Thursday, November 24, 2016

Recap: Batman (1989) Part 2: Harlequin, Columbine, Clown

One of the unspoken rules of Batman's mythos is that the Joker doesn't have an origin. The '66 Batman show briefly alluded to his life before villainy, The Dark Knight makes his lack of a backstory a plot point, and even Alan Moore's The Killing Joke- a story about the Joker's origin- has the Joker throw doubt over the flashbacks by saying he doesn't always remember his origin the same way.

But we just had a good solid third of the movie detail the clown prince's origin... and the things people mostly take issue with have yet to appear in the movie.

You never can predict what fans will gripe about.
I keep complaining about cartoon characters playing chess incorrectly, myself.

The day after Bruce and Vicki's date, Bruce is on the couch as a very perky Vicki Vale wakes him up by suggesting they get lunch at her place. Boy, she is oddly clingy after just one date. Bruce must be great in bed. 
Vicki Vale: "I'll show you some photos."
Bruce Wayne:
"Sure, okay."

And anyone who takes a long time to wake up knows that that's the "Sure, okay" of a person who comprehended none of what was said to him. When Bruce actually succeeds in waking up, he tells her that he's buy all day and won't be able to make it. Or the next day. He's got a "business trip" for the next few days. So Vicki kisses him goodbye and leaves, passing Alfred as she heads downstairs.

Vicki Vale: "I'll talk to you guys when you get back."
Alfred: "Back, Miss Vale? We're going to be here for quite a while."

Dang it, Alfred, you're supposed to be Bruce's wingman here! What about the bro code, man? The bro code!

So Vicki heads off, entirely suspicious of her new boyfriend. Speaking of boyfriends, Grissom's moll returns from shopping to find her boyfriend on the couch, too. With a big red grin on his chalk-white face.

Joker: "Honey, you'll never believe what happened to me today."

The shock is enough to make her faint, so Joker decides to sport a quite different look when he holds a meeting of Grissom's top men.

Little known fact. Einstein was one of Gotham's most ruthless gangsters.
Joker tells them that in Grissom's absence, he's in charge. First order of business: Run Gotham into the ground.

Fat Gangster: "Why don't we hear this from Grissom?"
Tony Eyebrows: "Yeah. And what's with that stupid grin?"

If you think that's bad... actually, that might look scarier than the clown face.
Seeing Joker with Caucasian makeup on really serves to highlight how disfigured he is. It's not just that his face is frozen in a smile, it's that is face is frozen in a caricature of a smile; it resembles happiness, but it's clearly not. Kind of fitting for a man who terrorizes the city while dressed as a bringer of joy.

Anyway, Tony wants out, which you might think would rub the Joker the wrong way. But he claims that there's no hard feelings. After all, the last thing anybody wants is a gang war. Joker's perfectly fine with an amicable handshake before parting ways.

Of course, said handshake is loaded with a few thousand volts that slowly cook Tony alive as all the while, Joker says whatever random thing he finds funny.

Joker: "Ooohhh, there'll be a hot time in the old town tonight... oooh hoo hoo hoo!"

As Joker's goons come in to point machine guns at all the other gangsters, Joker drops Tony's charred skeleton back into his seat.

Joker: "Antoine got a little hot under the collar."

The other gangsters don't seem to be in a laughing mood at the moment, so Joker dismisses them to think the new deal over as he wipes some sweat (and Caucasian makeup) off his forehead.

I always thought that they put white makeup on the handkerchief, and he’s just smearing it onto his face to create this effect. Nope. Jack Nicholson is wearing white paint on his face, a layer of non-stick cooking oil, and an upper layer of flesh tone over that, meaning that he’s actually rubbing makeup off to reveal white skin underneath.

Now that's a cool effect.

Anyway, with his mirthful mood over, Joker calls over Bob and tells him to grab his camera and follow Knox.

"If anybody asks, tell them you're Jimmy Olsen from the Planet."
Joker: "See what he knows about this Batman."

But before Bob goes, Jack Nicholson decides to ad lib a bit.

Joker: "And Bob... remembeh. You... are my number one... ghuuuuuuuuy."

And since that was what Grissom said to Jack before betraying him... yeah, don't expect Bob to make it through the movie.

Bob leaves to do his boss’s bidding, leaving Jack alone to talk to Tony's corpse and pretend like it's talking back.

Joker: "Your pals, uh, they're not bad people. Maybe we, uh... ought to give them a couple of days to think it over. ...No? ...Grease 'em now? Okay. You are a vicious bastard, Rotelli. I'm glad you're dead."

