comic posited a sympathetic identity to the pre-Joker, who was forced into becoming the criminal known as the Red Hood. But the Red Hood himself is an older idea, one created by writer Bill Finger for Detective Comics #168 (December, 1951) by Bill Finger and Lew Schwartz, which gave an origin for the Joker for the first time. Before that, Joker was a complete mystery who arrived on the scene fully formed -- but Finger had often laid hints that he had been a criminal before he had been the Joker. Instead of taking Alan Moore's idea that "one bad day can drive a man insane", or Bill Finger's idea of an earlier costumed identity, Hamm and Burton make pre-Joker a mob enforcer in a smart pinstripe suit, which fits the pseudo-film noir look and feel of this movie, the notion here being that Napier already had a few screws loose and the acid bath to come just let everything come out freely. This notion hasn't been used much since, except in the classic 1992 animated series, which took Jack Napier and his origin wholesale for its version of Joker.

00:08:22 -- Alicia, who is Napier and Grissom's shared mistress and later becomes a girlfriend of the Joker's (complete with scarred white face!), isn't based on any comic character, and in fact predates Harley Quinn by three years.

00:09:37 -- The big fat detective in the tenchcoat, with the five o'clock shadow chomping a big cigar, is NOT, in fact, Harvey Bullock. Bullock, who first appeared in Detective Comics #441 (June, 1974) by Archie Goodwin and Howard Chaykin , was clearly the inspiration however. Bullock's character in the comics was a controversial officer who was loyal to Gordon yet appeared to the casual observer to be the typical crooked cop. In this film he is transformed into Lt. Maxwell Eckhart, who IS a crooked cop, working for Grissom. Eckhart probably was Bullock in earlier drafts, but changed as he diverged further from the original character, similar to Thorne's transformation into Grissom. In BATMAN RETURNS (1992), Burton would be less touchy about making outrageous changes to comic characters.

00:09:50 -- The character of Alexander Knox is unique to this movie. While the crusading journalist is a stock comics character, there's never really been one in Batman. Knox is practically the protagonist for the first act, then practically vanishes from the movie. It's one of many glaring examples of the mountain of rewrites the script went through. As you can tell from the fact that everyone is wearing trenchcoats, suits and fedoras, this movie seems to be set in 1989 and 1939 simultaneously. It's a unique look that would inspire the style of the 1992 animated series.

00:11:55 -- Bob the Goon, another film-original character, played by Tracey Walter, serves as Jack/Joker's lackey throughout the movie. Walter got the part because he's basically Jack Nicholson's lackey in real life.

00:12:27 -- The Gotham City 200th anniversary festival -- a plotline that seems important but isn't. Just like all the other ones. This is a movie that works on design and chutzpah, its script is a mess. Not really Sam Hamm's fault. And it's less of a mess than BATMAN RETURNS.

00:13:12 -- The newspaper artist's signature is Bob Kane. Kane, of course, is the artist who created Batman. Cute.

00:13:32 -- Vicki Vale. In earlier drafts this character was Silver St. Cloud, a character from the STRANGE APPARITIONS storyline (Detective Comics #470, June 1977 by Steve Englehart and Walt Simonson) who dates Bruce Wayne, figures out he's Batman, and decides on her own he's too dangerous to be in a relationship with. Vicki Vale, on the other hand, is a much older character, debuting in Batman #49 (October/November 1948) by Bill Finger and Bob Kane. Vale was the third major attempt at creating a recurring love interest for Batman/Bruce Wayne, and was designed as an imitation of Lois Lane. Vale was a photojournalist working for the Gotham Gazette who was always trying to prove Bruce Wayne was Batman. A redhead, she was visually based by Kane on the young Norma Jean (later Marilyn Monroe) whom Kane had met before she was "famous". Originally Sean Young was cast as Vale, based on her performance in BLADE RUNNER (1982), but she suffered a horse riding mishap before shooting started and the part was hastily recast with Kim Basinger. Here she's working for the Gotham Globe, because hardly anyone did their homework when they made this movie.

