TO THE BATPOLES podcast #85: "Batman '89" Turns our Heads

General goings on in the 1966 Batman World

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bat-rss
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TO THE BATPOLES podcast #85: "Batman '89" Turns our Heads

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Image

Our heads are turned by the Batman who CAN'T turn HIS head: Batman '89! We discuss how this film relates to the '66 version, and whether it looks any better 29 years later. http://ow.ly/c0Cs30k9XZf

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Jim Akin
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Re: TO THE BATPOLES podcast #85: "Batman '89" Turns our Heads

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I haven't listened yet (I will! I will!) but Batman '89 is one of my least favorite things ever. It drives me crazy that Burton worked out so much of the tricky mechanics of making a noir, post-'66 Batman work onscreen — and then just let the "story" unspool in an aimless series of stupefying set-pieces. I compare it to a comic book in which a master artist illustrates a hack script. It can be fun to look at once or twice, but can't live down its fatal defects.

I've been a diehard batfan since 1966, and I appreciate nearly every iteration of the character (the Bat-Mite cartoon, not so much, despite West and Ward's participation). I was beyond excited for the '89 movie when it came out, but felt let down almost immediately, right there in the theater. Batman's machine guns bugged me a lot, and so did Alfred's treasonous matchmaking. But worst of all, I dozed off in my popcorn, as I've done every other time I watched the movie. The inky-black belfry chase always gets me: That endless parade sequence pummels me to a near stupor, and the stairway climb finishes me off. It's just too much effort to figure out what's happening in all that murk. Making a Batman-Joker standoff boring is no mean feat!

I'll listen with open ears; if anyone can make me change my mind, it's you guys. It's a tall order though. :)

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Re: TO THE BATPOLES podcast #85: "Batman '89" Turns our Heads

Post by Kamdan »

Wish I knew this episode was coming. Would have loved to have chimed in with you guys and discuss this film, which is my favorite of all time. I’m always interested in hearing differing opinions on it, since I was born the same year it came out and the combination of this with the 60’s show shaped my appreciation of the character.

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Keith Mayo
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Re: TO THE BATPOLES podcast #85: "Batman '89" Turns our Heads

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I expected much more of the Keaton/Burton team up but was disappointed in the lack of story.
Basically a vehicle starring Jack and the Batsuit. As was pointed out in the podcast, anyone could have been in that suit.
"It's the very essence of our democracy". - Batman, S1 Ep 11

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Re: TO THE BATPOLES podcast #85: "Batman '89" Turns our Heads

Post by HELLOLARRY »

I grew up with Adam West being my Batman. I went with a bunch of my friends in 1989 to see the Keaton film and I thought it was boring to be honest. Now, I can't speak for my then 19 year old self in saying that at the time I was going to approach it with an open mind and give it a chance. I just went to see the movie and came away feeling like it was just alright. In fact - we went to a Midnight show and I fell asleep midway through the film. I gave it another shot some time ago and really don't feel it has aged very well. Michael Keaton was just fine for that incarnation of Batman but Jack Nicholson was just....well, Jack Nicholson with clown makeup on. I wasn't impressed.

T0 be clear, I'm not against anything non-'66 (I really liked Heath Ledgers turn as the Joker) but if the '89 film was the high watermark of the initial series, things went downhill after that (I know many feel the second entry is the highpoint). I found the Dark Knight trilogy to be far more satisfying in terms of story and action sequences. My only complaint about these and just about every movie I see nowadays is that they are too damn long. Then again, if I'm putting down the equivalent of a deposit on a home for a movie ticket, I'd better get my mileage out of the show.

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Re: TO THE BATPOLES podcast #85: "Batman '89" Turns our Heads

Post by Kamdan »

Keith Mayo wrote:
Thu May 24, 2018 10:03 am
As was pointed out in the podcast, anyone could have been in that suit.
Same can be said for Adam West’s Batman. Remember the screen tests with Lyle Waggoner where he was wearing the same costume, saying the same dialogue but gave a totally different performance from West? Would Superman: The Movie worked the same way it turned out if it was Robert Redford in the same suit Reeve wore? No, each actor will bring something different into their roles and the one who gets the role is who works with it the best.

The aesthetic the filmmakers were going for was making Batman appear to be a creature instead of a guy in an obvious costume. The blue and grey tights suited the humor of the television series, but wouldn’t have worked in what this film wanted to accomplish. Yes, you could put anyone in a Batman or any superhero costume (as evident by the use of their heavy use of stunt doubles), but are they going to take it seriously?

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Re: TO THE BATPOLES podcast #85: "Batman '89" Turns our Heads

Post by Keith Mayo »

Keaton, Kilmer and Clooney wore a suit but Adam West WAS Batman.

