September 20, 2013

Seeing that life in magazine form last week reminded me that Jack Nicholson was in the 1989 Batman movie, and how surprised I was when I finally watched it, roundabout 2009 and found it just about as silly as the Joel Shoemaker Batman films it was supposed to be powers greater than. I was expecting a dark, edgy Batman but it was preposterous. I thought the sequel, 1992’s Batman Returns would have to be better, due to lacking The Joker and any totally inappropriate Prince songs, but I forgot that Danny Devito was in it and Michael Keaton again.

This is a good role for Danny Devito, but not a good role for a film that thinks it is anything apart from ludicrous. I only got to seeing it a few months before now. I do things at my own pace! It isn’t such a big deal that 12 years passed between when I started college and received a bachelor degree when it took me almost twice as long to watch two Batman films. And even considering that tastes change in such a period, it was hard for me to take, especially after encountering for much of that length the notion of how badly the subsequent films made a solid and noble franchise abruptly laughable.

It is “dark” in the respect that people get shot and fall out of buildings, but it is still a smirking hokefest that makes the title character look more clownish than his adversaries (many of whom are actual clowns). Bruce Wayne comes across like a total goof with his weird haircut, christmas sweaters and Glenn Beck glasses.

Do I just have the wrong expectations? The better Batman comics support a view that Batman is “real” with Bruce Wayne a persona maintained to preserve secrecy and financing for Batman’s operations, so if it serves his purposes to have Bruce be a dork he will do it. But here he is dorking it up as Bruce Wayne in the Batcave. BRUCE WAYNE IS NOT ALLOWED IN THE BATCAVE!

Clearly sweaters are important to Bruce Wayne, since he sometimes buys extra airplane seats for them, but he does not wear them unless urgent circumstances require it, and never in the Batcave!
This film just treats him like Clark Kent without magic powers, though, so in this context I am supposed to believe that this is how somebody who becomes Batman wants to be perceived. If possible he would quit being Batman and have his butler bring him hot chocolate all day. A more convincing Batman wouldn’t know what to do with himself if the crime ran out. I relate to that Batman because nobody can really relate to him.

Not only is Christopher Walken, who is absurd, prominently in the film, there is another person in it doing an impression of Walken, and both are less ridiculous than the main characters DESPITE wearing bowties.

I especially disliked the ruse through which Bruce Wayne puts Penguin back into public disfavor amidst his promising mayoral campaign. Penguin is giving a speech, and then Bruce jams up in the frequency of the speech. I know this because there are several scenes of him jamming frequencies while Alfred wears ridiculous headphones and gives “OK!!!” gestures and a television monitor shows the message “JAMMING FREQUENCY.” This causes, to emit from the Penguin’s loudspeakers, some audio Batman had recorded earlier of the Penguin saying something like “ha ha, got em!” and then Wayne loops it endlessly, which proves the Penguin means it, because he said it so many times.

The actual line is “You gotta admit, I played this stinkin’ city like a harp from hyellll!” which is a peculiar phrase and I had to hear it about 20 times to figure out what it was. The audience only hears it about 15 times but recognize it immediately. “NOBODY plays Gotham city like a harp from hell by golly ohare! ESPECIALLY not after calling it stinkin’!”

Even though it is weird and bruce wayne is doing some mix dj scratch thing to it that should make it obvious as an altered voice, even though he CAN’T do that because he is playing a compact disc and not a vinyl record, which means the sound data is stored digitally and not in a linear analog fashion, but Tim Burton just thought “CDs, those are like high-tech records, right? Those sound like things Batman would have” without considering that they operate differently, even though it should be obvious because there is no needle. I would accept this from the Adam West Bat-Man series, but nobody had CDs then so the situation did not arise.

So this one bit of audio out of context, that clearly is not being spoken by the speaker or any non-robot and that doesn’t follow from the speech he had been giving at all is instantly taken as full, inarguable proof of Penguin’s full corruption by every person in the city who likes him even though there only appear to be about fifty attending his speech, which suggests he had no hope of being elected anyway. None of those people wonder “where is this looped bit of inexpertly remixed audio coming from? Should we so quickly doubt this man we came from so far to trust?”

Penguin makes no effort to explain it, despite his gift for schemes and misleading people and having already established that people are prejudiced against him, and the audience begins literally speaking some very enunciated “boo!”s accompanied by Tony the Tiger gestures, followed by tossing obscene amounts of produce, which Penguin identifies as “eggs and tomaytas” on camera as lettuce and tomatoes strike his umbrella.

They generate it out of their hands like they are monsters from video games. This whole scene could have been presented absurdly, to show that the people of Gotham City are fickle and treat politics like a vaudeville show, but it is presented as if it is plausible.
I don’t think there is a way to do that plausibly!

