Thursday, December 3, 2009

Christmas Movies For When You Can't Stand To Watch Anymore Christmas Movies #1: Batman Returns

I know I know, the decorations have been up since Oct. 15th, terrible music is being piped at you twenty four seven, a hideous rubberly computer generated likeness of Jim Carrey has already shown up to terrify your children and take your hard earned money.

The fact is that even if you’re Ned Flanders by the time Christmas Rolls around you’re probably feeling a little Holly Jolly’d out. Well I’m here to get you back in the spirit of things, with a couple of Christmas films off the beaten pack. No “Wonderful Life” or “Miracle On 34th Street”. No these are some Christmas movies that won’t be played non stop on a loop for the next month.

If there’s one person more popular then Jesus its Batman. Burton had the brilliant plan to mix the two, by making what’s quite possibly his strangest movie, which is saying something, the sequel to one of the biggest money makers of all time. People hated the movie at the time criticizing it for its dark tone, transgressive characters, and bizarre visuals, having apparently never seen nor heard of a Tim Burton movie or Batman Comic before.

I'm in the minority here but I personally feel Returns is a superior movie to Burton's original Batman in just about every possible way. While I still love that movie on a nostalgic basis, actually viewing the thing means sitting through a WHOOOLLLLEEE lot more Bassinger then I'm willing. Even setting aside Nicholson's old fat and hammy performance (What Ledger's performance really did was made me wish Nicholson had played the part sooner, can you imagine if Last Detail/ Five Easy Pieces era Jack had taken a crack at The Joker) The Prince Music, The Bat suit that can't turn its head, the utterly static fight "choreography" and utter 80'sness of the whole thing, there is still major stuff bogging that movie down. I love it, but I need to be in the right move to watch it and look past its flaws, Returns I can turn on at just about anytime.

What I really feel threw people though was the earnestness with which Batman Returns dealt with its source material. Returns was really the first comic book movie that treated Comic books as something to be examined. While its ostensibly about a power struggle between The Penguin, Catwoman, and Batman, it plays much more like a demented character study, with every other person in the movie standing in for some part of Wayne’s twisted psyche.

The Penguin, played in a vile yet sympathetic performance by Danny DeVito, as the animalistic embittered orphan, Catwoman (Pfiefer still smoking hot in the PVC) as the part of Batman gets off dressing up in leather and beating the shit out of people, and Max Shrek (A more bugnuts then usual Chris Walken) as the driven industrialist. Everyone is Wayne adjusted a degree. Keaton plays Wayne himself as a shell of a man until he puts on the suit. The opening scene which has him sitting in his home blankly staring at a wall, only showing any sign of life when the Bat Signal hits him is one of my favorite depictions of the character. Had Bergman ever made a superhero movie it might have looked something like this.

At a time when stuff like Watchmen and The Dark Knight gets released every couple of months that’s no big deal. But back then it was unprecedented. Now what the hell does this have to do with Christmas? Well like 95% of Burton movies its set during the Holiday season, and Burton manages to make it more then window dressing, infusing the film with a real, yet melancholy sense of The Christmas spirit. There are some real lovely seen capturing the feel that this time of year gives, when even the freaks and misfits would like some company.


MrJeffery said...

Mindless, dark fun. I love this more than Batman as well? And much more than Batman Begins. Michelle P. was great as Catwoman.

Ryan said...

My single favorite Christmas movie. I watch it every year on Christmas eve.

Evil Dead Junkie said...

Ryan! Good to see you you buddy!

Paul said...

No, Die Hard? That's my favorite Xmas movie!