00:13:41 -- Vicki covered the Corto Maltese revolution for TIME. Meant to establish her cred as a "serious photojournalist", Corto Maltese is an obscure inside reference to Frank Miller's THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, where Corto Maltese is a small caribbean island nation that the US is interfering with, Reagan-CIA style. Miller's use of the name Corto Maltese is, in turn, an obsure inside reference to awesome Italian comic book CORTO MALTESE, about a sailor-adventurer-smuggler-pirate who is awesome.

00:14:26 -- Bruce Wayne's benefit. In the original comics, Bruce's fortune was simply explained as the Wayne family being old money, one of the founding families of Gotham. There was never any sense of a corporate entity still producing cash. 1960s Batcomics under editor Julie Schwartz began to depict Bruce as a great philanthropist, running the Wayne Foundation and always giving benefits and charity balls and such, a depiction utilized to a great extent in the Adam West series and also used here. The idea of Wayne Enterprises, that Bruce runs a company, would not appear in the comics until much later, and not in the films until BATMAN FOREVER.

00:14:55 -- Axis Chemicals -- chemical plants have a long history in Batman comics, reaching all the way back to the original Detective Comics #27, "The Case of the Chemical Syndicate", which featured a battle at Apex Chemicals. The Joker's origin took place at Ace Chemicals. I assume that name was dubbed too obvious, and Axis has a nice sinister ring to it.

00:16:35 -- Jack brings his "lucky deck" with him to the raid on Axis. Presumably this inspires his name change to "The Joker" later. In the original comics, Ace Chemicals was next door to the Monarch Playing Card Company. Either way kinda strains things trying to tie all the elements together. That's what happens when you develop an origin for a character over ten years after you originally create them.

00:17:01 -- Wayne Manor, here portrayed by Knebworth House, a mansion north of London that dates to 1490. Wayne Manor is the traditional home of the Wayne family in the comics, which of course sits over the extensive Batcave. Bruce Wayne's wealth in the comics was originally simply a means to explain how he could devote all his time to crimefighting without worrying about a real life, more or less. Depictions of Bruce Wayne's life were secondary to his adventures as Batman for a long time, until DC began imitating the soap opera style of Marvel in the late 70s.

00:17:37 -- Alfred Pennyworth, here played by Michael Gough, first appeared in the comics as Alfred Beagle in Batman #16 (April/May 1943) by Don Cameron and Bob Kane. Alfred was a heavyset and buffonish character who had come to work for Wayne to follow on the family's tradition of serving the Waynes (his father Jarvis had served previously), but which Alfred had been unable to attend to due to being unable to leave England during WWII. After the debut of actor William Austin's version of the character in the 1943 BATMAN movie serial, the comic character was changed to match, becoming thin and balding with a moustache, and the name changed to Alfred Pennyworth. This visual has stayed with the character ever since. Later revisions to the storyline have cast Alfred as having always been the Wayne's butler, looking after Bruce since he was a child and becoming a father figure after the death of his parents.

00:18:16 -- Oh shit, it's Bruce Wayne! Even if he doesn't know it. Michael Keaton was a very, very unpopular choice for Bruce/Batman. I mean, it makes the fan uproar over Ledger's Joker look like nothing. And just like Ledger's Joker, all that complaining went away instantly after the movie came out, and Keaton for a while was the definitive Batman. Which is a little silly given his curly hair, tiny height and slight build. I mean, there's no way this guy is a master of any martial art. Burton insisted he cast Keaton for his acting chops rather than looks, although fan outrage was pretty justified given that Keaton was a comedian, pure and simple. Hell, his previous role was Betelegeuse in BEETLEJUICE (1988), a part which would seem to qualify him for the Joker more than Batman. Fans feared this meant another campy, comedic Batman a la Adam West. Burton claimed there was a haunted quality in Keaton's eyes, that you could believe he had suffered a great trauma in his past. There's a lot of clever camera tricks used in this movie to try and make Keaton look taller than romantic interest Basinger.

