Monday, 5 October 2009

Tell me something, my friend. You ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight?

No 458 - Batman
Director - Tim Burton

All has been rectified. I have watched the last of the four Batman films to be in the list, and indeed the earliest.
However, don't let the title fool you. Despite everything, this is not a film about Batman. This is a film about Joker.

The film begins in the deep, Gothic and fantastically murky architecture of Gotham City. The criminals and hoodlums are nervous there is talk of a vampire bat stalking the streets and picking off the muggers. We are introduced to Gotham after the establishment of Batman and we will not get anything like an origin story, besides a flashback of Bruce Wayne's parents getting shot at. That is all the motivation Batman seems to need. But considering how dull (once again) the character of Batman is in Burton's world, it doesn't really matter. This film follows one man. Jack Napier aka The Joker.
Jack Nicholson's Joker is an odd character. It seems that his insanity is only there for show as when he is 'behind the scenes' with his goons he becomes a lot more serious and grounded. He isn't as manic and unpredictable as he could be. Instead he is a very powerful goon with the trappings of a clown.

Whilst we're not given a Batman origin, we are given The Joker's origin as the powerful mobster, Jack Napier is dropped into chemicals he emerges, mutilated, white faced, green haired and laughing like a loon. I can only think of one bleachy type chemical that makes hair green - so I assume it was chlorine he fell into. I think the acid story is a bit silly, and whilst I promise not to continually compare with Heath Ledger's Joker, I find the concept of a villain who chooses to wear make up, far scarier than a mutilated one.
Saying that, we do not know JUST how mutilated the Joker was at the start. The Joker is obscured to the villain until after reconstructive surgery. The surgery scene is probably the darkest and most chilling moment in the film. A beautiful piece of cinema with with the grimy hospital visuals and The Joker's chilling laugh. It sets up a lot of potential for The Joker to be this genuinely scary clown faced psycho. Sadly, Burton goes down the more jokey 'zany' route which kind of cheapens a lot of his scenes. Specifically the art gallery scene. I found it really disappointing to see The Joker with his minions dancing around to Prince with a ghetto blaster and matching Joker branded outfits. It just seems very tacky.

However, that scene drives home a big point. This is not a re-imagining of Batman. This is taking the existing camp and brightly coloured batman world and putting it into a darker environment. Joker has the same minions and brightly coloured cars that he had in the hyper bright original. He cavorts with mimes and clowns and is generally a cartoon. There is not a huge difference between Jack Nicholson and Cesar Romero. Just more graphic violence.
This is Tim Burton's take of the old Adam West series. He has not recreated the characters. Just made them a bit crueler, a bit savage, a bit more Gothic.

I haven't really got much to more to say - as I covered a lot of the Tim Burton Batman universe in this morning's blog. However there are three points I wish to bring up.

Firstly... I believe Danny Elfman's theme may be the greatest thing he has ever written. Even better than the Simpsons or Nightmare before Christmas. It is justifiably iconic. It is very good.

Secondly... Alfred is still amazing and Michael Gough is still the best thing in Wayne Manor (even Kim Basinger can't best him).

Finally, The Joker is meant to be Batman's permanent foe. The never ending threat. His very opposite. Killing him off at the end feels cheap.

We want The Joker to return, and mess things up again, because Batman and The Joker share a lot of history.

1 comment:

fingersandtoes said...

That was the first film I went to see with a boy. I wish I knew where he was now.