To this day, I still don’t know what it means to “…rub another man’s rhubarb.”
Recently, I tackled the conundrum regarding which Joker is truly better, Nicholson vs. Ledger. Of course, my conclusions were challenged by some who prefer the new to the old…but that’s the nature of fandom! These arguments will never be settled! Regardless if it’s Batman vs. Superman, Avengers vs. Justice League or the ever-heated debate of console vs. PC, they are likely to wage on until the end of time and the battle of the Sans (throwback Mortal Kombat reference there). My purpose here today is not to challenge the merits of Christopher Nolan’s latest bat-epic, nor to tear it down as a result of the deep rooted love I possess for the original Burton flick. Although that might be an article for another time, today’s intent is more a love-letter of sorts.
So what brought on this sudden outpouring of affection for my beloved Batsy? A simple round piece of plastic in Blu-ray form, that’s what!
As you may already know, Warner Brothers is honoring 75 years of the Batman franchise in 2014. The yearlong celebration has included everything from a special “Batman Day” at comic stores across the country, to the much-anticipated DVD release of the original ‘60s Batman TV show (just to name a few). Continuing this smorgasbord of awesome bat-goodies (and yes I will continue to hyphenate things with the word “bat” before them) we now learn that a new “Diamond Luxe Edition” double-disc Blu-ray set will be released on November 11th in all its HD beauty. I could go on and on touting what made this film so great, I think the following blurb from the official press release perfectly encapsulates that sentiment in a very poetic way. “In 1989, director Tim Burton breathed new life into one of the most complex and intriguing characters in popular culture. Burton cast off the 1960s camp depiction of the Dark Knight and launched for Warner Bros. one of the most popular comic book film series ever…Tim Burton’s vision and Michael Keaton’s performance as the Caped Crusader combine perfectly to capture Gotham City’s sinister atmosphere and Batman’s brooding nature.” It reads.
But I think it might be time for all you youngster out there to sit down and let old grandpa explain a thing-‘er-two for you whippersnappers!
I know the following is going to sound very much like a “back in my day” speech, but so be it. Many reading this may not have grown up with the same experience of Batman as I did. I can still remember the excitement and awe-inspiring wonder surrounding the original’s release during the Summer of ’89. Granted, I realize we tend to see things through nostalgic goggles when looking back at what we grew up with, which often times skews our perspective. However, that is simply not the case here. I can say unequivocally, the original (and you can throw in Returns if you want) is a better overall depiction of what Batman should be vs. the more current Dark Knight trilogy. Much of this boils down to fundamental differences between directors Christopher Nolan and Tim Burton’s design sensibilities. In what can be seen as a knee-jerk reaction to Joel Schumacher’s ridiculously over the top sequels, Nolan felt it was paramount to re-ground the franchise. Problem is, he grounded it so much he lost some of the charm found in the comic’s source material (let’s not forget this is about a guy dressed like a giant crime fighting rodent).
This is where Tim Burton hits on all eight cylinders (in my opinion). While his gothic style and darker tone might not always strike gold (recent endeavors like Frankenweenie and Dark Shadows prove that) it was an absolute PERFECT fit for Batman. He too attempted to distance himself from the camp atmosphere of the Adam West portrayal that came before, but instead reinvented the series in the right way. The casting of Michael Keaton was spot on (yes I think he was better than Bale), and the art style found in both the Batmobile and Gotham City itself was simply amazing. A graphic novel come to life in every way. If you’ve yet to experience the original superhero flick (sorry Mr. Reeve) you should pick up the Blu-ray (if for no other reason) to see what I’m always fussing about.
Without Burton/Keaton, the comic book movie genre of today would undoubtedly not exist. Believe that.