Movie News & Reviews

Superhero rebuttal: Mr. Movie loved Burton's 'Batman'?

Dear Mr. Movie:

So your top two all-time favorite superhero movies, not counting that Batman cheat, are fromthe last three months?

How can you possibly expect to have thecritical perspective to make that call when the figurative paint's notyet done drying on The Dark Knight's metaphorical barn?

You young critics have no sense of cinematic history, that's yourproblem. So impressed by the latest thing you mistake what's new forwhat's good. If you'd take a look at my careful, much more reasonedlist, you'd see that...oh, wait. I agree completely. Iron Manand The Dark Knight kick crazy ass, and along with TheIncredibles, they're head and shoulders above the rest of thegenre.

The real surprise for me was you putting Iron Man all the wayup at No. 2. It's thoroughly great, but I thought I was going out on alimb giving it the second spot, so to see it there on your list aswell made me sit back and think.

That you must be spying on me! It's either that or great minds thinkalike, and though I expected there'd be some overlap, Mr. Movie — ifthat is your real name — I didn't expect the extent to which we'dagree.

As for the rest of it — ugh, Superman. I don't object to thisone on cinematic grounds, I object to it on conceptual ones.Superman's a damn punk. First off, he's invincible, and though youwon't find this in any dictionary, "invincible" is a synonym for"boring." Remember The Matrix Reloaded? Yeah, well everyoneelse wishes they didn't, and a big part of that was once Neo becameleather-caped Superman, all the tension flew away faster than aspeeding bullet.

I did just catch Superman for the first time, though, and I'llagree Gene Hackman rocked the proverbial house. Also delightful:Superman flying so fast around the world he turned back time. I'vebeen hearing about that scene for years, and it was everything I hopedit would be.

Less awesome, however, was its length and general cornball aura.Christopher Reeves didn't even get into Superman mode for a full hour.That sluggishness may have flown back in '78, but 30 years later,I'm expecting more. I actually got into an argument with my friendabout whether the first hour had any action whatsoever, and I was theone arguing the explosion of a planet counted! (Which it does, Jason,you moron. What planet do you come from where total terrestrialdestruction isn't action? One that gets blown up soon, I hope.)

Now, onto shakier ground. I expect to take some punches on thisone — literal ones, because most of my friends are much larger than me,and besides, I'm not paying them to not hit me — but I just don't thinkTim Burton's Batman is that great.

Don't get me wrong. It's fine and all. I appreciate Burton's darkwhimsy to the extent I'm required. But you say it doesn't matter whoplays Batman, and there I diverge. The thing I like about ChristianBale is, for him, both Batman and Bruce Wayne are an act. He clearlydoesn't care about the things Wayne's supposed to, but he knows that,in order to be the best Batman he can be, it's his solemn duty todrunkenly burn down his mansion and score with a nonstop succession ofgold diggers. That's the sacrifice he's willing to make for Gotham.

But he isn't really Batman, either. He just knows he needs to beBatman because the city needs him — well, that and he's an emotionallywrecked semi-psychopath whose only therapy is beating holy hell out ofthe kinds of people who killed his folks. He doesn't have theconfidence of Superman, though. He knows he's walking a tightrope andthat the very things that make him need to walk it are the same thingsthat threaten to push him off the side. Bale's Batman has remarkabledepth, especially in The Dark Knight.

I didn't get that out of Michael Keaton. Burton's Batman ismore about taking superheroes in a weird new direction than inhumanizing them. It's interesting; it's entertaining, it's just not inthe same league as what we've had in the last few years.

Also, it should have had more explosions.

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