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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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My vote goes to Batman, while I love a lot about Superman, I just think it goes so far off the rails by the ending I can't vote it into the canon. For me Batman is one of those movies that I could just put on at any time and enjoy. I adore so much about it-- Keaton and Nicholson's performances, the production design, the soundtrack and score, the weird timelessness of it's setting. Maybe it's wrong to say but there's also something about the simplicity of the writing and direction that I find so refreshing compared to other superhero movies. Anyways, love the podcast as always, and I look forward to checking out Amy's new podcast. Have a great week.

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I had to go with Superman. This was a hard one for sure, as I think both films are pretty iconic for the times in which they were released. I grew up with Superman and Superman II as two of my favorite films and then by 1989 I got to add Batman to the mix. And like most of the comments have stated, I think Donner had a real love for the character, and I also think it's great that we got a film that works as well as it does considering that the Producers of the film rushed Donner to finish the first (I've always dug that they shot the majority of 1 and 2 concurrently with one another). Not to mention that I think that all of the principal actors performances in Superman still hold up over 35 years later, while I also agree that Basinger's performance as the female lead has never sat well with me (don't get me started on Wuhl).

 

I get that out of the two, Superman definitely moves at a slower pace compared to Batman. But much like Amy said, everytime I watch Batman, it diminishes in quality, especially considering that better Batman films were made after it.

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I love love love Burton's Batman. I was 9 when it came out, and whatever problems Batman may have are invisible to me because of my age when I saw it, call it the Goonies Effect. Donner's Superman, holy cow, maybe one of the most uplifting movies I've ever seen. Even hearing Williams' theme in the Singer film makes me a bit veklumpt (sp?). Donner's and Reeve's version of Superman is my definitive version. And as for folks saying that Superman who stands for decency for decency's sake doesn't make sense in a post 9/11 world, well it wasn't so hot in 1978 either. Line-ups at the Gas stations, Post Nixon, US still wounded from Vietnam, the disillusionment of the hippy movement, etc., etc. Unless you were a kid riding your tricycle off a ramp with no helmet, 1978 sucked and Donner's Superman reflected that a modern, complicated and dangerous world still needs a role model like Superman. Even further when times were seemingly easy for America, say the 50s and first half of the 60s, Superman was a horrible character. How many times did he bend Lois over his knee for a rightful spanking. Egh. Times like ours we need a Superman we can look up to more than ever.

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I really want to vote "Neither". Both films are just way too flawed to be timeless, and neither are at the top of their...class?...of comic books movies.

 

I could go into nitpicks and stuff, but why? Actually, they're not even nitpicks, it's actually pointing out all the ways the plots (especially to Superman) make no sense and are just incredibly pointless and stupid. But....why?

 

Short answer: Batman Returns improves on Batman in every way. The first two (recent Marvel) Captain Americas improve on Superman in every way (EDIT: OK, most ways, and overall). I cannot support either film's entrance into The Canon on their own merits.

 

But, as I've voted AGAINST films I felt deserved it because they were up against something I'd like a little more, I voted for Batman. It's more satisfying. It's more cohesive. It doesn't completely fall apart. The high points of Superman are quite good, but they are buried in a 2 1/2 hour movie that's empty but pretty in the first half and baffling and meaningless in the second. Batman, for all its tonal dissonance and borderline broken characterizations, feels more like a single movie. Superman...well...anyone else seen the Ralph Bakshi first-half-of-the-Lord-of-the-Rings? Kinda like that. It felt like two movies smooshed together that were themselves only two parts of a greater story. That didn't end (well).

 

Batman > Superman

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This may be unfair, since I saw & loved Burton's Batman as a kid (I went through a stretch where I just dressed as Batman all the time, except for one day when I dressed like Bruce Wayne), and just watched Superman and didn't care for it (I saw Batman Returns last year or the year before, and didn't think it as good as the original). The best thing about Superman is John Williams' score, and it's somewhat reminiscent of his other work. Danny Elfman's Batman score is quite good, but it's really the rest of the movie which makes the difference. It's impossible to take Lex Luthor seriously as a villain, because his gang is too comical & incompetent. It's only the extreme incompetence of the military that permits him to accomplish anything. Nicholson's Joker is both scary and funny. He would have killed Otis & Teschberg in an amusing manner way early on. The world of Batman is also quite stylized, echoing German expressionism but somehow timeless, which of course set the template for the cartoon series.

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Did I miss them praising John Williams Superman score? If not, shame on you. It's so good, I feel that some of the missteps of the more recent Superman films wouldn't be judged quite as harshly with that score backing them.

