Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Side by Side: Burton Vs. Nolan

Welcome to our new series Side by Side where we dissect the differences between the original and the reboot or remake. This is our first installment, and it's about Batman.

In my lifetime, seven live action Batman movies have hit theaters nationwide. Five of them really captured my imagination and the feel of the comics. Two of them had Bane, Catwoman, and the Joker. Three of these films had Dr. Jonathan Crane aka the Scarecrow. The five Batman films that really captured my imagination and somewhat captured Batman properly are Tim Burton's two Batman films and Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight Trilogy.

Okay, Batman came out when I was two. But, I played the hell out of that VHS copy. Read the pull quote from the local reviewer on the back plenty of times astounded that a local man was quoted on my favorite VHS. For some odd reason we never owned Batman Returns on VHS (or maybe I never watched it as much) but we did own a puzzle of the movie poster. It is that first Batman film that planted the seed that would sprout my love for Batman.

Despite, the Prince soundtrack, Batman is actually a great movie.The cartoony elements like the Joker's oversize hand cannon or the bat-wing silhouetted against the moon do not hold up. Batman's costume is kind of rubbery and the edits could use tightening. At the time though, this was the first real comic book film and it really did justice to the characters of Batman and Bruce Wayne. Who to this point had never been committed to film with such poise. The last layer of this cake is Danny Elfman's memorable score. The icing on the cake, of course, is Anton Furst Academy Award winning production design. Which reminds us that Gotham used to be a glowing metropolis, that is now covered in soot and grime.

When Chistohper Nolan was announced to direct a new Batman movie I was skeptical because he was only known for Memento at the time and I was still upset over the Schumacher attempts. The time between the announcement and the first trailer was quite tense. When that trailer arrived I was stunned. Everything wrong with the original series was corrected. Still, one thing in the trailer bugged me, the new Batmobile. I have, of course, grown to love the tumbler and Nolan's realistic approach to Batman.

Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy isn't just a set of Batman movies, it's a set of great films. The three films are perfectly set up in a three act structure which follows Bruce Wayne and Batman through their own hero's journey. Each film has impeccable pacing and are fine examples of entering a scene late and exiting early. That there are so many great scenes in each of them because there's so much room in each two and a half hour film. Each of these excellently paced scripts are jam packed with twist and turns that will keep new viewers guessing. It's all sold upon the excellent performances of an all star cast.

Comparing the two really is like comparing apples and oranges. Although, both visions are grim, Tim Burton's is more fantastical while Nolan serves us Batman with a slice of realism. Nothing about Nolan's is over the top or overly stylized. Both sets of film, rely heavily on physical effects. Burton preferred his models and miniatures. While Nolan took the go big or go home route.

But Burton goes out of the way to show you the effects by making them look just a little unnatural. Nolan takes extra precaution to make sure everything blends in naturally.

Burton's characters are exaggerations of themselves, while Nolan's are grounded. I would go as far as saying that Burton's Batman films are basically the 60's Batman with a coat of black spray paint. But, it's a very nice coat.

So, there you have it, our first Side By Side. Look for more Batman this Friday as I tackle two of the worst Bat-films for Don't Watch Alone. Make sure to follow us on twitter @PU_FilmBlog for live tweets of movies, movie newss, and more exciting articles.

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