The Dark Knight of Gotham City begins his war on crime with his first major enemy being Jack Napier, a criminal who becomes the clownishly homicidal Joker.The Dark Knight of Gotham City begins his war on crime with his first major enemy being Jack Napier, a criminal who becomes the clownishly homicidal Joker.The Dark Knight of Gotham City begins his war on crime with his first major enemy being Jack Napier, a criminal who becomes the clownishly homicidal Joker.
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.
- Nov 21, 2000