 

That being said, Elfman's score is just as iconic, also one of the all time greats. I realize we're not just judging the scores here.

 

I will say that I don't feel like Batman has a moment like Clark saving Lois in the helicopter or even that primal scream when she dies, but to sum it up, a hero is only as good as the villain, and Jack's Joker is aces (Sorry), so that's why I voted for Batman.

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"You will believe a man can fly" was the tagline for Superman: The Movie, and I think it sums up perfectly what they were going for, and why it works so well.

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As a head-to-head, I think Superman is a clear winner.

 

There's a lot of great elements to Batman, but there's an inherent lack of momentum to that film. The movie spends a lot of time moving between isolated vignettes of the Joker and the Vicki-Bruce relationship. The Joker vignettes are hit-or-miss, but even when they hit they just kind of meander into the climax of the film. The script for Bruce and Vicki goes pretty much from meet-cute to deep emotional connection without demonstrating a development from one to the other, and the actors have no chemistry with each other to sell a fast-burning romance.

 

I love the sets and the score, and Nicholson gives a great effort, but little else in the movie works for me. I find Keaton's Batman and Wayne pretty dull, although I like that Wayne gets screentime. As for Batman, the movie is fixated on gadgets, which are rarely my thing. Keaton can't move in the suit, and it's embarrassing to watch them try and shoot around it. The film takes for granted that the Batmobile and Batwing will cover the difference as far as action intrigue, but it's too much to ask.

 

 

Superman, on the other hand, nails so much. It feels like a Marvel prototype, where a lame villain and action setpiece give the film enough road to showcase the hero and his supporting cast.

 

The Krypton prologue floored me. It's a shock to go into a movie expecting badly aged effects and to be met right out of the gate with those spectacular sets and costumes. I don't know if I've ever seen an alien world succeed and being so cold and colorless while staying so vivid.

 

Clark growing up on Earth was even better. All of the stuff with the Kents sang, and I especially loved that hurt look he gave the camera when his high school classmates pranked and ditched him. The origin takes up so much time and contains so many little journeys; How do they all work so well? And in such different ways? The journey to the Fortress shouldn't work at all, nor should resurrecting Jor-El ten minutes after killing him, but they do, and the advice he peppers throughout the rest of the film adds a lot. Not to mention the quality of the psychedelic space cinema we're treated to throughout.

 

The rest of the movie is an hourglass; It begins as an introduction to Superman's heroism and to the Clark-Lois relationship. The sand ticks away, however, and the movie gradually fades out those elements to realize a plot about Lex Luthor and nukes and real estate. When the movie showcases Margot Kidder's Lois Lane, it's groundbreaking stuff. When Lex is onscreen, it's as though a fourth rate episode of the Superman TV show snuck into the film. I was begging the movie to show another scene like the interview/date on Lois' roof over Ned Beatty reviving long-dead comedy bits, but those moments kept coming instead.

 

What makes it hard to put Superman in on its own merits is that the thrust of the second half of the movie is dependent on the Luthor plot, and every of those scenes had turn-off-the-movie heat from me. Gene Hackman gives a solid comedy performance, granted, but the rest of the film balances emotional beats with smaller comedy moments so well, it just makes the 2nd Wave Vaudeville stuff sting worse.

 

I'd love to gush more about Kidder, Reeve, the Williams score, or talk about Donner's direction, but I've typed way more than I should have already. Evaluating a film is most difficult when the same film contains great successes and great failures. So much of it comes together, but I find it hard to say that a movie belongs in the Canon when huge swaths of it fall so short as well.

 

TL;DR: Batman falls well short of the canon. Superman beats it easily, although its own shortcomings make me lean closer to "Neither."

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Batman was a huge formative movie for me. I wore out our VHS when I was kid watching every single goddamn day after school. I'm can't be too sure, but I think this Batman was my very first exposure to superheroes. To this day I still love that iconic black and gold Batman logo; some kind of triumph of graphic design there. Danny Elfman's score is pretty easily his best work too. Other than those details though the movie is so hit and miss, and I'm feeling the same as Amy in that it diminishes in my eyes with every viewing. Burton laying down some real stankin' cheese here...

 

Superman: The Movie has its flaws as well, but is the obvious choice for entry into The Canon of Great Films. Superman is realized in a really full and satisfying way; obviously owing a great deal to Reeves. Superman as an ideal has been mightily abused in uncaring, crass and juvenile ways by MoS and BvS. Superman The Movie just has a real loving and faithful portrayal of the big ol' lug, and I'm glad to revisit in the wake of the bummer that is Batman v Superman. My man is simply earnest, good and helps people. The other guy is a puffed up snapper of necks wrestling with responsibility. Off topic?

