The Dark Knight

  • Year:  2008
  • Director:  Christopher Nolan
  • Series Rank:  #1
  • Year Rank:  #2
  • Oscar Nominations:  Supporting Actor, Editing, Cinematography, Art Direction, Sound, Visual Effects, Sound Editing, Makeup
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Supporting Actor, Editing, Cinematography, Original Score, Sound, Art Direction, Visual Effects, Sound Editing, Makeup
  • Batman Villains:  Heath Ledger (The Joker), Aaron Eckhart (Two-Face)
  • Love Interest:  Maggie Gyllenhaal  (Rachel Dawes)
  • Batman Allies:  Michael Caine (Alfred), Gary Oldman (Jim Gordon), Morgan Freeman (Lucius Fox)

“I don’t need help,” Batman growls at a group of copycats.  “Not my diagnosis,” replies Jonathan Crane, still moonlighting as the Scarecrow, though this time what he’s doing is a bit different.  It shows that even in the darkness that Christopher Nolan has descended into with this, the best Batman film (by far), there can still be a bit of sly humor.  Like the moment when Bruce is considering giving up being Batman for the sake of the populace of Gotham and Alfred says “They’ll probably lock me up as an accomplice.”  Bruce replies “Accomplice? I’m going to tell them the whole thing was your idea.”  It’s nice to have a little levity in the midst of all the darkness. (more…)

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Batman Begins

  • Year:  2005
  • Director:  Christopher Nolan
  • Series Rank:  #2
  • Year Rank:  #7
  • Oscar Nominations:  Cinematography
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  Editing, Original Score, Sound, Art Direction, Sound Editing
  • Batman Villains:  Liam Neeson (Ducard), Cillian Murphy (Scarecrow), Tom Wilkinson (Carmine Falcone), Ken Watanabe (Ra’s Al Ghul)
  • Love Interest:  Katie Holmes (Rachel Dawes)
  • Batman Allies:  Michael Caine (Alfred), Gary Oldman (Jim Gordon), Morgan Freeman (Lucius Fox)

Non comic book fans always complain that the first movie in a comic book movie series must deal with the dreaded origin story (comic book fans, on the other hand, don’t mind seeing Peter get bitten, Kal-El rocketing away from Krypton or Bruce deciding what will drive fear into the hearts of that cowardly lot).  This film has a double burden because not only is it the origin story, but it’s one we’ve already seen before.  Like The Exorcist, Jaws and Halloween, this film must live with starting an unfortunate trend, but like those three films it does it so well, we try not to lay the blame on this film.  It’s the first reboot of a super-hero film franchise.  While the stretch from 1989 to 1997 had three different Batmans, it had one continuous series.  But now, we’ve dropped all that, gone back to the basics and found out where it all started.  We’ve moved away from the camp that Schumacher and Goldsman had brought to the character and returned to its roots, to the darkness in that alley when his parents are gunned down, to the corruption in Gotham that causes the city to fester and stink, to the dark soul of a man who feels the need to dress up as a bat and bring fear to the people who deserve it.  He is a man, that, like is said about him in this film, clearly has issues and we will find out what those issues are. (more…)

Batman & Robin

  • Year:  1997
  • Director:  Joel Schumacher
  • Series Rank:  #12
  • Year Rank:  #178
  • Oscar Nominations:  none
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  none
  • Batman Villains:  Arnold Schwarzenegger (Mr. Freeze), Poison Ivy (Uma Thurman), Robert Swenson (Bane)
  • Love Interest:  Elle MacPherson (Julie Madison)
  • Batman Allies:  Chris O’Donnell (Robin), Alicia Silverstone (Batgirl), Michael Gough (Alfred), Pat Hingle (Commissioner Gordon)

You could tell this film was going to be bad before it even started.  In fact, you could tell that before it even started filming.  It wasn’t just the returning director, Joel Schumacher, or writer, Akiva Goldsman, both of whom are astoundingly inept.  It was the casting of Arnold Schwarzenegger.  Now, just because Arnold was in the film didn’t mean it was a complete return to the camp of the sixties show.  But casting him as Mr. Freeze just about guaranteed it, something that was solidified by the trailer which showed him in full punning mode: “Okay everyone, chill!”  The first Schumacher film had set Batman back at least six years (to before Tim Burton had gotten hold of him) and this one was threatening to undo everything good that Burton had done. (more…)

Batman Forever

  • Year:  1995
  • Director:  Joel Schumacher
  • Series Rank:  #9
  • Year Rank:  #138
  • Oscar Nominations:  Cinematography, Sound, Sound Editing
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  none
  • Batman Villains:  Tommy Lee Jones (Two-Face), Jim Carrey (The Riddler)
  • Love Interest:  Nicole Kidman (Chase Meridian)
  • Batman Allies:  Chris O’Donnell (Robin), Michael Gough (Alfred), Pat Hingle (Commissioner Gordon)