Required Disclaimer: The previous statement is my opinion and in no way is meant as a flame.
"It's the very essence of our democracy". - Batman, S1 Ep 11

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Re: TO THE BATPOLES podcast #85: "Batman '89" Turns our Heads

Post by Kamdan »

Keith Mayo wrote:
Thu May 24, 2018 2:29 pm
Keaton, Kilmer and Clooney wore a suit but Adam West WAS Batman.
A more accurate statement would be Keaton, Kilmer and Clooney wore a suit but Adam West WAS “MY” Batman.

You can’t overlook that all of those actors PLAYED Batman and not one of them was overall definitive. It’s a claim no one will achieve. West was different from Keaton, Kilmer was different from Keaton and Clooney was different from Kilmer. To each his own... as the woman said when she kissed her cow.

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Re: TO THE BATPOLES podcast #85: "Batman '89" Turns our Heads

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Jim Akin wrote:
Thu May 24, 2018 6:55 am
I haven't listened yet (I will! I will!) but Batman '89 is one of my least favorite things ever. It drives me crazy that Burton worked out so much of the tricky mechanics of making a noir, post-'66 Batman work onscreen — and then just let the "story" unspool in an aimless series of stupefying set-pieces. I compare it to a comic book in which a master artist illustrates a hack script. It can be fun to look at once or twice, but can't live down its fatal defects.

I've been a diehard batfan since 1966, and I appreciate nearly every iteration of the character (the Bat-Mite cartoon, not so much, despite West and Ward's participation). I was beyond excited for the '89 movie when it came out, but felt let down almost immediately, right there in the theater. Batman's machine guns bugged me a lot, and so did Alfred's treasonous matchmaking. But worst of all, I dozed off in my popcorn, as I've done every other time I watched the movie. The inky-black belfry chase always gets me: That endless parade sequence pummels me to a near stupor, and the stairway climb finishes me off. It's just too much effort to figure out what's happening in all that murk. Making a Batman-Joker standoff boring is no mean feat!

I'll listen with open ears; if anyone can make me change my mind, it's you guys. It's a tall order though. :)
I think you'll find, for the most part we're right there with you!

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Re: TO THE BATPOLES podcast #85: "Batman '89" Turns our Heads

Post by BATWINGED HORNET »

Batman '89. Pass.

Most of this film's biggest problems can be traced to what I see as Burton's own personal issues (look at the weird "heroes" of most of his films, who seem to be based on his own image). It was that wrongheaded energy driving the film. If memory serves, NBC's Today show ran a segment on the film in advance of its release, and Tim Burton mentioned his belief that Batman was like a "technogeek" (or at least I remember him saying that) and did not need to be a "square-jawed hero". That's all you need to know why this film could not be an faithful adaptation of Batman, because Burton's obsession with odd, "misfit" characters was more important to him than honestly seeking an actor who would sell Batman not only as real, but believably suave (as Wayne) and athletic like his comic book counterpart.

Balding, gravely-voiced and short Michael Keaton stands as one of the worst examples of superhero casting in movie & TV history. On that note, I've read endless articles or posts on how bad Cathy Lee Crosby was in the 1974 Wonder Woman TV movie, Robert Lowery in the Batman and Robin serial, or Adrianne Palicki in the 2011 Wonder Woman TV pilot, but they were not the torpedo to a filmed superhero that Keaton was to Batman. Honestly, as bad as the rest of the Burton / Schumacher era of Bat-films were, even Val Kilmer and George Clooney could not be rejected on the spot for being a visual sideshow.

Jack Nicholson was not an improvement, since he was "Jack Nicholson playing the Joker" through the filter of The Shining. That, and what I always considered his "inspired by Gene Hackman" casting (meaning getting a big name actor to step into role of a comic book villain) very distracting.
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Re: TO THE BATPOLES podcast #85: "Batman '89" Turns our Heads

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BATWINGED HORNET wrote:
Thu May 24, 2018 3:12 pm
Batman '89. Pass.

Most of this film's biggest problems can be traced to what I see as Burton's own personal issues (look at the weird "heroes" of most of his films, who seem to be based on his own image). It was that wrongheaded energy driving the film. If memory serves, NBC's Today show ran a segment on the film in advance of its release, and Tim Burton mentioned his belief that Batman was like a "technogeek" (or at least I remember him saying that) and did not need to be a "square-jawed hero". That's all you need to know why this film could not be an faithful adaptation of Batman, because Burton's obsession with odd, "misfit" characters was more important to him than honestly seeking an actor who would sell Batman not only as real, but believably suave (as Wayne) and athletic like his comic book counterpart.

Balding, gravely-voiced and short Michael Keaton stands as one of the worst examples of superhero casting in movie & TV history. On that note, I've read endless articles or posts on how bad Cathy Lee Crosby was in the 1974 Wonder Woman TV movie, Robert Lowery in the Batman and Robin serial, or Adrianne Palicki in the 2011 Wonder Woman TV pilot, but they were not the torpedo to a filmed superhero that Keaton was to Batman. Honestly, as bad as the rest of the Burton / Schumacher era of Bat-films were, even Val Kilmer and George Clooney could not be rejected on the spot for being a visual sideshow.

