I watched and reviewed Batman & Robin recently for Arnold Schwarzenegger month, and it was a bit of a revelation. I know why that film failed. It wasn’t because there were nipples on the batsuit and every set piece looked like a costume ball. It wasn’t even the puns or the shitty acting that was at fault. Nope, it was because director Joel Schumacher had a vision, but he only went partway towards seeing that vision fulfilled. After having watched that movie again, I can see that Schumacher was trying to recreate the aesthetic of the drag queen review for mass audiences. But mass audiences don’t want to see that. And they really didn’t want to see a half-assed version of it. Schumacher wasn’t even the right guy to direct a film like that. If you’re going to go gay, go all the way. In fact, gay is not enough. Gay is not deviant. I want deviant. I want to see a Batman movie made by the auteur of deviant lifestyles himself...John Waters.
John Waters is perfect for a project like this. He’s mellowed a bit as he’s aged, but this is still a man who, once upon a time, convinced one of his stars to eat a piece of freshly laid dog shit on camera. Actual, real dog shit. I don’t care that Waters is pushing seventy. The man that made Pink Flamingos and Female Trouble is still alive and still weird as all hell. The bizarre universe of comic books has been waiting for John Waters, and I can’t believe no one has thought of this before.
Christopher Nolan has been praised for bringing gritty realism to the Batman story, while Schumacher was excoriated for keeping it cartoonish. That’s just silly. Batman is a cartoon. See this? This is the first panel showing Batman in a comic book.
Quite frankly, it’s a miracle that anyone, anywhere, managed to find a way to insert some narrative depth into that. Hell, it only took about fifty years. But once Frank Miller penned the Year One story, all of a sudden it was no longer okay to treat Batman with anything but deadly seriousness. I came to the conclusion recently that, owing to the vast amounts of published material featuring the Caped Crusader, there is no wrong way to tell a Batman story. At this point, Batman doesn’t need more realism or any more brooding. What I think is needed is a film that goes down like a shit burger, something that will make both geeks and pseudo-geeks alike step back and realize that no one, anywhere, should take any of this nonsense seriously. Enter John Waters.
John Waters embraced camp and kitsch to such an extent that he made it his own. And in the process of making it his own, he melded it with his own tastes, creating something both repulsive and compelling. Because it’s impossible to separate Waters from camp, I think his Batman movie should be an interpretation of the television series from the 1960s. I think it would also be a great opportunity to get the band back together. Both Adam West and Burt Ward are still kicking. West is really fucking old, a concern in a role that requires some physicality, but this article is fantasyland, so he’s my guy.
Most of the series regulars apart from West and Ward are dead, so there will have to be some recasting. But a few are still around. Frank Gorshin died in 2005, but never fear. He wasn’t the only actor to play the Riddler. John Astin was the other, he’s still alive, and he’s younger than West. Even if all his scenes have to be filmed in the day room at the old folk’s home, this movie needs a Riddler.
Eartha Kitt is sadly no longer with us, but both Julie Newmar and Lee Meriwether are living, so there’s a glut of Catwomen to choose from. But these aged vixens would not be enough for a Waters movie. We need some supplemental Catwomen, some women that are willing to get down and dirty in the role. Fuck it. Let’s cast Sasha Grey and Lady Gaga as new Catwomen, granddaughters of the original or something like that. Can they act? Well, Sasha Grey can’t, and I’d be willing to bet Lady Gaga can’t, either. But trust me, this is inspired casting.
If there’s one villain I would love to see in this film, it’s Egghead. He might be the single dumbest character ever conceived for Batman’s rogues gallery, but he was lovingly played by Vincent Price, ever the consummate professional. Price went to that great theater in the sky a long time ago, but that’s what CGI is for. If a holographic Michael Jackson can take the stage at the Billboards, then this movie can, and will, have Vincent Fucking Price in it. Done and done.
Having four Catwomen is nice, but there’s always room for another sexpot. I think Uma Thurman should be invited back to reprise her role as Poison Ivy. Hell, her scenes in Batman & Robin were the most Waters-esque, after all. She could have sex slaves on leashes trailing behind her, and her lair would contain writhing masses of plants in constant imitation of human copulation. Poison Ivy has always been the most sexual of characters in the Batman canon, manipulating the weaknesses of men to her advantage. There’s no way any Waters Batman film could not have a character such as this.
The Riddler, multiple Catwomen, Egghead, and now Poison Ivy. That’s a lot of villains, but there is room for one more. Cesar Romero was a hack. And he was vain. He was so vain that he refused to shave off his mustache before being slathered in white makeup for his role as the Joker. Know what? It didn’t matter how ridiculous he looked. It only added to the camp. Romero’s dead, too, but this film has a perfect replacement already on staff in the form of Waters himself. This is it — the role he was made for. Waters inhabiting this movie as a cackling menace, the most devious of all of Batman’s sworn enemies, is almost too much to behold. He could end up being Romero taken to the tenth power. He could challenge Heath Ledger in fan’s estimations of the greatest film Jokers of all time. Maybe not, but it sure would be fun to see. And he wouldn’t have to shave his mustache.
Finally, a little fleshing out of the cast is in order. We need a Commissioner Gordon. I’m casting Louis CK, for the simple fact that I think he would absolutely hate doing this movie. Every scene he’s in would be a massive chore to film. The despair and anger bubbling underneath the surface would be visible in his eyes. Maybe Waters could go all meta and include a take in the film where Louis just stops saying his lines and asks Waters what the hell is going on in this scene. His unhappiness would feed all of us.
Does there need to be a plot? Yeah, I guess so. Umm...lightning strikes Arkham Asylum and all the baddies escape. Commissioner Gordon summons Batman and Robin to City Hall and the Dynamic Duo have to hunt them all down. There, I spent about thirty seconds coming up with that. That might be all the guidance Waters needs. Ultimately, total coherence in the plot is not necessary, here. The story is inconsequential compared to the characters in a Batman film such as this. There’s always a danger the production could descend into a pastiche of home movie silliness if there isn’t a goal in mind, but after thirteen hundred words, I think it’s time to spare the Loyal Seven further reading.
Batman: The Movie, directed by John Waters. Coming soon to a theater near you, rated NC-17. This has to happen. This needs to happen. In my greatest dreams and worst nightmares this happens.