The Batman Films – Part 2 of 9: Batman (1989)

This is going to be a weird review for me to write. It isn’t going to be a positive review which is strange considering that this movie changed my life. 

When I was a kid I loved this film. Yet as I grew older and further explored the world of Batman the cracks really began to show.

Gotham City’s criminals are running scared. A shadowy vigilante calling himself Batman has declared a one man war on crime.

Journalist Vicky Vale arrives in Gotham on assignment to investigate the story.

Hoodlum Jack Napier is robbing Axis Chemicals but the operation is a set up. As Commissioner Gordon and his team close in to apprehend Napier and his goons – Batman enters the fray. Napier is badly wounded in the battle and falls into a vat of strange goo. Somehow he survives but is badly disfigured. He becomes The Joker.

After murdering his former boss The Joker quickly rises to the top of the criminal underworld. His maniacal and twisted crimes bring him into direct conflict with Batman.

During the course of her investigation Vicky Vale meets billionaire Bruce Wayne and the two fall quickly in love. Yet when she inadvertently discovers a terrible tragedy that occurred in Wayne’s childhood – she will come to realise that he is in fact Batman.

With The Joker developing a sick infatuation with Vale – Batman must not only battle to save the city from the Crown Prince Of Crime but also the woman he loves. He’ll soon find out that his link to The Joker is stronger than he originally thought.

Director Tim Burton was hired to make this film because of the success of Pee Wee’s Big AdventureHe hired Sam Hamm to write the screenplay – which Batman creator Bob Kane approved. After the success of Beetlejuice Warner Bros gave the project the green light.

In the first of many controversies – many objected to the casting of Michael Keaton in the title role. At the time he was mainly known as a comedic actor. Producer Jon Peters was adamant that Keaton was the right man for the part though having seen his bravura dramatic performance in Clean & SoberHaving worked with Keaton on Beetlejuice, Burton agreed.

The decision to cast Jack Nicholson as The Joker was seen as a masterful bit of casting. He collected a record fee for the part.

Kim Basinger replaced Sean Young as Vicky Vale and Michael Gough and Pat Hingle were bought on as Batman legends Alfred Pennyworth and Commissioner Gordon.

Key to the movie’s success was it’s marketing campaign. Any concerns about Keaton’s casting were swiftly silenced by the release of an action packed teaser trailer. Then the film’s iconic poster began appearing. A gold engraved Batman logo on a black background. A simple yet striking image.

An aggressive merchandising campaign raised this movie’s profile to ridiculous levels. It was the film EVERYONE was talking about. The film EVERYONE wanted to see. It smashed box office records when it was released in July 1989.

The look of the film was praised and so was Danny Elfman’s gothic score. However – it was met with quite a lot of criticism. Many felt that Nicholson’s role as The Joker was overbearing in the movie. Then there was the baffling decision to feature nothing but Prince songs on the soundtrack.

The main thing it was criticised for was it’s violence. It led to the film making history in the United Kingdom. It was expected to receive a straight PG rating  – but it was deemed to gruesome to be able to justify that rating. Fearing a public outcry if the film was given a 15 certificate – the BBFC (British Board Of Film Classification) was forced to create a new rating. Batman is still notorious today as the film for which the 12 rating was created for in Great Britain.

Then there was the controversy it created amongst comic book fans. Many disapproved of the plot twist where The Joker is revealed to have been responsible for the death of Bruce Wayne’s parents. In the comic books they were murdered by a street thug called Joe Chill. The Joker had nothing to do with it.

In 1989 I was an eleven year old boy. I DESPERATELY wanted to see this film. The marketing for it was absolutely EVERYWHERE. I was so obsessed with it – I remember my brother buying me a Batman comic he saw on a market stall whilst he was out and about doing his thing.

That comic book was The Killing JokeIt was a second hand copy that only cost him 50p. Yet when he gave it to me and I excitedly ran upstairs to my room to read it – little did I know that what he’d actually stumbled upon was regarded as a comic book masterpiece. A classic of the medium. It was the first time I’d read anything by Alan Moore and the first time I’d seen art by Brian Bolland. Two absolute giants of the industry as I’m sure you all know.

