Comic-book movies used to be unanimously garbage; now they’re the most profitable properties in the world. So prior to the mid-2000s, why was it so hard to make a good
Comic-book movies used to be unanimously garbage; now they’re the most profitable properties in the world. So prior to the mid-2000s, why was it so hard to make a good comic-book movie? Easy: because real human beings look ridiculous in superhero costumes. Batman was the first watchable treatment of a comic-book story on the big screen since George Reeves was doing Superman serials in the ‘40s (okay, the first two Christopher Reeve movies were good, but after that they stunk), largely because director Tim Burton excels at creating worlds in which the viewer is willing to cooperate with and revel in the ridiculous. In fact Batman succeeds for some of the same reasons Superman I and II did – you’re kind of ignoring how goofy they look.
And they reimagined the characters completely. Bear in mind that the last Batman and Joker in the public imagination were the late Adam West and Cesar Romero. Burton’s disorienting, unstuck-in-time version of Gotham City makes sense for this movie. Michael Keaton plays Batman (spoiler: also Bruce Wayne) as barely restrained, unpredictable, dangerous, very unlike the methodical genius detective of the comics; American treasure Jack Nicholson plays the Joker with a sinister, vicious absence of conscience, less fearsome than queasily fearless. It reoriented the way audiences thought about comics, comic book movies, and characters that were already a half-century old in 1989. Also it sold about a billion toys. Superhero movies, almost by definition, tell stories that are bigger than life. That’s difficult. Come join REWIND and watch one that still gets it right.