“It’s the so-called normal guys who always let you down. Sickos never scare me. At least they’re committed.” —Selina Kyle
“He had graduated to a point where he wanted to make movies that are his movies. And this is one hundred percent Tim’s movie.” —BATMAN RETURNS producer Denise DeNovi
On June 19, 1992 we got a blockbuster super hero movie unlike we’d seen before or have since. Since Tim Burton’s BATMAN RETURNS was about as much of a sure thing hit as a studio could ever have, and because the director had been unsure about doing another one, Warner Brothers left him alone to do what he wanted. So it’s a rare combination: an expensive summer blockbuster based on pop culture icons, but also an odd, personal film by an earnest visualist director without much interest in crowdpleasing spectacle. Okay, maybe that describes 1990’s DICK TRACY also, but this is DICK TRACY’s much freakier second cousin. As the first sequel to the movie that made comic book adaptations a hot commodity it was in a unique position to make up most of its own rules about what a super hero sequel is supposed to be, and it wasn’t timid about it.
I’ve written before about my love for the era of comic book movies that started with BATMAN and ended around BLADE or X-MEN. Since the medium that inspired them was still considered nerd shit, since digital FX were in their infancy, since most of them never worried about setting up a sequel let alone a cinematic universe, and since most were heavily influenced by what Tim Burton had done in BATMAN, the genre was very different from what it is today. There was far less literal fidelity to the source material (for good and bad), and relatively few attempts to depict extravagant super powers and creatures, meaning less falling back on visual effects sequences. Some tried to reimagine a pulpy past (THE ROCKETEER, THE SHADOW, THE PHANTOM, DICK TRACY), while the ones trying to be new and contemporary often celebrated colorful outsiders and weirdos (THE CROW, THE MASK, BARB WIRE, TANK GIRL, X-MEN). And I think my favorite thing about them is that they didn’t usually take place in “the real world.” They depended on a stylized look with big sets on sound stages, matte paintings and miniatures to create their own heightened reality. (read the rest of this shit…)