When the film came out he went to see it with some friends and kindly allowed his annoying, snotty little brother (that would be me) to tag along. I remember waiting in the queue outside. I was only 11. Seven months younger than the film’s 12 rating. Would I get found out? I remember the adrenaline pumping through my veins – and the wave of euphoria that came over me when the usher allowed us in. I was a bit disappointed that usher didn’t give me at least a cursory inquisitive glance but then again I’ve always been tall for my age.

As an impressionable boy I was blown away by what I saw. It was dark it was violent and it was scary. It was beyond my expectations. It was NOTHING like SupermanIt’s pretty fair to say that it became my favourite movie on that day (it isn’t now… boy is it NOT).

I felt like the coolest kid on the block for having seen this film. When the summer break ended and I went on to secondary school I became known quite quickly as the school Batman geek.

The following Christmas I got a Batman action figure that I took with me everywhere and on my 12th birthday my brother got me the movie on videocassette. I watched it over and over which no doubt annoyed the living crap out of my family.

28 years later I’m still a huge fan of the character of Batman but not of this movie. I have the movie to thank for giving me my love of the Caped Crusader – but now that’s probably one of the few good things I can really say about it.

I think it was when I was in my late teens or early twenties that I finally realised something. This movie was actually… kinda shit. 

It has good points. Gotham City looks fantastic. The Batmobile is cool (if a little phallic looking) – and the nods to The Dark Knight Returns and The Killing Joke were welcome.

I just pretty much hate the rest of it.

For a start they absolutely fucked up The Joker. By revealing a previous identity for him (the comics have never explicitly done that in canon) they rob his character of any mystery. Not knowing who he was is part of what made him so scary in the comics.

Then – shoehorning him into Batman’s origin. I mean… huh? Why do that? It’s a painfully lame thing to do. It’s not true to the legend and it’s not true to character. It changes Batman’s mission from one of justice to one of revenge. It leaves the film feeling like a rip off of a bad Death Wish sequel. Bruce Wayne is just Paul Kersey in a rubber suit and a cape. Anything profound this movie may have had to say is just completely lost.

I’m disappointed with Jack Nicholson’s performance in this movie. We don’t get Jack Nicholson the actor. We get Jack Nicholson the movie star. For a film like The Witches Of Eastwick that’s fine, but not here. Not for this character. It needed more than a movie star showboating. He struts through this movie like he owns it. Chewing the scenery at every turn. He really dominates the proceedings and it’s obvious he’s just there for the payday.

I would rather have seen the Jack Nicholson I love do the part. The Jack Nicholson from One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nestor my personal favourite – ChinatownI would rather he would’ve bought something like that to The Joker. Something tangible. Some intensity. Just a slight re calibration in his performance could’ve helped the film probably be something more memorable. Such a shame.

Kim Basinger as Vicky Vale is the next big let down. All she seems to do is scream and after five minutes it gets annoying. Then it gets even MORE annoying when you look at the timer and realise there’s still about an hour and forty five fucking minutes of this movie to go. She’s so unlikable in this. Vicky Vale is just a horrible character. Self centred insensitive and cold. The way she treats poor Alexander Knox is just horrible. Very off putting. Hard to believe anyone would want to rescue her from anything.

Finally we get to Michael Keaton in the title role. Now when he’s Batman he’s pretty damn good. He looks great in the suit and has some cool action hero dialogue. He’s a fairly believable superhero tough guy.

BUT…. 

One thing really BAFFLES me.  About how he chose to deal with those two muggers at the start. Why did he just stand there and watch them mug that family? Shouldn’t he have stopped them BEFORE they did that? Doing it AFTER they’ve committed the crime makes NO sense!

If he swooped down and saved that family from the muggers – it could have led to a cool plot point where Vicky Vale interviews them as credible witnesses to this strange creature of the night. That could’ve worked!

Maybe we could have found out that the family were taking time off from their jobs as circus performers. That their surname was Grayson and the boy’s name was Dick…

See the WASTED opportunities here?

The problems with Keaton’s performance REALLY begin when he’s playing Bruce Wayne. Whilst he’s handsome enough (albeit in a quirky way) to be believable as a billionaire playboy… he doesn’t actually behave like a playboy. He plays Wayne like a reclusive Howard Hughes type. So therefore there isn’t really enough duality in the double role he’s playing. There’s not enough distance between personas.