Jack Nicholson was not an improvement, since he was "Jack Nicholson playing the Joker" through the filter of The Shining. That, and what I always considered his "inspired by Gene Hackman" casting (meaning getting a big name actor to step into role of a comic book villain) very distracting.
I agree with everything said here. Although I did enjoy Hackman as Lex Luthor in the first Superman movie (not that you commented one way or another about his performance).

I enjoyed the podcast but disagree with the praise for Nicholson. I pictured the ghost of Victor Buono saying, 'Jack, could you dial it down just a bit?'

Even though I'm not a comics guy, I didn't like the way they ignored comics canon and had Jack Napier killing Bruce's parents. Again, this movie often seemed all to be all over the map in terms of what it wanted to be, whether it wanted to resemble the comics, the '66 show or blaze its own weird Burton-esque trail.

I mean, it seemed '66-ish that Napier goes from ordinary second-string gangster to not only supervillain mastermind, but one evidently with an advanced degree in chemistry. Although if he had brought back Venus as his moll and used Smiley or Smilex or whatever it was on her, he would've had my vote. I also would have enjoyed the Joker asking for a chicken salad sandwich on toast without the chicken or the salad...

Thanks as always for the shoutout. I'm always happy to help with research.
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Keith Mayo
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Re: TO THE BATPOLES podcast #85: "Batman '89" Turns our Heads

Post by Keith Mayo »

Kamdan wrote:
Thu May 24, 2018 2:39 pm
Keith Mayo wrote:
Thu May 24, 2018 2:29 pm
Keaton, Kilmer and Clooney wore a suit but Adam West WAS Batman.
A more accurate statement would be Keaton, Kilmer and Clooney wore a suit but Adam West WAS “MY” Batman.
Guess I should have used all caps in the disclaimer.
"It's the very essence of our democracy". - Batman, S1 Ep 11

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Re: TO THE BATPOLES podcast #85: "Batman '89" Turns our Heads

Post by Kamdan »

Keith Mayo wrote:
Thu May 24, 2018 2:29 pm
Guess I should have used all caps in the disclaimer.
Just saving you a few more words. ;)

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Re: TO THE BATPOLES podcast #85: "Batman '89" Turns our Heads

Post by mwilbury »

Another entertaining episode. While I agree with most of the complaints, I think the strong points vastly outweigh the weak. The mood set by the tremendous production design and music provide excellent counterpoints to the campiness of the villain and some of the dialogue. There’s more than enough style and fun to make up for what it lacks in narrative.

I was already a fan of the TV reruns, the comics, and toys, but I was entertained enough to forgive the liberties they took with Batman’s character (or lack of). The big thing that irritated me was the reveal of Joker as killer of the Waynes, not because of the comics canon, but because it was too pat, a ridiculous coincidence, even in the context of the Burtonverse.

It’s true that just about anybody could have been in the bat-costume, and that’s a problem that’s plagued every rubber-suited Batman. However, Keaton does a more than respectable job with the Bruce Wayne material he’s given, and he does appear troubled by the past. Regarding Vicki in the Bat-Cave, I didn’t like it either, but I’ve read somewhere that scene was forced on Burton by Jon Peters.

I had a different experience than Tim and Paul regarding the Grissom/Napier betrayal and Vicki hiding the film in her shirt. While I can’t defend those bits as fine writing/editing, the intent was obvious on the first viewing to this eight-year-old.

As far as its relation to the show, the film’s diversion from (Adam) West World must have played a big part in the film’s success. Good or bad, it felt fresh among blockbuster films and Batman products. It broke a lot of molds. I also have to say that Pat Hingle seemed a worthy successor to the incompetence of the 1966 GCPD.

I’m glad you guys touched on the Prince album. “Bat-Dance” contains some references to the classic theme that might have made for good intro/outro music. Then again, Wally’s song might have been appropriate...

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Re: TO THE BATPOLES podcast #85: "Batman '89" Turns our Heads

Post by High C »

I also should mention I agree with Paul about Robert Wuhl's Knox character. Super-annoying.

I don't know if he was meant to be an audience surrogate or what, but he simply didn't work at all for me.

The observation that Batman cannot turn his head also is spot-on and another example of style over substance in Burton's typically bizarro universe. If Burton made a movie about Bizarro he'd probably be normal and everyone else would be backward.

Speaking of which, strange fact--the name of the pilot of the spaceship in the original 'presentation reel' (the pilot in the pilot, so to speak) for Irwin Allen's Land of the Giants series (a short similar to the Batgirl presentation reel with Killer Moth) is Tim Burton, but it was changed to Steve Burton by the time the series got sold. Maybe Irwin had the right idea the first time.
'I thought Siren was perfect for Joan.'--Stanley Ralph Ross, writer of 'The Wail of the Siren'

My hobbies include gazing at the Siren and doing her bidding, evil or otherwise.

'She had a devastating, hypnotic effect on all the men.'--A schoolmate describing Joan Collins at age 17

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