SF Davies Symphony Hall – Thursday, August 3, 2023 – 7:30 PM
Written by Michael David Martin
Ah, the epic tale of good versus evil and one of the most iconic DC superheroes we’ve come to love. Yes, our very own Batman. Most human beings have had their own personal experience discovering Batman in their lifetime in one form or another. So many generations since 1939 came across the famous caped crusader. Batman started an extraordinary new form of entertainment to be enjoyed by young and old. Starting from the early days of Detective Comix to the latest onscreen epic, The Batman, with Twilight star Robert Pattinson putting on the mask. In 1966, Adam West graced the American living room television audience in his spandex bat suit. Fans watched multiple episodes with the caped crusader battling stand-out villains like The Joker, Cat Woman, The Penguin, and the Riddler alongside his boy wonder companion Robin. These masked detective heroes took on the crime of fictional Gotham City with an arsenal of cool gadgets. Forward-thinking speciality weapons like the Batarang, the trusty utility belt, and everyone’s favourite, The Batmobile, have kept the most notorious villains at bay.
In the 70’s, every Toys R’ Us across the United States was supplied with the coolest Batman toys. The Batman and Robin action figures by Mego Corporation were extremely popular, with I’m sure every boy in the USA owning at least one. You couldn’t collect just one, you had to have the whole collection from the Batman Universe, and it didn’t just stop there. Any ten-year-old boy’s eyes would light up, seeing a classic Batmobile toy car from the Hot Wheel version to the larger, more realistic 1960s TV show version. I had them all, including the Bat Boat. The Bat Boat was a great place to put all the cool toys and action figures in. Oh, and yes, I had the Batgirl doll, too, LOL. Halloween was another exciting time for anything Batman. Walking into shops displaying Batman costumes caused many children’s tantrums begging their parents to make that a life-or-death purchase. A plastic costume with a plastic mask inside a cardboard box with Batman animation. The marketing for Batman was genius! As kids, we also had Batman under roos and pyjamas, so even asleep, we were addicted to the Bat. To hook us in even further, there were Batman DC Comics in numerous five-and-dime stores, which today are worth a pretty penny. Batman was just inescapable and quickly became a part of modern-day fan culture.
What we didn’t see coming and hit everyone like a freight train was Tim Burton’s 1989 film adaptation of Batman starring Michael Keaton and Jack Nicolson, featuring an incredible soundtrack by musical genius Prince. This adaptation took Batman to a whole new level of fan frenzy. It’s hard to explain the hype that naturally built up like a tidal wave of anticipation when you saw the trailer while eating your buttered popcorn. This opened the doors to many future Batman movies, starring a long list of significant actors to dawn the Dark Knight’s ever-changing costume design. How can you choose your favourite portrayal when actors such as Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, George Clooney, Christian Bale, Ben Affleck, and the latest Robert Pattison take on the highly sought-after role? Just when you think Batman has hit its creative movie peak, a new version comes out, and fans like me just eat it up each time. My top three Batman actors would have to be Michael Keaton, Christian Bale, and Robert Pattison. All three tap into the darker side of our millionaire detective hero Bruce Wayne. The caped crusader’s ultimate love interest, Cat Woman, which also has a star-studded lineup of actors, has to be mentioned. A long list of beautiful and sexy stars from Zoe Kravitz, Michelle Pfeiffer, Halle Berry, Anne Hathaway, Eartha Kitt, and Julie Newmar, all nailing the role uniquely from 1966 to the recent editions. When you 1st saw Michelle Pfeiffer on screen dawning a stitched-up black rubber latex suit, cracking a whip better than Indiana Jones himself, it was pure bliss. There’s something to love in all those character portrayals. One of my favourite performances of all time came from Danny DeVito’s interpretation of the notorious villain, The Penguin. DeVito touched on a whole other level of mayhem, making Tim Burton’s Batman sequel a classic. We can all say that the Batman movie franchise creates the ultimate platform for actors to reach their best acting potential. We can’t speak about iconic villains without mentioning the late Heath Ledger and the incredible Joaquin Phoenix, who both captivated audiences with their outstanding Oscar-winning portrayals of The Joker.
I guess it’s safe to say that I am a huge Batman fan, so of course, I jumped at the opportunity to catch the latest rendition brought to life with SF’s best orchestra. Attending any performance at the Davies Symphony Hall is almost like attending the Oscars. You always feel like a million bucks strolling into the lobby, showing your ticket, then hearing that laser-sounding beep almost like a Bat gadget itself by the staff after they scan your golden pass. I invited my brother on this occasion since he’s never experienced a live orchestra and film together. I wanted to share the beautiful shiny floors as you stroll the elegant halls, the giant glass window views of San Francisco, and a bundle of new memories to take on. Of course, this was all just the lead-in for what was coming up next for him, which I knew would be dark, mysterious, and epic. We couldn’t be more excited for the latest DC version, “The Batman.” Actor Robert Pattison was stunning, showcasing Bruce Wayne, aka Batman, a bit more downplayed and emotionally dark in character. This was a long leap from his former role in the Twilight Saga, but he brought a similar feel to the Batman character reminiscent of his daunting vampire roles. He has since become a character actor, selectively choosing film roles challenging his artistry and excelling at each. Probably one of my favourite actors of today’s generation.
Our beloved SF Symphony Orchestra was gearing up, and I knew they had to dig deep into the abyss for us to experience the caped crusader adventure like never before. I had complete confidence that they would nail each note. Our Conductor for the evening was Joshua Gersen, who took the stage with ease and majesty. Once the film started, fans started oohing and ahhing with delight. Gerson immediately dug into the intensity of Michael Giacchino’s captivating score as he waved his musical stick and commanded a brilliant performance throughout. Mr Gersen gave his fellow musicians the Bat signal and took us on a long journey that seemed to fly by like the wing of a bat. All I can say is the Batmobile itself is enough for you to see this film! One of the most incredible retro/futuristic designed vehicles I have ever seen. The chase scenes including the newest Penguin villain are beyond any Batman film and immediately give you the feeling you’re watching Batman in the year 3000.
Once the intermission came, the applause was so loud you would think we were at the finale. We quickly took that opportunity to head to the bathroom and, of course, the bar for a few tasty glasses of Champagne. I asked my brother his thoughts on the Davies Hall movie experience thus far, and let’s just say he was beyond satisfied. The intermission bell began to chime, yet we took our time back to our seats to take in as much elegance as possible and finish our last round of drinks. As we entered again, the flurry of strings, horns, live drums, and keyboards once again filled the room and our ears. I’ll never stop being impressed by how well the SF Symphony matches their live instrumentation to the film score playing on the screen. There is no sync button for our beloved orchestra. It’s a form of dedication and true talent that takes a lifetime to achieve and be that gifted. Missing one small note would throw off the entire performance, and I have never witnessed them out of tune or beat. I don’t want to give away too much of the film if you haven’t seen it. You’ll just have to see the magnitude of this latest rendition for yourself on a streaming service. Of course, without the intensity of our incredible live orchestra, in case you missed these past two dates. Don’t worry, you can go on the SF Symphony website to see what movie they have coming up for us next and reserve a seat. It may not be The Batman but guaranteed it will be your own personal adventure and an experience you will never forget. Yes, the SF Symphony rises to each occasion and is just that good!
Joshua Gersen (Conductor)
San Francisco Symphony
FILM Michael Giacchino (Composer)
Matt Reeves (Director)
For more info, go to: www.sfsymphony.com