Then he laughs in the corpse's face and repeats the last bit a few times, making himself laugh some more each time. Because hey, if it's funny the first time, right?

I like to think that he just keeps the body around to laugh at.
Back at the Gotham Globe, Vicki looks over the file on Bruce Wayne, as opposed to working together with Knox on the Batman case. Knox is a bit miffed, but Vicki's just frustrated that the Globe doesn't really have anything on Bruce Wayne. So instead, she decides to follow Bruce Wayne's car around in secret. Bruce heads off alone to a seedy Gotham alleyway, leaving behind two red roses after a brief moment of silence.

Random thought, is it really a "moment of silence" if no one says anything before or after? Wouldn't that just make it another moment?

Anyway, Bruce's walk takes him by the courthouse, where reporters question Gotham's surviving gangsters about the affidavit they filed regarding Carl Grissom's businesses.

Gangster: "Mr. Grissom asked me... as a personal favor... to take over the operation of his businesses until he returns."
Knox: "That's a pretty big favor. You two must have been very close."
Gangster: "Very close."
Knox: "Did you do a little time together as children?"

Vicki shows up to get some pictures as a mime walks around Bruce Wayne. Followed by another. And a third. There seems to be an abundance of mimes today. A "combine," as they're known.

Pictured: Everyone watching a street mime ever.
As the gangsters assert the legitimacy of Grissom's signature, the Joker, dressed up as one of the mimes, chimes in to confirm their story.

Joker: "He reached up with his dead hand... and signed it in his own blood."

And Joker even has the alleged feather quill Grissom used, which gets jabbed into the neck of one of the gangsters.

My God, Batman must have removed all of his blood!
Joker: "The pen... is truly mightier than the sword!"

I find it interesting that when he prepares for his first act in front of a crowd... that's the best joke he can come up with.
And to provide Joker with a getaway, the mimes randomly open fire, causing everybody but Bruce Wayne to drop to the ground. Bruce simply watches, even while a bullet clips him, as the Joker drives off. Vicki goes to confront him after the shooting, but he runs off.

On the news that night, the mayor continues his insistence that the gangsters will be stopped before the bicentennial celebration, and the topic quickly turns back to Batman, upsetting the Joker so much that he fires his boxing glove gun at his TV.

Joker: "Can somebody tell me what kind of a world we live in where a man dressed up as a bat gets all of my press? This town needs an enema!"

Back at STATELY WAYNE MANOR, Bruce arrives to drink some water as Alfred tells him that Vicki called. And he not-so-subtley hints that perhaps Bruce shouldn't throw away such a catch.

Bruce Wayne: "Alfred... why don't you marry her?"

"Because I'm not quite ready to tie myself down to just one woman, sir."
But Bruce is more preoccupied with the clown running around, terrorizing Gotham.

Alfred: "If not now... when?"

"Maybe when there isn't a murderous clown on a rampage? Just a thought."
Bruce Wayne: "I just found out Jack Napier's still alive."

Bruce Wayne: "He's running Grissom's men. I need all the information the police have on him."

As Alfred goes to somehow get that, Bruce ends up agreeing about Vicki Vale. Speaking of her, she's currently at her apartment, calling up Knox to see if he can find anything about the alleyway Bruce visited. As she goes over the photos she took of him, the Joker goes to town on some photographs of his own.

Bob arrives with more photos of the courthouse scene, and Joker goes through them until he finds Vicki Vale, instantly becoming obsessed with her.

Joker: "A lovely beast like that running around could put steam in a man's strides."
Bob: "She's dating some guy named Wayne."
Joker: "She's about to trade up."

As Bob goes to get Joker a phone book, the camera cuts to show the extent of Joker's newfound love of scrapbooking.
Well, we all go a little overboard with a new hobby, right?
Later, at Axis Chemicals, a shipment goes out, overseen by the Joker himself. Say what you will, but the guy has administrative talent.

Gotham Action News begins its nightly broadcast as ever, beginning with the gruesome deaths of models Candy Walker and Amanda Keeler, who died with eerie grins on their faces. As near as the authorities can figure out, it was either an allergic reaction or a drug overdose.

As Becky the news anchor's co-host begins the next segment, referring to three mysterious deaths at a beauty parlor, Becky finds that she simply can't stop laughing. As she falls over in her chair, the technicians in the booth discover that some sort of pirate signal is being broadcast, featuring the Joker acting in a low-budget commercial for his new line of "Joker Products."

Joker: "With a new secret ingredient! Smylex!"

