Batman/Batman Returns Picture
Even before Batman, Michael Keaton from Mr. Mom to Beetlejuice to Clean and Sober showed a range as a character actor from light to dark, convincingly changing the tone of his voice, speaking pattern, etc. transforming himself to fit the roles. He captured the grimness, obsessiveness of Batman, mysteriousness, the creature of the night, weird eerieness, striking terror in criminals, the emotional scars of seeing his parents murdered as a young boy, and moments of humor as Bruce Wayne in some of his interactions with Alfred, Vicki and Selina. I see Michael Keaton as like a cross between Boris Karloff, Clint Eastwood and Bill Murray in one. He has a certain dark edge aspect to him and he has his light comedy side, too. He's not afraid to show either side of his personality and it makes him a character actor with such a range. Not pigeonholed into one boxed-in stereotype.
After the sad news of Michael Gough’s passing, Michael Keaton, payed his respects to Gough in a statement: "To Mick-my butler, my confidant, my friend, my Alfred, I love you. God bless." He signed the message, “Michael (Mr. Wayne) Keaton”.
Michael Gough was favorite live-action Alfred, without a doubt. He immersed himself in the role and became Alfred. Impeccably groomed with slicked hair, formally dressed. He had the high-class stiff-upper-lip English accent, the dry sarcasm, as well as the fatherly concerned for Bruce. Michael Caine, on the other hand, just looks, acts and speaks like himself with his lower-class thick Cockney accent, "Nevah."
Those Schumacher movies are as different from the Burton Keaton movies as night and day. No nipples on the batsuit here. No bright pink neon-Gotham. No Robin. No ambiguously gayness. No Batgirl. No censorship lightening it up for the kids. No toned down violence. No lighthearted attempts at comedy. Instead there's dark macabre humor in Burton and Keaton's Batman films from Joker and Penguin, etc., there's the mysterious brutal loner Keaton Batman, Fascist neo-classical rotated and corrupt Gotham, brutal violence, lots of deaths and gore, and heterosexual references. Warner Bros. brought Joel Schumacher in to "refresh" and create a "new Batman" their words. Joel Schumacher had a vision, his Kilmer/Clooney nippled-Batman, bright neon-Gotham, colorful neon-Batmobile, etc. which isn't the Burton/Keaton Batman, neo-classical and corrupt Gotham, black Batmobile, etc. The Keaton Batman is the dark, mysterious and brooding character that stayed hidden in the shadows, barely talked and wouldn't be out in the open, sitting in an open courtroom, attending Botanical garden events, having a Bat-credit card, letting himself grace the cover of Time Magazine. Not even the Keaton Bruce Wayne did those things! Schumacher's Batman was completely different than what was shown in the first film and in Returns. Joel Schumacher/Val Kilmer's Bruce says in Forever that he's "never been in love before"? Tim Burton/Michael Keaton's Bruce was definitely in love with Selina. The Burton/Keaton Batman doesn't blame himself for the death of his parents. The Schumacher/Kilmer Batman blames himself for what happened, he has an Spider-Man Uncle Ben-type guilt complex. Look at what the documentary is called for the Batman Forever feature. It's titled, The Cinematic Saga of the Dark Knight - Reinventing a Hero. Look at the James Bond films with Daniel Craig, those are reboots yet actress Judi Dench as M from the previous Pierce Brosnan James Bond films is there, just as Pat Hingle and Michael Gough from the previous Tim Burton/Michael Keaton Batman films are there in the Joel Schumacher/Val Kilmer/George Clooney films, but the characterizations are very different. Burton's Alfred strongly hints that he wants Bruce to retire as Batman and settle down with a nice girl, stop avenging his parents, not war on crime for rest of his life. Burton's Alfred said, "Miss Vale called. She was rather concerned. I've noticed that there is a certain weight that lifts when she's here. Sir, Miss Vale called again. She's quite special. Perhaps you could try telling her the truth. I don't wish to spend my few remaining years grieving for the loss of old friends. Or their sons. Why are you now so determined to prove that this Penguin is not what he seems? Must you be the only lonely man-beast in town? I suppose you feel better now, sir? Why are you still out? Are you concerned about that strange, heroic Penguin person? Shall we change the channel to a program with some dignity and class? The Love Connection, perhaps?" Schumacher's Uncle Alfred is such a Batman supporter that he even makes the costumes for Batman, Robin and Batgirl. Burton's Gordon wears a suit and is puzzled by the mysterious grim vigilante Batman, Schumacher's goofy Gordon wears a Chief O'Hara uniform (when he's not wearing his nightgown) and is a Batman fanatic. The Shumacher/Kilmer/Clooney Batman is more like a parody of Tim Burton/Michael Keaton's Batman, and is much closer to the Bill Dozier/Adam West Batman, but with a much bigger budget. The Tim Burton/Michael Keaton Batman is harking back to the Bill Finger/Bob Kane original Batman, but more high tech for a contemporary audience.
