There are a lot of people looking forward to what Ridley Scott will be doing in his in development sequel to his classic science-fiction noir Blade Runner. One of those is actresss Sean Young, who starred in the film alongside Harrison Ford. She’s hoping that Scott has in mind a way to bring back her character of Rachel, a replicant who believed she was a real person and if not, well she hopes that people don’t go see the film at all.
Speaking with Entertainment Weekly while on the press circuit for her upcoming film Jug Face, Young didn’t beat around the bush when asked about the sequel –
Mmm, let’s see. Alcon – they’re the ones that own it and apparently they have Ridley to direct it — and when I met with them they didn’t make any offer-plans to include me. And when I called Ridley Scott’s office, he doesn’t call me back. So I guess they’re going to go, like, prequel or…I don’t know what they’re going to do. But my official opinion is that, if they don’t include me in it, everybody should boycott it. Because it’s stupid not to have me in it. It’s really stupid. That’s my opinion! I mean, you try to tell people something sensible in Hollywood and sometimes they just don’t listen, you know. And they usually pay the price too, because everybody’s an expert.
Now, I know that it would be easy to chalk this up to yet another in a long list of sanity-questionable things that Young has said or done over the course of her career. But I am certainly going to attempt to defend her, because I think that her attitude is incredibly naive. There are a number of reasons for Scott to not include her in the film including that it might be a prequel, her character might not be necessary to the story he wants to tell or that the film is a sequel set in a time period where she might not look age appropriate for the part anymore, to put it politely. Just because you were in a film does not automatically mean you get to be in any sequel.
What I will say is that Young is once again not doing herself any favors. Her talent is evident in projects that give her some good material to work with, like Blade Runner. But statements certainly don’t endear her to other creative types in the business and I imagine that many of them have second thoughts about employing those talents. If she doesn’t watch out, I would not be surprised if Blade Runner II opened with Ford’s Deckard standing in front of a simple grave stone with Rachel’s name on it.
In a multi-part series, Comic Book Film Editor William Gatevackes will be tracing the history of comic book movies from the earliest days of the film serials to today’s big blockbusters and beyond. Along with the history lesson, Bill will be covering some of the most prominent comic book films over the years and why they were so special. This time, he talks about the film that kicked the comic book film into high gear—Batman.
I have two very distinct memories about the first Batman film. First relates to the first time I saw the film. I won tickets from a local radio station for the midnight showing on the weekend it opened. It was dark when I went into the theater, it was dark when I came out, and the movie was dark. It was a totally immersive experience. I fell in love with the movie that day.
The other memory relates to the controversy over the eventual tone of the film while it was shooting. I can lie and say that I wasn’t concerned that the film was going to turn out to be a camp fest. But you have to understand that while, in retrospect, the feeling wasn’t justified, it was understandable to be worried.
You would have to understand the conditions the comic fan was living in, especially as it pertained to the Batman franchise. The campy 1960’s Batman TV show tainted the public’s perception of comic books, comic fans and Batman. Comic books became silly kid stuff. Comic book fans above the age of 12 became people who had something wrong with them. And Batman was not to be taken seriously.
Forget about the fact that the work of Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams made Batman serious again. Forget the fact that Steve Englehart and Marshall Rogers showed that Batman can be inventive and fun without being silly and campy. Forget the fact that Frank Miller was getting written up in Rolling Stone for the awesome job he was doing on The Dark Knight Returns. Comics were silly trifles for kids or less than mature and intelligent adults.
Just take a look at the comic book films that were made in the 80s. All of them were campy in their own way. None of them took the original material all that seriously. All pretty much promoted the comic book stereotypes.
Batman was going to be the first big test. Would producers take a look at how far the comic book Batman had come and do a serious film version of the character? Or, would they go back to the campiness of the TV show? Fans were hoping for the former, but betting on the latter.
Then Warner Brothers hired Tim Burton to direct, a man whose only major directing work was two comedies –Pee Wee’s Big Adventure and Beetlejuice. Sure, they were good films, and Beetlejuice was dark enough that you could see the way he excelled at mood, but they were still comedies.
Then Burton hired Beetlejuice himself, Michael Keaton, as Batman/Bruce Wayne. Sure, he had just recently received good notices for his lead role in the heavy drama Clean and Sober, but he was most known for doing comedies like Mr. Mom and Night Shift.
All signs were pointing to the film being a comedy, which truly disheartened the comic book fans. Yes, casting Jack Nicholson as the Joker was brilliance, but Batfans were certain that they were heading for a campy heartbreak. And they vocalized their heartbreak, not just in the pages of the Comics Buyer’s Guide, Amazing Heroes, and Comics Scene (what passed as the Internet back in the 80s), but also in letters to the studio. But fans had little to worry about, because Burton and Keaton gave us the best comic book film since Richard Donner’s Superman films.
Some of the luster has gone off the original Batman, as the film hasn’t stood up all that well to the test of time. But it was a serious take on the Caped Crusader. It was highly stylized to be sure, but it wasn’t necessarily campy. Sam Hamm gets credit for the script, but his work contains elements from previous scripts by Steve Englehart and Tom Mankiewicz, and was rewritten by Warren Skaaren, Charles McKeown and Jonathan Gems. It remained true to the spirit of the comic while allowing Burton to apply his unique style to film.
Keaton excelled not only as Batman but also as Bruce Wayne, who he cannily played as a scatterbrained dilettante. Nicholson was exceptional as the Joker, benefiting from a role that allowed him to be as hammy as he wanted to be.
Burton stayed on to direct the sequel, Batman Returns.
Critics usually finger the next sequel, Batman Forever, as the beginning of the franchise’s rapid decline into camp and chaos, but, if you look closely, you can see the roots of the decline in this film.
In a lot of ways, this film was Burton making the franchise his own. He was vocal about being less than pleased with the more action oriented Batman, and was given more creative control this time around. This was obvious through the look of the film, as some of the henchmen in the film look like they sprang to life directly from Burton’s sketchbooks.
However, the film suffered from the flaw that hampered many a comic book film—too many villains. You had the Penguin (played creepily well by Danny DeVito), you had Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer, great in a role that originally was Annette Bening’s and that original Vicki Vale, Sean Young, infamously broke onto the Warners lot to pursue), you had Max Shrek (Christopher Walken, good as always) and various henchmen. Add to that the fact that early versions of the script had Robin and Harvey Dent as characters; it could have been way more crowded.
The film was loaded with dark humor which spilled over to camp. The only thing that kept the army of penguins with missiles strapped to their backs from being full on camp was the fact that the film was so dark and bleak. The scene seems a bit out of place. I don’t know if the penguin army scene was written by main scribe Daniel Waters or Wesley Strick, who was hired to rewrite Waters’ script and added the Penguin’s baby-killing final gambit.
Batman Returns would be the last time Burton and Keaton worked on the franchise. The film does have the dubious legacy of inspiring a spin-off for Pfeiffer’s Catwoman character, a film that resided in development hell until finally making it to the screen in 2004 in a far different, quite awful form. But it does have one positive legacy in inspiring Batman: The Animated Series, which made its way to the silver screen with Batman: Mask of the Phantasm. That’s what we’ll be talking about next time.
Say what you will about Sean Young’s long history of public kookiness, she did some amazing work in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner.And through her website, she’s giving us a peek backstage at the production of the science-fiction classic via a series of photographs she took on-set with an old school Polaroid camera. Many of them are her mugging with her co-stars and the crew, but there’s also some that look like costume and hair tests. And if you’re a fan, it’s just one of many photo galleries the actress has posted.