Re-watched Batman Returns – recently obtained on Blu-Ray for the princely sum of 6 whole pounds – you know the one with all the Penguins …. OOOOOH and Michelle Pfeiffer. She’s on my list. Got me to thinking about the older Burton/Elfman/Keaton version of the franchise (was this movie really released in 1992!) versus the current Nolan/Zimmer/Bale.
For an older Blu-ray transfer there is a respectable amount of extras on the disc; some other “DVD/Video-age” transfers have not been so generous; especially the totally excellent track (but now rather dated looking video) Face to Face by Siouxsie and the Banshees. This whole thing came up was because I was asked shortly after watching it which movie I preferred? Which got me to thinking about a ton of stuff: direction, special/visual effects, the soundtrack and not forgetting the Batman himself.
Direction and visual effects were admittedly starting to look a little hmm? compared to the latest reboot but hey it’s been over 20 years. It damn well should look and feel better. Nolan’s vision is grittier, as more films and TV are these days. Which I admit lends itself more readily to the character of Batman. Although I vividly remember coming out of the cineman in London after watching the 1st Burton Batman still tingling from the rooftop fight scene in which Batman has vanished by the time the thug looks over the ledge. This movie is played possibly more camp than I’d have preferred, Burton was obviously given more latitude on movie #2. The penguins particularly so and don’t get me started on the guys in suits. The new movies are much closer to my personal view of how the Batman should be.
Soundtracks. Danny Elfman‘s soundtrack grabbed me instantly in the first movie, I rushed out and bought it at a terribly inflated price immediately. It has some good dangerous sounding stuff and an excellent selection of leit-motif’s for the characters, especially the Batman “march”; although the Catwoman tranformation scene in this movie is in my opinion some of his best work. Hans Zimmer‘s versions don’t have the same instantly recognisable hooks and click-tracks but they sure as hell grow on you; that pounding build into “I’m going to keep you dangling for the cresendo and denouement” as long as I can is intoxicating. I only have the Dark Knight soundtrack from the second set. If I am honest I reckon the Joker movies in BOTH incarnations are the stand-outs.
The Batman. Keaton’s take WAS driven and in places psychotic but not as much as Bale’s but that could simply be the product of the darker times we live in reflected in the newer characterisation. Keatons’ Batman was somewhat hamstrung in the costume which showed in the fight sequences, these are more viscreal and faster in Bales’ reign as the Bat. I guess latex rubber tech. has come a long way in 20+ years.
Back to the question. “Which do I prefer?” Keaton 1 and Bale 2. These both had the most scary-bat moments, soundtracks and performances. Not going to rate one vision over the other, they are both of their time and I’m sure the next reboot 20 years hence will be different again.