Batman, forever

A piece of my childhood closed Tuesday night.

Well, maybe not my childhood; more like my late pre-pubescent years (although, being a late bloomer, I guess it could very well be considered just pre-pubescent and scrap the “late”).

Either way, I finally saw Batman on the big screen.

It only took 18 years to happen.

I was 13 when Tim Burton’s film first opened in 1989, which was a year of transition for me. I had left behind the comforts of middle school, where we roamed the halls as kings of the eighth grade. Now, the prospect of being a lowly freshman loomed just weeks away, with the unavoidable rumor of red-bellies and wedgies, courtesy of the varsity basketball team, an absolute certainty if I wanted to try out for the team. (Note, I made the team and somehow managed to avoid any bodily harm from my elder teammates, despite the fact that I was not exactly fleet of foot. I would zig when they zagged, always remaining one chess move ahead when everyone else was playing checkers. OK, I was playing checkers, but they were playing Duck, Duck, Goose).

The details of that summer remain fresh in my head, helped by the fact I spent almost all of it, including a week-long trek through Washington, D.C., on crutches, thanks to a broken foot at baseball practice. But on that trip, something magical happened, something I never dreamed could possibly happen, nor, up to that point, did I even really want to happen.

I met a girl.

Her name was Heather, and she was accompanying her mother on the trip to Washington. Fate, it seemed, worked to bring us together. Well, fate and the fact were two of the three young people on a bus full of grandparent types (including, yes, my grandmother). The other kid, whose name I can’t remember right now (mainly because he was unimportant as he did not have female features, i.e. breasts), was a couple of years younger than Heather, who was a year younger than me. He posed no threat because, after all, why would she want to bother with a mere child when she could have a sophisticated man of the world?

So what does this have to do with Batman?

Well, everything and nothing.

You see, I couldn’t wait to see the movie, and since these were the days prior to the Internet, we couldn’t get online and check out the latest news and gossip. Instead, we had to rely on our news the old-fashioned way, primarily waiting around for someone older than us to tell us what was going on, then making up the remaining details ourselves.

I was so starved for all things Batman, I purchased and read the movie novelization, memorizing what I was sure were to be key passages. I had a Batman shirt that Phoebe and Bobbi and others always said they loved, but I was so embarrassed by the female attention, I made up some gibberish about it having an upside-down cross in it, hoping it would deflect their comments toward other topics. I’m still not sure why I chose that line of thinking (Note: I was I an idiot).

I acted out scenes from the movie’s trailer. I had a particular fondness for the part where Batman lifts up a criminal, who stammers, “Who, who are you.” Batman pulls him close before saying, “I’m Batman.”

I type this now and realize it was a wonder Heather paid any attention to me at all. Perhaps she had sympathy for me since I was on crutches.

After Washington, Heather and I went our separate ways, and though I didn’t get the girl, I at least still had Batman.

Or not.

My sister and her boyfriend were supposed to take me to the drive-in to see it, but friends had told me that it since so much of the film was set in the dark, it was hard to see the action on the drive-in’s screen. Plans were made to travel to Lexington to catch a show, but for reasons that were never fully explained (probably mostly due to my parents’ indifference to movies, especially those featuring Batman), I never saw it.

Then one late summer day, North Park theaters advertised a 12 o’clock showing, and my parents drove my cousin and I to the Big City to finally see Batman. With great pride, I strode to the ticket stand to order a pass, only to be told that it wasn’t for noon; instead, it was a midnight showing.

At this point, Batman was my Joker.

Soon, the film moved out of theaters, forcing me to have to wait months and months for it to come out on video (this was long ago before movies came out on DVD three months after being released on the big screen). And despite seeing it on a TV instead of a giant screen, I loved every minute of it.

So here I am, 18 years later, finally seeing it on the big screen. I was with friends, including a girl (not Heather, but better), and though the movie wasn’t as good as it seemed back then, I still enjoyed it.

Maybe (hopefully?) part of me is still a child.

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3 thoughts on “Batman, forever

  1. I’m glad I could be part of such a long-winded– er, I mean, IMPORTANT, part of your life! Seriously though, it was a good time. My own Batman experiences played an important role in my development, obviously, since as you know I am now a vigilante.

    I remember seeing it at the Mt. View Drive-In when I was but a wee twig of a lad. When it finally came out on VHS, I watched it endlessly, and even last night I was able to recite almost every line in my head before the characters said it.

    That said, the movie does feel even more dated than I expected. Still, it’s better than pretty much every superhero movie made today. The overall mood to the film, quality of direction and dialogue are still slightly better than any of Sam Raimi’s enormously overrated Spiderman movies, and are in fact quite similar. Those movies feel like they’ve aged about twenty years since the first time I saw them.

    Of course, my view of Burton’s Batman may be tainted by the fact that I’m in love with Batman Begins, which truly is the CITIZEN KANE of movies.

    Aware that this is a long-winded reply,
    Jeff

  2. I just read your Batman blog and it reminded me of Dirty Dancing. I have loved this movie since i was a kid. I got to see it 20 years ago in the movie theater and immediately went to the backyard and ‘practiced’ those dance moves. I went with my friend Lindsey last semester when they re-released it in movie theaters for the anniversary. I felt just like a 10-year-old, open-mouthed and wide-eyed, watching Johnny and Baby fall in love.

    If you haven’t seen it, i could recite it for you if you like… 😉

  3. Just before the 1989 Batman came out (I was 20), I had my barber shave the bat symbol in the back of my head. I spent quite a long time making a cardboard cut-out pattern of the bat symbol and then duct-taped it to my head, so that he only had to shave the cut-out area of the bat. It worked really well. Unfortunately, I hadn’t seen the movie yet, and once I did, I was very disappointed and then I regretted that I had semi-permanently disfigured myself for a movie that really wasn’t that good. I was just so caught up in the hype of it all (I tend to do that sort of thing – see “Star Wars Episode I camp out”). Also, I had just begun to date my now wife Jackie, and just about a week after I had the Batman shaved in my head, she invited me to meet the whole (extended) family at a cookout. Oh yeah, they were impressed. Of course, 18 years later, they all still remember that. I think they’re still impressed.

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