Batman Returns is terribly disrespected by viewers ignorant stupidity. The story makes no sense? Wrong. The Penguin is raised by penguins? Wrong. Selina is licked back to life? Wrong. Catwoman has 9 lives? Wrong. Batman's never killed before? Wrong. Batman's barely in it? Wrong. It's just a Tim Burton movie and not a Batman movie? Wrong. Nothing in the movie is faithful to the comics? Wrong. Bad small set design looks like only 50 people living in it? Wrong.
What we see in Batman by production designer Anton Furst is mammoth, five-city-blocks including the Monarch Theater and Crime Alley where the Wayne family was mugged and murdered, Gotham City Hall, the Flugelheim Museum where Joker destroys art and tries to burn Vick's face with acid, Vicki's apartment, Boss Carl Grissom's building, the cathedral set, it was the largest sets built since the movie Cleopatra in 1963. What we see in Batman Returns by production designer Bo Welch were also mammoth, in fact the Gotham City sets were so big for Batman Returns that they had to not only use Warner Bros. largest sound stage to fit part of Gotham but also Universal Studios largest. Batman Returns included corrupt Max Shreck's huge building and store, Gotham City's Hall of Records where Penguin gets the names of the kids to murder, the huge Gotham Square and Gotham Plaza with big huge sculptures, based on New York's Rockefeller Center, referred to as Rockefeller Center's evil twin. Gotham was based on New York even by creator Bill Finger. Bruce Wayne's mansion set included for the first time the Wayne library and the huge fireplace in Batman Returns. You could have fit a car inside the fire box. The iconic Batcave stairs connecting Wayne Manor to the Batcave were shown for the first time in Batman Returns and we see Alfred using them. We only really see one platform of the Batcave with computers and maps in the first Burton/Keaton Batman. The rooftops where Batman and Catwoman fight was huge, the extent of two stages. The Cobblepot set is amazing. The Penguin's huge underground lair that was an abandon Gotham amusement park has an enormous tank filled with half-a-million gallons of water. In Batman and Batman Returns include different styles of architecture. Fascist neo-classical architecture. German expressionism. The Gothic cathedral is the only building we see in the Burton Batman films that has gargoyles hanging on it. Some buildings are not really Gothic at all. There is nothing Gothic about Max Shreck's with the Felix the Cat corporate logos. That's Art Deco, an old '40s, '50s style, and there's that big Max Shreck conference room, and the store, and the ball. They built a city. Gotham City. You see some areas of Gotham in Batman and other areas of Gotham in Batman Returns. Imagining what contemporary New York would look like from a '40s perspective. Art Deco mixed with Gothic architecture. As production designer Bo Welch said, "Gotham City represents the old American city, rotated and corrupt, but full of character and life."
The Red Triangle circus gang obviously found and raised the Penguin. In the Batcave researching through old newspapers Bruce Wayne reads out loud to Alfred, thus informing the viewers, that Penguin had been with the Red Triangle circus since he was a child, called the aquatic bird boy, and that the Red Triangle circus had been abducting children on the fairgrounds.
Tim Burton says Catwoman wasn't supernatural. Tim Burton explained it in the commentary. Can't be any clearer than that. If she is supernatural then where is she getting powers from? Magical kitties? I think some people have watched Halle Berry's Catwoman too many times. Tim Burton says in his commentary that Michelle Pfeiffer's Catwoman doesn't have "cat powers" but it's not explained in the film because he wanted it to be ambiguous and mysterious. Tim Burton explained, "The ambiguous nature of the Catwoman. You start out when you see the creation with the cats coming around and it's not supernatural but we feed into the mythology of cats and 9 lives and all of that sort of thing, so in the same way with Batman, wanting to keep him sort of mysterious, we sort of treated the same idea with Catwoman a little bit and not come right out with it. It's not supernatural." According to Tim Burton she's not supernatural so the 9 lives thing was metaphorical, part of her cat theme and the mythology of cats, and she never actually died. As for the acrobatic and fighting abilities, according to the script she already had them but was to shy and introverted to use them until the crash released her formerly repressed inner-self, and all her inhibitions. In the Batman Returns script it is explained that she took karate lessons.