I hate hate hate that plot contrivance. I hated it in UHF der film and that one episode of the simpsons, although those two were even less plausible. In both of them some rich guy boasted about how he tricked people, and a clever protagonist started filming it and this was instantly broadcast on every television box in the world without a batcave full of computers to jam with frequencies or interrupt current programming. You turn on the camera and everybody everywhere sees it and despite how weird that is, they trust it.
It must be acknowledged that this is normally one of Joker’s schemes. He is constantly taking over every broadcast outlet at once and threatening people, and it’s never explained how, in the context of this world that is supposed to be so gritty and hard-realistic. TV is just MAGIC.
After all that, as I said, Penguin pulls out his umbrella to defend against the killer eggs and then opens fire on the crowd. Fortunately they all have military training and instantly drop to foxhole position and none are killed. Still, as the only person in town who knows Penguin’s umbrella is made out of a machine-gun, Batman should have been THERE and beating Penguin up in front of people instead of pulling tricks out of Bosko cartoons. The REASON for the roundabout method is that the public adores the Penguin for reasons demonstrated as expertly and convincingly as anything else in the film and Batman cannot beat him up without exposing him as a fraud first. Except Batman CAN do that because Batman is unconcerned with public opinion when there is a risk of potential parents being shot. It works in Batman’s favor when criminals think he is NOT working with the police. Since this is Batman versus the Penguin and not Flagstroop McGrit versus Arab-looking Fellow there isn’t any risk of the “SEE? Unlawful detention and torture saves LIVES” subtext that our present biased left-wing media loves so much.

Also consider that Wayne jams not the broadcast television signal, but the connection from Penguin’s microphone to the local amplification system, because the people in that crowd there hear the edit. That means Wayne had to go all the way to city hall, mess with the wires on those specific microphones, then go all the way back to the Batcave to engineer his giggle symphony.
the actual “fight” between batman and penguin lasts about 7 seconds, and then penguin’s hideout explodes for 20 minutes. All in all a film that exists.

All this is not to say that Batman Forever is superior or as good or any good –I have not viewed it in its entirety since its initial release and recall nothing of substance about it–, merely that its descent into hokeyness is consistent and picks up where Tim Burton left off. Let us be rid of the fantasy that Tim Burton directed great and sensible Batman Films. When people say Batman Returns is “dark,” that just means there is blood in it, and possibly worse lighting. That does not have any bearing on how stupid it isn’t. Batman Forever is the “less dark” and it still finds an opportunity to present the mentally disabled as hilarious morons wearing 1930s straight jackets. (Disregarding this time that the name “asylum” suggests the residents should have some safety there, since Arkham Asylum is accepted to primarily house unrepentant murderers). It may not be reasonable to expect anything more mature than that from a film series about a man who dresses like a bat to combat people who dress like other animals.

People that I have met in person claim the ABC saturday morning sonic hedgehog cartoon is “darker” than a contemporary syndicated cartoon series that was consciously ridiculous. Alright, but it’s still abundantly embarrassing, and without being able to blame anything on Japanese weirdness.
My favorite scene that I recall shows 2-Face at The Circus, where he threatens to [something] if Batman did not reveal himself. Of course Bruce Wayne IS at The Circus, so he stands up and starts yelling out “I’m Batman!” over and over again but nobody hears him doing that. I tried to find that scene in your tube but all I found were dorks who video-recorded their heads emitting the exact same reviews this movie got when it came out 18 bloody years ago, plus a staggering amount of gorbos playing, and usually not especially well, the innumerable worse ports of the already terrible Super Nintendo game vaguely based on the film. If people will watch THAT then they don’t need to be complaining about the less bad thing that is based on.


First of all that is not an argument, and not my fault anyhow! I think the case could be made that if Batman Forever had not have been produced, Batman Returns could never have been favorably compared against it, and people would see it for what it is and be less inclined to

That is enough for today.

2 Responses
  1. 1
    3:03 pm, September 21, 2013

    Purplespace sez:

    I saw the first of those bat movies, but I did not see him return. I did see a clip demonstrating that the Cat-Woman gets everywhere by doing backflips, which seems highly inefficient!
    I have also seen that same tactic used to make the good guy look bad with some edited picture or recording taken out of context. Inexplicably, everyone turns on the hero without questioning where said recording came from, sometimes even presented by a villain that everyone should trust even less than the hero.
    Batman can’t seem to decide if it wants to keep with the original comic setting or take place today. It ends up with everyone having computers and CD players, but still dressing and acting like its the early 1950s and driving around in their Ford Fairlane!

  2. 2
    11:59 pm, September 24, 2013

    Heapinfrimp sez:

    Usually the hero gets a chance to show that the misunderstanding was garbage, though!

    There was a time when Batman was the only person in Gotham City who had a computer!
    Writers and management tend to assume that they must stay “current” to keep readers. I think it would work just fine to have this character from the first half of the 20th century be perpetually kept there, like Tintin (who actually adapted for “the times” but not in any significant way), but as far as I can tell, especially knowing what I do of the “golden” and “silver” ages of comic books, that there weren’t any non-hokey Batman stories accepted for publication until the 1980s except as an exception, and from there technology just kept going. I believe we can credit the 1989 film for resetting the atmosphere outside the cave, purely for the visual effect, which subsequent comics and cartoons maintained. The gorgeously rendered but illogical, possibly idiotic will always find an audience.

    I suppose I might take Batman more seriously than he deserves.
    I certainly hoard plenty of really dumb Batman pictures specifically to use them out of context, and made little effort at mining that supply for this here.

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