In the comic books Bruce Wayne has been known to deliberately play up to the playboy stereotype in order to throw people off the scent that he might really be Batman. Keaton might have been able to do something really special with that. He has a unique live-wire intensity which could’ve been put to good use and given the movie some flavour. It’s a real shame that doesn’t really happen. Unless you count the “Let’s get nuts” scene – which is kind of funny – but too little too late.

It would be remiss to underestimate this movie’s influence. It did set a precedent for superhero movies to follow. That’s from it’s style though not it’s substance. There’s no real substance here to speak of.

It takes too many liberties with it’s source material. The story is a jumbled mess of tired cliches. It’s mean spirited, nihilistic and on the whole – just unpleasant to watch.

Batman is a bad movie.

The Man Who Saved Movies. Never rub another man’s rhubarb! 

 

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  • I can’t overstate how much I love this movie. I don’t consider it a definitive Batman experience, but I absolutely love the liberties they took with the story, the characters, and the feel of the city. I really don’t understand how you can extract the point you made about Jack Nicholson’s performance. Cesar Romero is my favorite Joker, but Nicholson was absolutely FANTASTIC in this movie. For me, it drags when he’s *not* on screen. He’s obviously having a shitload of fun tearing up the scenery and tearing up the other actors (Keaton and Basinger should be commended for holding their own against an all-time classic performance) and it’s hard not to love that. Just there for the payday? DUDE!
    Brother, as you know, we are almost exactly the same age to the day, so my pre-pubescent experience with this movie is much the same as yours (minus the weird violence-censoring stuff) and it really opened my eyes as to what a movie could deliver in terms of acting. Nicholson is the pinnacle of genius here and his captivating performance just makes the rest of the movie WORK. For me it’s on the all-time favorites list. 🙂

    • Congratulations! Comment featured!
      When I was a kid I loved it man, I really did. But when I look at it as an adult – it’s just hollow. Nothing to it. Maybe it’s cause I’m such a comics fan maybe I expected better. I don’t know

      • I can see your perspective and you know I’m not a big comics guy. Now when it comes to disappointment, well, I’ll save those thoughts for the comments section on Batman Returns.

        • You won’t be disappointed. To me – “Batman Begins” and “The Dark Knight” are the films that this SHOULD’VE been. But we’ll get to those in due course.

  • wow the killing joke at 11 mustve been terrifying

    • Nah man! I LOVED IT! But I always was a weird kid! 😉 Welcome to the site man! Please stick around! Dig your avatar! Any man who likes John Carpenter is a friend of mine!

    • The one panel of Barbara’s face, just before the Joker pulls the trigger, gave me chills, and I read it when I was 12 or 13. Rough stuff.

      • Yeah man, that shit is brutal.

        • Completely. You and I have spoken about this before but I received The Killing Joke and Batman: Year One on the same day and read them both in one sitting. I was on shock-overload. Nudity! Drug use! Gunshot wounds! Batman almost dying in a pit of nasty-looking spikes! Catwoman is a…whore?! My teenage mind was blown away.

          • Neither Batman Year One nor The Killing Joke are canon so don’t take them as definitive interpretations. Same with The Dark Knight Returns when you get round to it. They are what are known as “Elseworlds” tales – but I don’t believe they were published under that imprint. Although bit and pieces are borrowed for the main storyline(s) when needed.
            You want to get into Batman comics? No better place to start than “Hush”. It’s pretty much the ULTIMATE Batman experience.
            Also “Arkham Asylum: A Serious House On A Serious Earth” is worth a read – but you need a strong constitution for that one.

          • Adding them to the list!

          • Good man!

          • President of what?

            Have you played any of the Arkham games? Great stuff but the last one was underwhelming due to one too many Batmobile gameplays.

          • Yeah. All except Origins.

          • Indrid Cold

            Hush is very good. I read it for the first time a few years ago when I was crashing on the couch at my friends house. He had it as a coffee table book. Read the whole thing in one sitting. Very interesting take on Batman.

          • I’ve always thought that would be interesting source material for Affleck’s Batman film.

          • they should confuse everyone about the timeline and cast Eckhart as Dent

          • Matt Damon. Perfect casting.

          • i’d take that any day. i used to have jude law as hush in my head but that could go any number of ways really. they ought to choose on acting chemistry first, so its hard to speculate from here

          • Affleck and Damon’s well known real life friendship would add a lot to his casting as Two Face.

