​Why the 1989 Batman movie is still the best

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Greetings, friends! I'm proud to announce my first line of specialty stamps available here in the post-apocalypse! It's a set of drawings of refrigerators, light bulbs, fast food, air conditioners, toilet paper and the like. I call it the "Shit We Really, Really Miss" collection. Now onto your letters!

This Town Needs an Enema


Do you really think the 1989 Batman movie is better than Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, or The Dark Knight Rises? Are you an idiot?


I'm very possibly an idiot, but I do recognize you're referring to the comments I made in this article, and I think the implied question here is "Why do you think the 1989 Batman movie is the best live-action Batman movie?" So let me try to answer that instead.


The 1989 Batman movie was the first comic book movie that got comic books right. It had the right tone, the right balance — it felt fun and new and was everything I wanted from the movie. Sure, it had its flaws — Keaton couldn't move well in the suit, the Prince soundtrack was bizarre, it certainly had its plot holes — but it took itself seriously without being dour, it was fun without being silly or dumb, it was realistic enough to feel real while still embracing the scope and wildness of the comics.

I'll fully admit that I was 12 when Batman came out, and thus I was exactly the right age to have my mind completely blown by the movie. And maybe it's just nostalgia that drives my modern love for the movie. But I'd still rather watch it than Batman Returns (which is less a Batman movie than a Tim Burton movie that Batman happens to stop by), the two ludicrous Schumacher films, or the three dour Dark Knight films from Chris Nolan (although I'd argue The Dark Knight is the best of those because Heath Ledger's Joker makes the film fun and entertaining, even if Batman is still kind of a drag).


I understand Nolan's Bat-movies are "realistic" and "gritty," but if I wanted realistic and gritty I wouldn't be watching a movie about a man dressed up as a bat fighting crime. So yeah, I'll take the 1989 Batmobile over the Tumbler, I'll take the Joker's impromptu parade with counterfeit money and balloons filled with Smilex over a nuclear bomb, and I'll take Keaton's stylish badass over Bale's tortured, angry soul, even if Keaton's Batman can't turn his neck.


Make Love Not Thor

Adam F.:

Dear Mr. Postman,

I need to know if I'm in the minority here due to my (very) minor disappointment in the Thor movies. Let me be clear - I love that Marvel brought Thor and Co. to life and the casting has ranged from pretty darn good (Hemsworth, Hopkins, Warriors Three) to fantastic (Hiddleston, Elba) in my opinion. But am I the only one who was disappointed that we got the glitzy, glam Asgard and the shiny gold armor for everyone instead of the earth-toney, Viking-esque, castle-like Asgard? I was totally stoked to see Elba rocking the Viking helmet and horns with an animal skin cape (see Marvel's Siege miniseries) and instead he gets put in that ridiculous Academy Award knockoff. And then The Dark World just complicates things because at one point you have what amounts to a starship battle complete with invisibility cloaks, directed energy weapons, and energy shields and the next they're crashing through stone castle walls. I know I need to just let this go because the movies are good and I still enjoy watching them, but do I also need to let it go because no one else on the planet agrees with me? Thanks!


Well, yeah, you should probably let it go. Not necessarily because no one agrees with you, but because the movies are pretty good and because being enraged about the overall design of the Thor movies is really not worth losing sleep at night. But since I lose sleep over the same sort of nonsense, I can't really blame you here.

But maybe I can make you feel better. While Marvel's Thor has dabbled with a certain amount of Norse authenticity, the default Marvel Thor is always going to be the original tone Jack Kirby set for the series, and then Walt Simonson's terrific run in the '80s. For most of the Thor comics' 40-year history, it's been that weird magic/scifi/the gods-are-extra-dimensional-beings-whose-technology-we-don't-understand-even-slightly stuff. I think the Thor movies nailed this, and I think the flying longboats are a perfect example — they're just Norse-ish enough to seem plausible, while reminding people these "gods" are actually extra-dimensional beings so no one has to freak out about Marvel being anti-Christian or some nonsense.