 

Anyway Superman The Movie isn't perfect, Devin really nails it with his frustrations, but it's a legit pillar of Superman's cultural status. Not to mention Donner writing the blueprint for all comic book movies to come. Into The Canon!

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Batman is a great movie, no doubt. But Superman (the characters more so than the movie) works better on an emotional level. You feel things.

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I voted for Batman because that was the movie I grew up as a kid and have more fond memories for me and I always love the tone and the look and the world building of this film. Also for me I feel the Luthor parts totally breaks the film in Superman and kind of ruins the movie for me. If Superman didn't move time backwards I would vote for it but I can't with that scene. Both are great films but I vastly enjoy Batman more

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It was close but ultimately I went with Superman, despite the third act problems. Reeves as Clark Kent is what tips it over for me. I've always loved that take on the character, that Superman just delights in being flawed, of not having to be a paragon for at least part of his day. That he's so secure in who he is that he enjoys being uncool. I could watch it all day and it's the one thing that holds my interest in the lesser sequels.

 

I would love to see a 80's BvS version where Reeves' Kent and Keaton's Wayne as distracted billionaire just bounce off each other at a party for 20 minutes.

 

I'm also on Team Williams for the music. Elfman is great, but the Superman's theme just make you feel like you could fly. I actually think Elfman's best superhero score was to Ang Lee's Hulk. Very underrated.

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There must be a bunch of people who grew up with the Superman movie and are voting out of nostalgia. Or else they didn't watch the films again.

 

Superman:

Reeves is great. Kidder is good. The score is awesome. The effects were revolutionary for the time and mostly hold up today. However, the first act could be cut down to five minutes and you'd probably have a better movie. Each of the actors seems to think they're in a different movie with a different tone.

 

Batman:

With Batman, you get a consistent movie from start to finish. Amazing production design. Great performances from both the hero and the villain. The movie assumes the viewer is smart enough to get who Batman is without a 30-minute origin story. Amazing use of colour. Tim Burton at his least Burtonesque (which is a good thing - c.f. Batman Returns). An equally iconic score.

 

Most importantly, Batman holds up today. Superman does not.

 

Anyone who did not re-watch the movies and is voting purely based on memory, take another look at both films and change your vote to the correct choice (Batman).

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Seeing the title of the episode before listening I was 100% ready to vote for Batman, but my vote changed after I listened to the episode which shocked me a little bit. I can't wait to watch both of these films again. I'm hoping Batman will get a second shot when they choose previous rejected films to get a second chance at the canon.

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Superman needs to be portrayed with an earnestness that most filmmakers are scared of with heroes on film. Captain America aside, Superman: the Movie does this with fascinating storytelling and a perfect portrayal by Christopher Reeve. Batman, as much as I do like it, is important because of its cultural impact, the movie is just ok.

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Superman is soooooooo bad I don't have the time to even complete all my thoughts on it. To say that it falls apart in the third act is giving it too much credit; it becomes all but unwatchable. The only way to consider this a decent film is to view it strictly as an effort to show a Superman story from the 30s and 40s dropped into late 70s New York. Kent/Superman is overly hokey (going so far as to say he fights for truth, justice and the American way), Otis is stupidly over the top, Luthor's plot is really dumb, etc etc. I think it is not especially well directed (Amy and Devin were more than happy to shit on Donner in the review of Goonies though) and it is not even well written after the first half (Puzo actually has a lot of misses in screenplays).

The positives exist though. The relationship between Superman and Lois is very good and I like the scenes of Clark growing up in Kansas. It also IS a nice depiction of Golden Era Superman as I understand it.

Personally, I find Superman stories to be boring. The best works have the character much more world-weary; this is an alien with nearly limitless power stuck dealing with the problems of a race of people who can't get out of their own way. I know that would wear on me after a while.

 

Batman at least keeps my interest nearly 30 years later. I couldn't hate Tim Burton any more as a director than I do; I really believe he may be the worst director still getting big work that is meant to be taken seriously today. But I applaud many of his decisions in this film; it's a dark and dirty movie for a character that demands it. Batman views his surroundings this way. Batman is better paced as a film, better written, and has several more solid acting performances. It has its goofy moments to be sure (even as a kid, I thought the church tower at the end seemed stupid) but seems more palatable as they are presented than the overly sweet way as done in Superman.

