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Episode 70: BATMAN v SUPERMAN

BATMAN v SUPERMAN  

150 members have voted

  1. 1. Which superhero movie makes the cut?

    • BATMAN (1989)
      51
    • SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE (1979)
      99


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Holy titanic tussles! Which superhero movie is going to make it into the Canon - Tim Burton's gothic BATMAN or Richard Donner's all-American SUPERMAN? It's up to you!

 

And stick around, by Great Caesar's Ghost, and tell us why you voted the way you did!

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I’m honestly shocked that anyone could think that Superman is a better movie than Batman. Batman may be goofy, but it meant to be that way, whereas Superman was meant to be a more serious movie but ends up so goofy that it feels dated, even by 1978 standards. On top of that, the opening scenes, being those on Krypton and while he’s young on Earth, go on for way too long. Devin, though you criticized Lex Luthor in the Superman, I think his character and Gene Hackman’s performance are two of the few things that actually work. And still, Nicholson’s Joker is far superior. Batman is clearly the better made movie, the more watchable movie, and just the better movie in general, while Superman (which I’ve been hard on here, so I just wanted to point out that I do like it) feels more like a historically important relic.

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Batman wins for me, hands down. This was my fourth or fifth time trying to watch Superman, and my record remains: I've fallen asleep every single time. Superman is a boring movie. As mentioned in the episode, it does have nice character moments, but Batman has some great ones too and remains exciting to watch.

 

I agree that Batman does have some technical issues that reveal themselves upon repeat viewings. The miniature at the end really does not hold up, nor does the matte shot of Batman on the roof at the beginning. However, technical failings aside, there is real tension in this film with action sequences that keep things moving at a great pace. Superman's final sequence is the only real instance of any action. I'm no fan of superhero movies, but I should at least get to witness a few exciting sequences.

 

At the end of the day, Batman movies are the only superhero flicks I've really enjoyed. I think this has to do with stakes. Batman is mortal, and therefore vulnerable. I'm now old enough to understand that no character that is a "property" is truly in any danger. Yet as a child, this fear engaged me. Superman was bulletproof, and again, boring. I know nostalgia is a shitty point to argue, but isn't nostalgia driving this entire genre? With that conceit, Batman wins for me yet again.

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It's an easy call. Reeve's Superman is the definitive superman. I love the Lois shaken soda scene as well...Clark is better than the passive aggressiveness embedded in "midwest nice"..but it's totally a "midwest nice" move to subtly let people who underestimate or condescend to you know that you know exactly what they're doing and smile about it. I really like that this superman has a grace in his movements. MoS (and I'm guessing BVS) are obsessed with power...Supes takes off like a rocket and slams into anything and everything. Here Superman just rises smoothly and glides - it's far more powerful.

 

After rewatching it this weekend the shift from young Clark (Jeff East) to Reeve's as Clark is slightly awkward. I wonder if they just couldn't make Reeve's seem a bit younger for that part of the film?

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This one is super hard. In the end, both of these movies are so mired in nostalgia for me that's it's really hard to look at them both objectively. I revisited both, for like the fiftieth time each, and while I really love both movies and have really strong affection for them, I have to go with Superman. Batman was the closest the version of the character I enjoy has been portrayed in live action, since I think Mask of the Phantasm is my favorite. Batman gets the closest I've seen to portraying Batman in the way I want, but I think Superman nails the way I like Superman to be portrayed. So while personally I think I like Batman better, I think Superman succeeds more, and is a more concrete and well-made film, and more deserving of joining the Canon.

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I'm voting Superman not only because i think it's a better movie than Batman but also because it's the best movie featuring that character, while Batman has been done better since.

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For me it's got to be Superman, it's not a hard choice but it feels like an odd choice. I think both films are inferior to their sequels and this definitely hurts Batman more as the version of Superman II that's superior is the Donner Cut which is closer to a special feature than an actual sequel.

 

It took many viewings for me to actually embrace Batman and the first time I saw it I didn't even finish it. I love the Gothic designs, but it doesn't properly find it's feet.