00:22:13 -- "And what do you do for a living?" Vicki Vale asks. Bruce never answers, and neither do either of Burton's two Batman movies. The fact of the matter is despite trying to fight the influence of the Adam West Batman show, you can tell that was the primary source of information regarding the character, rather than the comics. Wayne Enterprises, Lucius Fox, all of that had been in the comics since the 1970s, but none of it is in this movie, which depicts a bumbling, clueless, harmless humanitarian billionaire Wayne in keeping with the Adam West version.

00:23:20 -- Holy shit! Bruce Wayne has cameras throughout his house and spies on people using a bunch of monitors and a keyboard in some sort of computer like apparatus at a desk. Not exactly a "hey, he's Batman!" reveal, but if you need it explicitly, we'll be waiting awhile. Again, Hamm structured the storyline to reveal information similar to how Finger and Kane doled it out originally: There's this Batman guy, there's this Bruce Wayne guy, OMG they're the same!, here's why.

00:23:30 -- Keaton's Wayne wears eyeglasses. Is Batman farsighted? How does he fight crime?

00:24:05 -- "Shoot to kill." If there's one element that seemed to make into this movie from YEAR ONE, it's that when Batman first shows up, Gotham City is a horrifically corrupt place.

00:24:52 -- So in the original comics, the battle at Ace Chemical goes like this: The Red Hood gang has robbed the Monarch Playing Card Co. next door and is escaping through the Ace Chemical plant. The cops are in pursuit. The Batman has been trailing the Red Hood for months. He confronts him on the gangway, but the Red Hood dives into the chemical vats to escape. Draining into the river, he discovers his hair dyed green and his face bleached white and becomes the Joker. THE KILLING JOKE added some ambiguity about whether Batman pushed him or not, and that the Red Hood was merely a patsy pushed into crime to draw heat from the rest of the gang. While Jack Napier is a completely different character, as are the circumstances, the whole chemical plant/gangway/vat of goo thing survives pretty intact.

00:26:10 -- I'm gonna blow a few of your minds here, because this seems such an obvious and integral element of Batman's gadgets, but the idea that he uses a grappling gun comes from this movie. Seriously, before this Batman just had to throw his batarang with rope line up to the top of a building, where it somehow always caught, and then he somehow swung away (from street level up, because erm, wwhat?) and then climbed up the sides of buildings -- assumedly meeting 1960s celebrities in cameo roles along the way. Yeah, grappling gun was a smart maneuver. Hard to imagine him without it now. Granted the first thing he does with it here is shoot a guy in the throat, because this is hardcore Finger/Kane mytersioso Shadow-rip-off Batman we're dealing with.

00:27:19 -- Seriously, the damn rubber Batsuit was so heavy and so hard to move in, that basically any time you see it moving and looking in the least bit cool, it's not Keaton in the suit but either a stuntman or a (no jokes) ballet dancer they hired to make the movements look right.

00:29:02 -- Batman deflects the bullets with the gauntlets on his gloves. I have no idea how that is supposed to work. Batman's unique, weird, spiky gloves developed slowly. Originally, Batman wore ordinary gloves. After a few issues, these became long gloves, and finally developed tapered fins, which eventually became three weird spiky things. They look cool, but only occasionally serve a purpose.

00:29:22 -- Did his hand slip, or did he deliberately drop him? It's only a question because Burton's Batman kills people, because Burton's Batman is crazy. What Burton seemed to take away the most from THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS and THE KILLING JOKE is the notion of Batman as just as insane as his enemies, an influential take that made those stories interesting and unique, and dozens of 90s Batman comics tiresome and derivative.

