In my previous entry (The Films of Tim Burton Part One), I covered Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure and Beetlejuice.
Next up is 1989’s Batman. This will always be a special film for me. This was not only the first Tim Burton film I saw on the big screen, but the very first film I saw on the big screen ever! I was five when it came out in the summer of ’89, and I still remember it well. I still remember the theater I saw it in. Hell, I even remember the two black guys who were sitting in front of me. I know they were black because of the high-top hair style that they were sporting (which was popular in the late ’80s to early ’90s — if you don’t believe me, just check out any Kid’N’Play album cover, 1990’s House Party, 1991’s New Jack City, Chris Rock when he was a Saturday Night Live regular, and the first couple of seasons of Law and Order). And of course, I would get to see the film on the big screen again 14 years later at the Museum of the Moving Image.
Up until seeing the film, my only exposure to Batman had been seeing some comics and action figures in a few stores, but mostly it was from the 1960s show with Adam West. Seeing Tim Burton’s movie showed me a completely new Batman, one that would resonate with me for years to come. Sure, I wasn’t a billionaire orphan, but we shared similar pain. Bruce Wayne devoted himself to an ideal to become something more, and that’s something that’s always inspired me. Michael Keaton brilliantly portrayed the haunted Bruce Wayne and Batman. Jack Nicholson portrayed an unforgettable Joker (matched only or barely surpassed by Mark Hamill in Batman: The Animated Series and Heath Ledger’s Oscar-winning portrayal in 2008’s The Dark Knight). While the stunning art direction would be recognized with an Academy Award, Danny Elfman’s classic score wasn’t even nominated. It is his music that remains THE standard for Batman music. Although Elliot Goldenthal came close with 1995’s Batman Forever and 1997’s Batman and Robin, Hans Zimmer’s music for Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, while okay, has been a huge disappointment in musically representing Batman. But I digress.
Tim Burton created a unique world in Batman. It may not have the real world look of Christopher Nolan’s Batman films, but it is still an appropriate world for Burton’s interpretation of the character. Burton’s Batman is one who ultimately puts aside his personal demons so that he can concentrate on the task at hand (he does get the vengeance he has sought by the end, so it’s a win-win. I have found myself putting aside my personal demons at times in the past in order to focus on an important task, and I always remember to never let them control me; that I must make my own destiny.
Next up is 1990’s Edward Scissorhands. I had seen this film in parts on cable over the years (including a pop-up trivia version on VH1 at one point), but it wasn’t until the Tim Burton retrospective at the Museum of the Moving Image in late 2003 that I was finally able to see it from beginning to end and on the big screen. It would be nine years before I would be able to see it on the big screen again. I was able to see it just last month at the Clearview Chelsea’s Thursday night Chelsea Classics (I had missed the 7 p.m. showing hosted by Hedda Lettuce, but I managed to catch the 9:30 p.m. show). I have to say that both screenings were nearly magical.
Edward was a complete representation of teenage angst. What was normal for society seemed so strange to him, and it was only fitting that he was ultimately unable to fit in (his hands being made of scissors serves as a perfect metaphor). I identify with Edward; trying to fit in has never been easy for me. So much of today’s society seems so weird to me. People often look at me like I’m crazy whenever I point out that something they do regularly doesn’t make any sense. The scene that resonates with me the most is the one where Kim asks Edward to hold her. He gazes at her and, fearing he’ll hurt her, replies, “I can’t.” She then grabs his arms and puts them over her shoulders so that she could embrace him. Anyone who is unmoved by this truly has no soul (metaphorically speaking). Every time I see that scene I wonder if I’ll ever have a love that true and great.
Johnny Depp (in his breakthrough role) was simply magnificent as Edward. It was the first of many bizarre roles for him, but this’ll be the one that he’ll be most remembered for. Seeing Vincent Price as Edward’s creator was such a special treat. The father-son relationship between their characters is one that I wish I had growing up. What strikes me the most about this film is Edward looks the way I often feel. I play Danny Elfman’s classic score (which went unrecognized by the Academy) a lot in my head. It’s haunting, classical, and just beautiful. It’s no coincidence that Tim Burton’s most personal film is also his masterpiece. It has and will continue to resonate with me for years to come.
COMING SOON: The Films of Tim Burton Part Three