          • yeah but there’s the star power issue. matts just as big a star and would obviously be playing 2nd fiddle without significant plot changes. not sure if he’d want it

          • i got that coffee table version from the library once. loved looking at lee’s art larger than you normally get to see it

          • Oh wow. That splash page when Batman cracks Superman. Stunning artwork there.

          • Doesn’t Batman bang commissioner gordan’s kid in the movie?

          • Yep 😕

          • Naughty naughty Batman. I thought Dick Grayson was the one.

          • With a name like that how could he not be!

          • I think so; I think she puts the moves on him, though, to which any self-respecting Batman would say, “hell YES!”

          • Correct

      • Plisskin

        Don’t forget what The Joker did to Commissioner Gordon. That image of him naked, humiliated, surrounded by photos of his daughter courtesy of the clown prince of crime.

  • This echoes a lot of feelings I used to have about this movie actually, but I’ve grown to appreciate it as an alternative take on the mythos rather than a betrayal of it. In many ways reclusive eccentric is a more believable take on the whole situation than playboy Wayne. Burton has said that he needed to portray someone who actually crazy enough to do the things that Batman does, and Keaton is a far more wonderful creation of that angle than fan favorite Alec Baldwin would have been. Add to that the ease with which Vale figures out who he is… and the reveal and payoff of making Joker his parents’ killer…they were making one movie that needed to breathe and finalize and bend back on itself. Remember this is before everything was planned out for multiple sequels in advance. They couldn’t have been sure it was going to spawn any.

    also many people blame Schumacher for ruining the franchise but the world Burton made was really fundamentally cartoony. Add to that the aggressive toy marketing pressure that must have come from the studio, and the change into flamboyant batnipples was kind of inevitable. I mean is it really that much more ridiculous than the million penguin march in the second film? sure they lost a lot of the scary that burton brought to it, but Schumacher, who’s forays into moody and creepy (Lost Boys, Flatliners) are frankly better than Burton’s, he must’ve seen the whole thing as pretty ridiculous in the first place, hence running with it. I would love to see what Schumacher would have done with it in the first place if the studio hired him and said “make batman, as a horror movie” and let him build his own neon gotham from the ground up.

    • All the other Batman films will be talked about over the next few days as this series continues. Don’t you worry about that! 😉

    • President of what?

      Fuck that noise! Alec Baldwin wouldv’e been perfect casting as Batman/Bruce Wayne without it coming off too “conventional”.
      Keaton had a few great moments but he looks too earthy to play a costumed vigilante slash playboy millionaire.
      However, he stepped up his game in the sequel which I favored more than the first Batman.

      • Baldwin would’ve been interesting.

      • Watching The Shadow and The Phantom made me really wonder why they brought in one of the gay volleyball players from Top Gun in for Bruce Wayne instead of billy Zane or Baldwin

      • baldwin is a better pick for conventional playboy wayne. crazy recluse wayne not so much

        • President of what?

          Crazy recluse as in this?
          http://itsthecrew.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/batman08.jpg

          Funny how this was one of the most disliked scenes from the movie.

          • you also see it with the party with the “you know i’m not really sure,” etc. not saying its the call I’d make, but I think keaton plays THAT version of the character better than baldwin would have. depends on 9832502350139 things tho, like how they would have directed him, how much he would have cared about the project, etc

          • President of what?

            fair enuff

          • You know – actually to give the film some credit that’s an interesting bit of dialogue coming from Bruce Wayne. A little unsure of his persona, his identity. If only more could have been done with it. Hey ho.

    • KGrimes

      Batman Returns has Penguins with rocket packs. Schumacher takes way too much heat and Burton gets way too much praise.

      • Burtons movies suck.

      • President of what?

        Okay, the Penguin Pallbearers was shit and to me, the weakest link of said sequel.
        Other than that, it was an improvement over the first Burton film.
        Schucker deserves plenty of heat for Batman and Robin which buried the franchise until Nolan ressurected it. I do like Batman 4ever to an extent, however.

  • I_am_better

    This movie was still a bit of a training exercise until Burton made the masterpiece in Batman Returns. The story goes a bit all over the place, Robert Wuhl is mostly annoying… – but goddamn does it look great!

  • President of what?

