Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Great Review Duo, Batman 89 Thoughts

A while ago, with 2 hours' downtime, I noticed that 1989's Batman was available for streaming. I remembered loving it as a kid, & finding the later movies unwatchable. It did not hold up well; I was surprised by how rough, senseless, and OTT Tim Burton's picture was; also, the tone was all over the place.

It's already clear that I loved the Nolan pictures, but not because they're stories about "Bruce Wayne:Dashing Vigilante." BB and TDK are just great movies that tell great tales. And I had no idea that the Nicholson-Keaton original was made so poorly.

Fortunately, just a bit later, I came across two funny, smart, observant reviewers who set out to tackle every film in the Batman Universe. For the last two months, one pair of guys have run through the films in chronological order, a feature they call "Remedial Batmanology." (nice, right?) Soon, they will tackle Catwoman, then move on to the 2005 reboot.

Most of all, I think I was lucky because I found someone who could help break down and explain exactly what is wrong with Burton's Batman. I was even luckier to find two people who would do that enthusiastically, in a really witty and down-to-earth way. As an alternative, you can read Todd Alcott's solo review of the same material, but that's not what this post is about.

Chris Sims and David Uzumeri are bigtime comic geeks, yet they know how to review pictures from the perspective of someone who just wants a good flick as well as from the outlook of a comic fan. Best of all, they have a great rapport, which they show off by using alternating paragraphs to cover a movie. The result is film review by way of conversation, and the effect is just super.

The pair pick apart the "myths" surrounding the earlier Batman series - namely, that films got incredibly stupid and silly and dumb after Tim Burton fled the directors' chair. They point out so many the flaws in plotting, character, casting and costume design - flaws that plagued the franchise long before Arnie's Dr. Freeze showed up to say, "you're not going to put me in the cooler!" You start to realize that this venture was always off the rails...

Best of all, these are reviews that are meaty, but easy to read. Each film is tackled in two long installments - I recommend just leaving the page up and reading half of each page in one sitting.  The posts start with an introduction, then comes the review itself, before closing out with high points, low points, and final thoughts. They also use some sweet animated gif pictures, like the ones from "IWDRM."

And though the pair are doing this work for a comic-book site I stumbled on randomly, they never ignore the fact that they are talking about motion pictures. When they see Batman do something he'd never do, like fire guns from his car, they call it out because that's about the core character, not because it's a nerd/fan nitpick. They rightly point out that Burton's made a movie about some crime-fighter, not the "Dark Knight."

Their geekery does come out, of course. It's usually as off-the-cuff references to a wide-range of Batman and DC comics' characters, but they also talk about whether the films changed the comics or vice-versa; they also discuss the Batman cartoon a lot.

Fear not, I promise you'll be able to enjoy their writing, even if you never read a comic in your life. All you need is a sense of humor and an interest in the film franchise. Why? For one thing, they don't complain that Batman issue #380-whatever established that Bruce is a lefty. For another, they judge the movies by the standards of consistent, competent story-telling in film - without using Nolan's pix to show how it's done right.

It's great to see them crack a ton of great jokes, mock the hell out of a successful franchise, and show how both Burton and Schumacher set a really low bar. And wonder why Alfred would design a skintight leather/rubber suit for his niece with high heels and nipples. Yeah, that one bugged me, too.

The two-man review style is so effective, engaging in both deep analysis and simple chitchat. Chris and Uzi (Dave's nickname) are funny and insightful - and even though the reviews are lengthy, the back-and-forth between them makes the commentary go by quickly. I wish they had dozens more of these tag-team efforts for me to read through, so I'm happy to share what there is with my readers.

Actually, this makes me want to try the same experiment. I'd be happy to be part of a picture-reviewing duo, and not only to take some of the workload off my hands. Honestly, you can see by reading their reviews that getting to pair off means that each really does boil down their points. Rather than simply making the written result longer, the paired-up effort makes each writer more focused. It seems neat, and I'd love to try it.

I'm posting direct links to their work below. Unless you're a comic-book-lover, you'll probably be less interested in Chris Sims' ongoing work, but that's only place where you can see when their Catwoman review comes up (or BB and TDK). I'm looking forward to reading their comments on Halle Berry's blockbuster failure, even though I've never seen it.

Thanks, ComicsAlliance, for getting these two guys to go back to the cinematic well and give us their insights. The 8 links below are some of the best, funniest film analysis I've seen all year. You can, will, must, and should read these reviews. Enjoy!

Batman, Part One Batman, Part Two

Batman Returns, Part One Batman Returns, Part Two

Batman Forever, Part One Batman Forever, Part Two

Batman & Robin, Part One Batman and Robin, Part Two

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