So even if you aren't a fan, using this style is keeping Marvel out of a major shitstorm that could have theoretically derailed Thor and even to a certain extent the Avengers. Consider the laser beams the price Marvel paid to get Thor on-screen. Feel better?


Special Affection

Mr. Squee:

Dear Mr. Postman,

Today I was musing on that old cinematic turkey "Howard the Duck." Part of what made it bad, I felt, was that the special effects of the period weren't up to snuff. The idea of having a cynical talking cigar-smoking duck interacting with human beings is a great idea. Back then, the best that could be done was to literally have a short guy in a duck suit. Now, with computer animation technology advanced enough to make you believe you're seeing cities get trashed by giant monsters, making Howard plausible on the big screen should be a snap.

My question to you, Mr. Postman, is this: Which science fiction/fantasy/horror film that got hit by the great ideas/lousy special effects curse deserves a cinematic second chance with current SFX technology?


From an effects standpoint, I'd love to see a big-budget remake of Big Trouble in Little China, but there's literally no way anyone could possible match the original movie's charm and weirdness, let alone Kurt Russell's performance. Same with Army of Darkness — it'd be awesome to see that movie with modern effects, but no one's going to replicate Bruce Campbell, so there's no need.

I'm excited by the new Godzilla movie, because Godzilla is about spectacle, and modern effects will definitely bring something there. I really want another Tron movie, and I think a lot more could be done with the effects (and I would prefer a little more computer in my computerized world, as opposed to an all-black Apple Store). I also wouldn't mind a shot-fot-shot remake of Zardoz with modern special effects, but I understand this legally makes me insane.


I'm going to open this one up to the floor: What movies do you think modern special effects could actually justify a remake?


Studio System


Dear Rob,

Nice work with keeping the postal department alive in the future. My question is simply this,

Why is it so hard for people to understand that films made by Marvel Studios fall in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and have NOTHING to do with the Marvel licensed films made by Sony or Fox?

I mean every other day I am reading a comment by someone who asks where were X-Men during the battle of New York or saying that Marvel Studios have a bad record with Wolverine movies? Why isn't the concept of mutual exclusion between studios yet completely understood by the masses?


Well, to be fair, all of these are Marvel movies, but only the Iron Man, Captain America, Thor and Hulk ones are Marvel Studios movies. It's easy for me to know the difference, but I'm a professional nerd paid to keep up with this sort of thing — I don't know how much normal people are invested in or keep up with what studios put out which movies, and thus I don't know if it's generally accepted knowledge that different studios own different Marvel properties and just a few people haven't gotten the memo, or no one knows the studio thing other than smart, well-informed, attractive io9-readers and the like.

What bugs me is when people know Sony has Spider-Man and Fox has the X-Men, but think that since Marvel owns the characters, they somehow have any input on the movies. These people seem to think that Marvel has graciously let these studios make movies about their characters and thus have some sort of control over them, as opposed to reality, in which Marvel sold these rights in a desperate attempt to keep the company from imploding (because Marvel was literally bankrupt less than 20 years ago). I don't really know why this irritates me, because this is just more knowledge I know as a professional nerd. I guess I figure if you care enough to pay attention to which studios make which movies, you should probably also know that the studios are the ones in charge. Which is partially why Marvel Studios came into existence in the first place.


Remember the Titans


The article on Donna Troy got me thinking about how DC's New52 has destroyed the legacy of the Teen Titans. For those unfamiliar with the Titans history, here's a link.

