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New Escapist Column! On “Batman Returns” as the Most Unconventional Christmas Movie…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. It’s Christmas, so it seemed like a good time to take a look back at one of the most underappreciated Christmas movies ever: Batman Returns.

Batman Returns is a decidedly unconventional Christmas movie, packed with weirdos and freaks, commercialism run amok and climaxing with the aborted mass murder of an entire city’s firstborn sons. However, it is this weirdness that makes Batman Returns such a delightful Christmas movie, and one that is arguably perfectly suited to this most strange and surreal Christmas. At its core, Batman Returns is a mood piece built around what it feels like to be lonely at Christmas.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

New Escapist Column! On the Strange Moral Panic Around “Batman Forever”…

I published a new In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine this evening. With the film turning twenty-five last month and rumours circulating of a Joel Schumacher cut, it seemed like a good time to discuss Batman Forever.

Following on from Batman and Batman Returns, there was an immediate push for Batman Forever to be a much more conventional blockbuster. One of the interesting consequences of this is the complete erasure of anything that makes a Batman movie distinctive or unique. Batman Forever feels like a moral panic film, one desperately worried how kids might respond to the weirdness or dysfunction of Batman Returns. As such, Batman Forever offers a much more generic, much more conventional, much straighter, less interesting take on the Caped Crusader than any other film.

Indeed, the film resembles nothing so much as the moral panic around the character in the fifties, when – prompted by the publication of Doctor Frederic Wertham’s Seduction of the Innocent – there was a conscious effort to massage the character into a much more straightforward (and less complicated and less provocative) shape. Batman Forever follows a lot of the same playbook, resulting in a vision of Batman just as lost and muddled as so many of those fifties stories.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

New Podcast! Scannain Podcast (2018) #46!

It’s time for the latest Scannain podcast!

This week, I join Alex Towers from When Irish Eyes Are Watching, Grace Duffy and Jay Coyle to discuss the week in film news. It is a fun film discussion; Alex, Jay and I have all seen The Favourite, while Grace, Jay and I have seen A Christmas Prince. Along the way, Alex discusses a seasonal viewing of Batman Returns, Grace contemplates Free Solo, and Jay discusses Vertical Limit and Love, Simon.

In film news, the podcast was recorded hot on the heels of the announcement of the nominees at Golden Globes, also discussing the international distribution of The Hole in the Ground and the success of The Favourite at the British Independent Film Awards.

The top ten:

  1. Nativity Rocks!
  2. 2.0
  3. Widows
  4. Robin Hood
  5. A Star is Born
  6. Bohemian Rhapsody
  7. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
  8. The Grinch
  9. Wreck-It Ralph 2: Ralph Breaks the Internet
  10. Creed II

New releases:

You can download the episode here, or listen to it below.

My 12 for ’13: Iron Man 3 & Shane Black’s Christmas in April

This is my annual countdown of the 12 movies that really stuck with me this year. It only counts the movies released in Ireland in 2013, so quite a few of this year’s Oscar contenders aren’t eligible, though some of last year’s are.

This is number 9…

While Tim Burton’s underrated Batman Returns remains the definitive superhero Christmas movie, Iron Man 3 comes pretty darn close. Which is very strange, for a movie released in towards the end of April in Europe and in the United States in early May. This paradoxical festivity is just one of the many ways that Iron Man 3 feels more like a Shane Black film than a piece of the expansive and ever-growing Marvel Cinematic Universe.

And that’s a good thing.


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Look! Tim Flattery’s Batman Returns Concept Art! With Penguins!

The wonderful Tim Flattery has posted up some of his concept art from a whole host of his past projects, including Real Steel and Spider-Man 2. However, his concept work for Batman Returns caught my eye. Partially because I am a Batman fan, partially because I love Batman Returns more than most and partially because… well, penguins with buzz-saws! I’m waiting for the PETA complaints to begin. There’s also some concept art for the Batmobile from Batman Forever included below. Which is not the worst thing about that movie.

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That Pivotal Second Viewing…

As a film blogger, I tend to write reviews of films that I have never seen before. I occasionally take the opportunity to share my thoughts on classic films I have seen countless times, but most of my writing covers films I’ve only seen once. In some cases, that will be the first and only time that I see a movie. I have, for example, no desire to ever site through This Means War again. However, I occasionally find the second viewing of a film to be a much more enlightening and inspiring film, whether it crystalises my original opinion or perhaps even prompts a re-evaluation of my earlier thoughts. It’s interesting how different and distinct a film can appear each time you happen to watch it.

Twice the excitement...

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Non-Review Review: Edward Scissorhands

Perhaps no film better exemplifies the key themes of Tim Burton as well as Edward Scissorhands. It recalls the broad strokes of the Frankenstein story – in particular the iconic Boris Karloff Frankenstein movie from the thirties – telling the story a hideous scientific experiment which seeks acceptance in the outside world (and is turned upon by the villagers after a tragic misunderstanding). While Frankenstein’s monster responded with anger and murderous rage, Edward seems unable to full fathom what is occurring. The movie offered the first collaboration between Burton and Depp, a delightful pairing which we’d see on the big screen many times in the years that followed – there’s a reason the two have continued to work together for so long: they just work really well together.

Blades of glory...

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Non-Review Review: Batman Returns

I adore Batman Returns. It tends to be a rather polarising film, and certainly a polarising Batman adaptation. It was famously too dark and too weird for mainstream audiences, with too much creepy and freaky stuff serving to distress the parents of children who gobbled up Batman-themed Happy Meals. I think it holds up the best of the four Burton and Schumacher Batman films, because it finds a way to balance Burton’s unique approach and style with that of the Caped Crusader. While Burton’s Batman occasionally struggled to balance the director’s vision with a relatively conventional plot (to the point where Vicki Vale stuck out like a sore thumb, and the movie wasn’t the most coherently plotted of films), here there’s a much greater sense of balance at play, and a feeling that Burton isn’t compromising, and yet is working with the characters.

Shine a light…

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