    LMMFAO Oh shit, you went there, Stu!!
    While I had no problem with Jack as Jack (Napier) I still found it hard to see keaton as Batman aesthetically speaking. His face is fat and flubbery especially during that scene in which he tries to save Jack from falling into the chemical vat. The fight scenes especially in the alley way were impressive more so than the schoolyard fight between Bats and Bale in TDKR. Jus sayin.
    What urked me to no end was how easily Batman got his ass handed to him by the big (Black) Henchmen or as Asimovlives refer to him as; “The Big Rapper”. Batman couldv’e easily put up a fight even after his Batwing crashed. WTF! Oh, and I agree on all points-Vicki Vale was annoying AF with dialogue like “When are we going to love one another”? Who the fuck approved of that line???
    “Let’s get nuts” was a scene that reminded me of Johnny Dangerously. It wasn’t neccesary at all.

    Can’t wait to read your take on Batman Returns. I have written a rough draft review back in December but got sidetracked and shit. Now, it’s your turn at bat! (No pun intended.)

    • Thanks dude! Be back in 48 hours! 😉

      • President of what?

        I’m curious on your take of BR but save any opinions till I get to read the review.

    • Your post reminded me that I DO have a huge problem with this movie after all: Keaton’s afro-mullet. Seriously? Billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne and that’s the hairstyle he chooses to wear?

      • The rich can afford not to give a fuck.

        • Just let your SOULLLLL GLO!! Feelin’ oh so silky-smooth!

          • I just hope he wasn’t near any naked flames!

          • If only the Joker has used his flame-thrower lighter on him!
            “Ah-there’ll be a hot time-ah, in the old town-ah toooniiiiight!”

          • Ah-there’ll be a h…. BOOM!!!!!

          • This is Action News, at six o’clock! With your anchor, Becky Narita!
            Good evening. Tonight’s top story: Billionaire philanthropist Bruce Wayne was admitted to Gotham General Hospital in the pre-dawn hours this morning with reported first-degree burns to his scalp and the back of his neck. Reached for comment, his butler Alfred Pennyworth stated and I quote, “Master Wayne was quite fond of hair-spray and he stood too close to a space heater in the horse stables at Wayne Manor.” While his room is private and under Gotham Police guard, Mr. Wayne is expected to make a full recovery and we wish him all the best.
            In other news, the criminal mastermind known locally as The Joker, late yesterday evening succeeded in murdering dozens at the Flugelheim Museum and kidnapping photographer Vicki Vale, before making his escape…

          • Brilliant!!!

          • Thanks!

          • You’re a funny guy!

          • What do you mean I’m funny? What do you mean, you mean the way I talk? What? Funny how? What’s funny about it? You mean…let me understand this cuz, ya know maybe it’s *me*, I’m a little fucked up maybe, but I’m funny how? I mean funny like I’m a clown? I amuse you? I make you laugh? I’m here to fuckin’ amuse you? What do you mean funny, funny how? How am I funny? How the *fuck* am I funny? What the FUCK is so funny about me? Tell me, tell me what’s funny!
            (full disclosure, I copy/pasted that, there is NO WAY I can remember the exact quote with the right number of ‘funny’ in it.)

          • Get the fuck outta here Tommy! (Only response I got Bro!)

          • You may fold under questioning!

      • President of what?

        LMMFAO Afro-mullet. I never heard that one before. Jewfro, yes.

      • For the eighties, it was a very conservative hairdo. It could have been so much worse.

  • It always bothered me that all of the clowns are in the sequel (some even on stilts), but in the jokers movie, his crew are all weird mimes who dance to Prince music. And the joker’s weird sidekick who looks like a burnt out 80s comedian. And the jokers girlfriend, whom he has turned into a modern art piece.

    Man, I can’t be alone in really hating Prince’s music.

    • In regard to this movie you certainly are not alone in hating Prince’s music. But outside of it I think he’s done quite a few OK tunes.

      • I think I always just associated his music to the fast forward scenes in this movie as a kid. The art gallery is pure 1989 bad decisions

        • Really? I *love* the art gallery scene. But then again I’m a Prince fan, so…

          • From your comments, I think you’re a child of the 80s. Everyone a bit older than me loves Prince. But my music was about wallowing in the dark and peering outside, cursing the sheep law

            Edit: autocorrect turned sheeple into sheep law. But I’m a New Zealander, so it still applies. Damned sheep laws.

          • i didnt get into prince until the early 2000s but i absolutely love his stuff.

          • I must give him a new listen, as everyone here has liked his stuff. I guess start with purple rain?

          • actually i would start with Dirty Mind. very punky and rebellious. you really get in there with the darkest side he has. then move on to PR and 1999

          • My wife loves that album.

          • The Magic Hunter

            “Purple Rain” is great, but pretty long for a starter. Try not to smile and bop around while listening to “Raspberry Beret” and “Little Red Corvette.”

          • Aha! Two of my favourite tunes!

          • Purple Rain makes me want to vomit blood.

          • That’s more of a crimson rain

          • It could be like the scene in Stand By Me!

          • I don’t own any of his albums but there are quite a few songs of his I like. Little Red Corvette, Raspberry Beret, U Got The Look…. actually that’s it.

          • Yup, I was born in 1978.

          • Me too! 🙂

          • My wife’s a total NUT on Prince. Big fan.

          • Prince has done a lot better music than the DRECK we hear in this film.

          • This is true, but I had no problem with his music in this movie. It was suitably weird and somehow works.

          • Yeah well, we’ll have to agree to disagree there.

          • Prince stills smiles on you from Heaven. 🙂

          • I’ve got the song “Party Man” stuck in my head now. Shoot me. Bob. Gun.

          • You keep this 9-part series up and soon you’ll be singing:
            “Theeeere is so much a man can tell you,
            So much he can saaaaay!
            Yoouuuuu remain,
            My power, my pleasure, my paaain!”
            THAT is some fucking punishment right there.

          • Hey Bro… I fucking love that song! I was 17 when that film came out and was starting to notice the ladies. It reminds me of one lady in particular and no one can take it away from me dammit! (SHIIIIIT MAAAAN! Was that really 22 years ago!?!?)

          • Oh man…I can’t stop laughing. I’m sorry, bro, hey it’s all good, we all have the one song. 🙂

          • I’ve probably got more than one to be honest.

          • Since we’re admitting things here, I like that Spice Girls song ‘Two Become One’.

          • So do I 😜

          • President of what?

            I never understood that scene. I mean yeah Joker is batshit (No pun intended.) but to kill off his right hand man like that? Way out of focus in my opinion.

          • President of what?

            X)

        • Ha! Yeah man. “I like this one Bob. Leave it.” GROAN.

  • The Magic Hunter

    I got to the dance party late, so most of my moves have already been left on the floor by others!

    I’ll just say that it was great reading about the 60s movie, before getting this great overview on ’89 “Batman” — putting them all on a chronological spectrum helps make certain things jump out. Like, even though the first Tim Burton one was surprisingly violent, it carried on the absurdity and cartoonishness of the Adam West version, something that most of the public (who weren’t ’80s comics readers) probably expected. In that sense, Tim Burton was exactly the right choice. I totally agree with a lot of your peeves on this one, though. However, I have to wonder if the reason they made the Joker the killer of Bruce Wayne’s parents was simply that they didn’t know they could have spread those different storylines across upcoming sequels. Again, we have to remember that (then much more than now, I’d guess) studios have middle America much more in mind when creating stuff than they do hair-splitting fans — and so here the studio was like, “The tabula rasa viewer gets a double-whammy of catharsis in the Third Act! Meeting adjourned, let’s hit the links!”

    • Yeah but look at how Batman Begins handled the killer of Wayne’s parents. He’s arrested, sent to jail and killed in a sub plot at the opening of the movie. This then spurs Wayne on to confront one of the movie’s MAIN bad guys. See? It can be done. I stand by what I said. Making the Joker the murderer of Bruce Wayne’s parents was a DUMB idea.

  • I like the Burton Batman films. As I mentioned in your Superman review, his vision has made it hard to see Batman outside his peculiar gothic niche. I like Returns even more if I’m honest. We live in a time where we can realistically expect films to be accurate to their source material, but in the hurry to make them more authentic we lose the fun of interpreting them. Burton’s vision for Batman is really bold. It’s still present in the aesthetic, which says a lot.

    • Yeah, but we can’t really credit Burton with that. That look came from the original comics. Neutered in the 60s, but given a new lease of life by the likes of Frank Miller. All Burton did was interpret that for the screen. Successfully? I don’t think so. But Burton didn’t create this Batman we all know and love. Bob Kane and Bill Finger did. It was all there on the page.