At first, the New52 said the Titans existed, but quickly retconed that away. In the crossover with Legion Lost, the Legionaries said the Teen Titans should not exist yet, but then the Legion itself was retconed as being from Earth 2. Right now I don't think they even know what is going on in their own books. Let's see the damage:

Wonder Girl (Donna Troy): No longer exists
Kid Flash (Wally West): No longer exists
Aqualad: No longer exists, but there was a reference to a "purple-eyed boy" in Aquaman
Robin/Nightwing (Dick Grayson): Exists but just how long was he Robin? Was he ever a Titan?
Speedy/Arsenal: Exists and remembered the Titans in early issues, then the Titans was retconed away
Lilith: Exists, but as a Eyes-sewed shut villain
Hawk & Dove: Exists, but were never Titans
Mal Duncan: No longer exists
Bumblebee: No longer exists

New Teen Titans;
Cyborg: Exists but is now Apocalyptic tech and was never a Titan
Beast Boy; Exists, but is now red and angry instead of green and happy-go-lucky
Starfire: Exists, but was changed into a living blow-up doll and was never a Titan
Raven: Exists, but as a servant of her father Trigon
Thunder & Lighting: Exists in name only, new characters
Terra: Exists, but a different character
Jericho: Exists, but as a villain hunting his father, never a titan
Pantha, Red Star, Wildebeast, Phantasm; All no longer exist
Rose Wilson: Exists, but now a villain, never a Titan
Jesse Quick: No longer exists but if she does appear, it will probably be on Earth 2

Team Titans: No longer exist
Titans West: No longer exist
Atom's Teen Titans: No longer exist

The New Teen Titans had some of the best comics ever made, especially those written by Marv Wolfman and drawn by George Perez; The Judas Contract, Deathstroke, The HIVE, Trigon, Who is Donna Troy?. All of that erased from continuity and I have to ask why? Who in the New52 wanted to destroy all of this? Did someone have a problem with Wolfman and/or Perez?


Let me clue you in to a little secret: DC's decision to relaunch its entire universe with the New 52 was pretty much a snap decision. It could have been perfect if they'd taken some time and planned out everything —what should stay, what should be jettisoned, what was retconned, and so forth. But instead there just was a mandate to put out a bunch of #1 issues as quickly as possible, and DC decided superheroes have only been around for five years, and ever since then they're still figuring out what is and isn't canon. That's why the Teen Titans, Donna Troy and Aquaman's marriage were all erased months after the launch. (Fun fact: No one working on the Superman comic had any idea of what had happened in Superman's past to the point that no one knew if Ma or Pa Kent were even alive — because DC decided Grant Morrison could make it up as he went along in Action Comics).

There's no grand conspiracy to destroy the Titans; they're just the unfortunate victims of a great many things. First, there's DC's "everything has only been around for five years", which wiped out a lot of sidekicks because they want their main characters to be young and fresh. Meanwhile all the Batman continuity stayed, because Batman sold well, which means Nightwing is too old for the Titans. Then there's Geoff Johns' love of the Silver Age, which is why Barry Allen is back, and why there's no need for Wally West and Bart Allen. I've previously mentioned why Donna Troy is a disaster than DC has simply avoided, which wasn't a terrible idea. Cyborg got promoted to the Justice League for gender diversity. Admittedly I have no clue what the hell happened with Starfire — I think because so many former teen characters had become adults over the years, when relaunching their universe DC just decided to keep some of them that age. And I assume Starfire was one of them because boobs.


When the New 52 rejiggered things, something was going to have to give, and the Titans just ended up with the brunt of it. I never really noticed how badly, though, until you pointed it out with that list. Yeesh.




Dear Postman,

As a resident of the post apocalyptic future, can you tell us if there are any long-term side effects from admiring Stephen Amell's abs?


No negative side effects, at least. Indeed, there's been many a night in the cold, lonely post-apocalyptic would where men and women alike have nothing to warm themselves but the thought of Stephen Amell's glistening abs. Better than mittens, that's for fucking sure.

Do you have questions about anything scifi, fantasy, superhero, or nerd-related? Email the postman@io9.com! No question too difficult, no question too dumb! Obviously!