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Jul 16, 2008

Batman 1989-1997: The Aftermath

[Note: this post is a part of the Batman Blog-a-thon at Big Mike's Movie Blog.]

Any way you slice it, the Batman film series of the late 20th century (not to be confused with Batman: The Movie, released 1966) was a bona fida blockbuster series. From the 250 million dollar success of the original (the 38th highest grossing film of all-time, adjusted) to the reviled fourth installment, which still garnered more than 100 million dollars domestically, the franchise saw a number of stars swing through its revolving doors, offering short- and long-term career boosts for many of those along the way - at least at the time of release.

But what has happened to that collection of stars in the years since? Have their careers blossomed or tanked? Let's have a quick look at some career highlights (or lowlights) and make the call...

Michael Keaton
Pre-Batman career: starring roles in Mr. Mom and Beetlejuice and...not a whole lot else.
Post-Batman career: starring roles in Multiplicity and White Noise. Co-starring roles in Jackie Brown and Out of Sight.
Verdict: Surprisingly...



Jack Nicholson
Pre-Batman career: Easy Rider, Five Easy Pieces, Chinatown, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, The Shining, etc., etc.
Post-Batman career: The Two Jakes, Wolf, A Few Good Men, As Good as It Gets.
Verdict: Not even close.



Kim Basinger
Pre-Batman career: 9 1/2 Weeks, My Stepmother is an Alien, Blind Date
Post-Batman career: Cool World, Final Analysis, Wayne's World 2, L.A. Confidential
Verdict: Kind of a wash.



Robert Wuhl
Pre-Batman career: Good Morning, Vietnam, Bull Durham
Post-Batman career: Blaze, The Bodyguard, Arli$$
Verdict: Ugh. Arli$$ by itself sealed the deal.



Danny DeVito
Pre-Batman career: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Taxi, Romancing the Stone, Throw Momma From the Train, The War of the Roses
Post-Batman career: Junior, Get Shorty, Man on the Moon, Big Fish, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Verdict: Some quality later, for sure, but...



Christopher Walken
Pre-Batman career: Annie Hall, The Deer Hunter, Biloxi Blues, King of New York
Post-Batman career: True Romance, Pulp Fiction, Catch Me if You Can, a mixed bag of other hits and misses and...Kangaroo Jack.
Verdict: Quality beats quantity, regardless of some of the classics that came after.



Michelle Pfeiffer
Pre-Batman career: Grease 2, Scarface, Married to the Mob, Dangerous Liasons
Post-Batman career: The Age of Innocence, Wolf, I Am Sam, What Lies Beneath
Verdict: Grease 2 almost kills it, but still...



Tim Burton
Pre-Batman career: Pee Wee's Big Adventure, Edward Scissorhands (in between), Beetlejuice
Post-Batman career: Ed Wood, Sleepy Hollow, Planet of the Apes, Big Fish, Sweeney Todd
Verdict: Too close to call.



Val Kilmer
Pre-Batman career: Top Secret!, Real Genius, Top Gun, Willow, The Doors, Thunderheart, True Romance, Tombstone
Post-Batman career: Heat and a bunch of forgettable things
Verdict: Haha. Sorry, Val - I love ya, but this was a landslide.



Nicole Kidman
Pre-Batman career: Dead Calm, Days of Thunder, Billy Bathgate, Far and Away, To Die For
Post-Batman career: The Portrait of a Lady, Eyes Wide Shut, Moulin Rouge, The Hours, Dogville (we'll ignore the last 5 years or so)
Verdict: Tom Cruise weeps.



Tommy Lee Jones
Pre-Batman career: Coal Miner's Daughter, Lonesome Dove, JFK, Under Siege, The Fugitive, The Client, Natural Born Killers, Cobb
Post-Batman career: Volcano, Men in Black (x 2), Double Jeopardy, No Country for Old Men
Verdict: Certainly back on the upswing after a few lean years, but...



Jim Carrey
Pre-Batman career: Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, In Living Color, The Mask, Dumb and Dumber
Post-Batman career: Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls, The Cable Guy, Liar Liar, Man on the Moon, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Bruce Almighty
Verdict: It'd be a no-brainer without Eternal Sunshine.



George Clooney
Pre-Batman career: ER, One Fine Day, From Dusk Till Dawn, The Facts of Life, Roseanne
Post-Batman career: Out of Sight, Three Kings, O Brother Where Art Thou?, The Perfect Storm, Ocean's (x 3), etc., etc.
Verdict: All hail King George.



Chris O'Donnell
Pre-Batman career: Fried Green Tomatoes, School Ties, Scent of a Woman, Circle of Friends
Post-Batman career: The Bachelor, Kinsey, and a whole bunch of TV
Verdict: You're out of order, son!



Uma Thurman
Pre-Batman career: The Adventures of Baron Von Munchausen, Dangerous Liaisons, Henry & June, Jennifer Eight, Pulp Fiction, Beautiful Girls
Post-Batman career: Gattaca, Sweet & Lowdown, Kill Bill (x 2), Be Cool
Verdict: Too close to call



Arnold Schwarzenegger
Pre-Batman career: Just about everything
Post-Batman career: Just about nothing
Verdict: He probably won't be back.



