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Author Topic: Daniel Waters discusses Batman Returns  (Read 3448 times)

Offline zDBZ

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Re: Daniel Waters discusses Batman Returns
« Reply #20 on: Thu, 12 Oct 2017, 01:16 »
I suppose I should've looked harder to see if there was a thread about this interview... ;D

My favorite line from this is: "Christopher Nolan's work is prose, Tim's is poetry, but they can co-exist in the same stratosphere."

And I'm fascinated by Waters' description of the competing visions for the Catwoman film. Burton's influences for it make me smile; the original Cat People is a great movie.

And I just took that last comment on the different types of audiences as personal opinion expressed in shorthand cliches; nothing to get offended by.

Offline The Laughing Fish

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Re: Daniel Waters discusses Batman Returns
« Reply #21 on: Thu, 12 Oct 2017, 11:14 »
My favorite line from this is: "Christopher Nolan's work is prose, Tim's is poetry, but they can co-exist in the same stratosphere."

Prose may be true, though I have far more "colourful" descriptions to describe Nolan's work on Batman.

I admire Burton's contribution to Batman, but I kinda want to avoid using terms like "poetry". Makes his movies sound pretentious. And besides, Daniel Waters went on record saying he outright hates B89.


Quote
Jonathan Nolan: He [Batman] has this one rule, as the Joker says in The Dark Knight. But he does wind up breaking it. Does he break it in the third film?

Christopher Nolan: He breaks it in...

Jonathan Nolan: ...the first two.

Source: http://books.google.com.au/books?id=uwV8rddtKRgC&pg=PR8&dq=But+he+does+wind+up+breaking+it.&hl=en&sa=X&ei

Offline thecolorsblend

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Re: Daniel Waters discusses Batman Returns
« Reply #22 on: Thu, 12 Oct 2017, 20:40 »
Interesting, especially that he and Burton were really not interested in action or coolness for its own sake, the characterizations come first. Also unusual and surprising that he freely admits he was a lot more interested in Catwoman than Batman, that probably contributed to her being so well done although also to Batman being a bit too overshadowed/underused.
As much as I enjoy DeVito's performance in BR, I can't help thinking that deleting the Penguin from the movie would've allowed a bit more focus on Batman.

Then again, without the Penguin, Catwoman might've gotten even more of the spotlight so hmm.

Online Wayne49

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Re: Daniel Waters discusses Batman Returns
« Reply #23 on: Fri, 13 Oct 2017, 16:58 »
As much as I enjoy DeVito's performance in BR, I can't help thinking that deleting the Penguin from the movie would've allowed a bit more focus on Batman.

Then again, without the Penguin, Catwoman might've gotten even more of the spotlight so hmm.

My opinion has evolved quite a bit through the years on this. But now I'm really of the opinion that Batman actually had more than enough film time here. I think he was established in the first film and from there he becomes a bit reactionary to the main villains, but then again we're still seeing character development. If anything we might see him more because he's in allot of ancillary scenes where he's driving to and from events, recovering from injuries, and encountering Penguin to establish motivation between the two. So Batman's presence is certainly felt in the story.

I think because this sequel did not take place immediately after the events of the first film, people sometimes feel a bit of disconnect as to where he's at in his life. But what we do know is its somewhere in the near future and his answer for life and how to balance that as the caped crusader have not been resolved. Other than that we realize he's growing tired of the performance and wants to find resolution if he can. Batman is Wayne's fix and he's wanting a way out.

Offline The Dark Knight

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Re: Daniel Waters discusses Batman Returns
« Reply #24 on: Fri, 13 Oct 2017, 21:24 »
I agree that we see Batman just enough in the film. A good example is how they devote a solid chunk of screentime to establishing Oswald at the start, and then give a small sequence of Bruce browsing old newspapers on the batcomputer. That's where the story was at that point. Nothing had started to happen yet. It was all suspicion and research, that eventually became confirmed by the circus gang rampages. Oswald drove the plot. The villains do get more screentime but that way, Batman feels more mysterious and important. To me, anyway.

