From Pages to Projectors: The Batman Movies

In creating crossover entertainment there’s a line that has to be crossed. Poetic license has to be taken at times, certain elements removed or drastically changed and others invented to make a particular work cross over from one media to the next. While this is often difficult, and even more often met with criticism when texts are translated into motion picture it is especially difficult when dealing with comic books to film.

Of course, the imagination has no limitation and works on a page and illustrations require far less of a budget than movie special effects which is one of the major obstacles to navigate when translating text to film. This is an understandable limitation that up until very recently was in many instances forgivable. Now with the advancement of computers and special effects anything is possible in feature film that the mind can imagine so there is little room for forgiveness in that arena—especially not from comic book fans.

What is especially harder is when stylistic choices are made that, when an artist makes them are justifiable on a page, but are absolutely awful on screen. Some people will find ways to redeem the choices and others will stay hardheaded and not budge on the issue. This cannot be evidenced more than with Fanboys and their preferred properties. Arguments of this sort have recently sprung up around the movie adaptations of Watchmen, V for Vendetta, X-Men (any of them), Spider-Man, the list goes on forever.

However, none is more apparent than the choices made with the Batman movies. Discounting the 1940s serials there have been seven live action Batman feature films with the 8th to be released this summer movie season. Even in the halls of Eat Your Serial, the resident nerds are not in agreement about the choices, the success of the choices, and what the meter of success is. Is it fan appreciation? Is it box office sales? Should the two be linked? Batman is a hot button topic.

On the morning of April the 26th 2012 Editorial Director Nick Newert, Media Director Brandon Melendez, and occasionally (one interjection in the transcript) Toast Feature Columnist Mike Minch had a discussion about Batman movies via Twitter the cuts to the heart of this very issue. Submitted for your approval is the transcription of that Twitter exchange.

 

Full Disclosure: This will get nerdy.

 

Nick: I don’t have a particular affinity for either of the Keaton movies other than his performance. Bruce Wayne is, without a doubt, a deeply troubled man who mostly keeps it under wraps, and Keaton plays it perfectly.

Brandon: I like the Nolan movies but of the 80’s and 90’s [movies] Keaton is my favorite and that first Batman movie is near and dear to me.

Nick: I loved Keaton as Batman. He was my favorite for the overall Batman/Bruce Wayne combo. I don’t have a particular affinity for either of the Keaton movies other than his performance.

Brandon: Jack Nicholson.

Nick: Y’know what, I’ve never been a huge fan of his performance. I don’t hate it, but I don’t think it’s great.

Brandon: His every performance is great because he commits to it. He plays a great maniac. Is it possible that it’s the interpretation and not the performance you’re ambivalent about?

Nick: How do you mean, exactly? In my mind, interpretation is a big part of performance.

Brandon: I’m talking about commitment. Particularly in a Tim Burton flick interpretation is more about director choice performance more about execution. Even with a phenomenal character actor I imagine he was heavily directed by Burton.

Nick: Usually I’d agree, but in the late 80’s, I’d say that Nicholson could do what he wanted, no matter what Burton said.

Brandon: Maybe…might explain why they never worked together again. Also makes for a great conversation about the two interpretations of Joker: kills you in a funny way and kills you because he thinks it’s funny. I personally prefer the latter but understand how the former is more marketable

Nick: Yeah, the only two feature length movies Burton had under his belt then were Beetlejuice and Pee Wee.

Mike: Since I’m still along for this ride, I’d like to mention Joel Schumacher. That is all. #CodPiece

Brandon: Mike, you mean Joel Shitmaker.

Nick: I will say this about Schumacher, he set out to make a modern version of the Adam West series, and he totally did.

Brandon: Yeah but that show doesn’t work in a modern context.

Nick: I wouldn’t necessarily say that. The problem is that comic fans went in expecting Frank Miller’s Batman.

Brandon: I don’t think Broadway neon nipple pouty-lipped Batman works.

Nick: It’s a matter of taste than a matter of ‘working’. Shumacher set out to make a hyper-stylized version is all. It’s certainly not up *my* alley, but I wouldn’t say that it doesn’t work. He made what he set out to make.

Brandon: Yes. The evidence of it’s success was his third Batman movie. Batman Forever wasn’t as overboard as Batman and Robin.

Nick: Making money and succeeding at making what you set out are two different things. And it WAS successful, it made $237M. To be clear, I don’t like the movie, but he made what he wanted to, and he made a fuck-ton of money for WB too.

Brandon: Yeah mostly in the first weekend.

Nick: Most tent-pole movies make the lion’s share of their money in the opening week, though. It made $42M it’s opening weekend.

Brandon: Closer to 43. For the rest of its run in North America it made the rest of the $107 million. That’s a sharp decline. It then made $130 million internationally because they didn’t know better. It turned a profit but not a big enough one for them to make more in that series. They needed a reboot.

Nick: I’m not buying that argument for a second. It still profited over $100 million.

Brandon: Wikipedia cites a 63% decline. I’m not doing more research but that seems uncommonly sharp.

Nick: All I’m saying is, Shumacher wanted a stylized Batman.

Brandon: I’m not arguing that. I’m just saying that it’s not great and wasn’t a popular or successful vision. It should have made billions! I grew up with bat nipples on bats but not on Batmen.

Nick: He made a stylized Batman, and a $100M profit for Warner Brothers.

Brandon: yes. #Agreed your terms are correct. My terms of bat nipples are also agreeable.

Nick: It’s been admitted! Brandon finds Bat-nipples agreeable! #waitwhat?

The whole conversation kind of fell apart at this point but I think the gist of the rift is apparent in this transcription. There may be no ultimately right or wrong argument (though I tend to think I am right as I am wont to do). What is the measure of success? What do you think? Let us know.

 

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