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(1989-1997 Film Series)

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About These Films

1. Batman (1989)

2. Batman Returns (1992)
3. Batman Forever (1995)
4. Batman & Robin (1997)
5. Batman Triumphant (NEVER MADE!)

The above link goes to a 2-disc set that features all four of the 1980s-1990s "Batman" films.  Astonishing great quality and a must-have for those who love this era of "Batman"!

About These Films:  The "Batman" series of films that started in 1989 was originally director Tim Burton's baby.  They weren't so much "Batman" films as they were "Tim Burton's Batman" films.  They have that funny, quasi-creepy style that Burton is famous for in his movies.  When Burton bowed out after "Batman Returns", the series kept that quirky humor, but his style was gone.  The second half of the series took on a brighter, more optimistic tone, nearly reverting to the campy style of the 1966 "Batman" television series (but not that bad).  Although I feel "Batman & Robin" was a good, entertaining movie, it's lackluster commercial success and switch to George Clooney as Batman pretty much rang the death knell for the series.  I'm also in agreement that Clooney as Batman was a mistake.  Batman wasn't even a big focus in that movie!  It was everyone else's movie (Robin, Batgirl, Mr. Freeze, Poison Ivy, Alfred).

    The first movie was probably the best, although I missed Robin.  Michael Keaton really nailed Batman's brooding personality, while Jack Nicholson is, and will always be, the ONLY Joker.  Michael Gough was very excellent as Alfred the butler in all four films, giving us his most likable role in a long and distinguished career.  I also really enjoyed Kim Basinger as Vicki Vale and the music of Prince.  They really should have had Prince be the soundtrack star for all of the films.  I missed those fun, funky songs in the later films.  There really wasn't any great music in the films after "Batman".

    "Batman Returns" is my least favorite film in the series.  Way too serious.  Catwoman was more psychotic than she was sexy and Danny DeVito, the primo choice for Penguin, was kind of wasted in this film.  The Penguin came off as such a sad and tragic character in this movie.  I was hoping he'd be a bit funnier.  The best part of "Batman Returns" is the opening scene with the Batmobile where he takes out the Red Triangle Circus Gang.  The one thing that could have helped this movie is the introduction of Robin, which didn't happen.  By this time, however, audiences were demanding to see Robin in a Batman film.  So much so, that action figures for this movie had to include a Robin.

    The series redeemed itself with "Batman Forever".  We finally have a Robin, and he's excellent!  Chris O'Donnell did a very good job with the character.  I liked him as Robin, and I'm not a great fan of Chris in all his roles.  This movie's biggest disadvantage is the loss of Michael Keaton as Batman.  I've always felt that major cast changes breaks the reality of a movie series.  However, Val Kilmer was a wonderful choice for successor and he did the role proud.  Kilmer played Batman different than Keaton, but he didn't disgrace Keaton's work.  Kilmer's Batman is still as brooding as Keaton, but a bit more lively.  He looks cool, too.  I can believe he would be Batman.  Tommy Lee Jones as Two-Face is a natural, and it looks like he's having a good time.  Jim Carrey also did a good job as the Riddler.  My only complaint is that Carrey's Riddler relied more on being manic than for his puzzling riddles.  His riddles weren't that great.  They didn't challenge Batman or the audience very much.  Still a great movie, entertaining, and I like Sugar & Spice; they're funny.

    I don't know what's wrong with most people, but I liked "Batman & Robin".  It's very underrated.  I do feel that George Clooney was NOT a good choice for Batman.  Batman wasn't even that important of a character in his own film!  I also think the film was trying to capitalize on the current success of the Bane villain from comics way too soon.  They just plunked him into this movie as a mindless thug.  In the comics, Bane was a fiercely intelligent and more competent villain, and he didn't serve anyone but himself.  I do like Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze and Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy.  This was an interesting villain match-up.  These two characters never had much to do with each other before or after this film in any media, but they were about the only major Batman villains that hadn't been put into a movie.  I also liked the idea that Batgirl was brought into the cast.  Alicia Silverstone did a respectable job, but this movie really tweaked the character from the comics.  Batgirl is NOT the daughter of Commissioner Gordon in this movie, but the niece of Alfred the butler.  What?  Also, Batgirl was a blonde instead of a redhead.  In addition, we rarely saw Batgirl with the traditional bat-ears hood, but with a little eye mask.  She hardly resembled a bat at all!  They could have called her anything!  I also thought they made her Batgirl too quick and easy in the film.  Bam!  She becomes Batgirl, and that's as far as the origin story goes.  I can look past all that silly stuff, though, if a movie is fun and entertaining.  This movie is fun and entertaining; a big budget spectacle.  I would liked to have seen this series continue, but such was not to be.  Sadly, the "Batman" film franchise took a pretty big hit until the series was restarted in 2005 with "Batman Begins".