I won some karate
lessons. Radio thing. I'd been
calling for Grateful Dead tix...
anyway, I take the course. I was
a most serious failure. The
instructor kept chanting "Your
mind isn't clear, your mind
It is now...
Catwoman's origin in Batman Returns also harks back to her original Bill Finger Golden Age origin in which she was introverted, then survived a crash, but suffered from amnesia. Thereafter she became Catwoman by releasing her formerly repressed inner-self, and all her inhibitions. The version of Catwoman's origin involving the crash (a death and resurrection motif) and amnesia has psychological depth. This origin suggests that Kyle had a dual personality, and that her amnesia released her dark side, leading her not only to turn criminal, but to heighten her sexuality.
No, and neither is Catwoman in Batman Returns.
There's pretty obvious sexual references. Catwoman says "Who are you? Who's the man behind the bat? Maybe you can help me find the woman behind the cat" as she runs her hand down his body armored chest she says "That's not you" and she runs her hand down (out of camera so we don't see where her hand is) and she says "Ahh, there you are." And Batman starts to smile, but then she thrusts her claws into his side and he swats her down. At the masquerade ball when Bruce says "So, no hard feelings then", Selina presses against him and says "Actually, semi-hard, I'd say. There's a big, comfy California King (size bed) over in Bedding (in Max's store). What do you say?" Bruce says, "We take off our costumes?" She says, "I guess I'm tired of wearing masks." He says, "Me, too." etc. But as they are about to leave the ballroom, the Penguin crashes the party.
Claiming that Batman and Batman Returns are not Batman movies is nonsense. Batman's not speaking much and making big speeches and spouting one-liners because Tim Burton and Micheal Keaton wanted to keep Batman mysterious and eerily silent. Batman Returns writer Daniel Waters said "He's the only actor I know who would go through my script that goes 'I should say less here, I should say less here.' I had so many angry Batman rant speeches and he's like, 'Batman would never say that. Batman should just say this line right here.'" Batman was created as a mysterious character modeled after the Shadow.
Tim Burton said on the Batman Returns DVD special feature Shadows of the Bat: The Cinematic Saga of the Dark Knight: Part 4 The Dark Side of the Knight, "I remember hearing, 'Oh, in the first movie the Joker stole the show and in the second movie Batman's hardly in it, it's all about Catwoman and Penguin.' I always felt those people were missing the point of the character of Batman. This guy wants to remain as hidden as possible, as in the shadows as possible, as unrevealing about himself as possible. So he's not gonna eat up screentime by making big speeches and dancing around the Batcave. I always felt he was in it the right amount and the right level of him."
Batman is self-reliant, a natural leader, the greatest detective, the strategist, decision maker, etc. Chris Nolan and Christian Bale's Batman is lacking in that, while Cain's Alfred and Freeman's Lucius Fox do a lot of the thinking for him. The suit, the utility belt, the Batmobile, the weapons all came from Fox rather than invented by Nolan's Batman. Alfred comes up with the idea of ordering parts of the cowls from Singapore, via a dummy corporation and then separately place an order to a Chinese company for the ears for the cowl. Alfred says they'll have to be large orders, to avoid suspicion. 10,000. Nolan's Batman looks shocked and dumbfounded and says "Well, at least we'll have sparse." Alfred figures out that there is a problem with the graphite in the mask. The next 10,000 will be up to specifications. Alfred explains to Nolan's Batman that in the mean time he better avoid landing on his head. Even the Bruce Wayne playboy act was also Alfred's idea in Nolan's movies, as Alfred says, "Strange injuries, A none-existent social life. These things beg the question as to what exactly does Bruce Wayne do with his time and his money." Nolan's Bruce asks, "What does someone like me do?" Alfred says, "Drive sports cars, date movie stars. Buy things that are not for sale. Who knows, you start pretending to have fun you might even have a little by accident." After Batman has been victim of Scarecrow's fear toxin, Fox says "I analyzed your blood, isolating the receptor compounds and the protein-based catalyst." Nolan's Batman replies dumbfounded, "Am I meant to understand any of that?" Fox says, "Not at all. I just wanted you to know how hard it was. Bottom line, I synthesized an antidote." Nolan's Batman replies sheepishly, "Could you make more for me?" Fox states, "I'll bring what I have. The antidote should inoculate you for now." Nolan's Batman asks, "How long would it take to manufacture on a large scale?" Fox says, "Weeks, why?" Nolan's Batman says, "Somebody's planning to disperse the toxin in the water supply." Fox says, "A water supply won't help you disperse an inhalant. Unless you have a microwave emitter powerful enough to vaporize all the water in the mains. A microwave emitter like the one Wayne Enterprises just misplaced." So Fox was the one that figured out about the microwave emitter scheme, too. Etc., etc.