Joel Schumacher
Pre-Batman career: St. Elmo's Fire, The Lost Boys, Flatliners, Falling Down, The Client
Post-Batman career: 8MM, Flawless, Tigerland, Bad Company, Phone Booth, The Number 23
Verdict: He didn't just hit a wall, he went right through it.



So, what's the overall verdict?

It's safe to say that Batman was a career killer, for the most part, with 11 people seeing their careers take a downturn, three going up, and three with no real impact. Will this new Batman series have a similar effect? Will Chris Nolan be directing action pics with Kevin Federline and Cuba Gooding, Jr. within five years? Will Christian Bale be on his way to Oscar nominations or the discount bin? Only the Shadow knows.

Damn, mixed metaphors or something.


23 people have chosen wisely: on "Batman 1989-1997: The Aftermath"

Michael J. Mendez said...

I could take some of your choices to task, but by and large, you are correct more often than not. Oscar wins aside, I can see where you're going. And don't you like Always Sunny?

Of course, you missed Ms. Silverstone, though perhaps you did not. Or maybe you just ran out of down arrows as she merits three.

steel11kane said...

I agree whole-heartedly on almost all of these.

I still agree with Val Kilmer, his career has gone down since (but thanks for including Real Genius) - but you forgot Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang in his post-Batman career.

Also, if we are basing this on just Hollywood movies, then yes Schwarzenegger has gone down - but his career may have actually gone up with his becoming Governor.

Good Article, Nice job.

Fletch said...

@ Mike - D'oh - I wrote down a list of people to include and had Silverstone on there, but somehow forgot her when I actually made the post. Boo me. Though I didn't have Walken on that list and included him here. I tried to get every major player, and even considered lesser ones like Drew Barrymore. Anyway, yeah, Silverstone would be a big, fat down arrow.

Yes, I do like Always Sunny. As with everyone, I kind of cherry-picked some higher profile projects, be they successes or failures. DeVito was close, but his pre-Batman work just has more lasting power. Tthough, as with many of these people - like Nicholson - they were so far into their careers that a glance like this isn't all that fair. So be it.

@ Kane - I could have made a case for a few other Kilmer post-projects, but looking at that list, it was just so overwhelmingly underwhelming that even some of the better jobs (Wonderland and Kiss Kiss) were drowned out.

I thought about something like that for da Governator, but wanted to limit this to film. Fair point, though.

Nick said...

Yeah, I, too, was going to mention Kiss Kiss Bang Bang with Kilmer, but it's already been mentioned :P .

I think this reboot series is rocketing careers more than anything. Christian Bale was more of a cult star than anything (Newsies, Equilibrium, American Psycho). Then he did Batman Begins, and he's suddenly become one of the biggest stars of Hollywood.

Everybody else is almost so veteran and unneeding of any boost (Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman).

Cillian Murphy is still about average in star-stutus, as is Ken Watanabe.

Ironically, Heath Ledger's only become MORE popular, but I don't think the quality of his future films are going to be... well... existent. Unless he does a Tupac kinda thing.

Speaking of, there's a joke by Frank Caliendo about Chris Farley doing the Tupac thing (because he had that one movie that came out after he died)... and the joke was that Chris Farley was gonna be Batman.

The Mad Hatter said...

Damn...I'd never looked at the Bat-stars and thought about this.

Great piece and I couldn't agree with you more!

NFL Adam said...

Walken was in Wedding Crashers, so I will give him the edge that he has done well.

Arnold Schwarzenegger is the governor of California. I think his career is doing pretty well. He might not be a movie star, but being the governor of the most powerful state in the union should mean something.

Jess said...

My only argument would be Basinger's Oscar for L.A. Confidential. That was her best work, but as I don't think she's a good actress in general, the down arrow works.

Great post - lots of thought and work went into it!

Michael J. Mendez said...

Basinger, Kidman, Tommy Lee Jones, Nicholson and of course Clooney all won Oscars post-Batman, but I guess that doesn't necessarily guarantee an upward swing in your career.

Paul Arrand Rodgers said...

Yeah, Batman and Robin really did put a freeze on Arnold's career.

Fletch said...

@ Nick - obviously, it's too early to tell with this new Batman series. Give it 7 years and let's see where they're at then. And I don't know how you can say that about Ledger. This series killed his career.

Ouch. Yeah, that was terrible.

@ Hatter - gracias!

@ Adam - how powerful can the state be if it continues to show you Giants games every Sunday? Weak.

@ Jess - LA Confidential's good, for sure, but that Stepmom Alien movie's right there, isn't it?

Yes, I'm kidding. Oh, and Mike's point rings true. Mira Sorvino's career kicks ass these days, no?

@ Paul - I think that was an even worse joke than my Ledger one. Maybe you ought to take a couple plays off. ;)

Paul Arrand Rodgers said...