1. Batman (1989):  This is still one of my favorite superhero movies, despite the fact that Batman is without a Robin.  To me, it just doesn't seem right if Batman has no Robin.  At any rate, this was still an outstanding movie for its time.  Looking back at it almost two decades later (this was written in 2005), it's still a wonderful film.  The Batmobile in this film, and later in "Batman Returns" (1992) is the best-looking and definitive Batmobile.  This is my favorite on-film Batmobile.  It's big, sleek, and tough.  The Batmobile from the 1966 TV series is wonderful-looking, too, but not a supercar in the sense that this Batmobile is. 
    Jack Nicholson as The Joker is definitely the star of this picture.  Everything he says is quotable!  I always liked Kim Basinger in movies, and she's perfect as the catty, fashionable photographer Vicki Vale.  Michael Keaton gives a strong performance as Bruce Wayne/Batman.  Although he doesn't really look the part of Bruce Wayne or Batman, the personality he plays is the closest to the comic character than any of the other actors who have played Batman before or since.  Keaton's Bruce Wayne is always quite serious and thoughtful like the comic version, and it makes sense since he is obsessed over his parents' murder.  He's not an overly fun guy, but that's good for this show.  The Joker is where all the fun comes in.  He's just so crazy and downright ridiculous with everything he says and does.  Even a stonefaced person will find something amusing about the Joker.  I also like Michael Gough as Alfred Pennyworth, the butler.  He's the nice old guy that gives the show kindness and humanity.  It doesn't seem like anyone else should have ever played Alfred but Gough.  It's going to be very hard for any actor to measure up to his standards in future portrayals of the character.  Last, but not least, is the wild, crazy soundtrack by Prince.  He's got the right kind of funky sound that's perfect for strange action shows like this.  I strongly recommend this Batman film if you want to see something wild and fun in a superhero show!

Michael Keaton Playboy Magazine Interview (July 1992)


VHS Cover.

2. Batman Returns (1992):  This is my least favorite film in the series.  However, I don't think it's a "bad" film.  It's just not as much fun as the others.  This movie goes off track by taking itself too serious.  It's way too dark.  I wanted to laugh at the Penguin.  Instead, I felt sorry for him.  Catwoman turned out to be more psychotic than sexy, and also a tragic character.  Michael Keaton is excellent as Batman for the last time.  I think he left the series too soon.  Michael Gough is cool as ever as Alfred the butler.  Is there really any OTHER Alfred?  My favorite part is the opening sequence where Batman, in his Batmobile, rolls into Gotham City and takes out the Red Triangle Circus Gang.  This movie delivers on the action, but there aren't a whole lot of laughs, and there isn't a very happy ending.

    Director Tim Burton, as a general rule, tends to take things to a very dark place.  The first movie, I believe, was dark enough while still being fun.  This movie was very serious, and it ruined a lot of great opportunities for the story and its characters.  I know a lot of people were bummed when Tim Burton dropped out of the series, but I don't mind.  Joel Schumacher did a great job in the next two films, and he brought some life back into Batman.

3. Batman Forever (1995)
:  Another well-done Batman film; third in the series.  This time Val Kilmer is Batman.  He looks more like Batman, and his Bruce Wayne is a happier individual than Michael Keaton's Bruce Wayne.  It works, though, because Bruce Wayne IS a happier person than he was in the first two movies.  His parents' deaths are long avenged, and he's settled into his life as Batman.  I think Val Kilmer should've played Batman in the following film.  He's good at it.  It took three films into the Batman series, but we finally see his legendary sidekick Robin.  Thank goodness!  Chris O'Donnell plays Robin and is much cooler than the classic Robin character of comics, TV, and film, who is also good but kind of lame.  This Robin is his own person, but definitely Batman's apprentice.  It works!  The Riddler and Two-Face are interesting supervillains for this movie.  I've always liked the Riddler character from the comics, but Jim Carrey is overly annoying most of the time.  I never liked the Two-Face character or Tommy Lee Jones in movies, but this is actually a good character in this movie.  This Two-Face is a bit more colorful and not as serious as the comic book character.  The new Batmobile they made for this movie is okay, but just not as good-looking as the Batmobile from the first two movies.  Michael Gough is dependable, though, and once again plays the butler Alfred. 

    An added comment:  Debi Mazar looks too sexy as Spice!  I like Debi in all her films, and she really makes Spice a funny, funky character.