Tim Burton said in the Batman DVD commentary, "I knew right away that I wanted to be more pure to what the comic book was originally. We were doing something different from peoples perception of Batman, most people only knew the campy TV series, which was a complete opposite tone. There was a fear with comics fans that given what I'd done before (comedies Pee-wee's Big Adventure, Beetlejuice), my tendency would be to go do something like the TV series. But that was the furthest thing from my mind. I wasn't a huge comic book fan but I did love Batman, because of the Phantom of the Opera-like nature of it. I'd grown up watching horror films and also understood the psychology of the character. The hiding in the shadows. I knew right away that I wanted to be more pure to what the comic book was originally. It was really important to us to get into the psychology of the Batman character. We tried to give him the profile that he wanted. It's a scary figure. It's Phantom-esque. 'Is it human? Is it not human?' Keeping that sort of mystery that the character wanted to create for himself. The reason why the guy dresses up like a bat is because he's trying to create a menacing persona for himself. He has to create this look with this costume to make himself scarier."
In Sam Hamm's interview in the 1989 Comics Interview Super-Special on Batman screenwriter Sam Hamm says, "I was at the World Science Fiction Convention and they were showing slides of Batman's various weapons and gadgets, and the Batwing -- our version of the Batplane -- came up on the screen, Jeff Walker, the Warner Brothers publicist, mentioned that it was outfitted with rocket launchers, machine guns, etc., etc., so somebody jumped up in the back of the room and said, 'Do you mean Batman is going to be using a gun!?' As if to say, 'Uh-oh, the canon has been violated.' The thing I said to the guy was if you want to go back to the roots of the character, back to when he was created, he did carry a gun. In the early comics there are scenes where he's pulling out the old .38 automatic and popping guys."
Producer Michael Uslan said he had shown Tim Burton the early Batman comics from 1939-1940 as inspiration, so Michael Keaton was authentic to what the creators intended as a noir-style mysterious eerie brutal vigilante like the Shadow, before all of the comic book censorship from the DC Editorial Advisory Board in the '40s and the Comics Code in the '50s toned Batman waaaay down to the Adam West-esque lighthearted comedic silliness.
Here's the Michael Uslan quote: "I only let Tim see the original year of the Bob Kane/Bill Finger run, up until the time that Robin was introduced. I showed him the Steve Englehart/Marshall Rogers and the Neal Adams/Denny O'Neil stories. My biggest fear was that somehow Tim would get hold of the campiest Batman comics and then where would we be?" www.batman-on-film.com/interview_muslan_2.html
And I know Tim Burton also read the Frank Miller Dark Knight Returns and the Alan Moore/Brain Bolland Killing Joke.
Batman, as originally created by writer Bill Finger and artist Bob Kane, deliberately killed villains in the 1939/1940 comics, until DC was censored by DC's Editorial Advisory Board and the Comics Code Authority. Batman in the Cosmic Odyssey (1988) comic deliberately killed a villain, again. Batman in the Tim Burton/Michael Keaton movies, Batman (1989) and Batman Returns (1992), deliberately killed villains.
Bill Finger and Bob Kane's Batman kills. It was censorship that forced that to stop in the comics. It's explained in Bob Kane's autobiography Batman & Me (1990): "We had our first brush with censorship over Batman's use of a gun in BATMAN #1. In one story in that issue he had a machine gun mounted on his Batplane and used it. We didn't think anything was wrong with Batman carrying guns because the Shadow used guns. Bill Finger was called on to the carpet by Whitney Ellsworth. He said 'Never let Batman carry a gun again!' The editors thought that making Batman a 'murderer' would taint his character, and mothers would object. The new editorial policy was to get away from Batman's vigilantism and bring him over to the side of the law. So he was remade as an honorary member of the police. The whole moral climate changed in the 1940-1941 period. You couldn't kill or shot villains anymore. DC prepared it's own comics code which every artist and writer had to follow. He wasn't the Dark Knight anymore with all the censorship."
An Editorial Advisory Board was created by DC comics editorial director Whitney Ellsworth as early as Octobor, 1941. Whitney Ellsworth's widow Jane Ellsworth's letter from May 23, 1990 to Superman George Reeves historian Jim Nolt said, "His philosophy in regard to the comic books was that they were for children; that they should be fun, clean, non-violent, and that the English should be correct (allowing for some slang). This is pretty much what became the "Comics Code," and it stood DC in good stead when the national investigation into violence in the comic books occurred."
