First on this tape a Sky Movie Channel presentation (in widescreen, no less) of Batman Returns.
At the time they were released, Tim Burton’s Batman movies were well received. Most people’s memory of Batman was of the Adam West TV shows of the 60s, and in comparison to those, Burton’s version looked like a dark, gritty revisionist version.
But Burton brings a whole new set of issues to the movies. His love of the the odd and the outsider really comes to the fore in this sequel to the first Batman. In many ways, this shows what Burton will do when let off the leash. Batman suffered from Nicholson’s central performance as Joker. He overbalanced the movie, giving Keaton’s Batman/Wayne too little screen time, which was a shame because Keaton was far more interesting that Nicholson, who was allowed to overplay wildly. Burton’s relative inexperience meant Nicholson was indulged, and the movie suffered.
Batman Returns feels like a more confident work. It’s got the best performances of any of the pre-Nolan Batman movies, none of which feel like they’re out of control. DeVito’s Penguin is perfectly revolting, just the right amount of outrageousness, but never once feeling like he’s just camping it up. He also has some of the best lines. “I was their number one son, and they treated me like number two” remains a favourite.
Walken is as cool and quirky as Walken ever is. I haven’t got a clue what his character’s agenda ever was, but Walken makes anything seem better just by being there.
Michelle Pfeiffer’s Selina Kyle/Catwoman doesn’t make a lot of sense either. You’re never sure why she’s doing what she’s doing – neither is she, for that matter. But the performance is good, and her costume is striking, to say the least.
Keaton’s Batman gets a little bit more to do in this one, but you can still get the feeling that it’s quite hard to fight in that suit. He still can’t turn his head.
The story is fairly nonsensical, but that’s not really why we watch a Tim Burton movie. But it looks amazing, taking the original production design of Anton Furst from the first movie, and layering it with a freaky circus chic, and shooting the whole thing in a cool blue palette, before that was a cliche.
In fact, it seems, from this movie, as if Burton, and particularly his composer, Danny Elfman, haven’t yet got Edward Scissorhands out of their heads, as the Christmas setting and the voice-filled score owes much more to that film than it does to the first Batman outing.
It’s Burton’s imagination that rescues this movie from being an incoherent mess, which I suspect it would be if it weren’t so gorgeous. Just one example: Penguin’s henchmen rig the batmobile with a remote control so the Penguin can control it, and blacken Batman’s name. They manage to get past the Batmobile’s security simply by pointing a remote control at it. This is stupid, to my comic-book reader’s mind.
But when Penguin takes control, he doesn’t do it by using a joystick and a computer. Burton has him in a tiny Batmobile, like a fairground kiddy ride, and we forgive the unlikelyhood of the previous scene.
I find I can forgive quite a lot of stupidity in a movie like this if the design works overtime. (This also explains why I like Space 1999.)
After this movie, there’s another one with a slightly lower pedigree. Trancers III: Deth Lives is another in the low budget Trancers series, starring genre favourite Tim Thomerson as Jack Deth, who hunts Trancers for a living. If I remember the original correctly, Trancers are violent zombie-like people, originally caused by psychic influence from the baddie in the first film.
In this film, Andrew Robinson (star of Dirty Harry, Hellraiser and Deep Space Nine) is using the Trancer technology to create super-soldiers, and Deth is taken into the future – 2015 to be precise – to stop him ruining the even further future.
It’s a bit of a tiresome runaround with some half-hearted gore effects, some lacklustre fight choreography, the obligatory topless scene in a bar, and an awful synthesized score. Even Thomerson seems to have lost some of the charm that made the first film fun and memorable. But Helen Hunt pops up – she was in the original – which lends it a bit of heft.
After this, there’s an edition of the US Top Ten.
Then, Richard Jobson presents an edition of The Movie Show, which starts with a report on Beyond Bedlam, a horror film based on a book by Harry Adam Knight (pseudonym of the great film journalist John Brosnan).
The tape stops during this show.
- trail: Patriot Games
- trail: New on Sky
- Fiat Punto
- Slim Fast
- trail: Beyond 2000
- British Gas – Harry Enfield
- Daily Mirror – Jimmy Tarbuck