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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Batman buzz

Oscar buzz is flying high over Hollywood as people predict that Heath Ledger will become the seventh actor nominated posthumously, and only the second to win if that happens. I have not seen "The Dark Knight" yet but I'm sure I'll see it on DVD if I don't make it to the theater. I am not a fan of re-inventing a series, being that this movie and "Batman Begins" are a new chapter in the Batman franchise after Joel Schumaker flushed the original series down the box office toilet. I have seen "Batman Begins" and while I admired the darker tone of the film overall I still prefer Tim Burton's vision from the original two films, "Batman" and "Batman Returns."

If there is anyone more creatively equipped to handle "dark" films, it is Mr. Burton. His haunted visions come to live in vivid style on the screen in films like "Beetlejuice" and "The Nightmare Before Christmas", and the new "Sweeney Todd" which I've yet to see. He cast Micheal Keaton as Batman and Kim Basinger as Vikki Vale in the first of his two movies that started the franchise, and no one can forget Jack Nicholson's Joker. I've always loved Michael Keaton and seeing him as the caped crusader made him that much more impressive to me. He played Bruce Wayne as a man with a haunted past and there was a dark side in him that I haven't seen brought by any other actor who has worn the batsuit since. The second film, "Batman Returns" introduced Catwoman as a pseudo-villain, played with tongue firmly planted in cheek, by Michelle Pheiffer and The Penguin played in hideous brilliance by Danny Devito. For reasons unknown to me, the studio felt that a change in direction was needed and Burton was out of the franchise. Enter Joel Schumaker (Flatliners, The Lost Boys) who took no cues from Burton's success or his own and turned the Batman series into box office trash, filled with campy one-liners and forgettable action.

"Batman Begins" attempted to tell us the same story we already saw, but with a darker tone and with a more insightful look into the evolution of Bruce Wayne as he became Batman. The imagery was great, but the acting was no better than what Burton did with Keaton, and often not as good. As sad as it is, I think the entire crew and cast involved with "The Dark Knight" owe its huge opening and all success to the untimely death of Heath Ledger. When anything happens to the cast of a movie, love affair or death, suddenly it creates an interest in the film that would not have been there otherwise. However, from what I've seen just in previews and in pictures I feel that Heath's performance is what people are most interested about whether he were still with us or not. Director Chris Nolan says that "Heath has created an iconic villain" and I'm betting it's that performance that will shine brighter than all others in this film and just may lead him to Oscar gold. That would sure be a bittersweet moment for his family to see him earn such an honor but not being able to enjoy it with them.

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