Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Keaton on the Cowl

Has it really been twenty-two years since Tim Burton's Batman came out? On a basic level, that's difficult for me to even process, because in my mind I'm still that snotty ten-year old whose first exposure to the film came -- in those heady pre-Internet days when movies weren't spoiled three years before they even materialized -- via a posed still (the one up top, in fact) of star Michael Keaton wearing the Bob Ringwood-designed rubber suit. I can also vividly remember my first reaction, which was something like, "Micheal Keaton? Who? Everyone knows Adam West is Batman!" Needless to say, those misgivings didn't last very long, and by the time I actually saw the movie, they'd been completely banished.

In today's age of multiple comic book movies assaulting theaters within mere weeks of one another, it's hard to convey to the uninitiated just what an event the Burton Batman was at the time, and though Keaton never took ownership of the part in quite the same way, for example, Chris Reeve did with Superman, I think it's safe to say that for most people of my vintage, Michael Keaton remains the most indelible (if not definitive) actor to inhabit the iconic role (notwithstanding Christian Bale's exemplary -- soon to conclude -- take). While I think all four films in the '80s-'90s Bat-catalogue are hobbled by various flaws (some more apparent than others), I also think Keaton has never been given his fair share of credit for what he brought to the series, and what was lost when he left.

In a recent sit-down with Hero Complex's Geoff Boucher on the occasion of a career retrospective film festival, Keaton waxed nostalgic about his two film (too short!) tenure as custodian of the cinematic cape and cowl, and the indelible impact that Batman and Batman Returns left not only on the movie landscape, but also his own career. In addition, the actor also offers a peek into the method behind his portrayal of playboy millionaire Bruce Wayne, and what he thinks of the Batmen who followed in his stead. It's fascinating stuff from the famously press-shy actor, and really makes me wish we'd see more of him these days beyond the occasional cameo or character part (like last summer's The Other Guys).

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