Thursday, July 10, 2014

Celebrating the Batman's 75th Anniversary at the Movies!

In his 75 years, The Batman has had a good career on the big screen, and Burbank Public Library is the perfect place to find the DVDs to watch it all. From oldest release to most current, here are the Batman feature films:

1943 saw the Batman's first big screen appearance,

Batman: The Complete 1943 Movie Serial Collectionfrom an old-time movie serial feature. True to its release during World War II, this series of 15 episodes is concerned with Batman and Robin attempting to spoil the dastardly plans of a Japanese agent/evil scientist, Prince Daka, played with villainous aplomb by J. Carrol Naish. The film is definitely a reflection of its time, especially in its dialogue. An amusing item to note is the fact that you never see a Batmobile!  Batman travels in his sedan, which is also used as a place to change into his costume.

Next up, from 1966, is Batman the Moviefeaturing Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward as Robin. Holy team-ups, Batman, as the Joker, Riddler, Catwoman and the Penguin join forces to bring an end to the Caped Crusader and his youthful ward! Full of all the Wham, Bop and Wow that you'd expect. And wait until you watch Batman do battle vs. a shark and have difficulties disposing of a bomb! [Editor's note: Probably around Christmas, Batfans can finally expect a DVD release of the 1966-1968 Batman TV series! Holy Stocking Stuffers Santa!]

 1989 saw director Tim Burton and actor Michael Keaton partner up for a much darker take on the Batman. Featuring Academy Award-winning art/set direction by Anton Faust, Batman was a hit with critics and fans alike. Jack Nicholson's take on the Joker is fun, and what other comic book movie features songs by Prince?

1992's Batman Returns reteams Burton and Keaton with a much darker, gothic-toned story featuring Danny DeVito's vile Penguin and Michelle Pfeiffer's sinuous Catwoman.


With Batman Forever and here from 1995 and Batman and Robin from 1997, director Joel Schumacher took the Batman franchise in a more colorful, cartoony direction in a reaction to the two increasingly dark films from Tim Burton. While a lighter tone for Batman isn't a bad thing, these two movies are generally felt to have gone too far in that direction. But Batman completists will want to watch, and one certainly can enjoy many big-name actors not necessarily giving their most restrained performances! (Okay, we'll call it what it is: scenery chewing!) Tommy Lee Jones as Two Face isn't the smartest villain you'll ever meet, and, Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze provides his fair share of bad dialogue.  And does anyone else find it a bit odd that a 20-something Chris O'Donnell would be taken on as Bruce Wayne's ward and become Robin? Get some friends together and enjoy watching the Batman franchise spiral into its dormant period. Nolan assumed directorship of the Batman franchise in 2005 with Batman Begins and here and delivered an excellent origin story. Diehard fans were greatly impressed with his grounding of Batman in the real world and also that for his first movie Nolan went deeper into Batman's rogues' gallery for the Scarecrow and Ra's Al Ghul.  While Ra's is only rivaled by the Joker for being the top Batman bad guy, no fan ever thought that they'd ever see him portrayed in a movie.

 Nolan was just getting warmed up: 2008's The Dark Knight remains the comic book movie benchmark. Highlighted by Heath Ledger's Oscar-winning performance as the Joker, there really is nothing more to say about this movie except that it's about as good as a film gets.

Nolan completed his Dark Knight trilogy with The Dark Knight Rises and here in 2012. Some of the story is inspired by the Knightfall graphic novel with the calmly evil villain Bane and his back-breaking efforts to humiliate Batman and destroy Gotham City. I really enjoy how the three Nolan movies tie together into one interrelated story arc--I always love storytellers who can pull characters and events from an earlier film and spin them into a payoff in a later one. Nolan and his wonderful ensemble of actors accomplish this, and the standard is high for any future Batman films.

The three Nolan movies are my personal favorites, but watch them all and tell us which are yours!

Batman is scheduled to return to the big screen in 2016, when Ben Affleck puts on the cape and cowl to square off versus Superman in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.  I will see you in line on opening weekend.

No comments: