REDUCED EXPECTATIONS

By
Josh Becker

 

     We are living in a foolish day and age.  It is a world of reduced expectations, and even  these are not being met.  
     What brings this all to mind at the moment is the release of BATMAN & ROBIN.  I visit the America Online movie chat room occasionally, ostensibly to keep in touch with what people are thinking about movies, but really out of sheer boredom with the internet.  Every single person that goes to this chat room discusses exactly what the Hollywood studios and their promotion companies want them to be discussing, thinking about and expectantly awaiting -- namely, anything that is high-budget and new.  Accordingly, for the last month or so, the endless discussion has been, and still is, BATMAN & ROBIN.  What amazes me is that none of these people even suspects they are being thought of and treated like suckers.  It's as though they were instructed by someone they don't know to walk down dark, inner-city alleys with money hanging out of their pockets and a sign on their backs that says, "Please Mug Me," then are both surprised and disappointed with humanity when they get mugged. 
     I don't mean to be a nay-sayer (except that I am), but the first Batman movie SUCKED!  Michael Keaton is sadly miscast, Jack Nicholson gave the hammiest, worst performance of his career (albeit the most profitable), the script was utterly inept on every conceivable level, and the whole film looked like it was shot through a dogshit filter.
     Other than Michelle Pfeiffer looking sexy in her Catwoman outfit, BATMAN RETURNS somehow managed to be worse than the first one.  And Tim Burton obviously has some sort of affection for the material. 
     Joel Schumacher, on the other hand, who is a total hack to start with, clearly could care less about Batman, his origins, or what he means to his fans.  To Schumacher, Batman is nothing more than exactly what the Batman movies now are: a franchise, just like McDonald's or Taco Bell. 
     Now, if you go into McDonald's, stuff yourself with burgers and fries, then find that your hands and face are greasy, you've got indigestion and gas, and new pimples are sprouting out on your skin, is this a surprise?  
     Yet these folks in the movie chat room seem honestly shocked, surprised and disappointed that BATMAN & ROBIN isn't very good.  Have we bred a new generation of complete idiots?  Of course it's no good, it wasn't meant to be. 
     By the way, the man for the job was obviously and clearly Frank Miller, who single-handedly resuscitated Batman with The Dark Knight series.  But no, Frank Miller ended up on the ROBOCOP sequels.  
     There is not the slightest reason or precedent for the belief that another Batman movie would be anything other than crap; I mean, the first three sucked; why wouldn't the next one?  Nevertheless, people flock to the theaters with their hard-earned money in their sweaty little hands, giddy at the expectation that this will be the long-awaited good Batman movie. 
     Let's face facts, shall we?  Sequels are always worse than the originals (with the single, solitary exception of GODFATHER PART 2).  This isn't a state secret and ought to be plainly evident to anyone with their eyes open. 
What's particularly sad is that people are now nostalgic for the first Batman movie, which was complete and utter crap, reviled in its day by anyone that liked Batman or good movies, but now looks good in comparison because it wasn't quite as corrupt.  Can our collective memory be that short? 
     If you go to see a big movie in its first or second week, whether you liked the film or not, you just voted for them to make another one exactly like the film you just saw, but worse.  That's how the system works.  Anyone who saw BATMAN & ROBIN in its opening two weeks (or at all, for that matter) got exactly what they deserve and has no right to complain about it, since they already cast their vote stating very clearly, "I liked this film so much that I'm begging you to give me another one just like it, only worse.  Sir, yes, sir!" 
     My good buddy saw BATMAN & ROBIN on its opening day, then had the temerity to complain to me about how utterly stupid he thought it was.  He actually believes that the first two Batman movies have an edge over the next two because Tim Burton had this purported affection for the material.  Returning to my first metaphor, that's like saying that it's preferable to be mugged by a someone who is fond of you than a stranger.  Quite frankly, I think that makes it worse.

Josh Becker 
June 23, 1997

 

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