00:29:46 -- Batman has pretty much always used exploding gas pellets from his utility belt to get out of basically any jam. It's a cool idea that predates Batman and has its roots in pulp noir heroes like The Shadow and The Phantom.

00:30:16 -- I'm almost positive that's a fake hand on a stick. This movie is inexplicably cheap sometimes.

00:30:38 --  The map of Gotham City at Knox's desk is an upsidedown map of Vancouver.

00:34:28 -- I've never understood why they went with this whole plastic surgeon thing with Joker. In the comics, he makes it home, sees his reflection in the mirror, and goes nuts. Here, this cheap plastic surgeon (seriously, how he didn't become horribly infected is beyond me), screws up fixing the scars from his ricocheted bullet wound to the face and ends up severing his nerves so that his face is permanently grinning. Why is it everyone tries to make the Joker permanently grinning? He isn't stuck grinning in the comics. I mean, yeah it's his default expression, but sticking Nicholson behind permanently smiling prosthetics seriously limits his acting choices and Joker's range of expressions. What was the rationale?? (Granted, the character's appearance was originally inspired by Conrad Veidt's appearance in the silent film THE MAN WHO LAUGHS (1928), where he plays a man who's face is permanently fixed in a Glasgow Grin, so I suppose this is just "back to the source").

00:35:58 -- Bruce Wayne doesn't really drink, it's all an act. It's a gag that Miller developed for DARK KNIGHT RETURNS and YEAR ONE. And it makes sense.

00:37:47 -- An impressively dramatic reveal of The Joker... ruined by the purple smear on the right side of his neck. Seems that Nicholson's white make-up kept rubbing off on his purple coat, so they coated the coat with purple shoe polish rather than clean it over and over. Of course the purple shoe polish rubbed off his neck. This movie had a budget of $35 million.

00:39:07 -- Lololol, he sleeps upside-down, like a Bat! Because, erm, he's crazy! And... yeah... this is silly.

00:42:51 -- The Joker's goons wear logos depicting the Joker as drawn by then-current Bat-artist, Jim Aparo.

00:45:26 -- The Gotham Globe has nothing on the richest man in Gotham City. Not even photos. "A non-existent social life, these things beg the question as to what exactly does Bruce Wayne do with his time and his money?" Seriously, does anyone buy for a second the idea this movie is trying to portray, that the murder of the Waynes is some big secret no one knows about?

00:46:43 -- The idea that Bruce Wayne visits the Alley where his parents were murdered and places two roses every year on the anniversary of their deaths comes from the classic Detective Comics #457, March 1976 by Denny O'Neil and Dick Giordano.

00:49:00 -- Oh shit, that's Jack Napier! And he's confronting one of his mob rivals! Sure he looks different, but it's clearly him! Do I change into Batman and try to save the day? Or stand around gawking like an idiot? Probably that second one.

00:52:23 -- "What's so special about the Alley at Pearl and Phillips St.?" Well, nothing. Because the address where Bruce's parents were killed was Park Row. It's in the same comic you took the roses thing from. Am I asking too much, here?

00:52:46 -- Many explanations have been offered for how the Joker got his Smilex toxin gas, which contorts the victim into a rictus grin and has been his traditional means of killing people since his first appearance. THE KILLING JOKE gave him a backstory as a chemical engineer turned failed comic for this reason. Here he appears to have stolen it from the CIA, although the only evidence is a file folder on a desk full of pictures that you might never notice.

00:53:19 -- Burton wanted a Beauty and the Beast, Phantom of the Opera element to the story, so Joker develops a crush on Vicki Vale, despite the comics character being traditionally fairly asexual. This plot element helps keep our three main characters together, but it also totally obscures Joker's motives. What exactly does he want? You can get away with this here because, hey, Joker's crazy, but it becomes a worse problem in RETURNS.

