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Batman (#110 of 18)

Holy Moly! Batman TV Series Now on Blu-ray and DVD

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Holy Moly! Batman TV Series Now on Blu-ray and DVD
Holy Moly! Batman TV Series Now on Blu-ray and DVD

It’s easy to forget that there was actually a time when Batman was fun. That time was 50 years ago, when the ripples of Fredric Wertham’s despicable anti-comic diatribe Seduction of the Innocent were still being felt. His book claimed that comics were sinful trash that converted the children—by God, the children!—into homosexual deviants. The television series Batman, which ran from 1966 to ’68 on ABC, knowingly acknowledged and lampooned Wertham’s seething, masturbatory harangue in a way that defied the era’s TV standards. Starring Adam West and Burt Ward, two unknowns cast largely for their affable faces, the series (now available for the first time on DVD and Blu-ray in a snazzy, wallet-purging boxed set from Warner Home Video) remains one of the format’s great cultural touchstones. Replete with double entendres for the parents and giddy inanity for the kids, it’s everything Susan Sontag loved and loathed about camp amalgamated into a half-hour lark.

Summer of ‘89: Batman

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Summer of ‘89: <em>Batman</em>
Summer of ‘89: <em>Batman</em>

Returning to Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman in light of Christopher Nolan’s recent, remarkably successful Batman trilogy turns out to be quite a fascinating experience—though, surprisingly, as much for their convergences in vision as for their divergences. Certainly, the stylistic differences are almost blindingly obvious: Burton the playfully macabre merry prankster, Nolan the deeply serious philosopher. And yet, both visions unmistakably flow from the same unsettling bedrocks: a world drowning in moral rot, one in which a self-appointed hero who takes the form of a human bat is, at heart, as deeply disturbed as the more overtly screwed-up villains he takes it upon himself to defeat. It’s just that these two artists view these characters and this physical and emotional world through different lenses.

The contrast is immediately apparent in the music. In stark contrast to James Newton Howard and Hans Zimmer’s loudly generic bombast for the Nolan films, Burton opens his Batman with the operatic strains of Danny Elfman’s full-orchestra heroism, slyly suggesting the unabashedly heroic way Batman sees himself. After its opening-credit sequence, during which Roger Pratt’s camera roams around what is eventually revealed to be a metal Bat-Signal, Burton establishes his vision of Gotham City: an unabashedly surreal environment that owes more to the dystopian sci-fi visions of Metropolis and Blade Runner than to any of the notions of noir-ish realism that underpins Nolan’s films. Then there are the differing acting styles, with Burton’s actors generally eschewing the internal brooding that Nolan’s performers exhibit in favor of archetypal broadness. This style doesn’t just extend to Jack Nicholson’s galvanizing hamminess as the Joker, but also trickles down to its supporting players (William Hootkins’s wearily deep-voiced Lt. Eckhardt, Robert Wuhl’s enthusiastically pushy journalist, and so on).

That RoboCop Trailer and the Folly of Paul Verhoeven Remakes

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That RoboCop Trailer and the Folly of Paul Verhoeven Remakes

Columbia Pictures

That RoboCop Trailer and the Folly of Paul Verhoeven Remakes

Even amid the troubling trend of remaking films that have barely collected a speck of dust, there are still movies that can surprise you. I know quite a few colleagues who were plenty keen on last year’s Dredd, a cohesive reimagining (or whatever) of the character whose first screen outing was an ill-fated, 1990s Stallone vehicle. Most often, however, in recent times, these remakes reek of desperation—evidence of Hollywood’s tendon-stretching reach for anything remotely tied to a known, sellable brand. Yesterday, the trailer for the RoboCop remake hit the web, and anyone born after 1995 probably didn’t even flinch. “Oh, look—there’s Samuel L. Jackson, that guy from The Avengers. And there’s some robot with a gun who kinda looks like a Transformer.” Following Len Wiseman’s banal-as-bathwater take on Total Recall, the new RoboCop (set for release on Feb. 7, 2014) will mark the second re-telling—I’m running out of “re” words here—of a Paul Verhoeven movie in as little as two years. By all evidence, these two films stand as testaments to the hollowness of mainstream cinema’s brand regurgitation, as their inspirations didn’t necessarily gain notoriety for their concepts, but for their director’s knowing, satirical, just-north-of-B-movie sensibilities.

15 Famous Masked Men

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15 Famous Masked Men
15 Famous Masked Men

In The Dark Knight Rises, a film that got a tragic boost of unexpected publicity yesterday, Batman returns in all his superheroic glory, a growly pariah back to restore the city for which he marred his image. The black-clad character emerges from the shadows, yet still keeps himself concealed, thanks to that trusty cowl that’s become one of pop culture’s most iconic disguises. Men in masks have been darting across the movie screen since the days of silents and serials, and their popularity shows no signs of diminishing. In honor of this crime-fighting, blockbuster weekend, we’ve rallied together 15 other films that also place masked men front and center.

Poster Lab: Man of Steel

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Poster Lab: <em>Man of Steel</em>
Poster Lab: <em>Man of Steel</em>

Though elegant and pristine in all its shadows and shimmer, the new poster for Man of Steel is an exercise in tedium, proving more unwelcome than exciting in a summer that just saw Spider-Man rebooted. Truly testing the limits of tolerance in a superhero-saturated culture, this design and the film it’s touting reek of yesterday’s news, like a back issue of the Daily Planet made into shiny papier-mâché. Admittedly, there’ve been far worse teaser one-sheets released on the world, and this one, conceived by the fine folks at P+A, already trumps the simple, gleaming “S” that first announced Superman Returns. Caught an angle that’s just right for showing off the Krypton native’s pectorals, this image is striking for its sharp attention to detail, specifically in regard to the work that went into that revamped suit. What we see stretched across Superman’s chest is more than just a familiar logo, it’s a texture emblematic of the new film’s title—the rubbery, unitard equivalent of chain mail. That’s a neat trick, and the costume designers are no doubt thrilled to have their labors front and center, but damned if this doesn’t echo the poster we just saw for The Amazing Spider-Man, another ad that zoomed in on the kinks of its hero’s armor.

Critical Distance: The Avengers

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Critical Distance: <em>The Avengers</em>
Critical Distance: <em>The Avengers</em>

For 10 years, comic-book superheroes have permeated popular movies. After the mega-success of Spider-Man in 2002, costumed white fellas saving the world became multiplex staples. Once all the iconic heroes were accounted for, studios found continued success with second-tier characters, from the previously obscure (Iron Man) to the uncomfortably jingoistic (Captain America: The First Avenger). The circuit escalated into the late 2000s, spawning remakes, reboots, sequels, and prequels with a frequency that only the most ardent fans could keep up with. A few X-Men spinoffs, a Superman hybrid, and two Hulk films later, we now arrive at a moment of superhero saturation, wherein each new release affirms the general consensus that these films represent a creatively dry enterprise.