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Holy Camp, Batman: The Redemptive Queerness of “Batman & Robin”…

The podcast that I co-host, The 250, will be looking at Batman and Robin this weekend. It is a fun discussion, well worth a listen, and I hope you enjoy. However, I had some thoughts that I wanted to get down before specifically about the film.

Batman and Robin is not a good movie, by any stretch of the imagination.

However, it is somewhat unfairly vilified. This is particularly true in comparison to its direct predecessor, Batman Forever. Very few people would attempt to argue that either Batman Forever or Batman and Robin were good films on their own terms, but the consensus seems to have formed around the idea that – to paraphrase Edward Nygma – Batman Forever was bad, Batman and Robin was worse. This calcified into the idea that Batman and Robin is among the very worst comic book movies ever, and Batman Forever is not.

It is interesting to speculate on why this might be. Batman Forever and Batman and Robin are both cynically constructed blockbusters aimed at the youngest and least discerning audiences, eschewing concepts like plot and characterisation in favour of cheap thrills and terrible jokes. Both films offer incredibly condescending exposition, betraying the sense in which they have been constructed for audiences with the shortest possible attention span. However, while Batman and Robin embraces this cynicism, Batman Forever clumsily tries to disguise it.

Much has been made of the fact that director Joel Schumacher wanted to make a better movie than Batman Forever. He singled out Batman: Year One as the Batman movie that he wanted to make. Traces of this better movie occasionally surface in discussions of Batman Forever and are often framed in reference to the film’s admittedly darker and more artistic deleted scenes. There is a clear sense that Batman Forever harboured something resembling ambition before it was brutally bent and broken into its final released form.

However, Batman Forever also offers its audience condescending and trite pop psychology. The result is a veneer of faux profundity that suggests hidden depths that the movie is unwilling and unable to explore. Batman Forever vaguely touches on the question of whether Bruce feels responsible for the death of his parents and the trouble he has reconciling the two halves of himself, but in no real depth. Two-Face is one of the primary antagonists of Batman Forever, and the film can’t even be bothered to make that thematic connection.

It’s interesting to wonder if Batman Forever has a slightly warmer reputation because of this unearned grasp at weightiness, these small gestures towards the idea of “psychological complexity” and “psychological nuance” in the most trite manner imaginable. After all, Batman Forever is a movie that has Bruce Wayne dating a psychologist, and feel inordinately proud of that idea. It’s easier to pass off Batman Forever as more mature or more considered than Batman and Robin, because it gestures broadly at ideas that are a little darker and more complex.

This is strange, because there’s a lot more interesting stuff happening in Batman and Robin. Unlike its direct predecessor, Batman and Robin makes no broad gesture towards profundity or insight. It is a profoundly stupid movie, and it is cognisant of both that stupidity and the audience’s relationship to that stupidity. However, there’s something much more interesting going on underneath the surface of Batman and Robin, in direct response to Batman Forever.

Batman Forever feels like a moral panic picture, a direct response to some imagined public outrage about certain earlier interpretations of the Caped Crusader. As such, it aims to produce the most generic and vanilla iteration of the character, the most boring and the most normative. What makes Batman and Robin so interesting is that it represents a firm rejection of that conservativism, and actively works to inject a lot of the queerness back into the Batman mythos. It doesn’t do this especially elegantly or smoothly, but it does it nonetheless. The results are compelling and engaging.

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“… You Wanna Get Nuts?” The Unique Legacy of Tim Burton’s “Batman”…

Tim Burton’s Batman is thirty years old this year, having opened in Irish cinemas thirty years ago this weekend. It leaves a complicated and underappreciated legacy.

To be fair, at least part of that is down to how the series ended. Joel Schumacher’s Batman Forever and Batman and Robin count among the worst blockbusters of the nineties and the worst comic book movies ever made. Taken together, they were responsible for killing not only that iteration of the cinematic Batman franchise, but also for effectively killing the superhero as a blockbuster genre until the triple whammy of Blade, X-Men and Spider-Man kick-started it again at the turn of the millennium.

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New Podcast! Scannain Podcast (2019) #24!

It’s time for the Scannain podcast!

This week, I join Jay Coyle and Grace Duffy to discuss what we watched, the week in film news, the top ten and the new releases. Grace has watched ThievesMissing and My Own Private Idaho. Jay has watched A Day in the Country, Without Name, Craig’s Wife, The Loved Ones and One Sings, The Other Doesn’t. I have watched The Dark Knight Rises, Sanjuro and Lone Wolf and Cub in Sword of Vengeance. There is also an extended discussion on the merits (or lack thereof) of Batman Forever.

In terms of film news, the Galway Film Fleadh continues to roll out announcements – including its slate of masterclasses and an unexpected Cagney and Lacey celebration with Tyne Daly. The IFI is hosting a number of seasons in July – one celebrating the work of Robert Bresson and also the annual Family Festival. Meanwhile, the Lighthouse and Palais Galway are hosting a season of coming of age favourites.

The top ten:

  1. Late Night
  2. John Wick: Chapter III – Parabellum
  3. Detective Pikachu
  4. Diego Maradona
  5. Godzilla: King of the Monsters
  6. X-Men: Dark Phoenix
  7. Rocketman
  8. The Secret Lives of Pets II
  9. Men in Black International
  10. Aladdin

New releases:

You can listen to the podcast directly here.

