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keithdaniel 10/15/2011 11:24:20 AM

Kara, my overall point is that I felt a good script was also lacking in both of the Burton Batman films and of course the same goes without saying to the Shumacher Batmans.  I agree that the Burton films were  entertaining but IMO they were lacking in story development and didn't develop the Batman character which is one of the reasons why Keaton left and I can't say I blame him.  They focused way too much on the villains and I don't see how you or anyone else can justifiably state otherwise!  Kara, I'm not saying that you're stating the following, but I'm just asking why should the emphasis be placed on the villains when the movie series is supposed to be about Batman?

After having seen a few scenes of Batman (1989) not long ago, and although I was never a big fan his performance in it, he wasn't as good as I thought either even given the little he was asked to do.  JN wasn't terrible but he was a mediocre Joker, playing just a clown who goes insane after having fallen into a well of chemicals.  I found that Nolan who chose wisely to avoid the Joker's origins (BTW, even though the Ledger Joker gives 2 different accounts he does so because he's insane for those who don't get why!) makes it much more interesting to leave that up to the viewers imagination!  The Joker is too complex a character to simply make him out to be just a clown, without any real motivations for his crimes other than just entertaining himself.  JN was likely chosen more because of his star appeal and his Joker pales in comparison to the masterful performance of the HL Joker who showed that the best way is to become the Joker which is what he did as opposed to JN who simply played what he thought was the character, and therin lies the secret to acting...it's to not act but become the role!

I haven't seen Batman Returns in a while but I recall that the Christopher Walken character Max Shrek was forgettable, certainly not his best and was likely chosen for his star appeal just like Keaton etc.  I must admit that Phieffer was a terrific Catwoman and she may have been the best thing about the movie. 

karas1 10/16/2011 7:52:41 AM

Well, I thought Burton's Batman had a good script though the script for Batman Returns wasn't as good as I had remembered.  Batman Returns did concentrate too much on the main villians (I guess it kind of had to since there were 3 of them).  Also, there was the Circus of Crime. 

I thought Walken was very good as Shrek.  Perhaps Shrek isn't as memorable because he isn't as well known as Penguin or Catwoman.  Maybe he just got lost in the clutter of DeVito and Phieffer chewing up the screen.  But he was vital to the plot as he basically created both Penguin and Catwoman and put them in opposition to Batman. 

By the time you got to the part of the movie where an army of penguins with bombs strapped to their backs fanned out across Gotham to blow the city to pieces the film had gone too far IMHO.  The end of the movie was silly.  But the first 3/4 of the movie were terrific, atmospheric and intense.  It delved into the psychosis behind both Penguin and Catwoman.  It also likened Catowman's psychosis to Batman's, showing how their motivations and methods were both alike and different.

All three villians were sympathetic in their way.  Penguin's anger at being rejected because he was born deformed is perfectly understandable.  Putting your kid's cradle into a stream and watching it float down the sewer is extreme. Catwoman was murdered by her corrupt boss and coming back to life made her crazy.  Both these villians deserve our pity.

Even Shrek wasn't completely unsympathetic.  He loved his son and was willing to die for him and the other first born sons of Gotham.

That Keaton got swamped by all the other characters isn't his fault.  I don't know that anybody could have done any better.  He was basically the straight man surrounded by all this looniness.

Now, Ledger vs Nicholson is another matter entirely.  I prefer the Nicholson version and it comes down to the interpretation of the character.  As I understand the character of the Joker, he is a sociopath with artistic delusions.  He is in pain and wants to remake the world in his own image through his "art".  He wants to kill and destroy and have a good time while doing it.  Nicholson portrayed this brilliantly.

Ledger's Joker was an anarchist, a terrorist.  He was unbalanced and didn't have any problem killing and destroying to further his goals.  But he DID have long term goals.  He wanted to prove something to the world, that human beings are evil and that the "best" person will do evil if he feels he has to.  In a way he was successful as he managed to drive Harvey Dent, the most moral and principaled of men, crazy and homicidal.  But what happened to Dent was so extreme that the strongest person alive would become unhinged.  Joker was less successful with the ferries full of refugees.  Each ferry, one full of "good" people and one full of "bad" people, had the option of blowing the other up to save their own lives.  There was arguement on both ferries but in the end neither took the option of killing others to save themselves.

But the thing is, the Ledger Joker had the goal of proving something.  He wanted to make a point to society at large.  But the Joker I'm familliar with doesn't care what society thinks about anything.  He isn't interested in proving anything to anybody.  He wants to destroy and kill, not convert.

This is a basic difference at the heart of the character.  Both Nicholson and Ledger were brilliant at portraying the character in the script.  I prefer the character which was in Burton's script over the one in Nolan's script.

keithdaniel 10/16/2011 12:43:51 PM

Kara, you've made some excellent points and good on you for such a well written statement!  You may be right about the difficulty of trying to work out how to deal with mutliple villains in one feature, however, I recall that Superman 2 did a good job of that having 4 with Lex Luthor and the 3 Kryptonians!  You're likely a better judge of Batman Returns than I am given that I haven't seen it in a while.  I think it's more than possible to write a story with mutiple villians including a superhero movie.  There have been many films that have had many different characters in it like the Lord of the Rings and still turned out well.

You also make another great point about different interpretations of the Joker character and what among those appeal to each individual.  The first interpretation of the Joker that you've mentioned is one that reminds me of the Ceaser Romaro Joker from the Adam West Batman sixties series silliness (how's that for alliteration LOL!)  and some of the comics that went down that route for a limited time, but that was a long time ago.