The Joker shows a hostage, claiming that he uses "Brand Eksssssssssssss." But not the smiling corpse that uses Joker Products! Speaking of smiling corpses, that's what Becky the news anchor has become.

As the commercial continues, Bruce Wayne sits at home with his mouth hanging slightly open, unable to take his eyes away.

Local commercials are always cheesy, aren't they?
Joker: "I know what you're saying! 'Where can I get these fine, new items?' Well, that's the gag. Chances are, you bought 'em already!"

As the commercial ends, Bruce looks over the file on Jack Napier.

Bruce Wayne: "Assault with a deadly weapon, age 15. Results of psychological profile... violent mood swings, highly intelligent, emotionally unstable. Aptitudes include science, chemistry, and art. ...Chemistry. Alfred, let's go shopping."

"I'm in the mood for a little TJ Maxx."
And the movie actually gives us the ol' spinning newspaper, with the headline proclaiming 13 deaths as a result of this "Joker"'s tampering.

Sometime later, the unshaven, unkempt, unwashed newscasters begin the news story of the day. Namely, that nobody knows what sort of products the Smylex is in, explaining why they're not using any sort of hygiene or beauty products.

The phone is ringing off the hook in the mayor's office as he demands that the festival will continue no matter what. Speaking of phones, Alfred checks Bruce's answering machine, hearing Vicki's message about being a little late to their date at the art museum. Alfred passes on the message to Bruce, who takes a second before he realizes that he never scheduled a date for today.

Elsewhere, Joker starts putting on his makeup as his porcelain-masked girlfriend asks him where he's heading off to.

Joker: "Daddy's going to make some art, darling."

Vicki arrives at the museum as the stock classical music plays. She arrives at her seat for her dinner reservation and waits... and waits... and waits. Eventually, a waiter brings over a present that just arrived for her.

Well, that's not suspicious at all.
This can only end well.
Inside is a gas mask and a warning to put it on. As gas seeps in through the ducts to kill everyone, Vicki complies. Cue the Joker's entrance with leather-clad goons and a boombox. And the Prince soundtrack arrives in full force with the song "Party Man."

Welcome to 1989.

The all-Prince soundtrack is a little off-putting for some people, since it's really the only 1980s thing that doesn't blend with the 1940s vibe. It was entirely Jon Peters’s idea (since he was unable to get Michael Jackson), and Tim Burton has gone on record saying that he’s not a fan of the Prince music, so I can only wonder how he feels about this sequence, which pretty much only exists to make room for a Prince song.

And some art gags.
It's entirely a matter of opinion; it doesn't bother me, but I can't back that up with my usual wall of text. I don't mind it, I know some people do, I guess Burton and I agree to disagree. Moving on.

Joker and his goons frolic through the museum, vandalizing the art as they go, save for one.

"This one speaks to me, Bob. Literally. It tells me to burn things."
The Joker makes his way to Vicki's table, turning of the music before a paradox can ensue. See, the song samples a line from this movie where Vicki says "I love purple." But she hasn't said that line yet, so they turn it off to prevent Vicki from hearing the line she has yet to say. Wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey. Or songy-wongy, I guess.

Joker, being the gentleman he is, compliments his date by telling her that she's beautiful.

Joker: "In an old-fashioned kind of way. But I'm sure we can make you more... today."

Hey, the Joker invented negging.

The Joker looks through her portfolio and dismisses it all as crap until her gets to her pictures of the Corto Maltese revolution.

Joker: "Now that's good work. The skull, the bodies. You give it such a glow. I don't know if it's art, but I like it."

Joker then goes into a spiel about his epiphany regarding modern beauty standards, his new hobby...

Joker: "I make art until someone dies."

And his new job title.

Joker: "I am the world's first fully-functioning homicidal artist."
Vicki Vale: "What do you want?"
Joker: "My face on the one-dollar bill."

Hey, a joke with a missing punchline. I'll explain later.

Vicki Vale: "You must be joking."
Joker: "...Do I look like I'm joking?"
Vicki Vale: "Well..."
Joker: "Listen. We mustn't compare ourselves to regular people. We're artists."

Which in my experience means you go to an art show and watch over a hundred people say "Oh, that looks nice" before watching them walk away.

Joker: "For instance, let me challenge you with a little piece I did."

For which he brings up his masked girlfriend, who I think finally gets a name: Alicia.

Joker: "You will take pictures and record my work. You will join me in the avant-garde of the new aesthetic."
Alicia: "Jack... you said I could watch you improve the paintings."