 

Neither of these are really worth being in the Canon except for their place in history as comic book hero movies. If forced to chose between the two, it's an easy decision for me to pick Batman.

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Honestly, before I watched these films in preparation for this episode, I assumed I was going to vote for Batman because I've never been a big fan of the Superman character. However, after watching both films, I found Superman: The Movie to be much more enjoyable.

 

Batman may have had it's impact, but Superman: The Movie is not only the definitive Superman film, but in a lot of ways it's the definitive superhero film. Whereas Batman is neither the definitive Batman film, the definitive Tim Burton film, the definitive Joker performance, or even the definitive Batman performance in my opinion (most those honours going to The Dark Knight). Michael Keaton is the best Bruce Wayne, but that's not nearly enough to put Batman over the far superior (save the ending) Superman: The Movie

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Superman is almost certainly the stronger movie so I voted for Batman.

 

I mean, if this was Rotten Tomatoes or a Best List I would've voted for Superman, but this is The Canon. Superman is an ultra-competent film version of THE ultra-competent super hero. There were some great points about aesthetics in this episode, but that's kind of the point to me. The aesthetics of Superman are comfortably in the wheelhouse of Richard Donner, but John McTiernan or Jonathan Demme or Robert Zemeckis probably would've made essentially the same movie if they'd had the luck of Christopher Reeve's casting. And by same I don't mean visuals but I mean their movie(s) likely would've been just a beloved as this one and their versions also would've triumphed in this Canon vote, by dint of what Superman inherently is and the fact that there was still tattered innocence in the air in 1978.

 

Batman '89 is really flawed, doubtless. But the Batman character himself is more fragmented, harder to capture, which I don't think the movie necessarily should be penalized for. The fragmented nature of the theme of war (or just violence?) added flaws to Apocalypse Now that look like the same bruises that were pointed out on Batman's face during this episode's discussion.

 

But most importantly, Burton broke the wheel behind him. A lot of directors remind me of the captain of The Demeter in Dracula, lashed to the wheel and trying to get the ship to shore desperately steering in a straight line, even if they are dead weight sometimes during the process (looking at you Zack Snyder). But Burton steered this character and comic book movies in general into a new current, snapped the wheel in two, and essentially vanished. By the time the ship's crew got around to electing some new captains, they were trapped in the current forever, or at least for a very, very long time. That maneuver feels Canonworthy to me.

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This was a tough one, as I love both films a lot, an they each hold an important place in my childhood. But I voted for Superman: The Movie in no small part because of Christopher Reeve - he just is Superman.

The film may show its age a bit at the seams, but from the opening through to Superman's first night it is an exhilarating, emotional, and iconic film. Even the back half is more than entertaining (and I like Hackman's Lex Luthor quite a bit), with some truly great beats between Supes and Miss Tesmacher, as well as the Lois death scene. And I know that a lot of folks complain about him turning back time (originally it was supposed to be the end of the second movie to reverse the effects of Zod and his cronies who were set free by the missile that was headed for Hackensack and was diverted to space by Superman - got that?), but I think it works fine within the logic of the film (more or less).

 

Batman is also great, but to me it feels like the lesser of the 2 films (by a narrow margin) because it is just slightly less iconic, slightly less timeless, a slightly less version of the characters and the world - just slightly less.

 

Tough call though.

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I've got to go with Superman on this one. I love both of these films despite their flaws. The second half of Superman does stumble but I think still holds together, and overall the goodwill earned by the absolutely sublime first half makes the whole package a classic. It's the best Superman film featuring the best incarnation of Superman.

 

Batman just never quite reaches those same heights. It's very good, but not a near masterpiece.

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It's Superman for me since Christopher Reeve is the definitive Superman and that movie is just magic. I believe the oversaturation of the 1990 Batman movie really doesn't help either.

 

I was sad that, while Danny Elfman was brought up, but unless I got distracted and missed it, there was no discussion about John Williams iconic Superman score. However it was refreshing to hear a discussion of "Can You Read My Mind" from the perspective of Devin saying it was just this nutty 70s thing and Amy digging the romance of it. I totally agree that it is both of those things - beautiful and strange.

 

Great episode, guys!

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I know Hackman's version of Luthor is too campy, but his response to seeing Otisburg on the map makes me laugh every time.

 

I love that bit too. Everytime I hear a story about Hackman being a terror on the Royal Tenebuams set, I immediately get a mental image of him doing this to Wes Anderson or the Wilson brothers.

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