Cpt. Gordon is missing. Meanwhile, Bullock tries to save Gotham from Jeremiah in his new, Joker form.
Season 1, Episode 8: “What Lurks Within”
Directed by Scott Winant
Written by Tony Basgallop
* For a review of the previous episode, “The Damage Done” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Close to Home” – click here
Working at an arcade counter, Sidney (Brent Spiner) has to deal with snotty little kids. “Rules are rules,” he advises. Funny, coming from the devil. Or whatever he is under that human suit. At home, he listens to jazz and lives a decidedly bachelor life. Well, that is until you see what he’s got hiding in a padded room: one of the snotty boys from the arcade. Terrifying.
This opener gives us a glimpse into the horror of Sidney. And though we’re not given much to go on there is an absolutely unsettling aspect to what we’ve seen just now.
Chief Giles (Reg E. Cathey) goes to arrest Sidney for assault on Reverend Anderson (Philip Glenister). Watching from his place, Kyle (Patrick Fugit) is troubled. He’s not only contending with the demons floating around Rome, he also has his daughter Amber now that estrange wife Allison (Kate Lyn Sheil) has taken off. Too much to handle.
Then there’s Megan Holter (Wrenn Schmidt) and her husband Mark (David Denman). Their marriage is not doing well. Although for his part Mark believes that Donnie is “a piece of shit rapist” and got what was coming to him. Can’t say I totally disagree. But Mark IS supposed to be a man of the law.
Anderson turns up at Kyle’s house. Happy to see things are moving along for Kyle and Allison; he doesn’t know the whole story. The bigger problem is that Anderson is looking loony to everyone around him. He knows what Sidney is, that there’s an evil force within him, and now he’s worried for his friend the Chief, who may be playing right into the hands of evil. The Rev goes down to the station. He and Giles talk about what’s best to do next. They’re certainly not on the same page. Giles doesn’t want to play too far into Anderson’s delusions, he worries for the Rev, his mental state.
Over at the hospital, Kyle brings his daughter to see his mother. Morbid, though sweet. Just to see them together as a family unit, albeit still a broken one, is nice. Kyle does the right thing and tells Amber about what happened with him and his mother all those years ago. Exactly like Amber’s own mom did to her, as well. A lot to take in for such a young lady. She’s afraid that Allison might end up in a hospital bed, like grandma. All Kyle can do is keep on keepin’ on. When Kyle notices fresh flowers already in his mother’s room, he learns about a man visiting her with candy and flowers awhile ago. A man in a hat. You know who.
We’re still seeing a bit of Patricia (Melinda McGraw) and her son Aaron. He’s intent on hating his mother, calling her awful names. Later, he goes to a trailer to do his own investigating. Don’t forget, he’s seen some things; nasty things.
Kyle goes to see his sister Megan. She’s clearly surprised about the situation with Allison and Amber, but agrees to look after her niece. Off Kyle goes to try taking care of the other parts of his life calling. And probably a good thing. Because as righteous a duty as Anderson tries to uphold, casting out demons and such, he isn’t exactly helping himself. Out on the town, he picks up Kat Ogden (Debra Christofferson). She reluctantly gets in, thinking it’s just a ride. You can be sure there’s something more.
Kyle wants to talk with Sidney in his cell. They get to have a little one-on-one time, hash things out. “How do you know my mother?” is the first question Kyle asks the man. Turns out Sidney only knows her by reputation. “Turns out she put up one hell of a fight,” Sidney tells him. When things get a bit touchy, Kyle lays hands on Sidney, whose skin starts to sizzle, straining under the power of the Outcast. There’s a bit of explanation concerning why Kyle seems to be a magnet for all these possessions around him. Essentially, he’s a light in the dark for all the demons, like moths, fluttering towards his flame. So is Sidney all demon, or is he a human host that accepted its possession?
We flash back quickly to Sidney, preparing knives, and the lock on his door. Where he’s got a boy hidden away. He starts to cough wildly, falling over. The eyes open wide like we’ve seen before. After getting up he seems different, changed. He goes to the locked door, he can’t remember any combination. Very, very curious. Maybe the demon is making him do horrific things and the other side of him can’t even remember. Quite a predicament.