00:56:08 -- Joker taking over media, especially television, to deliver his threats is a particularly traditional element of the character, dating back to his first appearance. The version of the character in this film is mostly based on Steve Englehart's take from "The Laughing Fish" in Detective Comics #475, February 1978. There, Batman observes that the Joker's insane scheme makes sense to him alone. But it still makes sense, in a crazy way. I have watched this movie thousands of times and have no clue what Joker's after here. He's killing people using poisoned beauty products, but why? In the comics it'd be a typical Joker scheme for an issue, but how do we get from Jack Napier to here? Joker taking over Grissom's crime empire made sense. That he got Axis Chemicals out of the deal and is using it to make the poison makes sense. This poison people wth beauty products that make them grin like him makes sense in a "make everyone feel his pain" sorta way, but the film never actually says that, never elaborates or explains. And it has nothing at all to do with his endgame plan. It feels like Joker is sort've making it up as he goes, which is fine for him as a character, except that the screenwriters were too. This movie went into production without an ending.

00:57:31 -- And then, based on Napier's expertise in chemistry, Batman figures out the entire scheme off camera, because it basically doesn't matter.

00:59:30 -- The Flugelheim Museum. The Adam West show often used New York place names for Gotham ones, only altered to be a bad pun of some kind. This is actually worse.

01:01:44 -- Hope you like "Partyman", by Prince. I don't know what's more disturbing, that Warner Bros had insisted on a Prince soundtrack for BATMAN early enough in development for it to be worked into the script, or that the script was being rewritten far enough into production for them to work in an entire Prince song and dance routine.

01:03:14 -- The painting the Joker likes is "Figure with Meat" by Francis Bacon.

01:03:40 -- I'm sure the only reason that the Joker develops a crush on Vicki Vale out of nowhere is that the only thing the writers could think to do with her in the third act was have Joker kidnap her so Batman could rescue her and they couldn't think of a good reason for Joker to do that other than he has a boner.

01:04:47 -- "I make art, until someone dies. I am the world's first fully functioning homicidal artist." Here's a notion that springs up in this scene, and then disappears right afterwards. There's no precedent in the comics to the Joker seeing himself this way. There's nothing in the rest of the movie to indicate it either. It just sort've sits there and doesn't make any sense. It's just in this scene. Again, is the Joker crazy or is the writing bad?

01:06:54 -- A rousing dramatic entrance for the title character who we haven't seen for forty minutes. Also the first contact our hero and our villain have had the entire movie. Well, kind've contact. They sort've pass each other, briefly.

01:07:27 -- The Batmobile. First appearing in Batman #5 (Spring 1941) and created by Bill Finger and Bob Kane, the Batmobile is the distinctive, awesome, and distinctively awesome vehicle of Batman. The original design was a high powered black sedan with a single, central Batwing fin and a Batface batering ram at the front. Later designs added bubble cockpits and various gadgets. The most famous was the 1960s TV show Batmobile which was based on a 1957 Lincoln Futura. After that show, comic Batmobiles began resembling regular cars more and more, until the tank Batmobile of Miller's DARK KNIGHT RETURNS. The Batmobile in this film was a completely custom design and pretty damn awesome looking, if completely impractical to drive.

01:07:40 -- Now a traditional element of Batmobile design, the giant flaming rocket at the back was actually added for the TV Batmobile of the sixties. It survived to be included in Burton's film and even in Chris Nolan's version! Holy homage, Batman!

01:06:33 -- There's no reason why they get out of the car. They get out, run into an alley, fight some goons, then get back in the car and drive away. They just wanted a fight scene in the middle of their car chase.

01:10:57 -- A Joker goon does a back-flip over a fence, out of nowhere, armed with swords, for no reason.