 

Superman I always liked, the first hour really captures all the wonders of Superheros better than any other film, and it still gets me every time. It's close, but my vote has to be for Superman.

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A repeat of my post from BMD... it’s always going to be Superman for the win with me, which I'll point out here was released in 1978, mere months after I was released, not '79 as per the poll. I’m a Batman admirer, but I think Returns is the better of the Burton movies.

Some random observations on Batman: I love the animated, overhead shoot of Batman at the start of the movie. It’s the only shot were he moves right, and seems like the animated series Batman was on set for a moment. Some hate it because it’s ‘fake looking’ – typically braindead philistines who say older movies are ‘ruined’ by dated effects. It’s also evocative of that Universal feel that Devin talked about.

I love that Lee Wallace, the unfortunate mayor of Taking of Pelhem 123 (“Hey, it’s the Mayor – Boooooo!”) is still an unfortunate mayor more than ten years later.

For those who weren’t there, it cannot be understated how big a cultural moment Batman 89 was in general, and for geeks in particular. It didn’t stop us getting beaten up for reading comics, but it was the first sign of something like light at the end of the tunnel. I was steeped in this movie waiting for release – I had a scrap book of newspaper articles, and afterwards called into the local video store ON THE HOUR on the day of release until their copy came in.

I also devoured the comic adaption well before release, which was probably the first time I’d read a story before seeing the movie. It really exposed what elements Burton managed to pull off, and what didn’t work so well. The Dead Flower scene is an example - it worked so well for me as a reader that I was disappointed with how it ended up on screen. So while I was psyched for the movie, I was disappointed by certain elements. This, Batjihadis, is known as ‘critical thinking’ and I was the same age then as you are now – eleven.

I agree with Devin about the irritation that was Bob the Goon toys at the time, but I love knowing now that Tracey Walter was Nicolson’s best pal. He was given a part so Jack would have a buddy with him while shooting in England. The scenes between them are even funnier with that in mind.

Shoutout to Nick Dudman, a true gent, for his awesome work on the Joker makeup!

But Superman The Movie is, and remains, king of the superhero movies (Captain America and The Avengers are my strong seconds). I could go on about it forever, but you guys touched on most of it. Some more random thoughts:

The movie doesn’t open in space, it opens in a theatre. Curtains open on a comic book. We see the Daily Planet, which is the device that TAKES US into space. It’s as if to say, this may be a performance, it may be comic book, but we’re reporting the TRUTH. After the sublime John Williams overture-disguised-as-credits assure you you’re in for something truly epic, Jor-El’s opening lines reinforce the opening point:

“This is no fantasy, no careless product of wild imagination. No, my good friends. These indictments I have brought you today, specific charges listed herein against the individuals - their acts of treason, their ultimate aim of sedition... These are matters of undeniable fact.”

He's both setting up plot and emphasising the magical realism of the movie (Note to BvS producers – this is what we call SCREENWRITING)

I love the twelve-year gap, when El’s Kal and Jor go… where? Hyperspace? Time travel? Transcend dimensions? Become Stapleton’s Starmaker? Meet Doctor Strange and Howard the Duck? Is Clark really just sitting cross-legged on the floor of the Fortress, tripping balls to awesome Kryptonian mushrooms? I don’t know, which makes it all the more evocative. Whatever is happens, Superman emerges fully formed, ready for his first day on the job (yes, that is an MOS dig).

I like Lex here a lot more than Devin, but I’m not a huge fan of the Pre-Crisis Lex in general, so I think some of the problems come from that. I think if Donner had the option of the untouchable billionaire dipshit version, he and Hackman would have killed it. But as is, he’s such fun-yet-catastrophically murderous psychopath (his plan puts all Joker-plans to shame) that I can forgive the short comings.

The movie doesn’t fall apart for me until the end, for the reasons stated in the show – the end of Superman The Movie was supposed to be end of Part Two. It was buckled on to One when Donner realised he didn’t have a strong enough ending (it’s a BIG idea, if a bad one) and since he may have known he was about to get the sack, he took the best ending he had for his movie. But yes, it breaks the character.