Anderson brings Kat to the Barnes place, as next door in the other trailer Patricia’s son watches. This looks terrible after Kat tries to get away, clearly the demon inside her doesn’t want any part of going into the Outcast’s house. Don’t blame her/it. At the same time, Lenny Ogden (Pete Burris) looks for his wife and wonders where she might have ended up. Yikes. Over in the Barnes residence, the Rev preaches a bit at Kat, the parasite inside her. It comes out to play a little. “The End of Days means that the real deal is returning, right?” the demonic presence taunts. “Unless you don‘t believe it‘s true,” she prods him not long later.
At the station, Patricia’s son lies about seeing Rev. Anderson carve the pentagram into his own chest. He’s trying to get Sidney out. Then he lets slip that the Rev is over at Kyle’s place, “probably raping” poor Mrs. Ogden. Jesus. There is going to be some trouble now. Especially with Lenny pissed off, too. He’d rather take care of his wife’s… issues, without any outside interference. He levels with Giles, so that’s something. Yet he thinks their new life is “exciting” and has become warped by the demonic possession himself. An odd, tragic situation.
After Kyle arrives home he isn’t happy to see what’s going on. He knows that Kat, the human, is still there beneath everything. He’s starting to understand more about these demons. Or, he is falling prey to Sidney’s game. I can’t be sure. Not yet. I’ve never read the comics, so it’s all new to me. I like figuring it out in a slow burning mystery. The writing here is great for that. And so Kyle gets Kat away from the Rev, until Anderson throws a swing at him. Then it’s an all out shit kicker between the two former exorcist buddies. Giles breaks it up when he gets there, but the relationship they once had is totally damaged now. “Fuck thy neighbour,” Anderson yells at them all once Giles explains the strange marriage the Ogdens hope to continue having.
Mark and Megan aren’t exactly climbing any mountains. But he’s decided Donnie isn’t worth their marriage. He sold his truck and downgraded to something much less. He admits his mistakes. Mark will always fight for his wife. He made a bad, bad move with Donnie. At least he’s trying to make amends with Megan for how he’s handled everything. Mark of a true man.
With Sidney strolling out of jail, Giles lets him know there’s no length too far for his friends. A slight warning. At the church and his residence, Anderson finds the Mayor (Toby Huss) and a couple colleagues. Seems that they’re going to want him to leave. He’s terminated, immediately. Plus he has no home anymore. Unfortunately, they’ve got no idea about the evil lurking around Rome.
Over with Megan we find Kyle explaining himself, his supposed beating of his wife, and what exactly happened back then. “I was trying to protect them,” he tells his sister. He talks about how Allison was attacking their daughter. He hit her to stop what was happening. Only he’s worried now about where his estranged wife has gone. So many issues to unravel.
Sidney discovers Patricia’s boy at the trailer waiting for his return. He wants to help, foolish as that may appear. He’s revealed himself to this walking evil. From what we’ve seen, Sidney and young boys don’t exactly mix well: “Go home, while you‘re still safe,” he ominously confides in the boy. But Aaron wants something done about the Reverend. This interests Sidney.
The Holters and part of the Barnes family eat together. They even hold hands and say Grace together. At Patricia’s place, Anderson falls into her arms. The Ogdens happily live together normally as husband and demon. Aaron is safe, for now, with Sidney. But how long is that going to last?
We flash back to Sidney and his hidden boy in the room for another quick moment. Enough to see him let the boy loose telling him to “run” – obviously showing that, somewhere, deep down, a human still resides in that demonic shell.
What an episode! I always say that because the series only seems to get better with every chapter. Honestly. This one was great, though. However you want to cut it. Great episode that lets us in on more of the backstories of characters, adds further plot development, and we also start to see more about the overall mythos of Outcast. Can’t wait for “Close to Home” next week.
Season 1, Episode 2: “See”
Directed by Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg
Written by Sam Catlin
* For a review of the previous Pilot episode, click here.
* For a review of the next episode, “The Possibilities” – click here
I’ve been waiting for this one. After the wild Pilot, we continue on.
A little girl lies in her bed, clearly ill. In comes a cowboy, a woman bringing water to wet her head. He has to go off and get some things on a long ride. Oh, it’s 1881, by the way. A little trip backward in time. On the road the mysterious cowboy meets a family. They sit around a fire together, though we never hear him say a word. Later, they ride into The Town of Ratwater, as Natives hang from a tree, dead, scalped.