01:13:30 -- Originally, there was no Batcave. With no Batmobile, no Batcomputer, no Robin, etc. Bruce didn't need some big cave to keep his stuff in. In the earliest comics, his batgear is literally just chillin in a locked box in Wayne Manor. Eventually he gets the car, which is initially kept in an abandoned barn that is connected to Wayne Manor by an underground tunnel. The idea of a Batcave, a secret underground headquarters for Batman and Robin, was invented by the 1943 BATMAN movie serial. It was incorporated into the comics in Detective Comics #83 in January 1944. It is entered from the outside by the Batmobile through a hidden tunnel, and from inside Wayne Manor using a trick grandfather clock that opens when the time is set to 10:47 -- when the Waynes were murdered.

01:13:36 -- The movie really wants us to think this is a POV shot, but there is no rear window in that Batmobile.

01:14:20 -- "They're great survivors." Literally the closest thing this movie gets to a reason why Bruce dresses up as a giant bat. Of course, in the Detective Comics #33 origin story, Bruce decides that he needs to strike fear into the hearts of criminals, and decides to become a bat when one happens to fly in through his window that same night.

01:14:46 -- If you'd actually gone into this movie not knowing Batman is Bruce Wayne somehow, the reveal is here, where Batman's computer is the same one Wayne was on earlier. Seriously, that's it.

01:20:51 -- KeatonWayne's long, tortured attempt at explaining to Vicki that he's Batman kinda sounds like a long, tortured attempt at coming out of the closet.

01:21:57 -- Alicia threw herself out of a window. Was there ever a more obvious example of a character who was nothing more than a plot device? She's there to give Grissom a reason to hate Jack, and once he's Joker she's seen, like, twice, seemingly going through an entire weird, unseen subplot before being killed offscreen.

01:23:57 -- "Have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight?" An exceptionally odd turn of phrase that bares no explanation, but is sufficiently memorable enough to be the primary clue in the Big Dumb Reveal coming up.

01:25:43 -- "Vale, I think your friend Wayne is really screwed up." Understatement of the century. So, you're telling me that our two journalist characters had to go digging through microfiche to find out that Bruce Wayne, the richest man in Gotham, is the son of the two richest murdered people in Gotham? Somehow this is a little known fact?
01:28:00 -- So, they do this gag where the TV control people see Joker in the right screens and the Mayor and Co in the left. Why do the Mayor and Co actually look to their left when Joker speaks??

01:29:09 -- Pretty sure this is the only appearance of Bruce Wayne in blue jeans.

01:29:25 -- So the movie portrays this as the big moment where Bruce realizes this is the dude who killed his parents. Why now? Why didn't he recognize Napier earlier? Why this slow process? Don't you think Napier's face would be burned into Bruce's psyche? If he's as fucked up as they say, why did it take for the "devil in the pale moonlight" phrase to start this chain of thought.

01:30:10 -- So here's the big moment where we learn the origin. Bill Finger and Bob Kane told the origin for the first time in Detective Comics #33. In the original version, Thomas and Martha Wayne are leaving a movie with their son Bruce (traditionally THE MARK OF ZORRO) and are confronted by a mugger (named as Joe Chill in Batman #47, June 1948  by Bill Finger and Bob Kane). The crook asks for Martha's pearls, Thomas steps to defend her, they are both shot. Bruce looks at the man in horror, who runs off. Bruce vows to spend the rest of his life warring on crime. He trains for years and becomes the Batman, inspired by a bat flying through his window.

01:32:03 -- Here's the version we get here: Thomas and Martha Wayne are leaving a movie with their son Bruce, FOOTLIGHT FRENZY (lolwut?). They are followed by some well dressed gangsters. One of them goes for Martha's pearls. Thomas goes to stop him and is shot by the second gangster, young Jack Napier. He then shoots Martha. He's stopped from shooting Bruce by his partner, who runs off, without even getting anything from the dead Waynes. What kind of muggers are these? The decision to make The Joker the murderer of Bruce Wayne's parents was a big change from the comics, motivated because Burton wanted Joker and Batman to have the same intense antagonism as in the comics, but felt he could not establish this in the space of a two-hour movie without pulling this card. (Chris Nolan managed it). But Jack Napier is a hired mob killer, not a mugger. This isn't a poor desperate crook who kills the Waynes, it's a well dressed assassin. It's a scene that makes sense in the earlier version of the script, where Rupert Thorne had paid to have Thomas Wayne killed in a would-be mugging. Napier is the killer and grows up into the Joker. It's a riff on Detective Comics #235 (November, 1956) by Bill Finger and Sheldon Moldoff, where Bruce discovers Chill had been paid to kill his parents by mob boss Lew Moxon. But none of that information is here, and we're left with a brilliantly shot, but rather nonsensical scene. Oh well, so the Joker killed Batman's parents. And Batman didn't realize that until now.

