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Batman & Robin (1997)
Yes, it really is THAT bad...
As a longtime fan of Batman on film and in the comics, I was thrilled when I learned that a fourth Batman film was in production with two of my favorite villians, Mr. Freeze and Poison Ivy. And then I actually saw it...
You know, in 1989 when the first film was released, I couldn't have been more excited. Finally, a true representation of creator Bob Kane's vision of a man, scarred from childhood, who feels a need to dress up as a bat and try to prevent crimes before they happen. The film was dark, Batman was enigmatic, and the villians were not campy, they were psychotic.
Joel Schumacher, who directed the third installment of the film as well, seems to have missed the whole point. Batman is not about wise cracking villians and their campy plans to steal really big diamonds, nor is it about fun-loving heroes and shots of their butts in rubber. It is about one man's psychosis, and it poses the question as to whether or not insanity can be good if it benifits society.
That's the problem with "Batman and Robin." It skips over the whole reality issue completely, and reduces the characters to one-dimentional pictures of men and women in odd costumes. The film is a huge departure from the comics, and while that is to be expected (after all, it is a major undertaking to try and fit over 50 years of storyline into a two hour movie), the liberties are not justified. Mr. Freeze is a brilliant scientist, who seeks revenge against the men who killed his wife and warped his body. While that is touched on in the movie, his primary motivation seems to be to amuse himself, both by freezing the city, and by craking a bunch of one-liners. Arnold Schwarzenegger has never been so bad on film, and his lack of acting talent shows through. He is annoying as Mr. Freeze, and plays him like a reject from the campy 60's TV show.
Uma Thurman, who is the best part of the film, makes a noble effort with what she's been given. Her Poision Ivy is seductive, calculating, and she gives the role charm that the rest of the film lacks. Her Ivy is fun both to look at, and to watch. While the character still lacks the bitterness of the comic Ivy, who vows revenge on all humanity for it's lack of consideration toward vegitation.
The character Bane is the biggest disappointment of the whole film. The comic Bane was very strong, yes, but he is also brilliant in his planning. He is the one villian who actually defeated Batman and put him out of comission for almost 2 years. Here, the only thing we get is a grunting shadow of that cunning.
Similiarly, Batgirl is reduced to a dumb valley girl, as opposed to the feminist of the comic books. Alicia Silverstone is a good enough actress to adaquately pull off the role, but she is given nothing to do. Her character is undeveloped, shallow, and appears only when the plot needs a diversion. It's sad really. She, like the Bane character, is a total waste.
I may come off like an overzealous comic reader at first, but I have a feeling that if you watch this film, you will agree with me, even if you have never seen a Batman comic book. "Batman and Robin" is nothing more than an overbudget, overstuffed, and poorly done piece of celluloid. The visual style is garish, the script is incohearent, the performances are unengaging, and the whole thing is about as deep as a butter dish. Watch it, and you will agree.
Batman: The Animated Series (1992)
THE Definitive Batman
Forget George Clooney, Val Kilmer, and even Mr. Keaton. Forget the great adaption by Tim Burton in the first two films, and especially forget the campy Adam West TV series. THIS is Batman the way it was intended. Dark, brooding, action packed, and engaging. The art work is amazing. Comic book style animation, but with a life that I've seen only in the series' sister shows, The Animated Superman Adventures and Batman Beyond. The vocal talents are nothing less than an audio treasure, with celebrities like Mark Hamill, John Glover, and Roddy MacDowell brining characters like the Joker, Riddler, and Mad Hatter to life as never before. Suitable for any age group, and equally enjoyable, Batman--The Animated Series goes above and beyond any other cartoon, or even television show of the genre. It is THE best action cartoon ever, and one of the greatest works to ever come out of television.
The Exorcist (1973)
There is a reason for the hysteria and mystique surrounding THE EXORCIST. And it's called genius.
Never have I seen a film matched in shock, terror, writing, or performances. This isn't a horror movie. The film itself is both a moving and terrifying drama that takes a realistic look at what would actually happen if a young girl were possessed in modern America. William Peter Blatty's script is amazing, bringing depth to the characters, and presenting the mystery of faith that they all deal with. Is Regan possessed? Is she insane? And most importantly, Is there a God? In the course of two hours, we see a sweet and innocent young girl become a cross masturbating, head spinning, murderous, creature. We see a successful actress overcome skepticism to save her daughter, and we see a brilliant psychiatrist struggle with his devotion to God as a priest.
Friedkin's direction is marvelous, with wonderful uses of light, dark, and color throughout the film. Jason Miller (as Damien Karras) is beautifully subtle in his first film acting role. Max Von Sydow and Lee J. Cobb provide engaging supporting performances as the experienced priest who senses his impending doom, and a detective who senses something sinister is at work. Ellen Burstyn gives a brutally honest performance as a grief stricken woman trying to save her daughter. And most of all, a 12-year-old Linda Blair gives one of the most terrifying, convincing, and beautiful performances ever shown on film. Her range of emotion and connection to Regan are astonishing. She deserved that Oscar!
THE EXORCIST presents to us the mystery of faith in it's most raw form--the battle of good and evil. It is an incomparable masterpiece of film, done without the aid of computers and special effects. It relies on story and performances to give us a marvelous and terrifying piece of work. In the end, it makes us ask ourselves what we believe, and keeps us wondering and shuddering at exactally what might be out there.
I need not explain why Star Wars: The Phantom Menace is perhaps the most well-known movie of 1999. The Star Wars saga that has taken the world by storm for over 20 years finally continues with an all-new storyline, and seeks to explain some of the mysteries of the original trilogies.
Granted, not everyone will like it. When as much hype as the Phantom Menace had surrounds a movie, there are bound to be some letdowns. Even some fans of the original trilogy found that without their favorite characters the story was not as compelling. However, what people tend to overlook is the real genius at work here. George Lucas has succeeded in creating a story full of classic archetypes set in space--something never before attempted.
Star Wars (and more noticibly in The Phantom Menace) goes beyond science fiction. It goes beyond fantasy. Lucas' story is fun, nostalgic, spiritual, creative, and a breakthrough in movie technology. Ultimately, it is about humanity and it's constant fight to find balance. It cannot be rightfully compared to the stories of Star Trek, 2001: A Space Odessey, or The Matrix (which, for some reason, people have a tendency to compare to The Phantom Menace more than anything else). It's not perfect, but there again, few works are. To miss The Phantom Menace (or any Star Wars film) is to miss out on one of the most unique and innovative film experiences available. Don't miss it!