Spurred on by AMC's ad nauseum play of Batman
this month, I've become once again completely engrossed by the film.
Batman was my superhero of choice when I was a kid. I liked the fact that he didn't really have any superpowers -- this somehow made him more believable to me. You know... millionaire who goes out at night dressed up in a bat costume to alleviate the workload for the city's police department... completely plausible.
But when you're at that age between five and eight, hell, I'll even go nine, you have to have some hero to emulate on the playground. I wasn't that athletic and sucked at climbing, so Spiderman was out. I can't fly, so why would I choose to be Superman? Superman was kind of lazy on the part its creator... he can basically do anything. If you were a Superman idolizer growing up, we probably wouldn't have gotten along. The kids who wanted to be Superman were never fun to play with because they were the kinds of people that couldn't stand to lose.
"BILLY! I JUST DUMPED A WHOLE BUCKET OF KRYPTONITE ON YOU!"
"But... I... no, I flew away just in time!"
Jerry Seinfeld once explained it best: "All men kind of think of themselves as low level superheroes in their own world... When men are growing up and they're reading about Batman, Spiderman, Superman -- these aren't fantasies. These are options."
Batman fascinated me. Coolest backstory, best set of villains -- and actually I found myself liking the Joker more than I liked Batman, so if playground pickup games of Batman ever started, I was usually calling to be Joker while three kids started yelling at each other about who got to be Batman. No one ever wanted to be Robin.
So when the movie came out in 1989... forget about it. Batman AND Joker?! I had to see it. I had to. My one purpose in life that year was to see that movie.
My mom wouldn't let me.
Adressing my growing fascination with the Caped Crusader, she thought it was best to put me on a strict diet of the campy 1960s TV show, so I actually gravitated toward Adam West and Cesar Romano as a kid and then I saw that god awful movie they made with that cast... Even at that age, I knew it was all a bit silly, I mean...
But the new movie seemed intriguing. It seemed cool. It was also getting reviews that were praising the hell out of it, but calling it "dark" and "sinister," which cued my mother to page out mandates to all my friends mothers telling them not to take me along if they were taking their own lucky sons to see the movie.
Well after an eternity and a half it came out on video and my grandfather, being very cool and being the posterboy, well, postergrandpa for grandparently spoilage of grandchildren bought me a copy of the video. He watched it first and told my mother that "It's very dark."
He meant visually. He had a hard time discerning anything going on on the screen because of Tim Burton's decision to basically cloak the whole film in black. Mom thought he meant evil, so even though I now owned my own copy of the movie, it was quickly confiscated and put aside until I was determined old enough to understand that dressing up like a clown, shooting people, destroying artwork, poisoning people and blowing things up was bad.
Come on. I wasn't exactly a child prodigy, but I wasn't an idiot either. It's amazing how much my mother thought that by adorning violence with "POW!" "THWONK!" and "GRNNUGH!" graphics, it made it completely okay.
Luckily my Dad was pretty cool and one weekend he sat down and watched it with me.
I really didn't get it. I was too young to understand things like the love triangle of Grissom, Jack and Alicia, who Grissom was, why Knox was even in the movie, etc. etc., BUT I LOVED IT.
For one it was the mother-induced element of getting to see something I probably wasn't yet supposed to, but I loved Jack Nicholson as the Joker. I knew that THAT was what the Joker was supposed to be. I didn't get all the jokes. I might not even have got half of them ("bat in my belfry?!"). But he was SCARY
. He wasn't campy. He was what he was supposed to be. It was wonderful.
It was such a personal acheivement for me to have seen the movie, that - can you believe - I never watched that video again. One drunken Saturday night at Marquette I went up to a friend's dorm room and he had just started watching it and I watched it for the first time since that stolen afternoon as a child, and just completely marvelled at it. I got it. All of it. And I loved it.
Then AMC just started rerunning it, and I've stopped each time I've flicked past the channel and its been on. Last weekend, I also went out and purchased my own copy of it on DVD. Mom's coming up to visit next weekend. Maybe we'll watch it.
Here are five cool facts about the movie courtesy of IMDB.com
***Michael Jackson was originally considered to write the songs for the film. Due to tour scheduling, he had to opt out, leaving the job up open for Prince
.Ed. note: I don't really like Prince -- he weirds me out and his heavily synthesized music has never been my cup of tea. But I'm glad he got the gig. Having songs like "Partyman" and "Trust" blare out in the background while Joker gets up to his evil deeds just fits. It's silly music, but there's a cynicism about Prince that totally fits where Jacko wouldn't have.
Price - PartymanPrince - Trust
They kinda suck without the visual accompaniment, but I still get pretty excited in the movie when "Trust" starts and that crazy looking clown balloon and float round the corner to start Gotham City's 200th anniversary parade.
***Nicholson took so long making up his mind as to whether or not he wanted to play Joker that they offered the role to Robin Williams to force his hand. Williams remains bitter about being used as bait.
***During filming, a young Tim Burton was having trouble shooting a scene with Jack Palance (Grissom). An irritated Palance asked Burton, "I've made more than a hundred films, how many have you made?" Burton said, years later, that it was a "whiteout" experience he would never forget.
***Nicholson received a percentage of the gross on the film, and due to its massive box-office took home around $60 million.
***In order to combat negative rumors about the production, a theatrical trailer was hastily assembled to be distributed to theaters. To test its effectiveness, Warner Bros. executives showed it at a theater in Westwood, California to an unsuspecting audience. The ninety-second trailer received a standing ovation. Later, it would become a popular bootleg at comic book conventions, and theater owners would report patrons paying full price for movie tickets just to have an opportunity to see the trailer, and leaving before the feature began.