01:32:11 -- And then Alfred lets a journalist into the Batcave because he's very bad at his job. And the screenwriters were too lazy to actually show Vicki being smart enough to figure this out on her own or something.

01:33:12 -- Bruce answer for why he has to be Batman? "Because nobody else can. I tried to avoid all this, but I can't." I repeat, no one writing or making this movie really understood this character. Michael Keaton plays Wayne as if he's almost as surprised he's Batman as Vicki is. Like his parents were dead, and then he woke up 20 years later and was Batman.

01:34:16 -- Of all the things to take away from DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, you got "put machine guns on the Batmobile"??

01:34:52 -- And then Batman blows up Axis Chemicals, killing everyone inside. When asked why Batman killed people in his movies, Burton responded that he didn't understand why Batman wouldn't kill criminals. For a long time this was considered a great Batman movie, somehow. Granted, this depiction of Batman is very much inspired by the very early Bill Finger/Bob Kane comics, which did feature a Batman who killed. But that was in many ways a prototype version of the character, a thinly veiled Shadow rip-off who quickly developed into his own character. By Batman #1, the Dark Knight had taken a firmly anti-gun stance, and by Batman #4 he was firmly anti-killing. In fact, although Batman was depicted as killing as many as 20 people in his initial year of publication, all such violence stopped once Robin was introduced in Detective Comics #38 (April, 1940). Part of this was that it seemed inappropriate for Batman to kill once he had a ten year old partner, part of it was that it was hard to build a steady rogues gallery if Batman kept killing his enemies, and part of it was Kane and Finger realizing that it makes no psychological sense for Batman to kill. Tim Burton insisted that while he often diverged from the comic book versions of the characters, he always looked for the psychological truth in the characters, but in allowing Batman to kill he was way off the mark. Bruce Wayne's parents were shot and killed, and Bruce afterwards swore a war on all crime. To him, therefore, crime is most boldly represented by guns and killing, so a Batman who drives around shooting guys with the machine guns on his car is basically the very thing he's fighting against. So while a Batman who kills is true to the earliest roots of the character, that's a very underdeveloped version of Batman and for the vast majority of his history afterwards he has been firmly anti-gun and anti-killing.

01:35:44 -- Hope you like Prince, again, because here's "Trust" underscoring the Joker's parade. So, okay, it's a known fact that the Joker's killed, like, 20 people at least, right? And he announces on TV he's gonna be at the parade, hell, gonna pay for all of it. And NO ONE tries to stop him? There are NO POLICE ANYWHERE? Gordon's sitting, watching the parade on TV at home or something? Crusading DA Harvey Dent is at an NAACP dinner? Oh, and not only that, but people showed up? Like, crowds of people? What the fuck, Gotham? What the fuck?

01:38:10 -- The Batplane, here called the Batwing. Originally debuting in Detective Comics #31 (September 1939, by Gardner Fox and Bob Kane) as the Batgyro, it became the Batplane by Batman #1, predating the Batmobile as Batman's preferred vehicle by several years. This version seems less like a plane or a jet than some kind've weird UFO vehicle that runs silent and has no visible means of propulsion.

01:40:04 -- The Joker's plan is to kill everybody with gas. Somehow, no one saw this coming.

01:44:25 -- Batman shoots cruise missiles at members of the Joker's gang, killing them.