 

Requiem For a Genre Star: Michael Massee and Familiar Faces In Small Roles…

With Jamie Foxx in contention to play Electro in the sequel to The Amazing Spider-Man, I got thinking about the teaser in the middle of the credit sequence. In the small scene, a mysterious visitor confronted Curt Connors about what Peter Parker did or did not know about his father. He got a single line, and was couched in shadow. My less cynical side suggests that this was an attempt to play up the mystery of the character so his inevitable appearance in the sequel would make sense. My more pragmatic side figures that it was to leave the role open for the production team to hire a big-name actor for the character’s appearance in the next film in the series. That is, after all, why all the shots of Norman Osborn in The Amazing Spider-Man were careful not to reveal any facial features. Perhaps they can be digitally reinserted into the first film when the role is cast next time around?

However, this short sequence is a bit disappointing, if only because I was able to recognise the actor appearing, only for a second, cloaked in darkness. He was Michael Massee. And I feel a little sad that this means he likely won’t be playing a significant role in the sequel.

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Non-Review Review: Batman/Mr. Freeze – SubZero

Surprisingly, not all films featuring Mr. Freeze are terrible. Batman/Mr. Freeze: SubZero doesn’t quite live up to the best of the animated Batman movies or even animated television shows, standing in the shadow of both Mask of the Phantasm and Return of the Joker, but it’s still a surprisingly solid adventure that offers a much better showing for the Caped Crusader than either of the Joel Schumacher Batman movies.

Things are heating up…

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Non-Review Review: Falling Down

Falling Down is something of a cult classic. It, along with Phone Booth, stands as proof that Joel Schumacher is actually a rather wonderful director, as much as his failures might occasional overshadow his accomplishments. Filmed in the midst of the Los Angeles riots, Falling Down manages to speak to a lot of the anger of urban living, as William “D-Fens” Foster takes out his frustration on an urban environment that has gone completely mad. Almost twenty years after it was originally released, Falling Down is still a potent little film.

The best D-FENS…

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Grant Morrison’s Run on Batman & Robin – Batman Reborn, Batman vs. Robin & Batman Must Die! (Review/Retrospective)

December is “Grant Morrison month” here at the m0vie blog, as we take the month to consider and reflect on one of the most critically acclaimed (and polarising) authors working in the medium. Every Wednesday this month, we’ll have a Grant Morrison related review or retrospective.

I am going to be honest. I didn’t love Grant Morrison’s tenure on Batman. It felt a bit awkward and continuity-heavy – don’t get me wrong, I appreciated his attempt to tie together just about every aspect and iteration of Batman ever, but it just felt a bit too much. Yes, Batman can be the grim avenger or the charming ladies’ man or the camp crusader or the superhero or the urban vigilante or the world’s greatest detective or a swinging icon, but – in reading Morrison’s run – it felt too awkward to make Batman all of these at the same time. Perhaps, then, it’s because Batman & Robin sets itself a more modest goal (in that it doesn’t attempt to reconcile every aspect of the character’s seventy-year history) or just because Morrison appears to be enjoying himself far more, but this second act in Grant Morrison’s epic Batman saga is a much more engaging read.

The run gets off to an explosive start…

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Collecting Myself: The Irresistible Urge of the “Impulse Buy” DVDs…

I admit that I may have something approaching a problem.

I’m a nerd – a movie nerd. So, at this time of year, as Christmas approaches, I find myself tempted by all the bright lights and shiny sales stickers I can find on DVDs and blu rays – as the shops start marking them down in a serious attempt to shift some merchandise in the lead-up to one of the busiest shopping days of the year. Last night, I went to HMV, intending to pick up the newly released Three Colours trilogy on blu ray. It’s a masterpiece of European cinema, and I can’t wait to sink my teeth into it once again. However, despite the fact that they didn’t have the trilogy, I somehow managed to leave with five blu rays in my bag.

They were having a sale, you see. And I realise that sounds like the lamest rationalisation ever.

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Batman Live at the O2 (Review)

I had the chance to check out the new Batman Live stage show at the O2 (the Point) this evening, fresh off the british leg of its world tour. It was very much Batmanas camp pantomime, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing – it is, after all, a show to bring the whole family to. Still, I couldn’t help wondering if the show was looking to the wrong sources for inspiration. After all, batman has been many things to many people over his seventy years of existence, so there’s a lot of stuff to draw on no matter what angle you choose to take. So I found it quite a bit strange that the stage show opted to draw on Tim Burton’s darkly gothic Gotham when offering light family entertainment, especially when one suspects the Adam West iteration of the character might have suited the tone of the material better.

Joker's wild...

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Non-Review Review: Batman & Robin

It takes a lot to kill Batman. Just ask Bane. That character broke Batman across his knee, discarded him and claimed Gotham for his own… only to have Bruce claw his way back and reclaim the mantle. The evil New God Darkseid once decided not only to kill Batman, but to send him back to the dawn of time to live through a cycle of death and rebirth in the hopes of destroying the Caped Crusader… Batman just sorta shrugged that one off. He’s a tough nut to keep down, is that Dark Knight.

However, Joel Schumacher managed to nearly knock Batman out for the count (at least on film) with Batman & Robin, the movie which – if it didn’t kill the Batman franchise – at least put it into a coma for several years.

It's some kinda storm (it's not "snow", but it begins with "s")...

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