Friday, February 15, 2013

Batman (1989)

“Tell me something, my friend. You ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight?” That’s right, I made it back to Throwback Thursdays at Essex Cinemas and the movie was the 1989 Tim Burton classic Batman! This was something to get excited over and also something to beg my wife for a kitchen pass for (thanks sweetie). Batman was a movie that influenced my childhood and well, I guess with my Batman apron, baby batsuit and comic collection, it’s a film that still influences my life.

Travis and Mini-Batman
When often asked the question what was the first movie I saw in the theater, I draw a blank - I’m really not sure. I can honestly say one of the first movies I remember seeing in the theater was Batman, but I’m sure this couldn’t have been my first theater going experience, could it? My other clear memory was seeing Disney’s The Little Mermaid, but that was released after Batman, so maybe Batman was my very first movie? Hopefully my parents will read this and be able to offer some guidance but for now, maybe it was Batman. Anyway, I can remember seeing Batman in the theater like I saw it yesterday (wait, I know what you’re saying, Travis you saw it last Thursday, of course it feels like yesterday… But that’s not what I mean. Trust me, stay with me). Why I remember it like it was yesterday is because my first time seeing Batman was one of my first (if not my first) trips to The GreatEscape in Lake George New York. This was very exciting for the eight-year old me, especially because this trip was with a friend and a trip without my family. In other words, an adventure into something completely new. Great Escape was awesome for a kid that had never seen a real amusement park before; I mean, I grew up in Vermont - no real bustling metropolises so no real amusement parks anywhere close. I’ve since lived close enough to Orlando to go to Disney once a month, lived 45 minutes away from Busch Gardens, and close enough to South ofthe Border to never really feel clean again (best roadside amusement park ever!) but all of those are different stories and this is the story of Batman. Well, as great as my first trip to The Great Escape was, unfortunately I did live in the north east and the weather here is “nice” less often as it either is raining or snowing, so the inevitable happened; it rained (not the last time I went to The Great Escape in the rain, right Ry? Also a different story). And rain at an amusement park is, well, anything but. So in an effort to try and pacify two very bored kids, my friend’s parents brought us to see Batman. I remember my eyes were glued to the screen from the opening sequence all the way through to the credits. I had never seen anything like the Batman movie before; it… was… amazing! Up until that point, my Batman exposure was limited to some comic books and the Adam West TV show that would rerun on television, which was also awesome in its own right and I hope will someday find its way to home video or at least Netflix. But this Batman was different; he was darker and wore a black costume that looked to be a little more dangerous than blue and grey tights. The Joker was crazier; he killed people, people died! This wasn’t the Batman that I knew at all and it blew me away. Not to mention, The Batmobile got a complete facelift and was a sleek looking machine that I still drool over today (I got to see it at Warner Bros Studio). 

Jaclyn and Travis and the 1989 Batmobile
This movie and its sequel Batman Returns owned a good chunk of my childhood (we still have the McDonald’s cups from Batman Returns). Christmas of 1989 was the Christmas of Batman. I remember sitting in front of the JCPenny’s catalog and circling all of the Batman stuff that I wanted and low and behold Santa (with some aid from my parents) came through in a clutch. Underneath the Kehoe tree that year was the Batmobile, the Batwing, the Batcycle, the Batcave and smartly two Batman figures - one for me and one for my brother. But we also got Robin, Bob, The Joker, and the rest of rouge gallery of villains (available at that time), The Riddler, The Penguin, and Mr. Freeze. Needless to say, Ry and I played a lot of Batman, literally until the wheels fell off (of the Batmobile anyway). I don’t get a chance to say this enough in my blogs, usually I’m just complaining about the fact I never watched R-rated movies as a kid, but let me say, in the Batman department my parents rocked. And it was thanks to BatmanBatman ReturnsPee-wee's Big Adventure and Beetlejuice that I was introduced to one of my favorite directors: Tim Burton.

So yeah, I guess I would say the original Batman movie holds a special place in my heart. So it was really nice to take a night off (I did miss you X and can’t wait to show you these films) and join my friends in the T-Rex Theater to watch this classic once again on the big screen. I think one of the biggest things that stood out to me after this viewing is, man how much of a love story did they really need to pack into this movie? Who cares about Vicki Vale? All we want to see is The Joker terrorizing Gotham and Batman kicking butt, but now we are stuck watching the clumsy romance between Vicki Vale and Batman. My other question is, just how long has Batman been in Gotham? We know Knox has been reporting on him long enough to draw the attention of Vicki Vale, but just how long has Bats been Bats? The reason I ask is why the heck would Batman give up his secret identity to some blonde floozy? And nice job bringing her into the cave, Alfred! I thought it was your job to protect Batman’s secret, not give every one of his one-night stands a free tour of the Batcave. So yeah, there were a couple of things that stood out to the adult me compared to the kid me, like so much Prince music! But I also know that Tim Burton wasn’t the household name he is now and didn’t have the ability to stand up to Prince and say “Hey, I said one song!” And now thanks to Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, you have people saying that Jack Nicholson’s Joker performance was nothing compared to Heath Ledger’s. On this topic I say, well what about Mark Hamill’s performance? Yeah, that’s right, I went there; another reason why the 89’ Batman rocks is it helped bring The Animated Series to life and if you haven’t seen that then why are you reading this, go out and get it now and watch every episode! But seriously, why does this even have to be a debate? Nicholson, Ledger or Hamill?  To me that’s like saying Miller, Loeb or Moore? There has been hundreds if not thousands of versions of The Joker in comics since he was first conceived. Sure it’s fun to debate about which one is your personal favorite, but can’t we just agree that the actors portraying The Joker did a great job of capturing an aspect of The Jokers personality? Nicholson played The Joker more of the clown prince of crime while Ledger went for more of the complete anarchistic side of The Joker. Both in my mind were powerhouse performances and both wouldn’t work if switched into the other movie. In other words, Ledger’s Joker would be way too dark for Burton’s world and Nicholson’s Joker would be, well, a joke in Nolan’s. But both are amazing in the worlds that they inhabit. So there, I’ve said my piece and I’m looking forward to hearing what other Batman fans will have to say on the subject.

Batman couldn’t have been a better way for me to find my way back to Throwback Thursdays and I can’t wait to see what movies the future holds. Until next time!