This is from the transcript of the 1954 Senate hearings showing the Editorial Board rules that they writer and artist had to follow at DC from 1941 to 1954:
EDITORIAL POLICY FOR SUPERMAN DC PUBLICATIONS
"1. Sex. ─ The inclusion of females in stories is specifically discouraged. Women, when used in plot structure, should be secondary in importance, and should be drawn realistically, without exaggeration of feminine physical qualities.
2. Language. ─ Expessions having reference to the Deity are forbidden. Heroes and other "good” persons must use basically good English, through some slang and other colloquialism may be judiciously employed. Poor grammar is used only by crooks and villains ─ and not always by them.
3. Bloodshed. ─ Characters ─ even villains ─ should never be shown bleeding. No character should be shown being stabbed or shot or otherwise assaulted so that the sanguinary result is visible. Acts of mayhem are specifically forbidden. The picturization of dead bodies is forbidden.
4. Torture. ─ The use of chains, whips, or other such devices is forbidden. Anything having a sexual or sadistic implication is forbidden.
5. Kidnaping. ─ The kidnaping of children is specifically forbidden. The kidnaping of women is discouraged, and must never have any sexual implication.
6. Killing. ─ Heroes should never kill a villain, regardless of the depth of the villainy. The villain, If he is to die, should do so as the result of his own evil machinations. A specific exception may be made in the case of duly constituted officers of the law. The use of lethal weapons by women ─ even villainous women ─ is discouraged.
7. Crime. ─ Crime should be depicted in all cases as sordid and unpleasant. Crime and criminals must never be glamorized. All stories must be written and depicted from the angle of the law ─ never the reverse. Justice must triumph in every case.
In general, the policy of Superman DC Publications is to provide interesting, dramatic, and reasonably exciting entertainment without having recourse to such artificial devices as the use of exaggerated physical manifestations of sex, sexual situations, or situations in which violence is emphasized sadistically. Good people should be good, and bad people bad, without middle ground shading. Good people need not be "stuffy" to be good, but bad people should not be excused. Heroes should act within the law, and for the law." www.thecomicbooks.com/dybwad.h…
Those restrictions obviously limited story possibilities and castrated the DC characters in the comics into very bland and generic comics in the rest of the 1940s and the 1950s. DC's Editorial Board was replaced with the creation of the Comics Code Authority in 1954. Until Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Denny O'Neil and Neal Adams persuaded DC and Marvel to get the Comics Code changed in 1971 allowing more creative freedom in comics again so characters could be vigilante outlaws, corruption of the law could exist, some blood could be shown, characters could kill, characters could die, drug addiction could exist and vampires could exist. The Comics Code ended in 2011.
Michael Keaton's Batman killed villains either in self-defense or in defense of innocents. In Batman: Dropping the black man, who was trying to kill Batman, from the top of the Cathedral was in self-defense. From the Batwing he shot some the Joker's armed gang members who were intent on killing him. That was in self-defense. When he killed members of the Joker's gang when he destroyed the Axis Chemical plant and the chemicals they were poisoning and killing innocent civilians with he was doing violent deeds in defense of innocent civilians. In Batman Returns: When he burned the Red Triangle gangs flame thrower with the flames from the Batmobile's jet engine he was defending innocent bystanders. The flame thrower was burning innocent bystanders. Blowing up the Red Triangle gangs tattooed strong man who was intent on killing Batman was in self-defense. Killing in self-defense or in defense of innocent victims is not murder.
In the first one he discovers who killed his parents and confronts the killer of his parents and effectively avenges his parents death and makes the decision to continue warring on crime. That's an emotional journey for the character. In the second one he meets Catwoman both as Catwoman and Selina Kyle and obviously sees much of himself in her and fall in love with her and opens himself up to her but it sadly doesn't work out the way he wanted because she is still an unpredictable villainous. That's another different kind of an emotional journey for the character with this strange love-hate relationship with Catwoman.
His dedicating his life to warring on crime is shown through his actions, his childhood trauma (witnessing his parents murders) is shown, dressing as a bat obviously to create a frightening persona is shown, Batman as a vigilante is shown, his close relationship with Alfred who is more than just a butler but his parental figure who raised him is made clear when Alfred is explaining to Vicki about Bruce when he was a little boy and when Alfred explains that he does not wish to spend his remaining years grieving for the lose of old friends or their son, and Alfred trying to get Bruce to lighten up and have a relationship with a nice woman and stop being obsessed with his parents murder and warring on crime for the rest of his life, his philanthropist side is shown with his charity ball, his playboy Bruce Wayne persona is shown with Vicki Vale, his business side is shown with Max Shreck, his romance interest and true love for Catwoman is shown. His detective skills are shown as he learned which products Joker was poisoning and that it's when the products are mixed that they become toxic and deadly and he learned that Penguin knew who his parents were and that Penguin had been with the Red Triangle circus since he was a child and that the Red Triangle circus had been abducting children on the fairgrounds, even his skills as a mechanic are shown when he is repairing the Batmobile.
Tim Burton doesn't dislike comic books. Tim Burton said, "I was never a giant comic book fan, but I've always loved the image of Batman and the Joker. The reason I've never been a comic book fan - and it started when I was a child - is because I could never tell which box I was supposed to read. That's why I loved the Killing Joke, because for the first time I could tell which one to read. It's my favorite. It's the first comic I've ever loved." That Tim Burton quote is from the book Burton on Burton.
In his Batman commentary he explained, "I liked the Killing Joke because I think part of the problem for me, why I wasn't really a comic book fan too much when I was a child was, I don't know if I had dyslexia or whatever, I didn't know which box to read first. And the thing I liked about the Killing Joke was it was very visual. It was almost like storyboards for a film. It had a filmic quality to it, and the writing was sort of minimal, and it was just more cinematic to me that way and I liked the seriousness of it and the psychology of it. There was some inspiration for me."
Interesting Siskel and Ebert reviews of Batman and Barman Returns:
Roger Ebert: "From out of the comic books and into the movies, the Caped Crusader opens his newest adventure in Batman."
Gene Siskel: "The eagerly awaited Batman, although it's not perfect, is the first 1989 summer spectacular that I've really enjoyed. I think that has to do with it not being a sequel. There's some true originality in the films art design, sound and performances. As it's been reported, this is a darker Batman, not at all like the campy '60s TV show. Jack Nicholson stars as criminal Jack Naper. He's out to rob a chemical factory with police and Batman, Michael Keaton, in pursuit. Jack Naper turns into the twisted character of the Joker after Batman throws him into a vat of chemicals, scaring his face, thus natural enemies are born. Out of uniform Batman is, of course, millionaire Bruce Wayne, who draws the attention of photographer Vicki Vale, played by Kim Basinger. She's tipsy at the end of their first date. The three main players are brought together when the Joker tries to disfigure Vicki Vale with acid as part of his crime wave. The film plays down Batman's paraphernalia, save for the last act - a confrontation between Batman and Joker in the street and sky above Gotham City. The Batwing plane looks like a little model there, so does the Batmobile in some shots. Director Tim Burton obviously wanted to recall the original comic book look, as well as tell a more adult kind of story and that adult approach is what I found so refreshing about this Batman movie. We have so many films these days that are being made for the teenage audience, films that look like overblown TV shows. Here's a motion picture with all adult stars, troubled characters and a dark look. It's a shame that that approach has to be considered a risk these days, but I'm certainly glad the approach was taken. I enjoyed this Batman."
Roger Ebert: "You said you enjoyed it more than any of the other entertainment motion pictures of the summer of 1989. I certainly didn't think it was as much fun as the Indiana Jones film."
Gene Siskel: "More fun for me. I felt I'd been through that Indiana Jones one before."
Roger Ebert: "As I looked at Batman, the thing that struck me most of all was the art direction. Gotham City in this movie is one of the most original places in the movies. It was very well done. It reminded me of places like Metropolis in the movie by Fritz Lang, or the futuristic Las Angeles in the movie Blade Runner by Ridley Scott. So I thought that the art direction was sensational. I thought the special effects were good. I thought those buildings looked like they went up a mile and a half up into the sky. I thought the dark film noir look of the film was very nice. But I didn't care about anything that happened in the movie. I never really found that these characters became people that I could get involved with. I felt that Nicholson as the Joker went on way too long, he was on too often, he was doing the same thing over and over. I found the relationship between Bruce Wayne and Vicki Vale didn't work at all. In fact, when she's in the Batcave and she see's for the first time that Bruce Wayne is in fact Batman, do you remember what her reaction was? She had no reaction. They left the reaction out of the film. They didn't even care to show that she was surprised."
Gene Siskel: "No, she knew. And I think there are indications throughout the motion picture that these people know who they are in other lives, in other alter egos."
Roger Ebert: "Well, in all these Batman movies the superhero wears a mask that covers the top half of his face, it's like RoboCop. Well, anyone can see that it's Micheal Keaton. But the whole deal in the movie is your not suppose to notice that until the person takes off the mask and you say 'Oh my god. It's Bruce Wayne.' So she didn't know."