His screentime picks up as the film progresses which is rather cool. My favorite stretch would have to be Batman meeting Selina in Gotham, the fireplace sequence, suiting up, the Batmobile chase, framing Penguin and then the masquerade ball. That's PLENTY of Bruce and Batman content, and the chemistry between Keaton and Michelle is incredible. And you know what? It actually makes me feel sad now. Michelle and Michael are getting on now, and BR isn't exactly a new film anymore. It's a moment frozen in time and that moment just keeps getting further away.

I can't really explain it, but I think you get the gist.

Offline The Laughing Fish

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Re: Daniel Waters discusses Batman Returns
« Reply #25 on: Sun, 15 Oct 2017, 11:56 »
I agree that we see Batman just enough in the film. A good example is how they devote a solid chunk of screentime to establishing Oswald at the start, and then give a small sequence of Bruce browsing old newspapers on the batcomputer. That's where the story was at that point. Nothing had started to happen yet. It was all suspicion and research, that eventually became confirmed by the circus gang rampages. Oswald drove the plot. The villains do get more screentime but that way, Batman feels more mysterious and important. To me, anyway.

One detail that most people overlook in the Burton films is Batman still shows some detective prowess. Just as he shows Vicki Vale which chemicals the Joker tainted to create the Smylex gas, he uses the Batcomputer again to investigate Oswald's past and connections with the Red Triangle Gang, proving his suspicions right all along. Albeit much to his dismay. Whereas Alfred, as the rest of Gotham City, believes Cobblepot is a kind and misunderstood outcast, Batman continues to uncover how deviant he is.

People can debate Batman's screen time in BR all they want, but they're kidding themselves if they believe he doesn't drive the plot.


Quote
Jonathan Nolan: He [Batman] has this one rule, as the Joker says in The Dark Knight. But he does wind up breaking it. Does he break it in the third film?

Christopher Nolan: He breaks it in...

Jonathan Nolan: ...the first two.

Source: http://books.google.com.au/books?id=uwV8rddtKRgC&pg=PR8&dq=But+he+does+wind+up+breaking+it.&hl=en&sa=X&ei

Online Wayne49

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Re: Daniel Waters discusses Batman Returns
« Reply #26 on: Mon, 16 Oct 2017, 13:12 »

One detail that most people overlook in the Burton films is Batman still shows some detective prowess. Just as he shows Vicki Vale which chemicals the Joker tainted to create the Smylex gas, he uses the Batcomputer again to investigate Oswald's past and connections with the Red Triangle Gang, proving his suspicions right all along. Albeit much to his dismay. Whereas Alfred, as the rest of Gotham City, believes Cobblepot is a kind and misunderstood outcast, Batman continues to uncover how deviant he is.

People can debate Batman's screen time in BR all they want, but they're kidding themselves if they believe he doesn't drive the plot.

Anther aspect I believe gets missed is that Wayne appears to be the architect and engineer behind Batman and the tools he utilizes. Note when the Batmobile is returned after being hijacked by the Red Triangle Gang, it is Bruce Wayne in mechanic overalls working on the car. Alfred seems to remain in a butler capacity maintaining care of the suits and facility, but not coming across as the designer of these items as future films would take liberties in assigning to him.

I think Schumacher exaggerated Alfred's role to ridiculous proportions making him look like the chief brains of the entire outfit while the kids played dress up. In Burton's world, Bruce certainly seem to be the author of his alternate life and had to remind Alfred of his need to remain committed to his secret (even chastising him for letting Vicki Vale into the Batcave). I think this point is relevant to the overall character of Bruce Wayne, because if he had to be co-dependent on others in the creation process, then he likely wouldn't be much of a detective to resolve more complex matters.
« Last Edit: Mon, 16 Oct 2017, 13:16 by Wayne49 »

Offline Silver Nemesis

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Re: Daniel Waters discusses Batman Returns
« Reply #27 on: Tue, 17 Oct 2017, 19:32 »
As much as I enjoy DeVito's performance in BR, I can't help thinking that deleting the Penguin from the movie would've allowed a bit more focus on Batman.

