Thursday, May 9, 2013

Watching Movies In Suits [Batman]


Suits is a show on the USA Network that one of my good friends had been trying to get me to watch for the longest time. Long story short, I finally bit the bullet. I fell in love almost instantly with the drama, humor and story being top notch. Also the sly movie references was the icing on the cake for me. They are littered in every episode and gave me this idea for a weekly blog series. Suits in short follows the story of a successful law firm in New York. Their top lawyer hires a kid who is basically a genius, but never went to law school. The kid must learn the ins and outs of working at a law firm, alongside higher ups and with arguably the best paralegal in the city. The longer this charade goes the harder it seems that his dirty little secret will stay one. We're continuing this series, and what I'd like to call "Superhero Month" with, Batman!

Suits Batman Reference #1
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Suits Batman Reference #2
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Suits Batman Reference #3
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Suits Batman Reference #4
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Suits Batman Reference #5
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The year was 1989. I wasn't even born yet. Tim Burton was a wee young director. Batman was his third feature film. He had garnered enough attention from Pee-Wee's Big Adventure and Beetlejuice, to be able to land this massive directing role. Before Christian Bale and Batman: Begins you probably knew of Micheal Keaton as "the best" movie Batman. Sorry Adam West, but you owned the TV series. Jack Nicholson was the evil, yet humorous, Joker and is widely regarded as one of the best super villain performances of all time. This is the first installment of the original Batman series, and while it has flaws, it's still a pretty good superhero flick.

Batman follows the story of Bruce Wanye aka Batman (Micheal Keaton) as he protects Gotham City from Jack Naiper aka The Joker (Jack Nicholson). As a kid Bruce watches his parents get killed, he vows to avenge his parents by fighting crime, eventually becoming the mysterious Batman. Newly elected District Attorney Harvey Dent (Billy Dee Williams) and Police Commissioner James Gordon (Pat Hingle) still can't put a check on the corruption in the police department. Which is being headed by crime boss Carl Grissom (Jack Palance). Meanwhile reporter Alexander Knox (Robert Wuhl) and photojournalist Vicki Vale (Kim Basinger) are now investigating reports of a shadowy figure, dressed as a bat, fighting crime around Gotham. One night Jack Naiper, Grissom's number two, is sent to a chemical factory for a job. The police are tipped off, which also alerts Batman. Amidst all the commotion Batman attempts to save Jack Naiper from falling into a vat of chemicals to no avail. The fall causes him to need plastic surgery, though his face is permanently stuck as though he's always grinning. Hating the way he now looks he reinvents himself as The Joker and begins to terrorize Gotham City. From robbing galleries to killing the public with his patented Joker Venom, Batman must keep his identity secret while saving Gotham from a maniacal villain.

There is a lot of problems, but there is also a lot of good with this first installment of the original Batman film series. But the glaring problems are pretty glaring. Starting with the fact that in this incarnation, they have The Joker kill Bruce's parents. Which in itself is fine, if you haven't followed the Batman story ever. I don't know why they decided to go in this direction with it, but anyone with even a inkling of "Batman" knowledge knows that The Joker did not kill Wanye's parents. Another problem is the over-goofiness of The Joker. While I understand the The Joker is meant to be an over the top character, the random musical number, and the music during the parade scene, is enough to make you wonder why Burton let these happen. Maybe he wasn't acquainted with the Batman lore, or wanted to liven up an otherwise "dark" movie, but he really needed to choose one or the other. A superhero flick with comedic tones, or a superhero flick that stuck to a story-line, no matter how "deep" it got. The direction is the last problem I have. While I like Burton, this was not the movie for him. Burton is made for zany, dark, over the top with comedic tone in an original story. Not a widely acclaimed superhero movie. While this might have launched his directing career, this is nowhere near his best work. The good is pretty great though. The acting by Michael Keaton as both Bruce Wayne, and Batman, was pretty good. He worked well as the billionaire playboy and was good enough as Batman to be convincing. Kim Basinger played a good role as reporter/damsel in distress Vicki Vale. She was a nice compliment to both Keaton and Nicholson onscreen. Finally the acting by Jack Nicholson as The Joker was great. While there's a lot of over the top moments with him I didn't like, he played into the character well. He gets into the mind of The Joker and is crazy, and insane enough, to make you think he really is The Joker. The action was very 1980s but it worked. The gadgets were pretty cool too. I loved seeing the Batplane, Batmobile and various other staples. While the story was a good start to what was a promising film series at the time.

I love the Batman character and lore. I usually love any movie based around it as well. The story kicked off  what would be a 1990s films run that a lot consider to have one of the worst movies of all time in it. But, this was the first installment and was pretty solid. Despite it's flaws the story and character development is pretty great. Keaton and Nicholson are fantastic in their respective roles and Basinger provides a good supporting role. The direction by Burton leaves to scratching your head at times, but don't throw the whole movie out on this account. Batman in the end, is a very good superhero movie, well before superhero movies were considered the norm.


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