Back in present day, Arseface (Ian Colletti) is being baptised. Born again, baby! Preacher Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper) does the business. Even lovely Tulip (Ruth Negga) steps up. Though she only does so to try talking her old buddy into the next job. He doesn’t want any part of it. “Meantime, thanks for gettin‘ me all wet,” she quips before heading out again. Certainly now Emily (Lucy Griffiths) is curious, as she’s definitely got a thing for the preacher. However, I love most that Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun) is kicking around, begging for a bit of cash and talking about his “Granny B” and her ass situation. So there’s also the fact Emily’s got him to deal with all the time.
What I’m most interested in here, aside from all the pending supernatural madness, is how the various relationships will progress from here. First, there’s Cassidy and Jesse, an odd relationship. The preacher likes him and of course wants him to stick around, though he’s a rough character to have hanging around the church. Then we start to figure out more about Eugene – Arseface – and his relationship with the town. Someone calls him a murderer as him and his father walk past. While his dad,
Also, Jesse sees another member of his congregation. Gives more advice. Will this end up like the last time? All the while he feels something going on in his head. Awhile later, a strange voice emanates from him as he’s alone. It even creeps HIM out.
In other news, we’re meeting Odin Quincannon (Jackie Earle Haley). He’s with what looks like a type of demolition company. They bulldoze a house, leave the family behind and then head out. This whole scene is absolutely bizarre. I’m sure eventually we’ll figure it out. For now, it’s intriguing.
Love how the sign in front of the church is always saying something different. Funny little gag.
More of that Cassidy and Jesse relationship comes out. They sit in the church, drink, smoke, and chat about God’s supposed plan. Naturally, Cassidy is doubtful. After a bit of argument things get heated. That’s the name of drinking sometime. Cassidy completely reveals himself, except it isn’t exactly taken seriously by his friend: “I am a hundred and nineteen–year–old vampire from Dublin City, and I am currently on the run from a group of vampire huntin‘ religious vigilantes who keep trackin‘ me down somehow. What else – I‘m a right–handed Sagittarius, I love Chinese food. I‘ve never seen the Pacific Ocean, and I think that The Big Lebowski is overrated.”
At a motel, the two men from last episode hunting down the strange entity from outer space pack up their gear, heading out. Somewhere sinister, no doubt. At the same time, Cassidy lets Jesse pass out after a bit of his supposed homemade liquor, and takes his truck for a ride. The men then find Jesse asleep on the floor. Things are about to get a bit freaky. They break out some strange, old, almost ancient-looking machinery. Then one of them tunes it up, the other conducting, singing an unnerving song. Only when they’re done it seems whatever’s meant to happen doesn’t happen. Cassidy interrupts the two “filthy little gobshites” before they can chainsaw Jesse to bits, he thinks they’re looking for him. Now that savage vampire in him breaks out. Lots of good, nasty fun. Especially after an arm with the chainsaw still going nearly makes its way to Jesse. Afterwards, we get to see how Cassidy heals himself up with the blood. Digging this interpretation of vampire, which makes me all the more excited for when I eventually get around to reading the comics.
Over at the Toadvine Whorehouse, Quincannon’s boys are kicking around, and then there’s Tulip. She’s rocking some dudes in poker. And talking the trash to boot. Some guy laughs at talk of her uncle being a drunk, then she lays a sob story on him. A fake out. I love her character because she doesn’t take any bit of shit. From anybody at all. Excited to see more of her relationship with Jesse. Speaking of relationships, Cassidy does his best to clean up at the church for his pal Jesse. At least until the sun comes up.
Jesse goes to see the Loach family. The young girl is in some type of coma, the mother taking care of her the best she can. He gives over more advice trying to assure the mother of what’s to come. She’s not buying it after seeing the reality of what’s happened to her daughter. We see the daughter’s head caved in underneath a wig. Savagery.
Later that night, Jesse is attacked in the road after he sees a baby’s car seat out amongst the dark. He wakes up on a chair, chained. It’s just Tulip. Playing one of their old games. Trying to con him into the job, again. He’s a tough nut to crack. After Tulip leaves, Arseface shows up. He doesn’t feel changed, certainly not saved, after his baptism. Wishful thinking.
