I usually don’t do well with committing to watching movie series I come up with to add to my never ending Netflix movie queue. I have seen a good number of the Coen Brothers movies, but when I decided to do a full retrospective from past to present I only made it to Miller’s Crossing. Fail. I also once had the hair-brained idea to see everything Jack Nicholson has ever made. Some of those titles are sitting comfortably in the mid-100s on my queue.
Although I did inadvertently watch one of Nicholson’s movies in my preparation for next month’s release of The Dark Knight Rises. My plan, although I’m only one movie into it, is to revisit Tim Burton’s Batman franchise as well as Christopher Nolan’s soon-to-be trilogy that concludes with the aforementioned film.
Nicholson plays the Joker in Burton’s 1989 flick, complete with green hair, a creepy surgically created smile and a boom box with Prince songs on repeat. I don’t remember if I ever saw this film before, but I certainly appreciate it much more now. Who knew that the guy who portrayed a writer turned murderous father in The Shining and perfected the role of Col. Nathan R. Jessup (“You can’t handle the truth!”) in A Few Good Men could also be seen dancing around to music by “The Purple One” wearing a suit of the same color?
Of course Nicholson is a villain in Batman too, but he took it to a new level.
(Before I continue, interesting factoid: Nicholson’s characters in both The Shining and Batman are named Jack.)
I think Nicholson’s quirky role as the Joker against the backdrop of Tim Burton’s imagination show that some people in Hollywood can do any project they want to and still be respected for it. In this case both pulled it off, but even if they didn’t their reputation in films wouldn’t change.
In Burton’s take on Batman, I enjoyed how he kept the characters relatively simple outside of their crime-fighting (or causing) superhero costumes. Michael Keaton as Batman could be any man on the street when he’s not wearing a mask or driving the Batmobile. Throw in Kim Basinger as Bruce Wayne’s love interest and journalist trying to uncover his identity and I have no complaints whatsoever.
I also have no complaints about Christopher Nolan and his cast of characters, but Christian Bale just cannot pull off the anti-hero and the hero at the same time. And, even though it somehow fits in the movie, is the fake husky voice while in bat costume necessary, Christian? Michael Keaton did not do that. (And he was in Mr. Mom).
As far as comparing the Joker characters Nicholson certainly pulled off a maniacal laugh quite well, but Heath Ledger’s role really stands on its own in the world of villains. I’ll have to issue a final verdict on the bad guys vs. good guys after watching Burton’s Batman Returns sequel and the first two films by Nolan.
I might squeeze in Batman Forever if I have time, even though it strays from Burton and Nolan’s work, it would be fun to revisit and compare.
Then July 20 will be the beginning of the end. I actually hope maybe it is REALLY the end, as in no one would ever make a Batman movie again, but who knows? Maybe if my dream boyfriend Joseph Gordon Levitt’s character survives The Dark Knight Rises (I’m thinking that is unlikely) and continues to be involved in any sort of spin off I’d watch it. But there is always the possibility of too much of a (very) good thing and, sadly, this may be it.

( are, or in some cases were, already on sale for opening weekend of The Dark Knight Rises. In Minneapolis, there are 12:01 a.m. showings listed for Friday, July 20. It is tempting, especially after hearing about this movie since at least Christmas, but I think I’ll wait until after the opening weekend hoopla).


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