I should point out that this is a revised edition as when Mark Reinhart wrote the first version, there weren’t as many ‘Batman’ films as there are today. So this second edition of ‘The Batman Filmography’ starts with the 1943 ‘Batman’ series and goes through all seen on the big screen upto the latest 2012 ‘Dark Knight’ movie. None of the TV series but as Reinhart points out, that would make this a four volume book set because of the number of animation series, however he does cover the animation films which builds up the numbers. Saying that, there is so much background history given of the comicbooks and TV series, he might as well have done a volume devoted to that material anyway. The best news is that they are all out on DVD and/or Blu-ray so you can use them to supplement this book if any of them pique your interest.
Speaking of the 1943 ‘Batman’ series, despite the low product standard, it was responsible for pollinating the comicbook series with the Batcave and Alfred. In fact, Alfred Pennyworth’s look is based off of actor William Austin who played him here who replaced his original comicbook chubby short look. I goggled him and wow, yeah, I can see it. I should point out that Reinhart does not look at any of the material with ruby-tinted glasses and quite willing throughout the synopsises point out inaccuracies and mistakes. Oh and of all the people who’ve played Robin, actor Douglas Croft is the only one who was actually sixteen when he played the part.
The second series, ‘Batman And Robin’ (1949) fares even worse than the first film series although it did provide the character of Vicky Vale for the comicbook series. Reading behind the lines here, it’s almost like Bob Kane and co watched it with distain and then decided that this was one bit that could be used to shake up the original version.
Keeping everything in context, Reinhart also fills you in on the development of the Batman comicbook series so you tell the effect on the films which is an added bonus. We all have our favourite eras of Batman history but seeing it this way will no doubt flesh things out for the younger readers and put things into context.
Although Reinhart confesses not to cover the 1966 TV series, he gives a lot of background info, identifying all the makes of bat-transport being a highlight for me, before moving on to the film. Something that he did miss was that although the TV series was largely spoofing the 1950s comicbook stories, the ‘Batman’ film was original material. It’s a shame that we aren’t told why Julie Newmar wasn’t available, not that I don’t love Lee Meriwether, just an odd query. Looking up IMDb, it looks like she was guest-starring in ‘The Monkees’ and ‘Star Trek’ at the times she would have been needed.
The analysis of the four films began by Tim Burton in 1989 is spot on in its analysis and doesn’t pull any punches. I would say that in the UK, that it wasn’t ‘Mr. Mom’ that had us wondering at Michael Keaton being suitably employed as Batman, but the crazier ‘Beetlejuice’. I always liked what Burton did in the first film and after not being so impressed with ‘Batman Returns’, I didn’t really care to see what others did with the last two films. As Reinhart points out, Warner Bros wanted something that was at least acceptable to a teen-age audience but from the photos, I still thought it looked too over the top.
With the three Christopher Nolan produced/directed films, Reinhart doesn’t lose his own direction and balances praise with criticism. A lot of the flaws I totally agree with, however all directors, given the choice, will opt for action over character moments and often explaining details gets lost in this mix.
One of Reinhart’s bugbears in ‘Batman Begins’ is that Bruce Wayne is scientifically inept and has that talent given to Lucius Fox. I thought that made sense for the film. Apart from where does Wayne find the find to invent and crime-fight at the same time, it would also have substantially reduced actor Morgan Freeman’s role in helping him. There is a time to delegate.
Something that kept disturbing me was Reinhart kept noting ‘see this in a previous or later chapter’. As I was reading this book from cover to cover, I already knew the information. It dawned on me towards the end that these were really pointers for those who browsed the chapters than read in a linear fashion. Although I’m sure there are readers out there who do this, I still think with anything related to a favourite subject that the reader would at least start from the beginning.
This book is a sincere critical analysis with no holds barred. I often wondered with all the flaws he found how Reinhart kept his fan enthusiasm up for Batman but his concluding chapter indicates it shows no abatement. The amount of information in this book should serve all fans of the Dark Knight and makes an interesting documentary on all of his incarnations. Although I’m more than a little familiar with the characters, I found some information that I hadn’t known before which is always good for a recommendation.
(pub: McFarland. 318 page illustrated indexed enlarged paperback. Price: £36.95, $29.95 (US). ISBN: 978-0-7864-6981-1)