01:44:29 -- Batman attempts to kill the Joker with machine guns and missiles assisted by computer targeting and misses, somehow.

01:44:49 -- Joker shoots the Batwing with a novelty pistol with an ultra long barrel that would never actually fire in reality, and hits the Batwing dead on, causing it to explode and crash. This actually happens in a movie that was praised as being dark and truer to Batman's roots and more serious than the Adam West show.

01:46:10 -- Joker decides to take Vicki up to the top of the giant cathedral in downtown Gotham that wasn't there in any shots before now. He tells his men to meet him with a helicopter at the top in ten minutes. It was not part of his plan to go up there. This ending, I must say now, was made up practically the night before shooting in desperation. Jon Peters claims it was inspired by the ending of Phantom of the Opera, but Phantom doesn't end in a cathedral belltower.

01:47:04 -- Batman trips and stumbles in the dark because he is the world's greatest detective and a master of martial arts and a creature of the night.

01:48:01 -- The GCPD finally show up, at the Cathedral.

01:50:40 -- Upon reaching the top, Batman is met by and fights a bunch of Joker goons. How and when did they get up here? It wasn't in the helicopter Joker asked for, because it's not here yet. They weren't waiting here the whole time, because this wasn't part of his plan. No, they're just here for one more fight scene, because it's not like Michael Keaton wearing a rubber casket and Jack Nicholson at 52 years old were gonna duke it out at the end of this movie.

01:50:51 -- Batman has a "stop guy from running at me" batgadget in his glove. Victory is in the preparation, I guess?

01:51:16 -- Batman lets a Joker goon fall to his death.

01:53:08 -- Batman throws a Joker goon down the bell tower, killing him.

01:55:12 -- Batman punches Joker and Joker spits out novelty chattering teeth. This is somehow less silly than the Adam West show.

01:55:31 -- "I made you, you made me first." This is the best Burton can do with the Batman/Joker conflict.

01:56:40 -- Joker's helicopter arrives, right on time. Where did those goons come from??

01:57:35 -- Batman grapples Joker's feet to a gargoyle, weighing him down and causing him to fall to his death. Batman possibly has a higher body count than the Joker in this movie.

01:59:42 -- The GCPD has rounded up all the Joker's men. From doing absolutely nothing to absolutely everything in the blink of an eye.

02:00:31 -- The Letter from Batman is the corniest sounding thing ever. It literally sounds like something Adam West's Batman would write. "If the forces of evil should rise again..."

02:00:46 -- Batman gave the City the Bat-Signal. This isn't so much the GCPD making an under the table agreement with a vigilante so much as the vigilante declaring that the city can't survive without him and the city agreeing because it has no balls. Anyways, the Bat-Signal first appeared in Detective Comics #60, February 1942 by Jack Schiff and Bob Kane, and was created for pretty obvious reasons -- a way for Gordon to contact Batman, who by that time had been accepted by the GCPD. It was rarely used on the 1960s show, in favour of the famous "hotline" phone straight to the Batcave.

02:01:40 -- Anyone else find it bizarre that this movie ends with the relationship between Vicki and Bruce completely intact, with no hints of issues? She seems even accepting of Batman. I'm surprised they aren't in Florence already. Seriously, no one making this movie understands this character.

02:02:16 -- Although that final frame is pretty fuckin dramatic. This movie was hugely, wildly, successful, thanks in part to an aggressive marketing campaign on the part of Warner Brothers. It inspired not only a string of sequels but also many imitators, in oddly enough the very specific genre of "quasi-period pulp comic heroes" -- movies such as DICK TRACY (1990), THE ROCKETEER (1991), THE SHADOW (1994) and THE PHANTOM (1996). It's sequel, BATMAN RETURNS, brought back Burton and Keaton, but largely abandoned the pulp film noir style seen here for a more Burtonesque bizarre neo German Expressionism.