Kudos to Amy re the romance elements – again, these have been kicked around by ‘duh fans’ (god I’m starting to hate these fucks, while still being one of them…) but it’s beautifully done.

Also, one final shout out to the mighty John Williams and Danny Elfman - superhero movies have never sounded as good since. While I think that music should naturally pair with these characters like James Bond and his theme, I’m glad they’re not being used over the current crop of DC dogshit. Hopefully a filmmaker who actually likes these characters can resuscitate them and their wonderful melodies soon…

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Also, not related to the vote but to Devin's point about phases of superhero movies, I think the early-mid 00's (X-Men to Iron Man basically) ought to be considered it's own phase

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Really tough choice. I thought I was going to pick Batman for sure when this was announced, as I am absolutely enamored with Jack Nicholson as The Joker and Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne (important distinction). But watching Superman, I was absolutely moved by the first two acts of that movie, and more so than a "damn that's cool" way as Batman moves me. There's so much to love about both movies, and I think Batman is more watchable as the quality is really consistent throughout and Superman does have a huge drop in quality whenever Otis and Luther are up to their antics. But, the deciding factor for me comes down to the fact that Christopher Reeve as Superman is the ideal portrayal of that character. Unless you're adapting something like Injustice or Red Son, this is how Superman should be portrayed. They nailed him and Lois so well. There's all sorts of adaptations of Batman that are really interesting, but none of them definitive.

 

I still love the hell out of Batman, but Superman far outpaces its faults with how much it gets right. It's what a superhero movie needs to be, and it still does have its influences on modern comic book films. The airplane rescue in Iron Man 3 feels like something out of Superman, and that's a damn good thing. Superheroes should save people.

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I vote Batman. Superman is okay for awhile, but at the point when Superman spins the globe backwards and travels back in time, that movie becomes irredeemably bad.

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Also, not related to the vote but to Devin's point about phases of superhero movies, I think the early-mid 00's (X-Men to Iron Man basically) ought to be considered it's own phase

 

Yeah, it's an interesting discussion. The X-Men/Spider-Man era feels like the end of the 90s shitty comic book movie era - it's more a transitional period than its own thing. But maybe it does deserve recognition on its own terms.

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I’m a Batman admirer, but I think Returns is the better of the Burton movies.

This was, and is, my lonely stance for a very long time.

 

I will say that I've always liked Batman more than Superman. But when it comes to iconic superhero movies, it's Superman without question. Growing up in the eighties, Superman was about as big a cultural phenomenon as Star Wars. It's easy to overlook that in retrospect, and while Batman was huge in its time -- the merchandising and the Prince soundtrack were everywhere -- there's no comparison. None.

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I actually agree with Devin and Amy, that Superman is technically the stronger film, but Batman has stuck with me far more than Superman has. Batman has also clearly stuck with our culture better. In terms of Michael Keaton's and Jack Nicholson's performances, Anton Furst's production design, and Danny Elfman's iconic-as-fuck score, Batman might not be the better film overall, but it does have stronger iconography. That, coupled with the fact that it still is a very good film with plenty of memorable moments, makes it entirely canon-worthy to me. Also, does Superman exist without the Adam West version of Batman: The Movie? I'm sure this could go on and on until you get to the original comics, but looking at those in as much of a vacuum as possible, what influence does that latter have on the former?

 

Also, in terms of Batman films where Bruce Wayne is at the center of his own movie, I'd point to Batman Begins and Batman: Mask of the Phantasm. Also, the latter here should be discussed at some point, because it's as good as any live action interpretation of Batman.