I love Batman Returns and have perhaps written more to defend it over the years than anyone else on the internet. But the movie, like any film, has its flaws. And I happen to agree with the one about Batman’s lack of screen time. Bruce/Batman doesn’t even have any proper dialogue until the 35 minute mark (besides “We’ll see”). That’s over a quarter of the way into the movie! And considering he’s the eponymous character, I think that’s a valid point of criticism. You could more or less remove him entirely from the first half of the film and it would have minimal impact on the plot:

•   Max would still push for the new power plant to be built
•   The Red Triangle Gang would still attack the tree lighting ceremony
•   Oswald would still kidnap Max and form an alliance with him
•   They’d still stage the kidnap and rescue of the mayor’s baby
•   Oswald would still access the hall of records, compile a list of the firstborns and reveal his parents’ names to the press
•   Max would still order a recall election and persuade Oswald to run for mayor
•   Oswald would still send out the Red Triangle Gang in a false flag strategy to undermine the public’s faith in the current administration

And with that, we’re literally halfway through the movie’s 2 hour runtime. And yet Batman has had little to no impact on any of these major plot beats. He doesn’t prevent any crimes from taking place during this part of the film. He just shows up when the riots are already underway and beats up a few bad guys, then almost kills Catwoman by knocking her off a roof.

The only significant aspect of the plot he has any influence on throughout the first half of the picture is Selina’s arc, and even that’s debateable. He does save her from the taser clown during the first riot scene, but the taser clown wouldn’t have had reason to take her hostage in the first place if Batman hadn’t been there. Seeing Batman in action is likely what inspired Selina to don her costume. But the cat motif was already foreshadowed, even without Batman’s influence, so she likely would have adopted a similar guise anyway. Bruce’s main contribution to Selina’s arc in the first half of the film is the fact she was caught snooping through Max’s files while "boning up" for her boss’ meeting with Bruce Wayne. But her curiosity regarding the power plant had nothing to do with Bruce; rather she was interested in the plant itself. So she still probably would have looked at the files at some point anyway, Max still would have tried to kill her, and she still would have embraced her feline totem when she embarked on her quest for revenge. Batman has little impact on these events, other than maybe inspiring her to wear a black suit and mask. He has absolutely zero influence on Oswald and Max’s activities throughout the first half of the movie.

Batman is the central character in the 1989 film. You could make the argument that Nicholson’s performance overshadows Keaton’s, but Batman is still the main protagonist in the script. It’s his actions that drive the narrative. Batman has an objective in the 1989 film: he wants to topple the criminal organisations that are ruling Gotham, restore authority to the police department and avenge the deaths of his parents (these are mostly proactive rather than reactive).

But then, as in all good stories, a complication arises that tests his resolve to pursue these goals – he meets a woman who tempts him into relinquishing his crusade in favour of a normal life. To reference Joseph Campbell’s 17-point deconstruction of the hero’s journey, this would be the ‘woman as temptress’ stage that precedes the stages of ‘atonement with the father’ and ‘apotheosis’ (i.e. Bruce confronting and comprehending the truth about the night his parents died and resolving to avenge them). Bruce’s biggest trial in the 1989 movie is not the fight against the Joker; it’s the internal struggle between his vocation as a vigilante and his desire to live a normal life. And through it all, his behaviour actively and directly influences the ambitions and motivations of the film’s other two main characters: the Joker and Vicki Vale.

Bruce Wayne’s 2 primary motivations:
•   Avenge his parents as Batman (draws him to the Joker)
•   Try to pursue the normal life he would’ve had if his parents hadn’t died (draws him to Vicki)

Joker’s 2 primary motivations:
•   Get revenge against Batman (draws him to Bruce)
•   Express his madness through his crimes/art (draws him to Vicki)

Vicki’s 2 primary motivations:
•   Chronicle Batman’s crime fighting (draws her to Batman and the Joker)
•   Win the heart of the man she loves (draws her to Bruce)

In this way we can see how their core motivations link the three main characters to one another. The only part that feels a little contrived is the Joker’s fascination with Vicki. Of all the women in Gotham to obsess over, of all the photojournalists he could choose to document his ‘art’, he just happens to select the one person Bruce Wayne is sleeping with. It’s a stretch. But whatever, I’ll buy it. It’s a way of getting the love interest more actively involved in the central conflict.

