Wednesday, July 23, 2014

My Favorite Batman Theatrical Films

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the debut of the comic-book character known as the Batman. In honor of this so-called "Batman Day", I've decided to list every single Batman theatrical feature film in order of my preference. If you have been reading this blog for any amount of time you know how much I whine and moan about movies based on DC characters. I'll try to keep the whining down to a minimum (yeah, right), but I do have to say before we begin that the greatest Batman movie ever made has NOT been made yet.

1. BATMAN BEGINS (2005) Directed by Christopher Nolan
My favorite superhero movie of all time. The only Batman film that gets it....kind of right. This movie owes a great deal to the work of Frank Miller (hey...doesn't Frank Miller direct movies now? Why can't HE direct a Batman film? Oh...sorry). I never warmed up to Christian Bale as Batman, but I'll admit he's less annoying in his first outing. The real stars of this film are Liam Neeson and Gary Oldman.

2. BATMAN: MASK OF THE PHANTASM (1993) Directed by Eric Radomski & Bruce Timm
If you are saying, "Hey, wait a minute!! This is animated! It shouldn't count!".....then let me ask you this: Was this not a feature-length film released to theaters? And did it not feature the Batman as the lead character?

This animated film was a spin-off of the legendary "Batman: The Animated Series", which in my opinion is still the best representation of the character other than the comics. I do have to say that there are individual episodes of that series which are better than this outing....but MASK OF THE PHANTASM is loads better than any of the "real" feature films. It also gets extra credit for including the Joker (as performed by Mark Hamill), and using the voice of Dana Delany, an actress I've been a fan of since seeing her on the "China Beach" TV show.

3. BATMAN (1966) Directed by Leslie H. Martinson
Yes, this was a spin-off of the Adam West TV show. When I was a kid, I thought it was one of the greatest movies ever made. I don't think that highly of it now....but I will say that it is far more entertaining than the Burton-Schumacher-Nolan films.

4. BATMAN (1989) Directed by Tim Burton
A huge box-office and cultural hit at the time, this movie looks less impressive now. One has to realize that this film is not set in Batman's universe--it is set in Tim Burton's universe. It's more of a Tim Burton movie than a superhero movie. Jack Nicholson steals the show as the Joker....and ever since then, the Batman movies spend more time on the villains than on the Batman.

5. THE DARK KNIGHT (2008) Directed by Christopher Nolan
When this came out, I had friends of mine tell me, "This is one of the greatest films of all time!!!" Well, it's not. As a matter of fact, I think it is one of the most overrated films of all time. Yes, Heath Ledger as the Joker is brilliant, and there's a ton of impressive sequences....but the movie is overlong, the plot is overly convoluted, and there are too many climaxes. The whole Two Face subplot was unnecessary--who wrote the rule that says every Batman movie has to have at least two super-villains? A decent film, but not a great one.

6. BATMAN RETURNS (1992) Directed by Tim Burton
What gets me about this outing is that Tim Burton was allowed to make the strangest summer blockbuster of all time. It's a black & white movie filmed in color, and the most expensive homage to German Expressionism ever made. Christopher Walken (who steals the film) plays a character named Max Schreck, and he happens to look like Rudolf Klein-Rogge. Danny DeVito's Penguin is actually a cross between Werner Krauss' Caligari and Lon Chaney's Man in the Beaver Hat. In the midst of all this, Michael Keaton's Batman is reduced to a supporting role. After this one Warners made darn sure Tim Burton never directed another Batman movie.

7. THE DARK KNIGHT RISES (2012) Directed by Christopher Nolan
Another overlong and overstuffed summer blockbuster. What really ticked me off about this one was the idea that Batman would just quit being Batman for five years (kind of like the idea that Superman would just up and leave Earth for five years). If Nolan had just done a straight adaptation of the "Knightfall" comic book series.....nah, that's just simplistic thinking.

8. BATMAN FOREVER (1995) Directed by Joel Schumacher
Val Kilmer's only outing as Batman (remember Val Kilmer?) This entry "introduces" Robin, in the form of Chris O'Donnell (his attempts to act like a bad-ass rebel ruin any chance of making the part work). This movie plays very much like the 1960s TV show, and because BATMAN FOREVER made a lot of money, Warners allowed Joel Schumacher to go even further in the next entry....

9. BATMAN & ROBIN (1997)
Just a terrible film all around...maybe one of the worst of all time, considering the talent and the money involved. The only good thing about watching this is getting to look at Uma Thurman (you can say that about a lot of Uma's films--I'm totally smitten with her but the woman couldn't find a decent script if she tripped over one). I wonder if George Clooney ever discusses this with President Obama when they have dinner together.

BONUS MATERIAL: My favorite Batman actors!!

1. Kevin Conroy
2. Adam West
3. Michael Keaton
Tied for last--Christian Bale, Val Kilmer, George Clooney

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