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I have to go Superman, it's not even close. Upon revisiting, Batman just...isn't all that good. It's a very poorly-plotted movie that lives and dies on Jack Nicholson's performance as The Joker. The Vicki Vale subplot is dumb and pointless, and the reveal of Joker's identity as the assailant in the alley is stupid, and kind of weirdly handled considering the moment itself has no weight since we hadn't seen murder in flashback before Joker's "dance with the devil" reveal. While I do enjoy Keaton's more laid-back, confident Bruce Wayne, Batman isn't really involved in the action of his own movie at all, just sitting around reacting to the Joker. And, to be fair, this is a truly great portrayal of the Joker. The movie's plotlessness makes it start to drag pretty badly by the end, but every time Jack Napier is onscreen it becomes much more watchable. I'm more partial to Batman Returns, overall, as Burton makes the concept more his own, at least, as he makes it clearer that he doesn't much care about the source material.

Now, conversely, Superman is simply excellent. Nothing less than an attempt to capture a snapshot of the standard Superman situation, what the movie lacks in plot it more than makes up for in sheer iconicism. I love that Superman is a confused kid, and the movie bypasses what could have been his Man of Steel stage by essentially sending him to space college with his dad for a decade. I love the sweeping shots of grain in America's heartland. I love the quietly tragic beat of Pa Kent dying because he couldn't keep with Clark, a fine lesson for Clark in understanding how he must approach improving humanity. Every moment of 'Superman stuff' is invested with a degree of wonder and magic that's downright awe-inspiring, and Christopher Reeves embodies the character startlingly well, becoming undoubtedly *the* iconic vision of the character. Margot Kidder's Lois Lane is excellent, Perry White and Jimmy Olsen are both given fine nods, Superman's status as a protector of humanity is clear, it's a film that *gets* Superman in a way that comic book movies wouldn't really do for their subjects again until Sam Raimi's Spider-Man. And truth be told, I even love Lex Luthor. I think the dissonance between the lighthearted tone of his segments and the profound evil of his plans is a nicely-done touch, and the character's portrayal as a bloviating Silver Age style villain taken just a shade more seriously than he would have been back in the day is a thing to behold, I think. It's simply charming to see so many outre elements from comicdom's weird days played relatively straight in a distinctly-70s fantasy film. I do, however, have a problem with the ending, much as Devin does. Aside from simply being too-ridiculous a notion even for this movie's wide-eyed earnestness to pull off, it's really kind of a copout. Silly as it sounds, I think it may have just worked better in the moment to have Superman revive her with a kiss or something. Thankfully, this film is very much trying to be a sketch in live action of the classic Superman status quo, rather than actually building to that ending in any real way, so I think it's an easy thing to ignore. So yeah, I think Superman is a winner hands-down here. Both films are important, but Superman is much better, much more accomplished, much more classic.

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So far I'm amazed with people's responses. I thought this would be a blow out for Batman.

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Hands down, Richard Donner's Superman (directors cut). Unlike Burton's Batman (which I really like) Superman just gets better with age. I saw it when I was very young and every time I revisit it I notice new details and find more to love about the character and Reeves defining performance. I think the simple difference between Superman 1979 and Batman 1989 is that Superman actually moves me. From Pa Kents death, to Reeves crying over Lois's body, to that earnest and believable response "who are you?". . . "a friend" I believed a man could fly. I really love the broken and relatable super hero characters like Daredevil, Batman, and Spider-man but Superman - particularly Donner and Reeves version - gives comfort and inspires me. And for whatever reason, Devin and Amy's valid criticism about Lex Luthor doesn't bother me. I actually dig the tonal shift. It's probably just nostalgia but watching this in the 80s I was already freaked out about missiles blowing up my random small town. "Otis berg" and "Miss Tessmocker!" helped me deal with seeing the horror of the Kryptonian's die and Lois Lane being buried alive. For now, Captain America is the best version of Superman we have. I really hope a filmmaker can do the man of tomorrow justice someday soon.

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So far I'm amazed with people's responses. I thought this would be a blow out for Batman.

 

I feel the same way. I'm wondering if these people watched the same Superman and Batman movies that I did. I only watched the theatrical cut of Superman, so maybe the director's cut is some sort of masterpiece, but I don't see how.