We’re a little over halfway through the film and young (but not young enough) Dick Grayson has just taken the Batmobile out for a spin and kicked the crap out of same bad guys (and would have gotten a severe beating for his troubles had Batman not shown up).  Now he’s back and arguing with Bruce about whether or not they can be partners.  This should be a terrible scene, especially considering that Dick had no reason to ever be taken in by Bruce since he’s clearly in his late teens at earliest and there would have been no need for the supposed social services that were claimed earlier.  We’ve got one actor who was never really all that talented and one whose ego and inability to get along with anyone usually rode roughshod over his talent.  Yet, somehow these scenes, with the girl who was rescued (thinking Dick is Batman because he claimed to be) claiming “Doesn’t Batman ever kiss the girl?” and Dick arguing that he’s gonna be Bruce’s partner whether he likes it or not are among the best scenes in this film.  Too bad that this film was already beyond saving long before we ever got to the scene. (more…)

Batman: Mask of the Phantasm

  • Year:  1993
  • Director:  Eric Radomski  /  Bruce W. Timm
  • Series Rank:  #7
  • Year Rank:  #38
  • Oscar Nominations:  none
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  none
  • Batman Villains:  Mark Hamill (Joker), Hart Bochner (Arthur Reeves)
  • Love Interest:  Dana Delaney  (Andrea Beaumont)
  • Batman Allies:  Efrem Zimbalist, Jr (Alfred), Bob Hastings (Commissioner Gordon)

When I was in college, there was a successful wrestler at my school that I knew who was built oddly.  He had this enormous upper body and these scrawny little legs.  It is a look that a lot of animators like to give to their characters (which has roots in the comics themselves when drawn by such people as Rob Liefeld) and I’m not fond of it.  It is the look of Batman specifically in this film, as it was in the Batman Animated series which was critically acclaimed but I didn’t watch because I was in college and was watching hardly any television.  The show was a huge hit and given the noir feel of the show, that was understandable.  The film also has a lot of critical acclaim and I have a harder time understanding that.  It was thrown into theaters in the years between Keaton taking off the mask and Kilmer putting it on and most people didn’t seem to notice as it quickly died at the box office (it made just over $5 million when every Batman live-action film was taking in at least $40 million on opening weekend alone). (more…)

Batman Returns

  • Year:  1992
  • Director:  Tim Burton
  • Series Rank:  #6
  • Year Rank:  #38
  • Oscar Nominations:  Visual Effects, Makeup
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  Actress, Visual Effects, Sound Editing, Makeup
  • Batman Villains:  Danny DeVito (The Penguin), Christopher Walken (Max Shrek)
  • Love Interest:  Michelle Pfeiffer (Catwoman)
  • Batman Allies:  Michael Gough (Alfred), Pat Hingle (Commissioner Gordon), Michael Murphy (The Mayor)

There are a lot of things in this film that make you shake your head and start to question it.  I’m not talking about obvious supernatural things like how does someone end up like the Penguin or how does Catwoman keep surviving things that should kill her.  I am talking about basic things like why Bruce Wayne would start calling Oswald Copplepot a crime boss when we’ve seen hardly any evidence of that or why the batarang would suddenly dip several feet so the dog could conveniently catch it or why Batman would have exactly what he would need on the Batmobile for every occasion, including a radar that apparently spots penguins.  There is even a paperboy hawking papers like it’s 1932 instead of 1992.  Yes, you could argue that these things fall under the heading of “suspension of disbelief” but if my disbelief isn’t being suspended then either the things are too ridiculous (somewhat) or the film isn’t good enough to be holding my attention and my disbelief is wandering (somewhat as well). (more…)

Batman

  • Year:  1989
  • Director:  Tim Burton
  • Series Rank:  #4
  • Year Rank:  #14
  • Oscar Nominations:  Art Direction
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  Cinematography, Sound, Art Direction, Visual Effects, Sound Editing, Makeup
  • Batman Villains:  Jack Nicholson (The Joker), Jack Palance (Boss Grissom), Tracey Walter (Bob the Goon)
  • Love Interest:  Kim Basinger  (Vicki Vale)
  • Batman Allies:  Michael Gough (Alfred), Pat Hingle (Commissioner Gordon), Billy Dee Williams (Harvey Dent)

Oh, you comic fans today, you have it so good.  Every few months brings a new comic book movie and the vast majority of them are very good.  Even when a crappy movie comes along (like any attempt at Fantastic Four), wait a few months and something really good will come along.  You don’t know what it was like in 1989, with three Superman films released over the last decade, two of which were simply terrible.  But, on the other hand, you can’t imagine what kind of hype there was leading up to the release of Batman.  Just look at the picture down below.  That’s what my bedroom looked like in the days following the release of the film (some of the things were up before the release, including the posters, but two of the things on the wall are the L.A. Times and Orange County Register reviews of the film which only came out on opening day – and just to complete my “old guy rant” even though I’m only 43, that meant on Friday morning, not at midnight or 7 on Thursday evening).  I was so into the film that I had a poster of Kim Basinger on my wall, an actress I have never cared much for and who is a blonde of all things.  My best friend Jay and I were so excited about the film that we were at the theater an hour and a half before it started (which lead to Jay breaking four chairs in the theater, but, hey, things happen).  And it just happened to come out at the same time that I got seriously into movies (and started to bike to theaters on my own), so I saw it several times in the theater and then got it for my birthday because it was the first film to go to video really quickly. (more…)