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Batman box set: You'd be Bats to miss this,
This review is from: The Batman Legacy (Batman/Batman Returns/Batman Forever/Batman and Robin) [DVD] (DVD)
A fine box set collecting the four Batman films released from 1989 to 1997. All films are the single disc versions, extras are very limited.
Batman: Tim Burton's 1989 reimagining of the Batman universe is a masterpiece. Totally eschewing the rather camp and comic Adam West style, and taking a dark path that better represented the gothic graphic strip origins. It was the film that set the trend for later morally complicated superhero tales with its musings on vigilantism. Burton was also rather inspired in his choice of Jack Nicholson to play the Joker, who plays a villain so charismatic and colourful that you almost favour him over the dour, brooding bat.
The film centres around the essential nature of the Batman. He is a vigilante, willing to cross the law so that he can uphold what he sees as justice for those who cannot fend for themselves. During his fight against the underworld of Gotham City he inadvertently creates a monster in the form of the Joker, brilliantly played by an unhinged Jack Nicholson. He must then fight to destroy the Joker and end the reign of terror he unleashes. At the same time he must also be Bruce Wayne, playboy billionaire, and control the conflicts within that arise from his two very different personas.
With big thrills and a decent lashing of humour along the way, along with Burton's trademark Gothic stylings this is a lot of fun that really entertains, but also a film that has a well thought through and interesting plot and character study that means it delivers on many levels. Superb.
Batman Returns: For some reason, this sequel to the original and impressive Tim Burton Batman film failed to hit the mark for me. I don't know why. Filled with Burton's typically twisted Gothic vision, with great actors in the form of Christopher Walken and Danny DeVito as the villains and a very sexy Michelle Pfeiffer in the leather catsuit it should have been a treat. But for some reason I just couldn't get into it.
Burton once again takes us on a dark trip into the soul, examining the motivations of all the villains and heroes. Michael Keaton once again impresses as the brooding Bat, walking the line between dark and light and with the split personality. The villains, while never quite matching Jack Nicholson's gleefully manic charismatic showing as the Joker all do well with memorable showings. But it really doesn't gel. Maybe it's not as dark as the original, not quite as coherent in focus now that there are more characters to look at and understand, or perhaps verging into silly at times. But for me something just does not click and it's not a film I rewatch that often. 3 stars.
Batman forever: After the supremely dark and atmospheric films with Tim Burton at the helm, the studios decided to try and go for a younger audience and hired director Joel Schumacher to helm the third film. The tone is lighter from the outset, though with Burton's hand still on the tiller in the form of producer it manages to reign it in a bit and gives a film that is the right mix of dark and camp. Val Kilmer dons the cape for this outing, and he proves to be an able Wayne/Batman, here mentoring young Dick Grayson and trying to prevent him following the same dark path. He manages to bring across all the facets of the character very well. Tommy Lee Jones has gleeful manic fun as Two-Face, the ultimate split personality. He's a bit camp and schoolboyish at times, but it's all good fun. Jim Carrey almost steals the show as the Riddler, in a role that was just perfect for his brand of OTT mannerisms. With a host of great one liners and some good ideas, this is a decent film, and probably the most entertaining of the series. It's not as dark as the first two to be sure, but it does what it sets out to do effectively and delivers a couple of hours solid entertainment. I kind of prefer the darker tone of the first film, but that's just a matter of taste. 4 stars.
Batman and Robin: I know it's a controversial view, and I am probably inviting the opprobrium of the Burton fans upon my head, but I thought Joel Schumacher's first Batman film was a pretty decent affair, managing to blend the darkness and the campness effectively to provide a good solid entertainment. So why did it all go so terribly wrong for this, his second (and perhaps mercifully) last Batman film? A film so bad that its main star (Clooney) apologised to fans for it.
First of all the script. It's just TOO campy, with too many bad jokes that make it seem more like a `60s Adam West episode rather than a continuation of Burton's dark vision. And this really hurts the film. Where there could have been great characterisation - Freeze has great potential with his devotion to his wife - it is ruined by bad jokes. Where it should have been dark, gothic horror (the creation of Bane and Poison Ivy) we are fobbed off with a third rate cartoon style that would have embarrassed the `60s series. Secondly is the plethora of characters. We now have 3 villains and three heroes to concentrate on, and as such none of them get proper screen time and it comes off as feeling like a mess and certain characters are just not used to potential (Bane is criminally mistreated here, and the whole Batgirl strand seems little more than an excuse to repeat the Michelle Pfeiffer `cute chick in leathers' role. As such no-one really makes an impression, certainly not on the heroes' side. I never thought I would say this, but Arnold Schwarzenegger walks away with the acting awards! Managing to convey some of the dark potential of Freeze. He also seems to be the only one who is having any fun. Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy is pretty dire, though that is more through bad direction than her ability.
In all a terrible effort, especially after the majesty of Burton's originals, and the good solid fun of Schumacher's previous effort. 1 star only.