Batman (1989)

Zero tolerance on crime is on the police department’s mind in the fictitious city of Gotham, but there are people who are bent on delivering mayhem and disorder, namely The Joker (Jack Nicholson) and his henchmen.

The city needs something extraordinary to bring down The Joker’s crime wave. 

Batman’s vigilante justice is interpreted by the police as just that—vigilantism—but Batman the caped crusader has the stuff required to punish out-of-control offenders causing much of the disorder.

Batman is still very much in the shadows, but the police of Gotham are coming around to see Batman’s worth to their cause—of keeping the city clean and its citizens safe.

Maybe that is a strange indictment on the inefficiency of police at delivering on their job or just another concept or idea. It could be both, but this Batman movie has resonance even years later, with its focus on how well justice is served.

Batman Returns (1992)

Not so much Batman returns, although he does turn up, but this movie is more about the emergence of bad-nosed villains.

The Penguin (Danny De Vito) gets his very own back story, as the ‘unfortunate’ child of parents who disowned him and sent him on his way, with his unusual clawed hand and all.

He is raised in a colony of penguins where he becomes like them. But has the very human desire to become someone significant, probably because he has been rejected and feels like nobody.

Despite wanting to be someone important, the effects of rejection made him bitter and twisted.

Catwoman’s (Michelle Pfeiffer) former life as lowly assistant of overly ambitious businessman Max Shreck (Christopher Walken) and her lack of social life, cause her to be ambitious. Her quest for significance is inadvertently found in being a black suited prowler, who like the Penguin is bitter and twisted.

A lot of time is spent on the villains. They could have been saved if they were given a bit of goodwill rather than being ignored and rejected.

Batman Forever (1995)

The action is lame and somewhat reminded me of the camp action scenes of the 1960s Batman television series.

Fisticuffs are with a mere pow-wow and ding-dong and The Riddler slips in a joke or two and cackles wildly, but without any of the television series humor.

But there’s at least a story: When you’re famous, there may be the temptation to think fame isn’t wonderful. Bruce Wayne ala Batman is one of those, but he is famous for being two people, Bruce Wayne or Batman.

Fame as two people is quite a drag when Bruce does not care anymore as the riddles that are going on in his mind give him cause to ponder, and pivot on a primal incident that caused him to become Batman in the first place.

There is no such introspection for Dr. Edward Nygma (Jim Carey). He wants to be successful and a ‘winner’, with a device he has invented that will manipulate people’s minds.

Of course, his boss, Bruce Wayne, rejects an offer to fund it, as what it does is wrong.

This sends Nygma into a tail spin. He cannot cope with rejection, so wallows in it and lets it dominate his destiny as he becomes The Riddler.

Batman Forever has scenes of sick-minded behavior without any backstory as The Riddler and his partner Two Face (Tommy Lee Jones) break into buildings and capture Bruce Wayne’s psychologist, Dr. Chase Meridian (Nichole Kidman). In this type of film, there appears no redemption for these villains.

Batman and Robin (1997)

Batman and Robin finishes this cycle of Batman films since 1989’s Batman.

In Batman and Robin, Dr. Victor Fries tries to finish making a life-saving formula for his dying wife.

We would understand.

He needs money for his compassionate deed, so holds Gotham city ransom as Mr. Freeze.

Maybe we wouldn’t understand.

However, maybe we could.

Seems that Dr. Fries is desperate to save what he may lose, his wife who is closest to him.

He loves her, but his desperation leads to unconventional and criminal methods of trying to acquire, ironically, a cure for her disease. Finding a cure is in itself a noble cause, although his methods wind up lacking scruples.

Besides, we can’t imagine the usually heroic Arnold Schwarzeneger being a right-out villain as Mr.Freeze. There’s sympathy for him.

Desperation plays tricks on people and can land them in trouble. But the question this film might have been asking is: why isn’t there a cure?  Who holds the purse strings and should they be made to account?

Batman (this time played by George Clooney), Batman’s partner Robin (Chris O’Donnell), and Batgirl (Alicia Silverstone) must take the painful but necessary step, to stop Mr. Freeze, who will probably have to sort out his problems in jail, problems which will be acerbated by then, while a cure is found wanting.

A sad and unfortunate ending.

Batman Begins (2005)

The up-to-date Batman trilogy started with Batman Begins in 2005 and the directorial reigns was handed over to Christopher Nolan, who had made Insomnia (2002) and Memento (2001).

Nolan brought more of a polished and stylish production quality and a sense of significance and romanticism to the Batman myth.

Batman Begins was the first real serious Batman movie and leaps ahead in development of theme: there is a strong sense of Bruce Wayne forging an identity as Batman. The first half is devoted to unraveling that identity.

Memorably, Bruce Wayne goes to the secluded mountains to exorcise his ‘demons’, as he tries to come to terms with a childhood incident involving his parents.

Wayne has a mentor who challenges him to face his fears and embrace a new identity.

The movie brings all the former movies description of Bruce Wayne’s personal problems to greater light.

He must become a man and more than that he must become something people can look up to and rely on.

The Dark Knight (2008)

This is the most controversial Batman movie ever because it is more violent, more on the edge and eerily touching on real life, but was the unprecedented Batman hit of all time.

As a movie, it is lacking in my opinion, and the violence and subject matter were off putting factors for me.

But it is disturbingly interesting.

The theme of showing compassion for deranged criminals, because of their horrendous backgrounds, was controversial and unsettling, because where that may lead a justice system.

If Batman is supposed to be a hero that people can admire and trust in because he keeps society safe, then The Dark Knight puts a spanner in the works. It has a greater sense of compassion than Batman Begins and Batman takes the rap for other’s wrongdoings. Reality, though, is more complicated.

Still, we strive for the ideal. The Dark Knight shows that before someone can judge another person, he must be right himself, to take the log out of his own eye, so he can take the speck out of his brother’s eye. Perhaps this has further implications in the crime and punishment realm, of having redemptive attitudes and approaches towards the criminally insane.

It was the first Batman movie to really bridge the gap between cinema and society, and the first Batman film to really function as an artistic statement, which makes it a watershed or landmark film though I did not like it and neither did I recommend it in my 2008 review.

The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

The Dark Knight Rises became the most notorious Batman film because of a cloud of controversy in its first week of release, but the film had been hotly anticipated yet marred by events surrounding the film.

The film itself is not controversial, but The Dark Knight Rises as a movie has not as much spark and energy as the two previous films.  I may call it entertaining, but that seems an insufficient description, for a film that appears better than just mere entertainment.

Still, the new Batman trilogy ended on a low-light rather than a resounding triumph because there is less complexity of character and theme than the two former films.

However, The Dark Knight Rises shows that at the end of the day, society still needs a crime fighter, albeit better adjusted than before, and one who can rise to the occasion.

After a descent, where problems are sorted through in the belly or naval of existence, there must be a resurrection, for the crime fighter, for the hope of redeeming the villain or locking the villain away and for the safety of society.

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