Friday, November 4, 2016

Batman (1989)

Director: Tim Burton
Composer: Danny Elfman

Songs Written and Performed by Prince

Main Cast:
Batman/Bruce Wayne- Michael Keaton

The Joker/Jack Napier- Jack Nicholson
Vicki Vale- Kim Basinger
Commissioner Gordon- Pat Hingle
Alfred- Michael Gough
Knox- Robert Wuhl

Opening Comments:

I'd been meaning to see this movie again within the month of October. Batman seems to fit right in with the Halloween motif, especially since Tim Burton is helming this particular film. That's part of the reason.

The other reason, I kinda fell into. Opportunity presented itself and I took it.

Batman the franchise:

My feelings about Batman are mixed at best. He's a great character. Bruce Wayne is easily one of the most complex characters in comics. He has a dark past that he lives with every day because it is his reason for becoming Batman. It is his motivation. He's a powerful figure in Gotham, but while he has everything, he has also nothing. Other than his lifelong butler and confidante Alfred, he has no one in his life that's particularly close with. In other words, it's easy for him to get a date, but it's hard to have a long-lasting relationship.

I said my feelings are mixed because I am not a fan of how he's been rendered in most of the films. The TV series "Gotham" is definitely on the right track with their young Bruce Wayne, but I keep waiting for that great epiphany, that transformation that makes him become Batman.

"Batman Returns," I need to give another shot because like this particular movie I'm about to discuss, I wasn't a fan.

Really, my first Batman film was "Batman Forever" and it's still my favorite. Even after rewatching it a few months ago, that hasn't changed. I enjoy it very much and "Kissed by a Rose" is a great song. I don't care what anyone says.

Then Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale and the "Bat Voice" happened and I just haven't been satisfied since. I mentioned in my "Batman Forever" review that I'm one of the few people that HATES "The Dark Knight."
Funny coincidence or brilliant marketing by HBO, who knows, but after Batman, they showed a trailer for the upcoming showing of Batman vs. Superman. I'm willing to give Ben Affleck a chance, but the film as a whole... I don't have a lot of hope for it.

Ok, now for this one.

"Batman" in a nutshell:

Batman is first introduced as this mysterious character lurking in the shadows and taking out bad guys. Taking out means beating them up and terrifying them until the cops show up.

Jack Napier is a gangster, but the night he becomes The Joker, he is double-crossed by his own men and his crime boss Grissom, assaulted by Batman and falls into a vat of acid. Somehow he survives. The same can't be said about the nerves in his face, which have left him with a permanent smile on his face.

Vicki Vale is a photographer who comes to town interested in the rumors of Batman. Immediately, she teams up with reporter Knox, the only person crazy to pursue the lead that Batman presents.

There's a party at Wayne Manor where a lot of government officials are hanging out and having a good time. The two journalists wander off into a room full of artifacts from other countries and meet Bruce Wayne himself. Naturally, Vicki Vale is enchanted by him and the feeling is mutual. But with him being Batman, that comes with complications.

The movie is mostly The Joker wrecking havoc around Gotham and the blossoming relationship between Vicki Vale and Bruce Wayne.
At over 2 hours, the movie runs a little too long for me. Particularly in the last hour where not a whole lot is happening.

Comments on Cast and Crew:

the "Batman" world hasn't been quite the same since Tim Burton left to pursue other projects. Really love the look of Gotham City- something that hadn't really been captured again this well until maybe "Gotham"- but even then, it's not quite the same. Not that comic-booky gothic look.

Michael Keaton plays a good Batman and Bruce Wayne. Strong in the costume and no need for that stupid Bat-voice. As Bruce Wayne, he has an enigmatic personality. He's so mysterious and you don't really know what to expect. You want to pull back the layers, but at the same time, why ruin a good mystery?

As Vicki Vale, Kim Basinger was good... love her tenacity about getting close to Bruce Wayne and finding out about Batman and such. But I just got so sick of her screaming. That had to have been the only reason she was given the role.
At least it's not the Kate Capshaw/Temple of Doom situation...

and Jack Nicholson as The Joker... c'mon... it doesn't get any better than that. except maybe the animated series- I haven't seen much of it, but for me, that's still kinda the standard of what this comic and series should be.

And it's also because of Jack Nicholson that Prince got involved in the soundtrack

The Batman soundtrack:

For starters, Danny Elfman is awesome. Especially when he's doing movies like this where it's all dark and dramatic and stuff. It gives an added dimension to it.

Comparatively, Prince's contributions feel like a footnote.
He's the reason I gave the movie a second chance years ago after my first watch wasn't a big success. Some of those same feelings are true- the pacing gets painfully slow in the latter portions of it.