Gene Siskel: "That isn't the whole business of the motion picture. I thought the Bruce Wayne character was a fascinating guy. Rather than playing this as just a strong man, I thought it was interesting to show this guy as sort of conflicted about it."
Roger Ebert: "Well, that's a modern touch that I wasn't surprised by. It's not only a dark film, a film noir, but also there's a great deal of hostility and anger in this film. There's a great deal of bad feeling in it. And it's not a film for children. It's not for kids. It's an extremely, extremely disturbing film."
Gene Siskel: "Aren't you glad to be disturbed?"
Roger Ebert: "I would have been glad to be disturbed by a film that made me care. That was able to not only use it's special effects, but encompass and surpass the special effects with a story, because the one thing Spielberg knows in his special effect pictures is you've got to have strong characters and a strong story or the special effects simply become something nice to look at."
Gene Siskel: "I felt I had entered a complete world. A psychological world and a visual world. I bought it. I think the ending runs on too long. That's a problem in the third act that a lot of action pictures have."
Roger Ebert: "Well, I admire the look of the motion picture. We just don't agree on whether the film works or not."
Gene Siskel: "A split vote on Batman. We both agree that the special effects, art direction and sound of the film are special. I enjoyed the dark approach to the adult characters, too. But Roger didn't care enough about them. I think you're off on Batman. I think you had a better time. You know it's a smarter movie."
Roger Ebert: "If your so good at telling me I had a better time then what I felt and how I thought then I don't know why it's necessary for me to be on this show."
Gene Siskel: "I've thought about that, too."
Roger Ebert: "Because obviously I'm wrong about my opinions and you know exactly what I really think. I'm telling you this: One of the things the movies can give us is a thing or a place or a experience we haven't had before, and I got that out of Batman."
Gene Siskel: "Okay."
Roger Ebert: "I loved the look of Gotham City. I'm just telling you the drama wasn't equal to the production."
Gene Siskel: "I think the look of the film is stronger, but the story is good enough."
Roger Ebert: "A key scene from Batman, one of the most popular movies among grade school kids, and what you saw there was young Bruce Wayne's parents being mugged and murdered by street criminals while the little boy looked on. These days you have to have a pretty thick skin to be a kid with the movies. Not very long ago in this country, kids went to the neighborhood library to check out books. These days they go to the neighborhood video store to check out movies. The books kids checked out wouldn't have surprised anybody, in those years ago. they were exciting, romantic and filled with a sense of wonder. The movies the kids are looking at like Batman are exciting too, but with a big difference. they contain a dark and depressing vision of the world. a world of violence and despair. What is it with kids today? Why are they attracted to the stories that would have scared and depressed children from earlier, gentler, more innocent generations. Sure, kids still watch the kinds of movies that are traditionally thought of as children's films like The Little Mermaid, but their favor these days are films like Batman and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Kids use to be scared that something bad might happen to Lassie, now Batman involves a kids parents being brutally mugged and killed. The hero in the old days fought for True, Justice and the American Way (Superman). Now the popular heroes want revenge (Batman). The most popular movies to kids nowadays feature a hero who wants revenge in films like Batman and RoboCop. What I want to know is what are the kids thinking today when they see a dark world where parents are mugged and murdered and the bad guys live in big houses and the safest place is down in a cave (like Batman), and the sewers like those Turtles."
Gene Siskel: "I don't know that children are attracted to it. I don't know that they have much of a choice. I think that whats happened is this hard edged stuff has just knocked out the sweet stuff, and kids are getting this because this is what is really offered and sold hard, very hard to them, and so they want to see it because that's whats there to see. I have two children of my own, young kids, and it bothers me. I see a real threat here. I also see sort of a poisoning of what the movie theater can be. I know when their older they can handle action stuff but at this stage, at the tender age, 7 and under, I want them to embrace something a little more life affirming. It's very, very hard to find it."
Roger Ebert: "There should always be something fun in the movies, not something that scares you and makes you cry. Even in films like Disney's The Rescuers Down Under, I was at that screening, I heard you're daughter crying during that one scene. I thought, 'Gee, this is suppose to be entertaining for kids.' Another thing they do with some of the action pictures and on children's television they really push the toy produces that are tied in with them so the kids feel like their missing the boat unless they have a RoboCop toy and yet at the same time the movie is R rated, it's not really made for kids."
Gene Siskel: "I can tell you from first hand experience. You take you're child to a movie these day and you've got one hand ready to cover their eyes and that's too bad."
