Let's see...there's a guy who dresses up like a bat and depending on which movie you watch, fights some bad guys (Joker, Penguin, Catwoman, Riddler, et. al.), falls in love and sports some pretty perky Batnipples. It's just a day in the life for the Caped Crusader.
Wow. In retrospect, BATMAN BEGINS was a really good movie. I think my feeling towards that film have grown exponentially since watching the original four BATMAN films as part of this BATMAN ANTHOLOGY DVD. Father Time has been especially cruel to these films, given that in 1989, when I saw the original BATMAN in theaters, I literally stood up and cheered. Now? Not so much cheering (though I did stand up and contemplate turning off the DVD player).
The original BATMAN probably ages the worst out of the four films. At the time I was just happy to see any Batman film but clearly there were some poor decisions here. Robert Wuhl? Vicki Vale? The Batdance?! The film does have its moments here or there and does have to be appreciated for turning the once campy Batman franchise into a serious endeavor, but I really can't recommend this film any longer.
Luckily I still found enjoyment in BATMAN RETURNS, the film I feel is the best of the bunch. Michelle Pfieffer (or is it Pfeiffer?) is by far the best Bat villain with her portrayal of Catwoman and Danny DeVito is effective as the creepy Penguin. This film wisely focuses on the villains of the film (including Christopher Walken as Max Schreck) and reduces the amount of pressure on Batman who, with the amount of character changes in the first film, struggled to develop as well-rounded character. Plus there's that cameo by Paul (Pee-Wee Herman) Reubens in the beginning.
As we learn later in some of the extra features, Tim Burton was asked to leave after BATMAN RETURNS and was replaced by Joel Schumacher who the studio felt would make a more kid-friendly (and toy-friendly) film.
Unfortunately he also makes it a crappier film. I'd love to have seen what Jim Carrey could've done as The Riddler in a Burton film (or now in a Christopher Nolan film) but his performance in BATMAN FOREVER is completely wasted. Val Kilmer is a joke as Batman and Chris O'Donnell is introduced as the annoyingly annoying Robin. It may surprise you, but this film is my least enjoyed film of the series, partly because of the failed potential.
And now here we are. BATMAN AND ROBIN. Still the butt of many jokes. The object of rage and ire for many fanboys still pissed at Schumacher (though I'm equally as ticked off about 8MM). But if you think about it, the franchise was already going to hell and a handbasket. No good was going to come out of this film. It's sad too because I still feel George Clooney could have made a great elder Bruce Wayne. And Mr. Freeze should've been a great villain. But as soon as they announced Arnold Schwarzenegger would be starring as the diminutive Freeze, you should've known something was up.
So if you're not taking this film too seriously (which you should NEVER do), why not enjoy it? Heck, I did. This film, for me, is so bad it has become good again. I laughed more during this film than I did during THE 40-YEAR-OLD VIRGIN. This movie is flat out hilarious. In fact, I find myself quoting Mr. Freeze and some of his terrible lines - like "Ice to see you!" or "Chill out!" - in my personal life. Ice skating henchmen with hockey sticks, a snowboarding Robin and yes, Batnipples. They're all there for your enjoyment. Have a few beers, pop this sucker in and enjoy one of the worst movies of the past decade.
This DVD certainly has some extras. I haven't seen extras like this since I saw some recent full TV seasons on DVD. It would take me years to report on every single one, so I'll point out some of the ones that stuck in my mind as I checked them all out.
It's to note that each film has a second disc complete with supplemental material with some even spanning multiple features ("Shadows of the Bat" is a six-part feature that runs through the first two discs).
First up on the BATMAN disc is one of my favorite features on this collection, "Legends of the Dark Knight: The History of Batman." I enjoyed this one the most partly because it's the "History of Batman", not just a behind-the-scenes featurette about this specific film. It talks about Bob Kane's inspiration to create the character and how he evolved over the years in his many incarnations. Frank Miller and Kevin Smith provide their knowledgable insight as well. Pretty neat stuff for fans of the character.