Yes. Perhaps I should cool down.

Buffett35 said...

I like Christian Bale, but what are the chances that the reborn Terminator series will be as well-received as these Batmans? He's pushing his luck jumping into another recycled blockbuster that took it too far the first time around.

NFL Adam said...

That wasn't cool, Fletch.

WaywardJam said...

Great post. I'd say with the reboot ppl, Katie Holmes pre-Batman will far outshine her post-Batman. That may be more for the crazy Cruise factor though.

I hope Bale and Nolan continue to do great things and the rest of the cast (Wilkinson, Caine, Oldman, etc) are impervious to such swings.

elgringo said...

My votes:
Michael Keaton - Up

Jack Nicholson - Down, just because
he was in SO many classics before Batman.

Kim Basinger - Up
L.A. Confidential outweighs anything she made pre-1989.

Robert Wuhl - <----> I guess...

Danny DeVito - Down, slightly. He still keep showing up in great stuff. IASiP is one of the funniest shows on TV.

Christopher Walken - Down, for the exact same reasons you listed.

Michelle Pfeiffer - Up - DANGEROUS MINDS! Whoo!

Tim Burton - Down, only because Planet of the Apes was so terrible.

Val Kilmer - Haha, down. Way down. So far down that he needed a "comeback." Kiss Kiss Bang Bang was incredible, but I don't even remember what I wsaw him in before that.

Nicole Kidman - Up, she makes so many great art films that other mainstream stars should question their Hollywood worthiness.

Tommy Lee Jones - Up, barely. I'd say his career's been pretty even with good/bad movies.

Jim Carrey - Up, Eternal Sunshine and The Truman Show squash the Ace movies any day. Maybe it's because I grew up and so did he, but his old movies just don't do much for me anymore.

George Clooney - Up, everyone knows why this is true.

Chris O'Donnell - DOWN!

Uma Thurman - Up, because there were two Kill Bill movies and only one Pulp Fiction.

Arnold Schwarzenegger - Down, haha "he probably won't be back." Sadly, he probably will be.

Joel Schumacher - Down, Bad Company was one of the worst movies of that decade. Really rough.

"Only the Shadow knows."
Awesome...

Michael J. Mendez said...

Ok, everyone saying Val Kilmer has gone down, maybe he's been in some bad films, but he's been great in them. Heat, The Saint was a hit, Salton Sea, Wonderland, Spartan, Alexander and Kiss Kiss. True, he played the iconic roles before Batman, but because he got his huge payday and exposure on Forever, he got to be more selective with what he's done.


Sorry, just feel like I got to step up for my man.

Fletch said...

@ Wayne - I couldn't agree more. I think this set of stars is safe...but you never know.

@ Mike - I'm a Kilmer fan, for sure. But there's just too many forgettable movies (not performances) over the time since his Batman turn to overlook, whereas just about every film before was either a hit commercially, critically, or culturally. Iceman, Doc Holliday, Mad Martigan, Jim Morrison...hard to top those (for starters).

NFL Adam said...

What was Val Kilmer's best film? Top Secret or Real Genius?

WampaOne said...

Dammit I am dumb. Is this by you fletch, or was it by Big Mike and you just pasted it in here...LAMB still confoozes the hell out of this geek.

Will I be going to much out on a limb or bring in the old guy card and simply state that, 11 out of 17 careers tanked mostly because, in general, contemporary movies suck as opposed to movies made before Batman 89?

MTFBWY

Fletch said...

Adam - Top Gun. Hands down.

Wampa - Don't be confoozed. I wrote it. It's part of a blog-a-thon, which just means that one person "hosts" a bunch of other posts, either by linking to them all or reposting them all. My addition (this post) was linked on Big Mike's site as a part of his Batman blog-a-thon. Better?

Note: this really doesn't have anything to do with the LAMB outside of the fact that Mike is one as well.

As to your point about old vs. new movies, I'd mostly disagree. When we're talking about Nicholson and DeVito (and maybe Walken), I can see how that might ring tru, but not at all for so many others. I don't think the quality of films overall has changed much in the span of Jim Carrey's career, or Chris O'Donnell's, or Kidman's or Clooney's and so on.

It's weird, though. I think things that are new simultaneously get too much credit when they're good and too much blame (for lack of a better word) when they're bad. I'm sure we thought the same thing in the 80s, but we now look back reeaaaalllly fondly on some while cringing at others, even while we profess love for them. It's an odd dynamic.

Daniel G. said...

I'm late to the party but I just have to say this is an outstanding analysis.

kingnutin said...

Good Analysis.

Chris O'Donnell should be DOUBLE DOWN

Jim Carrey should've been about Even.

Fletch said...

@ Daniel - gracias, mi amigo.

@ Kingnutin - first of all, where's your crown? (Sorry - had to do that.) Second, I agree - O'Donnell should be double down. As for Carrey, I could see the argument for any of the three directions - it's just that, in the time since, he's had a bunch of stinkers and they overwhelmed my and my decision.