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I feel the same way. I'm wondering if these people watched the same Superman and Batman movies that I did. I only watched the theatrical cut of Superman, so maybe the director's cut is some sort of masterpiece, but I don't see how.

 

I find the "extended cut" to be even more boring and uneven. I had to look up this distinction. Donner considers the theatrical version to be his vision. The extended cut is based on some cut footage put back in for the TV debut.

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I vote Superman, because it is definitely the best Superman movie of all and gets the character 100% right. Yes, it does have problems with tone once we get to Luthor, but that first hour is just amazing. And I don't even mind the Earth-spinning. It would be troubling if there were any particularly great sequels to follow, but since all of them were more or less worse, you can pretty much look at this as a standalone film that wraps everything up nicely. And man, does this film work. The score still gives me a sense of wonder you rarely get anymore.

There were several better Batman movies, I think Batman Returns is a much better film set in the same world, and the first two Nolan films do a great job. I do admire Jack Nicholson as the Joker, but he never commits to the character enough for my taste. I see Nicholson in make-up, not the Joker. I might be spoiled by Ledger though.

So overall, team Superman on this one.

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For me, this battle comes down to a duel between the scores. Both are instantly recognizable. I'm going to give the slight edge to Danny Elfman and Batman because it is his greatest theme ever produced. In the immaculate catalog of scores that John Williams has produced, the Superman theme doesn't quite carry the same stick like a Star Wars or an Indiana Jones does. But that separation exists in the most minute of distances.

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For me, this battle comes down to a duel between the scores. Both are instantly recognizable. I'm going to give the slight edge to Danny Elfman and Batman because it is his greatest theme ever produced. In the immaculate catalog of scores that John Williams has produced, the Superman theme doesn't quite carry the same stick like a Star Wars or an Indiana Jones does. But that separation exists in the most minute of distances.

 

I took notes like a dork, and the first thing I wrote for Batman was THIS SCORE!!! It truly is one of the all-time greats.

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I like the goofiness of Burton's BATMAN. The Joker 'commercial' scene is my favorite. It reminds me of some of the stuff found in the short-lived Joker comic series. And as I have felt every other time I've tried it..... SUPERMAN is a snoozer. Well directed, and I like how dream-like the beginning sequence is, but it doesn't hold for me. But the Canon, it appears to me, is about a balance of quality and importance.... and even then, I'm not so sure SUPERMAN takes it away.

 

I think the Burton BATMAN, as HoldenMartinson said, is still bigger in our culture. And that's partially because there have been very, very popular & beloved Batman works since 1989 - the animated shows, the video games, and the Nolan movies. All of which may not happened without Burton. There is a forever-going debate over what the best depiction of Batman/Joker is - people even through their hats in for animated versions! Though I'll stick up for SUPERMAN RETURNS as decent, there just hasn't been as much to say about Superman since the Donner films. Superman just has not been the phenomenon of a franchise like Batman has been. And what but Burton's film is to thank for setting in motion Batman being such a huge fixture in the culture? While Superman is iconic - people just aren't as in to him.

 

Also, going back to the animated shows - the Batman animated series for sure would not have happened without BATMAN 1989. And ever since, DC's animated shows are where they found their most consistent success outside comics. So, Burton's film was more important for DC, is a bigger fixture in the cultural consciousness, and it truly started turning the Batman franchise into the juggernaut that the Superman franchise is not. Oh, and I don't think Prince would've signed on for a SUPERMAN soundtrack. My vote is for BATMAN.

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Superman wins my vote without question. One major thing you can feel in Superman is that the movie is being made by people who have real love for the character and the world. Burton never liked Batman (an ongoing issue for Batman movies is that the people who make them don't like the comics) and you can feel it. The movie is stilted.

 

Superman is a movie that perfectly captures Superman. It bums me out that DC/WB (both in comics and in film) are afraid to have a Superman who is good and pure and a little cheesy. I really thought that Marvel's take Captain America for the movies would be a blueprint for them to follow. You don't make the character dark, you make the world around him dark, and he is the light that breaks through.

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