I admit even though I haven't read the Batman comics in a while, from what I've gathered here and there the Joker from his origin from the Golden Age, Batman #1 (1940) was a fairly straightforward homicidal maniac killing both in a whimiscal and ruthless manner.  He was not the JN or Ceasar Romara or even some of the animated versions that many are hooked on that were inspired from the Silver Age.  He committed crimes that according to Batman "make sense to him alone."  However, he did do things that were either politically motivated or for other specific reasons.  An example would be The Killing Joke where after he captures Jim Gordon he taunts him with enlarged photos of him undressing his daughter Barbara after she was shot and wanted to prove that any man can go insane after having "one bad day."  Gee, Kara, I wonder where we've seen and heard that mentality from before...the HL Joker from TDK perhaps where he broke Harvey Dent's character!  I think you're wrong about the HL Joker caring about what society thinks because I believe he wanted to prove his theories were true and just show society the results, and I believe he also wanted to prove them to himself as much as anything else.

The Bronze Age from 1973 has the Joker return to his roots as more of a homicidal maniac and less of a goofy prankster, and to my knowledge that hasn't changed much since then.  He's a much more darker figure and more aligned with the HL Joker.  Another major problem I had was with JN's casting as the Joker, where IMO he was very miscast and ended up "acting" way too much instead of becoming the role a la Ledger.  Perhaps I see that better than many others because I've studied acting.  ln the end, people are free to draw their own conclusions...as it should be!

karas1 10/16/2011 3:40:17 PM

I think the definitive Joker for me is The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller.  In that graphic novel, if you haven't read it in a while, Batman takes up his cape again after a decade of retirement.  The Joker, catatonic in Arkham for that decade, "wakes up" and declares himself cured.  He convinces a renowned psychologist that he has reformed and is released from Arkham.  He celebrates his release by appearing on a talk show.

While at the talk show he releases his Joker gas and kills everybody in the building, talk show host, guests, audience and technical crew.  Then he goes to a carnival and hands out poisoned candy to a troop of cub scouts.  He lures Batman into a fun house and tries to convince Batman to kill him because he knows that abandoning his principal that he never kills would destroy Batman.  Having witnessed the carnage and death that the Joker has left in his wake, Batman is convinced that only death will put an end to the Joker's homicidal crime spree.  If the Joker goes back to Arkham he will just escape again and kill more people and the deaths will be Batman's fault.

Batman determines to kill the Joker but chickens out at the last minute, breaking his neck and paralyzing him instead.  But the Joker is prepared for such a move and kills himself with poison he had stored in his mouth.  He wants Batman to be blamed for murdering him. 

This is pretty dark stuff and has little to do with Ceasar Romero's happy clown who likes to play somewhat nasty practical jokes.

I suspect that the Joker has a psychological condition where he doesn't really believe that anybody apart from himself is real.  He is a sociopath and has no empathy at all.  He really can't put himself in the place of others or understand that other people are real and have feelings like he does.  He therefore kills human beings with the same amount of feeling that you would have about smooshing a spider in your house or poisoning rats who lived near your dumpster.

Probably the only other person on Earth who he thinks is real is Batman who is his nemesis.  Batman is his equal in intelligence (the Joker is a genius) and can outwit him.  To the Joker, everybody else is just a doll for him to play with, or break as the mood strikes him.  As such, he sees no value in trying to convince anybody other than Batman of anything.  Those people aren't real so what  they think isn't relevant.

Now, it's been a long time since I saw Superman II, but I seem to recall that while there were 3 Kryptonians, it was more a case of Zod and his sidekicks rather than 3 independant people who had different needs and agendas.  Zod told his two soldiers what to do and they did it.  So I would say there were 2 main villians in Superman II rather than 4.

Where as in Batman Returns, Max Shrek, Penguin and Catwoman had very different desires and goals.  They worked together for part of the movie but that was a matter of convienience.  Their alliance was short lived and by the end of the film they were trying to kill one another.

Showing the various manuvers and power plays between them took up a lot of time.  I think more of the movie was focussed on what they were doing than what Batman was doing.  Batman was straightforward.  He was trying to protect the people of Gotham from harm.  The villians were making and breaking alliances and trying to one up eachother and manuvering around eachother like sailing ships in a naval battle.  It got complicated.  I can see why Keaton got fed up.

 

 

keithdaniel 10/17/2011 9:48:32 AM

Hey Kara, great statement!!  I see your point about Superman 2 and it's villians.  I'm surprised to see that your preferred version of the Joker is from The Dark Knight Returns, a Frank Miller graphic novel no less!  That Joker is certainly not only much different from the Ceasar Romaro version but also the JN version as well.  BTW, I never read that graphic novel but from what I learned on Wikipedia the Joker kills himself by breaking his own neck.

karas1 10/17/2011 12:09:14 PM

OK, I went and looked it up.  You're right.  The Joker DID break his own neck.  I haven't read it in a while.  And really, it's more believable that the Joker had a cold war era false tooth with poison in it than with his neck already broken and his body paralyzed he could twist it further and kill himself.

You should really read it for yourself.  It's classic.  And not for the faint of heart.  I like the hard core stuff.  Suprised?  LOL

But really, I see paralells between Frank Miller's Joker and the Nicholson version.  Both have that complete self absorption and inability to see anybody but themselves and Batman as real. 

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