Gene Siskel: "My pick for a family oriented movie is Crusoe. A little seen, more socially conscious version of the classic story featuring Aidan Quinn as a ship wrecked solo. The movie was directed by Caleb Deschanel, who's film the Black Stallion is another classic nature motion picture. The unique spin on this production is that Robinson Crusoe is is not presented as some kind of a rascal adventurer, but rather as a slave trader who comes to embrace Africans only after he begins living among them."
Roger Ebert: "Crusoe is a real good film, and like the Black Stallion, it shows this world of the sea and the beach and the jungle as a vast and wondrous universe, instead of just some backlot set of some sort. We're really convinced that he's out there in the middle of this somewhere."
Gene Siskel: "And that's why this Caleb Deschanel has to be considered a real hero for parents, because he's making quality family films in a way that other people are simply not doing."
Roger Ebert: "Caleb Deschanel makes films for children that adults can like. My choice for a family movie worth seeing is The Bear. A film that may seem like a strange selection in a way because it opens with a bear cub experiencing the death of it's mother, and that might look like another example the theme I was complaining about. That kids favorite movies like Batman make the heroes into orphans. The Bear is a different kind of family movie, a film that accepts the realities of life but also contains lessons to be learned and a vision to be absorbed. A vision of the life of a wild animal bear cub growing up in the mountains far from man. It took more than a year to film The Bear on those natural locations because every scene had to be pieced together from dozens of different shots. It's not easy to turn bears into movie actors, but the result is a magnificent adventure. Not a sugar coated animal fable but a movie that respects it's subject and it's audience encourages kids to ask some tough questions afterwards. A lot of children's movies are like fast food. You can hardly remember them after you've been there and their not terrifically good for ya. The Bear encourages it's viewers to really think."
Gene Siskel: "The Bear is a good movie I would say for older children over the age of 8."
Gene Siskel: "Micheal Keaton is back as the Dark Knight pursuing two very different villains in Batman Returns."
Roger Ebert: "Batman Returns is another excursion into the dark and murky world of Gotham City, where a bizarre band of characters enact their twisted destinies. This sequel once again stars Michael Keaton in the title role, and once again Batman is more of an enigma than a leading man. Little effort is made to get behind his elaborate facade, although he's back with as many high-tech gadgets as ever. What's new this time are some fresh characters, including a romantic interest of sorts for Batman - Michelle Pfeiffer plays Catwoman. Also new is Danny DeVito as the Penguin - a grotty little man who was abandoned by his parents, raised in the sewers and now wants revenge on society. But the real villain this time is tycoon Max Schreck, played by Christopher Walken, a power-hungry manipulator who wants to drain Gotham of it's energy. Batman Returns was once again directed by Tim Burton, who's credits also include Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands. Burton is one of the most interesting stylists at work in the movies today. His movies are always terrific to look at. Batman Returns is constantly fascinating as a visual experience. But it's sort of hard to care about this movie. The storyline is confusing, the characters are only sketchly developed, and it's impossible to get in involved in the fantastical story. I always felt I was watching from the outside. There are some strange contractions here, Batman Returns is not a successful movie, but it is, visually at least, an inspired one."
Gene Siskel: "I think there are elements to get involved in within the story. I did and I enjoyed the motion picture. I enjoyed the Penguin and the Catwoman characters. I think Michelle Pfeiffer is a good comedian and does good light comedy when we see her as the office work who's going to be turned into Catwoman after she's abused. Then Danny DeVito I thought was actually pretty threatening and sad as this former little baby, this ill formed baby who was abandoned. This is what Tim Burton does - he gives us characters, including Batman himself, who all have this private pain that they then work out publicly."
Roger Ebert: "Yeah, but the thing is with Catwoman and the Penguin is that they emerge, they develop as characters, we get their back-story, and then they don't go anywhere. There is no engine pulling this train. There is no story to really get us from the beginning of this movie to the end. Instead what you have are set pieces, set design, character design, costume design, even personality design, but no narrative (story)."
Gene Siskel: "The problem in the motion picture is the Max Schreck character. Frankly he isn't particularly interesting and his story and what he wants to do, and how these other two characters fit in, that isn't worked out. But the point is that in seeing this story, I saw this as a personal story rather than an action story."
Roger Ebert: "Yeah, but the thing is that maybe if the Penguin character or the Schreck character had been given some kind of agenda, because the problem is that you have the two most interesting characters basically just standing around as participants in somebody else's story."
Gene Siskel: "There's no need for Max Schreck, Christopher Walken, in this motion picture at all."
Roger Ebert: "And I'll say once again that Burton makes great looking pictures."
Gene Siskel: "A split vote on Batman Returns. Roger liked the look of the picture better than the story. I enjoyed the tortured characters of the Penguin and Catwoman."
Links to the televised Batman reviews: