1989 - PG-13 - 126 Mins.
|Director: Tim Burton|
|Producer: Tim Burton|
|Written By: Sam Hamm|
|Starring: Michael Keaton, Kim Basinger, Jack Nicholson, Alfred Gough, Jack Palance, Pat Hingle |
|Review by: John Ulmer
I'm not a very big comic book geek. I own three comic books I got for a buck and perhaps some odd number of others tucked away somewhere that I got at a bargain sale. They're not a hobby of mine. I've never been a diehard superhero buff, either. Years ago I used to watch Batman, Spider-Man and Superman cartoons on TV, and I still do when I get the chance.
Now kiss me, you fool!
But I've always liked Batman. I've always preferred Batman to Superman. Superman is a typical superhero with inhuman powers. Batman is a normal guy trying to keep the streets clean. No superpowers, no inhuman strength, no flying, no web slinging. Just willpower. I just don't find any joy in Superman, really. Even the old grainy cartoon shows that started with "It's a bird! It's a plane! No, it's Superman!" never thrilled me half as much as watching the old goofy Batman show with Adam West, or the modern cartoon show. I love Spider-Man and his recent big-screen adaptation, but even he doesn't quite match Batman, perhaps the darkest of all superheroes.
Michael Keaton is the title character in Tim Burton's "Batman." He plays Bruce Wayne, a rich billionaire conglomerate owner who straps into his cool Bat Suit when help is needed. This can be a tricky affair, too, since he has to keep up two images at once--one of a carefree businessman and the other of a troubled crime fighter. And his love life with Kim Basinger is disastrous!
The movie shows us that his nightmares come back to haunt him (and us), and that his newest foe--The Joker (Jack Nicholson)--is also his oldest, because before The Joker got his facial features mutilated in acid, he was a street thug; he just so happens to be the murderer of Bruce's two parents, too.
Coincidence that the two would meet up years later and have to battle together? Yes. The Joker plans on taking Gotham City under his own control, but he and Batman have a difference of opinion on the matter.
Forget the stupid sequels (particularly the one with George Clooney) and forget the bad reputation the series has--this is the film that started it all, and is arguably the only good "Batman" movie out of the three others following it. (Four next year.)
Tim Burton presents Gotham City perfectly--the way it was in the comics and the way it wasn't in the television show. This is a great example of moody surroundings, and it's never too much (like the second film). It's right on target. Burton's direction is truly what separates "Batman" from, say, "Daredevil," and all the other pale imitators.
Notice the darkness of the entire series and you'll understand the concept of this entire franchise. Bruce Wayne's world is dark and consumed by hatred for crime and love for peace. By using such a dark backdrop, we are presented with Wayne's interpretation of Gotham City--and it works beautifully.
Michael Keaton isn't the best example of Bruce Wayne, although he is one of my favorite actors and I think that--considering his personality--he adapts well to that of a billionaire businessman who fights crime. Keaton possesses the look of a disturbed man--someone who is bothered by society and is eager to rid the world of evil after crime fighting becomes a personal thing for him. (Val Kilmer also did a great job of exhibiting this same type of overwhelmed exasperation in "Batman Forever," although the film itself was rather silly and extravagant thanks to Joel Schumacher's direction.)
Arguably one of Jack Nicholson's most fondly remembered roles, The Joker is represented as a goofy crime lord with a big sense of humor--thanks to Nicholson. He was bashed upon the film's release for being too "over-the-top" and "camp," but the original television show had the same type of tongue-in-cheek attitude that the sequels (especially the fourth film) all lost. (Although Schumacher's films were TOO over-the-top, for sure.) Nicholson's role really helps make this film what it is today.
"Batman" is a very popular superhero movie, and I must say that it's one of the best. Upon numerous viewings recently, I've noticed its flaws a bit more every time--but it maintains a steady sense of fun that the sequels all lost. "Batman Returns" was too dark and strange for my liking, the third film was just a bit too bright and over-the-top, and "Batman and Robin"...well...the less said, the better.
This is the best of the series. It's not a great film by any means, but it's an entertaining, and is--to date--the only good "Batman" movie. (That may change next year, mind you, when Christopher Nolan tries his hand at a "Batman" sequel--with Christian Bale in the lead role. It's about time the series gets treated with a fresh approach.)