Eyeing the school bus the entire episode, Jesse finally gives in. He goes to where the bus is parked. Inside, he finds Linus (Ptolemy Slocum) who’d come to see him earlier for advice. He’s got an obsession. A bad one. He can’t give it up. So now Jesse’s got his own homemade remedy. Bit of religion, Old Testament. The sins need cleansing. Just as Arseface said he’s never able to change. Jesse can’t either. As he dunks Linus’ head under the hot water, like the baptisms earlier, that voice comes out of the preacher. Strong, evil. It literally wipes Linus of his memory concerning the girl. The powers are getting stronger.
And then what happens? Sheriff Hugo Root (W. Earl Brown) is in a motel room. Meeting with the same men we’re seeing Cassidy bury in a box. How’s that possible? Oh, I’m sure we’re going to figure that out soon enough. I love how, for the non-comic readers, this series is building things up. We’re not getting all the answers right away. No big loads of exposition dumped at our door. The writing is fantastic, far as I’m concerned.
Before the episode ends, Jesse goes back to see Traci Loach in her coma. He tries to use his new found power for good. Commanding her to wake up. Next episode, we’ll see what happens. I predict nothing good, at all.
Really enjoyed this second episode. Excited to see “The Possibilities” next week and find out what the series has in store for us all. I know not all of the fans out there of the comics like this, though I’m inclined to enjoy it. Particularly seeing as one of the creators Garth Ennis says he finds the changes appropriate and necessary in some cases even. No matter what, I’m in.
Unbreakable. 2000. Directed & Written by M. Night Shyamalan.
Starring Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Robin Wright, Spencer Treat Clark, Charlayne Woodard, Eamonn Walker, Leslie Stefanson, & Michael Kelly. Touchstone Pictures/Blinding Edge Pictures/Barry Mendel Productions/Limited Edition Productions Inc.
Rated Pg. 106 minutes.
Everyone has their starkly contrasted opinions of M. Night Shyamalan. Despite his few rough patches over the years, recently he came back strong with the horror-thriller in found footage style The Visit, which I loved. Everyone knows of The Sixth Sense whether they’ve seen it or only heard of it. But Unbreakable is his definitive masterpiece. It is small and subdued, yet at the same time epic in scale. Shyamalan tells the story of superheroes, but in a contained and human fashion. The tales of good and evil were translated from gods of the Greek pantheon into comic books a hundred years ago. Shymalan’s film is one of the more contemporary takes on the superhero genre, without even directly coming out and saying the word, really. He boils it down to something smaller. Just like the character Elijah Price suggests, the stuff of those mythic comic heroes is tangible, exaggerated for flare and commercial interests. With a beautiful, rhythmic style, a steady pace that reveals the story in an exciting way, Shyamalan crafts one of the modern classics. This one is a work of art.
David Dunn (Bruce Willis) comes back from an interview via train and it goes off the rails. Everyone except him dies. He walks away “miraculously unharmed” which makes things all the more unbelievable. Soon, a man named Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson) contacts him. From there they develop a strange connection, mostly insisted upon by Price. He believes David is his opposite. Elijah has a condition which causes his bones to break easily; he sees David as indestructible.
What their relationship comes to mean for David is life changing. Neither he nor Elijah will ever be the same again.
As David Dunn wakes up after the accident, he’s left to sit and watch the only other survivor waste away right in front of him. Terrifying. Then to walk away without a scratch, it’s got to be emotionally devastating to wonder, for him, how he was spared. This brings into question things like the nature of life, fate, for some it brings to mind ideas of God, et cetera. So before we know what’s happening there is a truly humanist root to the story being told.
The parallel between the characters is incredible. Obviously mirroring the relationship between heroes and villains in the comic books which Elijah loves so dearly. But more than that it’s a depiction of two men whose lives haven’t been easy or gone so smooth. Yet each turned out to be completely different despite coming up against adversity. Two ends of the spectrum.
Then the representation and symbolism to which Shyamalan attaches them is impressive writing. The fact we see Elijah primarily through reflections in mirrors and a television screen is telling. Later, we see him through reflections in his gallery. His identity is fragmented. In opposition, David is shown enduring physical crises, or experimenting with his power (see: weights in the basement with Joseph), his strength personified by physicality and supposed invincibility. His life, from his body to his pride, is defined through strength, through heroism.