Also on the BATMAN disc are "Beyond Batman", which is what I referred to earlier as the basic behind-the-scenes featurette. Quasi-interesting but also quasi-not-so-interesting. It basically looks at the production design of the film, which was pretty impressive given how the last BATMAN film looked (Adam West in a skin-tight cotton suit). We also get the first three parts - "The Road to Gotham City," "The Gathering Storm," and "The Legend Reborn". These total just over an hour and feature new and vintage interviews from many of the major players in BATMAN lore including Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson, Tim Burton, writer Sam Hamm and Kim Basinger all sit down to talk shop. As is often the case, Nicholson is just a pleasure to listen to while Hamm provides some insight into why some of the major plot changes (the Joker killing Bruce Wayne's parents) were made.
This first disc also includes "On Set With Bob Kane", which is pretty self-explanatory, "The Complete Robin Storyboard Sequence", a look at a brief scene that was to have included Robin in the first film, and three of the Prince videos (shudder) that accompanied the film.
BATMAN RETURNS starts with the featurette "The Bat, The Cat and The Penguin", which you might remember as the tagline for the film. This particular footage is from 1992 when the film originally was released and is hosted by Robert Urich. More "behind-the-scenes" type stuff.
Part 4 of "Shadows of the Bat" entitled "The Dark Side of the Knight" pops up here and we get some more interviews from people like Paul Dini, Mike Mignola and even Sean Young who was originally cast as Vicki Vale in the first film and notoriously campaigned to be cast as Catwoman in the sequel.
Things start to get interesting (in a weird way) on BATMAN FOREVER with the participation of Joel Schumacher. It's quite funny to watch the release-era featurette "Riddle Me This: Why is Batman Forever?" and see the actors talking about the movie and its characters in such high regard. This is why you should never trust these type of things.
We also get Part 5 of "Shadows of the Bat," "Reinventing a Hero", which is a subtle way of saying taking a decent thing and mucking it up royally. If you want to truly be frightened you can check out "Out of the Shadows", the feature on the production design of the movie. There are also features on the music, stunts, effects, etc. from the movie, all of which sucked. Possibly most painful is the music video for Seal's "Kiss From a Rose", quite possibly the worst song ever not-written by Coldplay.
Finally on the BATMAN AND ROBIN disc we get "Batman Unbound", the aptly titled sixth part to the "Shadows" series. It's here where we learn exactly how the fourth film went wildly off-track. Of course they don't say that, per se, but you get the gist. Another featurette with an apropos name is "Bigger, Bolder, Brighter". Sadly those three words pretty much sum up this movie. The bad puns of the movie carry over to the clips as we're forced to endure "Dressed to Thrill," "Freeze Frame" and "Frozen Freaks and Femme Fatales". While the movie is so-bad-it's-good-fun, these production featurettes are just painful. Speaking of painful, "The End is the Beginning is the End" music video by the Smashing Pumpkins. Too bad the end for the Pumpkins wasn't "Siamese Dream."
Of course each of these films has its own audio commentary from Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher on their respective films (though wouldn't it be fascinating to hear them comment on each other's films? I'd be dying to know what Burton has to say about BATMAN AND ROBIN). Both are honest talking about their experiences on the film and how both tended to sour towards the end. We get an apology from Schumacher for his part in the last two films but it's kinda half-assed as he tends to blame the fantatical nature of the fanbase for the backlash. Still good stuff to listen to if you've got the time.
Are you a big Batman fan? I mean a BIG fan? Then you might dig this set. For me it was a bit much, especially given how pedestrian the films were watching them now. I only got actual enjoyment out of BATMAN RETURNS while the others were just there to remind me how dorky I must've looked in my BATMAN logo t-shirt or provide some unintended laughs. It's probably a bit much (at price and at sheer volume) for the casual fan but if you're a BATMAN fan, this thing's gotta be heaven on Earth.