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
Vicki Vale's camera flash is timed with several of Batman's punches and kicks. Which is a call back to the "Pow!" and "Bam!" shots from the 1966 show. See more »
(at around 35 mins) As the Joker goes up the steps out of the clinic, he goes through a lighted area and his face is flesh toned and not made up. See more »
I'm sorry, this is my cab.
Listen, I was here first!
[as the cab drives away]
Oh, God! Oh, taxi? Taxi!
See more »
A little song, a little dance, Batman's head on a lance
If you were around in summer 1989 then you'll remember that Batmania was EV-ER-Y-WHERE! You couldn't look anywhere without seeing the Bat Logo in some incarnation. The film was a mega-hit. People were queueing up around the block for hours (the literal meaning of a blockbuster). I remember being in a car, driving up Lothian Road in Edinburgh and seeing a long line of people queuing at the box office of the Cannon Cinema (as it was then) and being jealous that I wasn't old enough to see it. My lot of movies that summer was restricted to Ghostbusters II and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, both of which I saw in Florida. Batman had a 12-rating in the UK, and was upped to 15 for video. This "grown up" rating gave it an alluring mystique as was always the case with such movies to my hungry, impressionable mind.
The marketing team at Warner succeeded in immersing the public consciousness with the big-screen coming of the Dark Knight. Up until this point the Batman series from the 1960s is how the vast majority of the audience regarded the Batman character and universe. Tim Burton corrected all of that by giving us a dark, sinister and Gothic world with rich production design and a great score by Danny Elfman (who has made a career out of recycling the same old generic cues in nearly every movie he has scored). The original material is respected (to a degree), and the characters are deep instead of just campy. Burton also retained a lot of the noir elements that have been present in the old Batman serials and many of the comic books.
Michael Keaton is the best Bruce Wayne in my opinion. He's a rich, socio-phobic megalomaniac who has more money than sense and is often bumbling and clumsy, very different from Adam West's turtleneck playboy. As Batman he's silent and imposing, the polar opposite of Christian Bale's overplayed attempt, which I don't think anyone was really impressed by. Batman needs a counterbalance and I believe that Heath Ledger helped up Bale by accident
Jack Nicholson is a "good" Joker too, not quite as iconic as Ledger's take on the character, but still a role that has defined his career. I like that they acknowledge his intelligence and gave him a new edge by making him artistically gifted, but not much is done with it when it should have been a heavier driving force behind his insanity.
Anton Furst's Oscar-winning design of Gotham City is, to me, THE aesthetic that all other attempts failed to match. The smoke-blackened, cramped, and claustrophobic buildings look and create a very oppressive atmosphere, like a New York City that has not had planning permission for 200 years. The matte paintings are gorgeous and create pure escapism in a way that green screen digital mattes just cannot replicate.
It may not be as mature as Nolan's work but it has an edge that no other recent comic-book movie has. It's just a shame that the late-80s writer strike happened just a few days after Sam Hamm submitted his script to Warner. He was unable to make further drafts and rewrite scenes so Burton had some British writers make changes to the script (it was shot at Pinewood) which involved making Jack Napier/Joker the killer of Thomas and Martha Wayne. Sam Hamm was against this, as well as every single Batman fan on planet Earth. If there is one major, and valid, fault that audiences rightfully complain about then this major change to the established lore is it.
Rightfully a classic, and, aside from some weak writing, it's better than ALL of today's comic-book movies (please just make them stop!). If Batman had failed, then the sub-genre would be written-off forever. It's just a shame that Warner squandered this lightning in a bottle after two movies.
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