Oh no! How will ol' Joker get out of this one? That Jolly Joker continues after these messages.
Vicki: "Why is she wearing a mask?"

"It's just that they're terribly comfortable. I think everyone will be wearing them in the future."
Alicia removes the mask, showing off the makeover the Joker gave her.

Geez. Harley Quinn got off easy. ...Relatively speaking.
Joker: "I'm no Picasso, but do you like it?"

Vicki has had enough of this madman's creativity, and decides that it might be a good time to back up into the wall as Joker demands to hear what she knows about Batman. When she denies everything, he asks for a little romance.

Vicki: "You're insane."
Joker: "I thought I was a Pisces."

She narrowly dodges a squirt of acid from his flower before throwing a pitcher of water in his face. Joker covers his face an wails in pain as he yelps about melting. For some reason, Vicki falls for it, allowing him to pop up and say "Boo!"

No joke here, this is just one of my favorite makeup jobs in film. It's a cool effect, and one I used for reference when I took a stage makeup class in college.
Luckily for Vicki, Batman smashes in through the skylight, grabs her, and ziplines out the museum doors.

Joker: "Where does he get those wonderful toys?"

The two head inside the Batmobile, making its rather unceremonious first appearance.

And I have to wonder how nobody figured out that the mysterious car with bat wings on it might be connected to the rumor of a bat-shaped vigilante.
The Joker's goons enter their own cars and give chase through the streets of Gotham while the Batmobile whips out some nifty tricks like being bulletproof and a little grappling hook that helps it whip around a tight corner. evading the Joker's men as well as the police.

When some construction equipment blocks the road, Batman and Vicki hop out before he activates the Batmobile's animated armor.

But with more Joker thugs on their tail, Batman asks an important question.

Batman: "How much do you weigh?"
Vicki Vale: "About 108, I think."

He whips out a grapple gun and they escape upwards until the line suddenly stops. So Batman sends her up while he jumps down to fight the goons. They shoot him at point blank range in the chest, which once again knocks him out for a few seconds. Somehow.

Now, you might think he's faking it, since it would be good for his image if he could convince the Gotham underworld that he can come back to life from being shot, but the goons take a closer look at him and realize that he's just some guy in body armor. And they even start taking off his mask until a flash from Vicki Vale's camera distracts them.

As they start shooting her, Batman wakes up and kicks their collective butts before taking care of a guy with a couple swords. Like in most video games, the trick is to wait until the boss is done with his attack, then you block and counter.

Also, hello, cameraman reflection.
With Swordy taken care of and Bob the Goon running scared, Batman meets back up with Vicki after remote-piloting his car toward his location.

Batman: "You weight a little more than 108."

Way to fuel body image issues, Batman.

Batman walks in front of his car, commanding it to stop a few inches from him, and Batman takes Vicki back to the Batcave through the twisting forest roads on the outskirts of Gotham.

"Have... have I just been kidnapped?"
"Only if you try to leave."
"...I don't like that answer."
"Well, I didn't care much for the question."
Once inside the Batcave, after Vicki nearly falls into nothingness...

Seriously, Batman, put in a railing.
And Vicki sees Batman's pet bat. I think.

If the place is lousy with bats, why keep a single one in a cage?
Anyway, they head deeper inside the cave, where Batman sits down at the Batcomputer to tell Vicki that the Joker mixed his Smylex in with hundreds of chemicals manufactured by Axis that get shipped to various sources. So when Gothamites use specific combinations of products, the poison mixes together and kills the user.

Batman hands her a file with his findings and tells her to take that to the press, but she counters that Batman is still considered a menace himself.

Vicki Vale: "You're not exactly normal, are you?"

"What makes you say that?"
Batman: "It's not exactly a normal world, is it?"

"Why do we have color TV and monochrome photographs?"
Vicki Vale: "Why did you bring me here? You could have sent that stuff to the press yourself."
Batman: "You're right."

"I thought we could do... you know, like a Superman/Lois Lane interview thing."
"Okay. Can you tell me where you're from?"
"Can you be more specific?"
"...I think we're done here."
Batman: "There is something else you have that I want."
Vicki Vale:

Batman doesn't answer, but Vicki Vale wakes up in her bed... sideways, missing the film she put in her bra. So... it's canon that Batman reached into the bra of an unconscious woman. Whom he drugged. After kidnapping her and taking her to an undisclosed location.

Why is it that each Batman film series seems to start with somebody visiting the Batcave and getting drugged? Penguin, Vicki Vale, Rachel Dawes... If Batfleck ends up drugging somebody in his first solo movie, I'm going to start thinking there's some kind of conspiracy.