      • Controversial indeed. Well, it was definitely perceived as a massive reinvention of something that had become incredibly camp. I don’t really read the comics but from what I know stylistically it was a pretty big shift – the design of the armour and the car especially. You did have stuff going on in comics simultaneously that was making Batman relevant again, but the design of that film was insane. I think few directors have gone so stylistically ‘out there’ for a mainstream film – something he followed beautifully with the jaw-dropping set design in Returns. We all know what happened when Schumacher tried to play in that sandbox. I think Batman was also very successful in how it was branded and marketed. It was a very coherent cinematic package. Even if, as you say, full credit isn’t Burton’s, he refined it onto the screen very well. It may feature strange choices but it hangs together and there’s no wasted time in it.

        • Fair enough!

        • I’ve been banned on AICN!

          • The Magic Hunter

            Yikes! Well… To see it from their perspective, you were using their space to pull eyes over to your space. Still, they should understand that people can manage to frequent more than one website. At least you got a great following here pretty quickly!

          • Yeah man! Thanks!

          • President of what?

            Don’t feel too bad, I was banned for plugging an Anti AICN podcast for Talkbacker.com over 2 years ago.
            Now I’m still there shooting the shit with some while trolling a few others. Hopefully, it’s not a permaban.
            You were always the cooler tbers I come to know.

          • Thanks dude!

          • President of what?

            I don’t get it. You have asshole Talkbackers who spew all kinds of racist shit and make fun of Harry’s wife, yet nothing happens! But the minute someone tries to plug their own blog site or share their writing talents, they face the banhammer? Fucking AICN, Meng!

          • The Magic Hunter

            Yeah, that place has been aching for some clarity on a lot of issues for years.

          • I’m going to turn it into a positive. You wait till my Bram Stoker Dracula article. It shits on their one!

          • President of what?
          • I know!

          • Probably for the best. What did you do?

          • Probably for pimping this place!

          • It’s not like the rest of us are going to stop reading it. If we were going to that, we’d already have left it 100 times for being, at worst, incomprehensible.

          • Oh well. Their loss. It ain’t gonna stop this site.

      • President of what?

        Most of the credit belongs to Bill Finger.

  • Dee-abolik

    These are some very good points, and although my judgement is a little less harsh, it’s really hard to refute them.
    I think a big problem of this movie is that Burton tries to merge the camp of the 60s Batman with the darkness of the Frank Miller comics and his own style. The tone of this movie is a mess! Also, Burton could not really shoot action back then, the action scenes are too short and clumsy. I think the thought was to imitate the “one panel” action dramaturgy of the old school comics. But I agree the movie looked really great and it’s hard to deny that it was a benchmark for the superhero movie genre. It’s an original and probably important movie, but it’s not an endlessly watchable one. In the end, it did as much harm to superhero movies as it did good: The benchmark for what was acceptable in terms of star power, budget and design rose considerably, but it was so successful that for years, everybody thought they have to stick to the Burton formula, which also included all weaknesses, as the expendable villain that died at the end, the aforementioned short action moments, and so on.
    Excellent article, I always enjoy a strong, well argued opinion. By the way, I am much harsher on Batman Returns…

  • Death’s Head

    “I’m of a mind to make some mooky!”

    Still my favourite Batman movie, yes? It’s not a perfect represention of the Batman universe by any means and I can understand why hardcore fans often baulk at it.

    But fuck me, the film looks gorgeous. Even watching it now, when some of the backlot sets clearly show some 80’s production value, it just adds to the charm.

    The performances by everyone are great (even today my interest gets peaked when I see something with Robert Wuhl in it) and the movie is endlessly quotable.

    Danny Elfman’s majestic score is the icing on the cake.

  • jackcolton

    my first introduction to batman in any form beyond the tv show. I was 9 when this came out but I was aware of the massive popularity. I saw queues at cinemas, posters everywhere, tv ads, the merchandise, it was one of my first memories of a movie event. I didn’t see it til later on vhs and I loved it. gothic, dark, gritty, violent, terrific score, cool action scenes. this wasn’t the slightly camp superman in tights that I knew and loved. this was something different, but equally as impressive. probably my favourite Batman movie, with Begins close behind.