Here`s a challenge for you. Go to the twenty people closest to you and ask them who their favourite superhero is. I`m gonna go ahead and bet that around two of them said Superman, while about three more (Including me) said Spider-man. A couple more probably said Wolverine and maybe one said Wonder Woman. One of them probably said Hawkgirl. Disown that freak.
However, I would be willing to bet that the majority didn’t vote for Supes or Spidey, or the Harvey Birdman fetishist up there. No, the majority probably picked a darker, more brooding superhero… One that doesn’t take bullshit from anybody and who does what is right, no matter what the consequences may be. I am talking of course of-
I am talking, of course, about Batman.
Yes, the Caped Crusader, the Dark Knight. It is he who protects Batman from freaks and psychos, armed only with rich people powers and a bat suit, as well as a raspy-as-hell voice that is damn near indecipherable.
However, younger fans may be surprised to know that the Christopher Nolan movies are not the only live-action depictions of Batman that have been done. Setting aside the terrific animated series’, Bats has had a grand total of eight movies. Three have been directed by Nolan, two of them were directed by Tim Burton, while another two were directed by Joel Schumacher.
However, even when a fan who knows of the Burton/Schumacher series will probably do nothing but seethe in rage once it is brought up, because my God, was that series a travesty? Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze? An overblown quota of special effects that does nothing to hide the terrible fucking script? Kid-friendly Batman?! Bat-Nipples???!!!
While all these are definitely reasons to hate those films, I beg the fellow bat-brains to remember two things. First: Don`t blame Joel Schumacher for all of it. The studio bullied him into making the franchise more toyetic after Tim Burton and Michael Keaton left. Second: All those flaws are from Schumacher`s movies!
People spend so much time rightfully hating on the Schumacher flicks that they forget that before those two eyesores, Tim Burton made a couple of pretty fine movies in Batman and Batman Returns. So today, in honour of the fact that I felt like watching Batman yesterday, we will be reviewing the 1989 movie.
So without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, give it up for:
Directed by: Tim Burton
Based on: Batman by Bill Finger and Bob Kane
Starring: Jack Nicholson, Michael Keaton, Kim Basinger, Robert Wuhl, Pat Hingle (RIP) Billy Dee Williams, Michael Gough (RIP) Jack Palance (RIP)
Legacy: Many, many more Tim Burton movies about dark, disturbed outsiders in dark, disturbed environments. God help us all. Also, as always, pissed off fanboys.
Quick plot summary:
Bruce Wayne, a millionaire heir from Gotham City played by Michael Keaton (Whose facial expressions include squinting and….Not squinting) had his parents gunned down in front of him by a mugger when he was just eight years old. Instead of spending his inheritance money on something useful like, say, extra help for his loyal butler Alfred (Michael Gough) Bruce uses his money to dress up like a flying rodent and beat up crooks.
Jack Napier (Jack Nicholson) is a gangster and the right hand man of crime kingpin Carl Grissom (Jack Palance). However, Grissom loathes Napier, as Jack is fooling around with Grissom’s wife. To get back at him, Grissom sends Napier into a chemical plant and sets the cops on him. Batman gets wind of this and shows up too. While Napier`s men are getting shot, Napier is caught by Batman trying to escape. At some point (I kind of zoned out here) Napier falls over the edge and into a vat of acid. Later, somehow surviving the acid that would have killed anyone not named Jack Nicholson, he has to undergo plastic surgery. Unsurprisingly, he is left horribly disfigured. Apparently unhappy with his new look for some inexplicable reason…
… Jack goes insane and murders Grissom and all the other crime bosses in Gotham, calling himself the Joker.
Along the way to the final confrontation, both Batman and Joker interact with other (not) so colourful characters, including Vicki Vale (Kim Basinger) her poor, under-appreciated partner, Alexander Knox (Robert Wuhl) Comissioner Gordon (Who, with all respect to the late Pat Hingle, is no Gary Oldman) and Harvey Dent (Lando!). As Gotham City`s 200th anniversary creeps ever closer, so does the final confrontation between the two eternal rivals…
I remember watching this movie with my dad (A big Jack Nicholson fan) back in the good ol’ days and absolutely loving it. Of course, I was like eight, and eight year olds are retarded, but even so, I kept this movie in high regard all through my teen years, and well I loved Batman Begins, I always thought that this movie was better, for the sole reason that i remembered loving it so damn much.
Now, seeing it as a sixteen year old, I was somewhat dissapointed. For one, the acting is not as good as I made it out to be. Michael Keaton, whom I remembered as being actually a pretty good Batman (And MILES better then George Clooney) is, well, wooden. I can`t really think of another way to describe it but wooden. Very rarely does he display any emotion at all, and when he does, it becomes the hammiest scene in the movie.
As for the other actors, aside from Michael Gough, I didn’t really see any performances that stood out. Kim Basinger is a fine actress, but she seems to be on autopilot in this film. Robert Wuhl was just okay as Knox, Pat Hingle and Billy Dee Williams don’t really have enough screen time for me to give a shit about their roles.
Of course, you’ll notice that I didn’t include Jack Nicholson among those actors. That’s because Jack Nicholson is the Man.
Jack Nicholson absolutely KILLS it as the Joker. Granted, I wouldn’t say it’s as masterful as Heath Ledger`s Joker in Dark Knight, but it’s really fucking good nonetheless. He steals every seen that he’s in, and was even nominated for the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Comedy or Musical. This would be the first and only time that a Batman movie would be called a comedy.
On the other hand, some parts in the movie are just a big middle finger to the franchise. (Spoilers Alert) For example, the scene where Alfred leads Vicki Vale into the Batcave (!!!). What the hell??? That is a total break of character for Alfred, who is supposed to be extremely protectful of Bruce. Also, I don’t feel too hot about the scene where it is revealed that *Gasp!* Joker was the one who killed the parents a long time ago. Giving the Joker a clear identity is one thing. that`s part of what makes him terrifying in the comics, the fact that no one really knows why he does what he does. (Being batshit insane helps too.) Giving him a link to young Bruce just seems unnecessary. A low rate plot twist.
Also, Batman kills like twenty people in this movie. Including the Joker, who he kills in cold blood. Damn, Brucey.
While the plot can be extremely iffy and the performances mediocre, a combination of Jack Nicholson’s performance, Danny Elfman’s soundtrack and the creepy ugliness of Gotham City make this film at least worth a rental.