The point to take away from this is that it’s Batman’s actions that inspire the other characters’ motivations. Vicki would never have come to Gotham were it not for her fascination with Batman, and Jack Napier would never have become the Joker if Batman hadn’t dropped him into the vat of chemicals. Batman is the main protagonist. He is the rotational axis around which the narrative spins, and it’s his willpower that propels the plot into motion. If Bruce hadn’t set out to avenge his parents, none of this would have happened.

The principal driving force of the narrative in Batman Returns is Max Shreck, not Batman. There’s an argument to be made for the Penguin being the central character, but I’d say Max edges him out slightly in terms of proactively setting the plot in motion. It’s Max’s desire to build the power plant that triggers the recall election; it’s Max’s desire to cover up the truth behind the power plant that leads to Selina becoming Catwoman and seeking revenge against him; it’s Max’s need for a candidate in the election that motivates him to propose Cobblepot as a mayoral prospect; it’s Max’s machinations as Cobblepot’s campaign manager that prompts the Penguin to send out the Red Triangle Gang to terrorise the city; it’s Max’s bid to construct the power plant that leads to Bruce and Selina meeting out of costume for the first time. Max’s ambition drives the plot, not Batman’s.

The second most important character is the Penguin. His desire for revenge facilitates the mayoral campaign (though it is Max’s ambition and strategising that truly drives it), as well as propelling the plot to kidnap the children and dispatch the penguin commandoes to nuke the city. Catwoman would be the third most important protagonist, as she has the strongest character arc and is directly embroiled in the machinations of the two main villains. In the case of Shreck, she was unwillingly and passively embroiled; in the case of Cobblepot, she actively involved herself. But the fact remains she has a more personal connection to both Shreck and Cobblepot and spends more time interacting with them than Batman does. She also plays a more proactive role in the plot when she teams up with the Penguin and inspires him to frame Batman (incidentally that part of the storyline makes absolutely no sense, but I’ll elaborate on that subject at a later time). Batman is the fourth most important character in the film. None of the villains give a toss about him until he starts interfering in their activities, and even then they mostly limit their focus on him to the middle act of the film.

Batman would probably still qualify as the heroic sphere of action in BR, as he does eventually restore the equilibrium that is disrupted by the villains (exposes Cobblepot to the public, saves the children from being kidnapped, stops the penguin commandoes from nuking Gotham Plaza – all of which occurs in the final act of the film). However in Proppian terminology, he’s very much a ‘victim hero’ rather than a ‘seeker hero’. Most of the plot is acting against him instead of having him propel it forward. In B89 Bruce is a proactive character whose personal goals (namely avenging his parents) compel him to hunt down the villain. In BR he’s purely reactive and is only there to respond to what the bad guys are doing. He’s Batman so he stops criminals. That’s about as far as it goes in terms of his personal motivation. Beyond that he has no goal, almost no emotional investment in what’s happening. At least not until the second half of the film, where he eventually develops a more personal connection to one of the antagonists. Then he finally becomes emotionally invested in the pursuit of a proactive objective: to prevent Selina from walking down the same doomed path that he himself once trod.

But even then, I’d argue that was more a way of adding internal conflict to Selina’s story than creating an arc for Bruce. Unlike Batman, Catwoman has a deeply personal connection to the two main villains. Both betrayed her trust and tried to murder her. It falls on Selina to deal the final blow in restoring the status quo by delivering the coup de grace to Shreck. As I mentioned earlier, all the disequilibrium in this film is caused or enabled by Max. Batman reacts to the symptoms of Shreck’s evil, but he doesn’t remedy the cause. That’s Selina’s function in the plot. In that sense you could argue that Catwoman was the film’s real hero. Bruce develops a fascination with saving Selina in order to tempt her away from her goal/destiny of killing Shreck. In effect, Bruce plays the same role that Vicki played in the 1989 film; the love interest that monitors/reacts to the other characters’ activities and tempts the hero into abandoning their vocation in favour of a normal life. But in both films, the hero puts aside their beloved and actively pursues the villain to the bitter end.