Anyway, Knox calls, wondering where she is, and she tells him that she has a hot scoop for him. And indeed, the hot scoop makes the presses. The news announces the lethal combination over the airwaves before once again turning the topic toward, frustrating the Joker so much that he foregoes the goofy prop and shoots his TV with a good ol' fashioned gun.

Joker: "I have given a name to my pain... and it is Batman."

His plan is simple. Kill the Batman.
"Good plan."
Back at the Batcave, Alfred suggests that the more Bruce avoids Vicki, the more interested she's going to be in an explanation for his behavior. He suggests telling her the truth about everything, so Bruce soon finds himself at her apartment.

"Why are you wearing glasses?"
"So people wouldn't recognize me on the street?"
"That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard."
"You'd be surprised how well it works, actually."
She lets him in, and he makes uncomfortable chit-chat before getting down to brass tacks.

Bruce Wayne: "This is a nice apartment. Lots of space."

But actually, she gets down to the brass tacks as he waffles.

Vicki Vale: "I don't know who you think you are."

That's okay, neither does he.

She lays into him about everything as he attempts to get a word in edgeways, until finally he gently pushes her into a chair.

Bruce Wayne: "You're a real nice girl and I like you a lot, but right now, shut up."

Yeah, no, that doesn't work in real life. Bruce would be on his way out the door.

Bruce tries to tell Vicki Vale about everything, but can't exactly find the right words.

Bruce Wayne: "You know how people have different sides to their personality?"
Vicki Vale: "Mm-hm."
Bruce Wayne: "Sometimes... a person will have to actually lead a different life."
Vicki Vale: "Oh, my God, you're married."

So Bruce tries again.

Bruce Wayne: "You know how a normal person gets up and... goes downstairs and eats breakfast and kisses somebody goodbye and goes to... a job, and... you know."

"Doesn't dress up in a Halloween costume to punch muggers?"
Vicki Vale: "No."

This third attempt is interrupted by the doorbell, leaving him mouthing "I'm Batman" as she goes to answer it, finding the Joker and a couple goons.

Joker: "Nice place you got here. Lots of space."

Thinking quickly while Joker gives her a stern talking-to about running off with Batman, Bruce grabs a metal serving tray.

Joker: "I've recently had a tragedy in my life. Alicia... threw herself out of the window."

"And then burned off her fingerprints with chemicals. Before disposing of her teeth. And then slicing off her face. And chopping herself into pieces. Before burning the remains and burying them in several locations.
She was very thorough."
Joker: "But... you can't make an omelet without breaking some eggs."

As the Joker laughs at his own "joke" and Vicki grabs a bowl of popcorn... to hide behind (?), Bruce Wayne pops up, to Joker's chagrin. When Vicki says his name, the Joker instantly identifies him.

Joker: "Bruce Wayne, n'est-ce pas?"

"Finally, somebody recognizes me."
Bob pulls out a gun, but Joker seems to like Bruce enough to let him get close.

Bruce Wayne: "I know who you are."

"...Was somebody keeping it a secret?"
Bruce Wayne: "Let me tell you about this guy I know, Jack. Mean kid. bad seed. Hurt people."
Joker: "I like him already!"

As Bruce monologues about his nutty pal, he moves toward the fireplace, nonchalantly grabbing a poker before using it to smash a vase, finishing his story about what happened to his "friend."

Bruce Wayne: "He made mistakes. Then he ended up with his lights out! Now you wanna get nuts? Come on. Let's get nuts!"

There are very few people who can go toe-to-toe with Michael Keaton in a crazy contest, but Jack Nicholson is definitely one of them.
But Bruce brought a fireplace poker to a gunfight, and the Joker pulls out his gun to ask Bruce a question.

Joker: "You ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight?"
Bruce Wayne: "What?"
Joker: "I always ask that of all my prey."

Except for Grissom. And that gangster. And those people he gassed at the museum.

Joker shoots Bruce in the center of mass before leaving him with some sage advice.

Joker: "Never rub another man's rhubarb."

And with that, he departs.

Joker: "I'm only laughing on the outside. My smile is just skin deep. If you could see inside, I'm really crying. You might join me for a weep."

And after blowing a couple raspberries, Vicki is left alone with no sign of Bruce Wayne, a suspicious bullet hole in her serving tray, and a package that shoves a spring-loaded hand holding dead flowers in her face. So after all that, she decides it's time to take the weight off her legs and rest on the floor for a bit.

Coming up in Part 3! A festival of fools!

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