James Lileks reflects on batman movies past before going to see lego batman
"Back up for context: when the first Keaton Batman came out, the idea of Gotham in decay, crappy cars, ugliness all around - it made sense, in a thrilling sort of way. I’ve seen the future, and man it’s rough, as the Prince song heard for 1.7 seconds on the soundtrack put it. Why, at the end of the 80s, did we think this? What evidence of dystopia did we see around us? Was it the lingering effect of the ’87 crash, the feeling that feral elements great and mean, large and small, were about to swamp the deck?"
When the Keaton Batman came out, the wide world still knew batman as a campy 1960s kid show. The more gritty batman became a thing in the 70s culminating before this movie with Frank Millers Return of the Dark Knight.
Looking back today the Keaton/Burton movie seems kinda goofy, but at the time it was light years ahead in realism compared to what we had on the big screen batman world.
But that's not the thing. The thing is Lileks doesn't remember why the feeling of dystopia was there in the late 1980s. I guess the intervening years and hindsight make it hard to put himself in his own skin back then and look around. The crime wave and decrepitude was unabated. There was still a direct line from the squallor of all those crime movies of the 70s: Death Wish, Warriors, Taxi Driver, The Taking of Pelham 123. The Reagan years might have made the economy a bit better but as soon as another economic contraction happened it'd be the 1970s all over again. But now with Crack cocaine and wilding super-predators, as all the media told us to worry about and was worse than what came before.
And the murder rate was still climbing, unabated. People saw a person murdered daily in the Nation's Capitol. One a day. And they could project out into the future, "When will it be 2 a day? 3?" with parallels in every jurisdiction, nationwide. Swamp the deck, indeed.
It was so bad and there was no conceivable end to it. No visible chance of a course change. By 2017 crime and murder would be on the straight line path heading up, and the Soviet Union would be just as menacing behind the iron curtain.
But that did change. And here we are. Unable to remember. Lileks gets close, but not quite there.
And after the 89 movie Batman descended into goofiness again. Took Nolan/Bale to correct the course and do it even better.
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