Gotham City. Crime boss Carl Grissom (Jack Palance) effectively runs the town but there's a new crime fighter in town - Batman (Michael Keaton). Grissom's right-hand man is Jack Napier (Jack Nicholson), a brutal man who is not entirely sane... After falling out between the two Grissom has Napier set up with the Police and Napier falls to his apparent death in a vat of chemicals. However, he soon reappears as The Joker and starts a reign of terror in Gotham City. Meanwhile, reporter Vicki Vale (Kim Basinger) is in the city to do an article on Batman. She soon starts a relationship with Batman's everyday persona, billionaire Bruce Wayne. Written by
The original script featured a bitter rivalry between Bruce Wayne and Knox over Vicki. See more »
The film is set in Gotham City, USA, but the bottle the Joker holds up in his "Smilex" commercial is for a "Moisturising" creme (instead of "moisturizing"), a tip-off that the bottle was created in England, where the film was shot. See more »
I'm sorry, this is my cab.
Listen, I was here first!
[as the cab drives away]
Oh, God! Oh, taxi? Taxi!
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The opening credits run with a 3-D Batman symbol being explored by a flying camera in extreme close-up. See more »
Good attempt to translate the comics to the big screen
In a Gotham City overrun by crime a new menace exists. In the shadows and rooftops a giant bat is terrorising the criminals who live in the night. Elsewhere crime boss Grissom's right hand man Jack Napier is trapped in a chemical factory by police. With Batman's intervention Napier is accidentally dropped into a vat of chemical. Considered dead he later turns up, scarred and twisted with a new sense of humour. Calling himself the Joker he takes over the city's gangs and begins to terrorise the city. Millionaire Bruce Wayne begins relationship with reporter Vicky Vale and finds himself personally drawn into conflict with the Joker as both himself and his alter-ego.
This was very much a huge blockbuster and had a great deal riding on it in terms of merchandising and a possible franchise. As such Burton always seemed like a risk - although his dark toned work and complex characters probably made him a great choice. The film starts promisingly, many questions are asked - is Wayne totally balanced? What drives him to become the bat? etc - and the tone of the movie is darker than a friendly blockbuster. This is continued by the investigation by reporters Vale and Knox, but starts to wane (pardon the pun) with the development of Vale as a love interest and the hamming of The Joker. At some point the film loses the character complexities and decides to become a straight up good v's evil with plenty of effects and gadgets. That said it's still very dark and the set pieces are well handled. In fact it's the best of the Batman franchise so far.
The problem is that it lacks a bite for Batman fans. I've always felt that Batman was always a few steps away from the criminals he's chasing, surely he can't be totally balanced and right in the head? Here these questions are half touched but never developed.
Keaton is an unlikely Batman, but is the best so far. He deals well with Wayne's past when it is brought up, but is an unlikely action hero. Nicholson is pure ham, but is good for it. He hogs all the best lines and is clearly enjoying himself - the only downside being that he regularly eclipses Keaton's Batman. Basinger's Vale is built up far too much and should have been cut out of the story rather than become a key part of it. The rest of the cast are good and I always like to see Tracey Walters in a big screen film!
Overall this is a good stab at the Batman legend. It's dark tone gives it the feel of the comics without the characterisation, but at the end of the day it comes down to good guy v's bad guy.
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