As to the argument that the antagonists reflect three sides of Batman’s personality – the damaged orphan, the billionaire aristocrat and the costumed vigilante – that’s a really nice way of creating thematic symmetry between the main villains and Bruce Wayne. But it doesn’t compensate for the lack of expansion/exploration concerning Batman’s own character. The damaged orphan and costumed vigilante aspects of Bruce’s personality were showcased in B89. Less so the billionaire aristocrat, but it was there to an extent. By revisiting these character themes through the villains in Batman Returns, Burton wasn’t really giving us any new insight into Batman that we hadn’t already seen in the previous movie. And if Burton had really said everything he had to say about Bruce in the first film, then that just illustrates how shallow his understanding of the character was to begin with. Batman 89 is a great cinematic introduction for the character, but only scratches the surface of what makes him tick. Schumacher and Nolan both drew attention to other facets of Bruce Wayne which Burton neglected to explore. Burton could have done this himself in BR had he not sidelined the title character in favour of the villains.

To reiterate, I do love Batman Returns. But I can see why many people, especially die hard comic fans, feel it’s a poor Batman film. It’s a lot like Assault on Arkham insofar as they both have Batman’s name in the title, but they’re both really stories about the villains. Batman’s a supporting character who plays an important part in the second half of both films, but has little to no impact on the first half. BR is the only live action Batman movie I’d say that about (not counting Suicide Squad). Anyway, those are just my two cents. Apologies for the long post.

Offline Andrew

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Re: Daniel Waters discusses Batman Returns
« Reply #28 on: Tue, 17 Oct 2017, 21:02 »
In BR he’s purely reactive and is only there to respond to what the bad guys are doing. He’s Batman so he stops criminals. That’s about as far as it goes in terms of his personal motivation. Beyond that he has no goal, almost no emotional investment in what’s happening. At least not until the second half of the film, where he eventually develops a more personal connection to one of the antagonists.

I think there's some emotional investment and connection from him earlier, particularly in his being very suspicious of the Penguin, very reluctant to consider that he might be a new other hero (instead thinking it's more likely his trauma turned him bad) and briefly sympathizing with him before thinking his trying to get public sympathy is insincere, and very hostile to Max and his power plant plan and friendship with the Penguin (particularly compared to and considering him being very reclusive in B89). The relationships are eventually in their climaxes made clear, Penguin's "You're just jealous because I'm a genuine freak and you have to wear a mask," Batman admitting he may be right and Max admitting he is the city's ugly soul. I think those themes are present earlier but could have been done better (but then again there certainly was a lot of plot). There also could have been more of him reacting to Catwoman disliking the rich and the powerful.

Batman reacts to the symptoms of Shreck’s evil, but he doesn’t remedy the cause. That’s Selina’s function in the plot. In that sense you could argue that Catwoman was the film’s real hero.

I'm not sure what you mean by symptoms rather than cause or how he could remedy the cause. The film does seem to want you to feel that her killing Max is at least understandable but also that him going to jail is also reasonable if not better.

Schumacher and Nolan both drew attention to other facets of Bruce Wayne which Burton neglected to explore. Burton could have done this himself in BR had he not sidelined the title character in favour of the villains.

Well Schumacher's main additional focus was Batman being a (reluctant) mentor to others, considering quitting and becoming less depressed, those are OK facets but I can see why Burton wouldn't want to do that.

It’s a lot like Assault on Arkham insofar as they both have Batman’s name in the title, but they’re both really stories about the villains. Batman’s a supporting character who plays an important part in the second half of both films, but has little to no impact on the first half. BR is the only live action Batman movie I’d say that about (not counting Suicide Squad).