Elijah: “It‘s all right to be afraid, David, because this part won‘t be like a comic book. Real life doesn‘t fit into little boxes that were drawn for it.”
Shyamalan’s film is perfectly shot. Each frame is downright marvelous. The composition of shots brings to life the panels of comic books, the movement of the camera takes us along with the characters as if through the panels and pages of a graphic novel. There are moments it’s less subtle, then at other points there are clear, though amazing, instances of the comic book treatment. While Shyamalan uses colours specifically in a lot of his pictures, Unbreakable has a faded, washed out sort of palette overall. Then he takes bright colours and uses them to signify points worth watching. Especially the colour red, which helps us track David Dunn’s sense of heroic vision. Certain shots call to mind the visually lyrical style of the comic world. For instance, when young Elijah receives a comic from his mother, the camera starts as we look at the book upside down and whirl around in a 360 before leveling out to see it right side up. My favourite: later in the film when David is in the house moving towards outside he appears through the drapes, closer and closer, just like a row of panel moving from one to the next. He’s even dressed almost constantly in hooded/caped rainwear, particularly during his job and then when he’s in the house with the hostage family later. There’s no cartoon-ish sense of comics here. Shyamalan brings the superhero world to real life, as best as he can. The mythic figures of the comic universe are no longer Greek god-like figures. Here, they become human, living souls with full lives, made up of the good and the bad. Unbreakable allows us to examine what those true-to-life heroes might look like.
Not everyone will see any film the same way. You can’t ever find a universal opinion on one movie, and you also cannot ever find a subjective opinion on a film. But to me, Unbreakable is one of the greats. It is a genuine masterpiece. There are so many things about it I love. Jackson is incredible. As is Willis, no matter what some say of his performance – he played a man dealing with something extraordinary, supernatural almost, and rightfully seems shocked or devastated in some way most of the time. They’re excellent together. Plus, Shyamalan does wonderful things here as director, which proves he has the chops; everybody makes a wrong step in their profession, at one time or another, so give him a break. A few of his movies are already classics. He’s a talented guy who can bring forth a lot of interesting themes through his writing, giving them life on film. This is one of those movies where he gives us a new way of looking at a subject, which just so happens to be darkly exciting, odd, and exciting at once.
Batman. 1989. Directed by Tim Burton. Screenplay by Sam Hamm & Warren Skaaren; based on characters created by Bob Kane & Bill Finger.
Starring Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson, Kim Basinger, Robert Wuhl, Pat Hingle, Billy Dee Williams, Michael Gough, Jack Palance, Jerry Hall, Tracey Walter, Lee Wallace, and William Hootkins. Warner Bros./The Guber-Peters Company/PolyGram Filmed Entertainment.
PG-13. 126 minutes.
Tim Burton is the sort of filmmaker people either love or hate, I think. There’s no real halfway marker between sentiments with Burton’s movies, which is fine. Personally I think he’s a great, innovative, and influential filmmaker. In essence, he’s an auteur. You can say he’s no good, or whatever, but at the end of the day you cannot deny he has a style that is VERY MUCH all his own; nobody else does dark and weird in the cartoonish sense like him. From Beetlejuice, to both the Batman movies, Edward Scissorhands, the incredibly strange and fun adaptation of Sleepy Hollow, to Ed Wood and Mars Attacks! (brilliant and overlooked), Big Fish, Corpse Bride – I think Burton has made enough films that are of a high calibre I’m able to count him among other great filmmakers of his generation.
While Burton himself has said his Batman is boring and that it’s more of a cultural phenomenon than anything, I feel he’s shortchanged himself. I’m a massive fan of the Batman character, have been for years. I’ve read comics, graphic novels, seen all the films – including the original television series and the movies of which I’m a big fan honestly for their campy style. So don’t hate on me for saying this, but at the base of all this Batman is still a superhero, and superheroes are a tiny bit silly. You’ve got to admit it. When David Cronenberg expressed his distaste for Nolan’s trilogy, or at least his “I don’t care” attitude about superhero movies, he wasn’t trying to be a dick: it’s the truth. While you can try to make a superhero film as gritty and realistic as possible, at the end of the day Batman – or any other comic book superhero – is still a guy running around dressed in tights, fighting zany, megalomaniac villains with their own equally foolish-looking getups. Again I repeat – I love Batman, in all forms. But I think the ultimate thing I love, above the darkness and the style and the wildness of so many moments from the Joker’s laughs and horror to the action scenes, is that Tim Burton treats his Batman in the way it’s meant to be treated: part serious and dark, part campy and fun. If you can’t recognize that, fine. But don’t say this is a bad adaptation, it’s just not. It is a classic and it helped lead the way for more action films to come in the 1990s and long after.
