Sunday, January 9, 2011

Grown-up Movies #1: No Return allowed

Unlike many film lovers, my parents were surprisingly effective at keeping me away from films they deemed inappropriate. Even more surprising I honored their judgment and opinion. More than often, I picked age appropriate titles out at the video store. However, there were times when I’d bring my parents a video and was met with the phrase, “That’s a Grown-up movie.” I would then proceed to find a new choice.

I’ve decided to go back and watch or re-watch some of those films and offer my thoughts on if they were indeed worth the wait or if my parents were protecting me from more than violence, sex, and foul language.

Despite my parent’s stringent stance on films with a rating outside my age range, I experienced Tim Burton’s Batman for the first time at five years-old. This along with my biological alarm clock set for the daily airing of Batman: The Animated Series and the Dark Knight taking up the majority of my action figure collection, the caped crusader was easily my favorite of the comic book characters.

So when I first saw advertisements for the next Batman film in which he would battle The Penguin and Catwoman, I was stoked. I was Batman that year for Halloween, got the Happy Meal toys (before they were pulled) and got the Wayne Manor /Bat Cave play set for Christmas.

However when I wanted to go see Burton’s Batman sequel, I was met with a surprising “No,” which may have been due to stories of parents groups turning against the film, or just word of mouth from my mom’s friends who took their kids to see it opening weekend. All this hype and it surprises me that I never saw the film start to finish until a couple of years ago and just watched it again as I'm on a bit of an all things Batman binge.

It’s interesting to go back and watch the Burton Batman films having now experienced Nolan’s Gotham City. The current trend to favor gritty real-world action in lieu of theatrics definitely dates the Batman of the nineties, especially Burton’s. However since Batman Returns features characters not yet seen in Nolan’s films, this sequel holds up far better than its predecessor. The scope of the film is much tighter with the first films klunky handling of the mob eliminated and characters meant to deepen the universe like Billy Dee Williams’ Harvey Dent left out of the final script. Despite these positives there were still too many characters.

The first major Superhero sequel is also the first to suffer from “too many villains syndrome,” that is now a significant part of the superhero film lexicon. While The Penguin character was always a part of the film, it definitely feels like he character operates outside of the film’s most compelling threads. His master plan of murdering Gotham’s first born is over almost before it even begins. In the film’s best scene and final showdown, he’s nowhere to be found.

It’s funny to think of how The Dark Knight visits the same concept of Batman being no different than the crazy villains he fights and throws in Arkham Asylum, yet back then, everyone talked about the films dark atmosphere and the scary nature of the Penguin. Excluding the Penguin from the film would result in a much more mature film but also less theatrical and action oriented. No one in 1995 – Warners, Audiences or Burton – wanted a Batman film that was a deep meditation on who comprises of Gotham’s truly insane. This would result in a film that would bore more children than it would frighten, upset fewer parents and be an overall better film.

Finally there’s the films last scene – specifically the last shot – that is fresher in my mind than any other Batman moment. The scene marks a strong sense of hope, for both the characters and subsequent films that is truly beautiful. It’s too bad Burton wasn’t given another chance to bring Gotham alive.

Worth the wait or Worse than any inappropriate content: Worth the wait.

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1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed your post and I think you should do more entries in your Grown Up Movies series.