Batman Forever
VHS Cover

4. Batman & Robin (1997):  I like the fact that Batman, Robin, and Batgirl are finally together fighting crime.  Michael Gough is superb as Alfred the butler for one last time.  The supervillains Poison Ivy, Mr. Freeze, and Bane are interesting additions to the Batman film series.  Chris O'Donnell is the perfect Robin.  He's a more hip version of the "Golly gee, Batman!", but still has that same overconfident teenage/early twenties personality.  I like Alicia Silverstone as Batgirl, too.  She's a different-looking Batgirl than what everyone is used to.  She's blonde, not a redhead, and her costume doesn't really resemble a bat or even Batman's costume.  For a little while we see her with a bat-ears motorcycle helmet, but for the most part she wears just a simple mask over the eyes.  I think the reason for the drastic change in Batgirl's appearance is the fact that they were heavily marketing this movie, and action figures of two redheaded women would look too similar to each other.  Since they make the merchandise look like the movie versions, something had to be changed and it turned out to be Batgirl.

    Uma Thurman is outstanding as the lethal beauty Poison Ivy.  Arnold Schwarzenegger is COOL as Mr. Freeze.  I think Arnold's acting has come a long way from his early-1980s Conan the Barbarian/Terminator days.  He has expression in this movie, and he's playing a definite character.  Mr. Freeze isn't a complete bad guy, although he does very evil things.  He's mostly upset over his wife being in a comatose state, and his condition of having to be in extremely cold temperatures doesn't help his mood, either.  Thurman is definitely evil, and her thug Bane is just mindlessly evil.  He's not like the Bane from the comics, but it doesn't matter because he's still a good character in this movie.  I think the producers just wanted the name draw of Bane in this movie, because the character was pretty hot in the Batman comics around that time.  Poison Ivy with her powers of plants and Mr. Freeze with his ice-weapons are interesting sci-fi touches to the Batman series.  Plus, this movie goes all-out with stunts, special effects, elaborate sets, and high-tech gadgetry...especially the vehicles.  If you're truly a Batman fan, you'll love this film!

5. Batman Triumphant (NEVER MADE!)
:  This would have been the fifth movie in the series.  Had it been made, I think it would have put the "Batman" series back on top!  It would have been darker like the first two films of the series.  The film would have had Scarecrow, Harley Quinn, and Man-Bat as the main villains.  Jack Nicholson was going to have a significent cameo return as the Joker in a nightmarish dream sequence where Scarecrow's fear gas brought Batman's greatest fear back to life.

    Mark Protosevich wrote the script.  Warner Bros. loved it, but the failure of the previous film made this script null and void.  It's been locked in the Warner Bros. vault ever since and no one outside of the studio has ever read it.

    It's said they were planning to have Man-Bat kill off Batgirl early in the movie, but scripts can change, can't they?  I'm not too keen on that idea, but they were planning to make Harley Quinn the daughter of Joker, rather than his mistress like in the cartoons and, subsequently, the comics.  In this movie, Harley Quinn was out for revenge of her father's death.  Jenny McCarthy was wanted to play Harley Quinn, which would have been a good choice.

    George Clooney was NOT going to be Batman in this film as the actor had declined to play the hero.  It's unclear who they were planning to cast.  Chris O'Donnell WAS returning as Dick Grayson, but his superhero name would have changed to Nightwing (like in the comics).  It's rumored that Alicia Silverstone passed on reprising her role of Batgirl, despite the fact that she was contracted for another movie.

    Steve Buscemi was set as the main choice for Scarecrow, although earlier choices were Jeff Goldblum and Robert Englund.  Englund would have made the best Scarecrow because he has an ability to be SO scary.  Madonna was the early choice for Harley Quinn before Jenny McCarthy, but Madonna was going to play Joker's estranged wife, and she wasn't going to be named Harley Quinn.  Mark Linn-Baker, I believe, was the only choice for Man-Bat.  We know him best as Larry Appleton from TVs "Perfect Strangers".  Martin Short was considered as a cameo for Dr. Jervis Tetch, although it wasn't planned he would turn into the Mad Hatter in this film.

    Elle MacPherson's little seen character of Julie Madison (Bruce Wayne's girlfriend) from "Batman & Robin" was planned to return in this movie.

    The basic story of the movie is this:  Batman retires from crime-fighting.  Dick Grayson becomes Nightwing.  Nightwing and Batgirl are college students and lovers.  Early in the movie, Man-Bat kills Batgirl and frames Batman for the murder.  Bruce Wayne redons his Batman persona once more to clear his name and avenge the death of Batgirl.

    Joel Schumacher was going to be director of this film, as he had been with #3 and #4, but Warner Bros. dropped him and the movie was scrapped.  The series remained in limbo until the series reboot in 2005 with "Batman Begins".  Interesting enough, Scarecrow was made one of the villains in that movie.

    When "Batman Triumphant" was scrapped, two other live-action adaptations were planned and ultimately canned.  One was a prequel, called "Batman: Year One" that would have detailed Batman's origin and early adventures.  Ultimately, this idea became "Batman Begins" (2005) when the series was restarted.  The other idea was a live-action version of the futuristic Batman cartoon series, "Batman Beyond".