In Gotham City, the criminals have been running scared: rumour has it some giant, human-like bat has been roaming the streets and taking care of the underbelly of society. While reporter Alexander Knox (Robert Wuhl) teams up with star journalist Vicki Vale (Kim Basinger) to get to the bottom of the story, other things are brewing in the dark city.
Mob boss Carl Grissom (Jack Palance) has a bit of trouble with his… right hand man, Jack Napier (Jack Nicholson), who winds up in a bad spot all due to Carl’s backstabbing. Things get really bad when Napier runs into Batman during a shootout with police; Jack ends up disfigured after falling into a vat of chemicals. Remerging, after a bit of off the books surgery, Jack becomes the Joker. Hellbent on tearing Gotham to pieces, as well as rooting out Batman, Joker becomes a powerful force of terror in the hearts of the citizens and nobody is safe.
And Bruce Wayne (Michael Keaton) keeps on working hard, day and night, trying to conceal the biggest secret of all: he’s Batman.
The first time we actually see the Joker’s face in the shadows is actually creepy. Even before, not seeing his face was almost creepier, as he smashes the mirror, laughing, walking out of the basement leaving behind his terrified doctor. Numerous scenes involving the Joker, as well as his henchman in various shapes and forms, are incredibly dark. Which brings me to one of my major loves about this 1989 Batman as opposed to even the Christopher Nolan films (I’m a fan by the way).
All the darkness of Burton is present here. Even more than that, he keeps the cartoonish nature of the comic books and also brings the dark nature of Batman/Bruce Wayne himself into the mix. While Nolan’s films have a sort of dark side, it’s not near the same as what Burton presents. The plot of the film, everything happening with the story in this adaptation, isn’t even the best of it – Burton uses his auteur style in order to infuse this film with something spooky, something full of idiosyncrasy and madness and chaotic mayhem.
For instance, the scene where the Joker meets Vicki Vale at the museum and shows her his latest art project – living, breathing art created with nastiness, a young woman named Alicia with her face disfigured underneath a Phantom of the Opera-style mask. That part always creeps me out, right to pieces. Even the oddly chipper, upbeat commercial by the Joker for Joker Brand products, with all the women sporting a Joker face, it’s SO UNSETTLING! There’s a campy side to it, yes, there’s no denying that. Though, Burton has the talent to take those saccharine sweet looking visuals and lean them into the dark pit of the human heart. Again, it’s why I say he’s an auteur; only the best are able to make the darkness look and feel so utterly compelling.
“Y’ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight?”
People will rail on and on about how Michael Keaton is no good as Batman.
Think what you will, I found him excellent. There’s even more to that sentiment in Batman Returns, as the darkness I love and crave so much in Bruce Wayne comes out further than it does here in the first (though I love this movie a tad more).
Keaton is solid. So what he’s not jacked? That’s honestly, basically, the opinion of some: his physique isn’t particularly muscular enough to portray Batman. Why does someone have to be huge in order to be a good fighter or intimidating? Was Bruce Lee huge? Nope, yet I’d have been mortified to have to fight the man. The whole point to Bruce is that he learned to fight and combat villains in the way of a ninja, so it’s not like he has to be this massive man. For those purposes, the suit does its work, and looks great.
Above all, I love the way this Batman – and in part this is due to the writing and Burton’s presentation of the material – not only fights crime, he actually wants to scare the criminals. Yes, Nolan goes for that in his newest trilogy. Not in this way, though. There’s something extra creepy to the opening sequence where those two robbers sit atop the building, counting their cash, while also talking about the supposed Bat Man lurking about Gotham – how Batman slips in behind them, frightening them, terrorizing. It’s very dark and grim. The way the movie started out always creeped me to the bones when I was a kid. I’ve been watching this movie since I was like 6 years old, probably about two years after the original release, and one of the parts I always found myself fascinated with was the very beginning because it has this ominous, terrifying feel, but in the most excellent sense. Works wonder for the tone of the film. Also, a big part of this is in the way Keaton plays Batman with a quiet, calculated performance in the right moments.
