Just forget the words and sing along

Saturday, April 24, 2004

And now, time for another "deep analysis of something that's not really that deep."

For the first time in a few years, I sat down and watched Batman last night. Watched it on video, actually. I refuse to buy it on DVD until they pump out a special edition. Anywho, I was watching and thinking that it really does look like a product of the 1980s now. It's just Danny Elfman's music score (his first real big one, according to him), the set design, the way the shots are set up, it all seems so typical of 1980s filmmaking now. Right down to the climax with the very-obvious-Batwing-model. You know nowadays, it would a a very-obvious-Batwing-computer-animated-creation.

But, for all its 1980s filmmaking techniques, it almost pulls of the feat of being timeless. Just when you think it could be taking place in this day and age, though, something comes along to remind you that it was made in 1989. Nicholas Meyer said this on his running commentary for Star Trek II: things that are contemporary right now just have a way of sneaking into the art that's being made now. The example they Meyer gave: take three films that are set in 1776. One was made in 1956, one was made in 1976, and one was made in 1996. You'd probably be able to successfully guess when each film was made within a year or two. But I digress.

I have the same problem with Superman. Just when you think it's timeless, something comes along. In Superman, it's when Superman runs into a stereotypical 1970s-style pimp. In Batman, it's whenever I spot a spikey haired punk rocker chick in the crowd of extras. Or a Prince song plays.

It does kind of make me sad, though, how a film like Batman will probably never be made that way again. I had this discussion with Mr. Anderson a few weeks ago when I caught The NeverEnding Story on TV. Back in the 1980s, if you wanted to create a fantasy world like Fantasia or even Gotham City, you had to build massive, massive sets to create the world and elaborate make-up prosthetics or animatronics for the fantastic creatures. Nowadays, you just slap the actors in front of a blue screen and the sets and fantastic creatures will be put in later with computer animation. I still think there's still a place for massive, massive sets, though. I started thinking the technology went too far when, on the running commentary for Back to the Future, Robert Zemeckis said that, if he were to make Back to the Future today, Michael J. Fox would be in front a blue screen for the whole thing.

And, because it's on my mind right now, here's some Batman trivia tidbits culled from the Internet Movie Database:

- The project began life in 1980, fresh off the success of Superman. Tom Mankeiwcz, who wrote the screenplay for Superman, wrote the first draft. The project languished for a few years, and Sam Hamm (who wrote the final screenplay) started work on his script in 1984.

- John Williams was the first choice to write the score.

- The Coen Brothers and Sam Raimi were among the original choices for director.

- Alec Baldwin was in the running to play Batman/Bruce Wayne.

- Tim Curry and Robin Williams were both in the running to play the Joker.

- The Gotham Globe editorial cartoonist who draws a picture of a "Man-Bat" was originally slated to be a cameo by Batman creator Bob Kane, but Kane fell ill the day he was to film the scene and had to be replaced.

- Adam West was originally offered a cameo as Bruce Wayne's father in the flashback.

- In what's fairly common knowledge now, Sean Young was the original Vicki Vale, but she broke her collarbone in rehearsals and had to be replaced.

- The Axis Chemical Factory set was actually a leftover set from Aliens.

If I could live the summer of 1989 all over again, I'd choose to see Batman in the theatre.

Next Issue...Batmark

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