As far as his albums go, after revisiting it a couple times the last two weeks... he's done so much better. I think the story goes is that Jack was a fan and wanted Prince to get involved. After meeting him, Prince wrote "Partyman" and then wound up doing the entire musical soundtrack.

I have a lot of unless information in my head about him, but this is one of those areas I'm not as knowledgeable about.

Going through the trivia, Tim Burton wasn't a fan of Prince's music for the movie. And critics said his songs were out of place.

Me, I had trouble finding them :P the songs aren't all that great when taking his entire discography into account.
And I agree that the way they were used... they didn't make a lot of sense. I must have missed "The Future" because it was in the very beginning after the opening credits- I had to go out and walk the dog.

During the Wayne Manor party, I think I heard "Vicki Waiting" softly in the background in one scene and "Electric Chair" (maybe my favorite on the whole album) shortly after.

Then there's a huge gap until the infamous "Partyman" scene- where The Joker and his men trash the art museum. That is such a fun scene, even though it's a villain scene, that I hated when they cut the music off.
The way The Joker's men show up with a giant boombox for the music... Prince did something similar in "Under the Cherry Moon" where he and his partner Tricky brought it to liven up a really stuffy night club full of rich people.

I thought I heard "Scandalous" in the score during one scene where Vicki tells Bruce Wayne "we could try and love each other." But it's featured more prominently in the ending credits for maybe 2 minutes.

Then "Trust" you can hear when The Joker has his parade where he says he'll be throwing money into the streets. The dialogue backs it up somewhat (or is it the other way around?) because The Joker asks "who do you trust? me or The Batman?"

The other songs that weren't in the movie at all... "Batdance" is cool, but it wouldn't have fit anywhere.
I hate that "Electric Chair" were just thrown into the background because it is such a kick-ass song.

The "gimmick" of the album was that songs were credited to different characters.
"The Future" is Batman.
"Electric Chair" and "Partyman" are The Joker.
On those two alone, you see that he's really playing up the Gemini perspective of his personality. In this particular case, I like his "Joker" tracks a lot more.
"Arms of Orion"- a duet between him and Sheena Easton is credited to Bruce Wayne and Vicki Vale- but the lyrics don't quite work in the context of the movie. It's also one of those universally hated Prince songs. I don't mind it, but it's also very cheesy.
"Vicki Waiting"- I recently found wasn't even an original for the movie- it was written for/about Anna Fantastic- one of his girlfriends. One I don't think I'd even heard of before I heard about her on a podcast.  The more I hear it, the more I like it.
"Trust" is very fast paced and fun... but lyrically, I don't quite get it.

"Lemon Crush"... I am still figuring out my feeling on it. I thought I hated it, but the last time I heard it, considering the title being "having a bitter crush on someone"- another thing I picked up from a Prince podcast I'd been listening all this week [Peach & Black]
"Scandalous" is one of his most loved ballads... personally, it's not one of my favorites. It runs a little long in the latter portions, almost like the movie, and the vocal, to me, it's like he overdoes it to the point his voice sounds scratchy. But I think it might be growing on me. A slow seductive ballady love song.
Then "Batdance" is a mixture of dialogue from the movie set to music.

Throughout watching the movie this time around, I picked up nearly every sound bite from it.

So yeah... I'm kinda sorry that I gave myself an excuse to talk about Prince here and it's been mostly negative.
Considering all he did in the 80's and the decades since... this album was cool when I first got it, but in the context of everything else... it doesn't shine all that brightly.

Next year I plan on going through all the albums I own by him and really go in-depth with them. To decide how I'd rank them and my favorite songs. But I'll do that on the blog I began because of him- all the way on [which has covered more figure skating lately than Prince- but after he died, he has been popping up a lot more over there]

One more thing:

I usually start these posts with awards and accolades. I double-checked really quickly.
"Batman" won an Oscar for Best Art Direction.
And Jack Nicholson was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Golden Globe... although it almost felt like he had more screentime than Batman/Bruce Wayne

And with the screaming... someone actually asked on Imdb how many times during the film. Kim Basinger screamed 22 times throughout the movie.
I'll be seeing her soon in the 50 shades sequel... first time I'd seen her really since this movie, so it should be interesting on a number of levels. Starting with her being "Mrs. Robinson"- the person that made Christian Grey the kinky sex freak he became.
There are rumors (not sure how true they are) that she had a relationship with Prince. He did compose an album she sung on. But where I was leading with this... if they were together, I hope her screams in the bed were more pleasing to his ears than what she did in this movie. [according the imdb messageboards- it's not her only occasion of screaming too much in her movies]

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