True it's a lot more about the villains if not outright about the villains but I think that also applies to some TAS episodes.
Batman doesn't have much impact, aside from action, on B&R other than telling Robin to practice and letting Barbara stay. And he also decides to try and make a trap for Freeze but that made things feel too lightweight.
It's a difficult balance in dividing the focus and plot between heroes and villains.

Offline Silver Nemesis

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Re: Daniel Waters discusses Batman Returns
« Reply #29 on: Tue, 17 Oct 2017, 21:56 »
I think there's some emotional investment and connection from him earlier, particularly in his being very suspicious of the Penguin, very reluctant to consider that he might be a new other hero (instead thinking it's more likely his trauma turned him bad) and briefly sympathizing with him before thinking his trying to get public sympathy is insincere, and very hostile to Max and his power plant plan and friendship with the Penguin (particularly compared to and considering him being very reclusive in B89).

Bruce definitely displays an emotional reaction to Oswald when he watches the news broadcast and says he hopes he finds his parents. But that element of sympathy is unique to that one scene. Throughout the rest of the film Bruce treats Oswald with suspicion and distrust, just as he would any other street thug. Perhaps if they’d played up Bruce’s sympathetic attitude towards Oswald in the first half of the movie – maybe even having him meet Oswald out of costume, similar to how Bruce met the Joker in B89 – then they could have established a deeper emotional connection between the two. Then Batman’s anger with Penguin in the second half of the film could have stemmed from Bruce’s frustration at being emotionally manipulated earlier in the story.

They could have had Bruce volunteer to help Oswald find his parents, only to realise that Oswald doesn’t need any such help because he already knows who they are. This would have offered a smoother way of introducing Bruce’s suspicions concerning Oswald's true agenda while also displaying the philanthropic side of his character that was mostly otherwise absent from Burton’s films. Instead the finished film leaps rather abruptly from having Bruce express sympathy towards Oswald to then trying to dig up dirt on him in the next scene. The only real gesture of compassion Bruce extends towards Cobblepot is that one line about hoping he finds his parents. And even that is another form or passive reaction rather the active interaction.

The relationships are eventually in their climaxes made clear, Penguin's "You're just jealous because I'm a genuine freak and you have to wear a mask," Batman admitting he may be right and Max admitting he is the city's ugly soul. I think those themes are present earlier but could have been done better (but then again there certainly was a lot of plot). There also could have been more of him reacting to Catwoman disliking the rich and the powerful.

Agreed.

I'm not sure what you mean by symptoms rather than cause or how he could remedy the cause. The film does seem to want you to feel that her killing Max is at least understandable but also that him going to jail is also reasonable if not better.

By symptoms I mean the disequilibrium stemming from Max himself. In other words the crimes ensuing from his machinations:

•   Cobblepot running for mayor (to facilitate construction of Max’s power plant) – Batman foils this campaign
•   The Red Triangle Gang attacks (to undermine faith in the current administration and necessitate the recall election) – Batman foils these attacks
•   Max’s attempts to murder Selina (to cover up the truth about his power plant being a capacitor) – Batman attempts to resolve this during the finale, but ultimately fails

Batman reacts to the crimes resulting from Max’s machinations, but at no point does he eliminate the cause of those crimes (Max himself). That’s what I mean when I say he tackles the symptoms without remedying the cause of the illness. It’s Catwoman who eliminates the root of the evil, not Batman. Batman could have done it himself, and indeed would have done had Selina not killed Max first. But the fact remains that Burton and Waters chose to have Selina fulfil that narrative function instead of Bruce. They made her the one to deliver the final blow that ends the main source of corruption in the film.

True it's a lot more about the villains if not outright about the villains but I think that also applies to some TAS episodes.
Batman doesn't have much impact, aside from action, on B&R other than telling Robin to practice and letting Barbara stay. And he also decides to try and make a trap for Freeze but that made things feel too lightweight.
It's a difficult balance in dividing the focus and plot between heroes and villains.

Absolutely. It’s also true of many classic comics, including Burton’s favourite Batman story: The Killing Joke.

 

    
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