It’s the rawness of Wayne which comes out of Keaton. He has an awesome presence as Batman, particularly aided I think by the fact he couldn’t hear much of anything (if anything at all) while in the suit. I love what Bale did with the Batman voice, regardless of how anyone else might feel to the contrary – I think there’s a necessity to the voice, you’d have to disguise it or else someone would absolutely make the connection between Bruce and Batman. But more subtlety in the voice comes in Keaton’s performance. He doesn’t go to the length Bale does, which again I thought was good, yet there’s a slight change in his voice here when you listen to him carefully from one scene to the next, Bruce to Batman; it’s a good touch. Plus, there’s just an introverted quality all around to Keaton as Bruce: from the moment he pretends not to be Bruce Wayne when Vicki Vale asks about him at the party near the film’s beginning, to the solitary (and obligatory) Bruce moments brooding in the Bat Cave. I’ve always loved this aspect to Bruce Wayne, and while Christian Bale does a splendid job in the Nolan trilogy, I honestly have to give my vote to Keaton as best. Simply because there’s a real strangeness, a dark and at times weird side to his Bruce Wayne, which you’re likely never to see again. Ever. Nobody else will bring that out the way Keaton does. Maybe part of that is the fact it is a Burton film, as well as the sequel, in which Keaton is another odd element. But I like to think it’s all a part of Keaton as an actor; someone I’ve always liked, not just a bandwagoner after Birdman. Ever see Ron Howard’s Night Shift? Do yourself a solid, watch it.
Jack Nicholson.. oh my. What can I say that hasn’t been said? He’s a brilliant actor whom I’ve enjoyed over and over throughout my 30 years. There’s a cartoon quality in his performance, just as there is in Burton’s aesthetic throughout the film. Still, Nicholson adds a truly gritty and horrific sensibility to the Joker. Yes: he definitely hams it up. Yes: there are over-the-top moments. But again, this is a guy whose face has been warped into a permanent smile; the chemicals messed him up and the doctor somehow moulded his face to look like a kind of demonically happy plasticine doll. So, c’mon – you have to expect a bit of ham and cheese! You’re not being honest with yourself or watching this film honestly by trying to say he should have gone for more realism. If it’s an attempt at realism (though again: superhero films aren’t realistic from the get-go) you want then try Nolan, I guess. But this Burton version of the Joker is magnificent and macabre; one half of that comes from the writing/Burton, the other and the heftiest portion from Nicholson and his brilliance.
Finally, if I haven’t stressed it enough it’s Burton who makes this film what is it – above the story, above the performances from Jack Nicholson and Michael Keaton, it’s the aesthetic of the film, it’s atmosphere, the tone, which really boost this above any other comic book film especially. I don’t care what you say, this is what a comic book movie should be like and I’ll always feel that way! There’s no amount of realism you can try to instil in a movie based on a graphic novel or comic book which can take the story where it needs to go because THAT IS NOT THE SPIRIT OF THE COMICS. Be your own judge, tastemaker. But these are my feelings.
This is a 5 star film. Hands down. The one which started the whole trend proper. Tim Burton does a fascinating job with this comic book adaptation, giving it enough campy fun to satisfy those yearning for a return to the Adam West-led Batman and retaining all the darkness of the original character and some of what Frank Miller threw in with his graphic novels. Above all else, there’s a great look and feel to every scene, Burton dripping from the shots like sticky candy, as well as the fact Keaton and Nicholson act their chops off with their mix of seriousness and silly charm. Add in fun music from the soundtrack (I don’t care what you say Tim Burton: I love the way Prince is used!) and compositions from Danny Elfman, and this is one slick adventure.
Seen it? Tell me what you think. If not, what the fuck are you waiting for? Batman Day 2015 has come and gone, but it’s never too late, or too early, to start diving into the legacy of the Dark Knight on film. Go forth to Gotham and find yourself lost in its beautiful, grim shadows.