Batman Returns is another reason to call for a national boycott of sequels. Granted, it’s beautiful to look at, lavish in its near-Expressionist atmosphere, but only a short time into it I became numbed by the hopelessness of trying to find favor with its dark plot craziness. The lower director Tim Burton sinks into the bowels of schizoid lunacy, the worse are the joys of Batman, Cat Woman, the Penguin: they lose their comic book appeal and zest and become Burton’s futuristic psychos who disturb each other more than they provide the audience with a roaring good time. Michael Keaton is even more boring as Batman than he was in the first film, and poor Michelle Pfeiffer—she really suffers. She looks every bit the trash the costumers put her in, and she’s got a wicked whiplash, but oh God, the horror of the unplayable scenes she’s stuck in. Danny DeVito seems born to play the Penguin, and the makeup effects for him are marvellous, and his throaty little-boy viperness is at full dose, but none of it matters in the least. Perhaps the cleverest things about him are the overcoats he wears. When he’s walking around the cemetery where his parents are buried, he’s right out of Dickens, whose material Burton should consider. With his visions & temperament, imagine what he could do with A Tale of Two Cities. Or, even better, what horrifying justice he might give Poe’s The Pit and the Pendulum. I read somewhere Burton is a lover of sleep, and enjoys conversations with others who are likewise. This may be the key to what’s troubling about Batman Returns: aside from the reported fact Burton didn’t want to make this sequel, it’s very much like a bad night of restlessness. Burton keeps wanting to hit the blissful pillow but his over-active sickie subconscious won’t let him.
Batman Forever is gadgetty and swirling in florescent day glow colors of electric blue, lime green and pink red—a maelstrom of eye-popping boringness. The stunning sets are stuffed to the rafters; they have moved beyond the comic nightmare of Gotham City and have become masterpieces from schizoid dullards. Even the meth injected into Tommy Lee Jones’ Two Face and Jim Carrey’s faggy Riddler seems to come from a batch of seconds. What made this tiresome unfunny a $250 million dollar grosser? I suspect two reasons: one, it inherited Jim Carrey’s audience, and two, moviegoers may have hoped Val Kilmer would give Bruce Wayne a bit more of a spark than Michael Keaton. But who was prepared for The Caped Somnambulist? With his collagen-like lips and pasty face, Kilmer’s Wayne is a corpse; as for his Batman, the squared, butch prototype helmet, cap, body guard (complete with nipples) and gloves help in getting us to forget the actor in them. Nicole Kidman is a tribination—an articulate Meg Ryan, Melanie Griffith and Julie Hagerty. An act of kindness to avoid Chris O’Donnell. Third time out, it’s Michael Gough’s Alfred who, doing a Sir John out of Arthur, wins the audience. When millions are poured into overproducing Batman thingamajigs and whatchumacallits, a defense mechanism starts to kick in to protect viewers’ feelings of defeatism: we’re so badgered by the overwrought nonsense we come to miss the cheesy camp of Adam West and Burt Ward as a little Danny Quayle doing Robin. West and Ward and the irrepressibly giddy William Dozier never pretended to buy a claim to comic book art; they were, however, and remain, Egglicious Eggscapes.
Text COPYRIGHT © 2007 RALPH BENNER All Rights Reserved.