Starring: Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson, Kim Basinger, Robert Wuhl, Pat Hingle, Billy Dee Williams, Michael Gough, Jack Palance, Jerry Hall, Tracey Walter
Directed By: Tim Burton
Written By: Sam Hamm, Warren Skaaren
Rating: PG-13 (US) Running Time: 2 hr 6 mins
Prior to this Batman film in 1989, the caped crusader’s most notable screen time had been the hilarious 60’s TV show with Adam West and Burt Ward, and the equally brilliant, Batman: The Movie. Fans of the character however, knew a more serious and darker portrayal was possible and needed, and Tim Burton’s take on the legacy was certain a step in the right direction. Showcasing incredible production design, matte paintings, sets, props and costumes, Burton’s Batman is visually layered and gorgeous to look at.
It’s certainly a darker turn for the character on film, but still set within a fun fantasy environment, where bullets fly and hit their targets, sans blood or damage, and the victims ham up their death throes. Keaton as Gotham’s billionaire playboy by day, crime fighter at night, though initially rejected by many of the comic book fans, turns in a decent and believable performance. Thanks in no small part to a ripped costume, and completely awesome Batmobile! But everyone in this film, from the extremely well dressed Vicki Vale (Kim Basinger), to the sinister mob boss Carl Grissom (Jack Palance), are overshadowed by Jack Nicholson as the Joker. Which was always going to happen. The Joker is arguably the most interesting villain in this comic book universe (and many others), and Jack Nicholson, an acting legend. Great things were bound to happen.
It doesn’t hurt either that his character gets the best dialog in Sam Hamm’s and Warren Skaaren’s fun screenplay. Nicholson’s Joker is playful, colorful, but still sinister enough to be a credible threat to Batman, and the people of Gotham city. The character’s ‘madness’ is delivered in measured doses to maximize its impact, and often comedic value.
This Batman movie successfully introduced the uninitiated to the more serious side of the character, and finally gave the comic book fans a film they could relate to. The occasional poorly paced action set piece aside, this film, with its stupendous score by Danny Elfman and great songs by Prince, is a classic comic book film.
This take on the Batman character is more comic book fantasy versus Christopher Nolan’s graphic novel reality. As such, the violence is very cartoonish and there’s very little blood. This is a PG-13 rated film after all.
Batman is a great looking film, with Tim Burton’s Gothic sensibilities shot perfectly by cinematographer, Roger Pratt. This film works best on the big screen, and at home a HD viewing on your TV is recommended. Watching this on your laptop, tablet or phone is going to spoil the impact of this film.
Best Moment: << mild spoilers >>
When the Joker torches Rotelli (Edwin Craig) with a customized Joy Buzzer during a mob meeting, and then proceeds to have a conversation with the charred corpse! Actually, when Jack Nicholson says anything as the Joker, as he certainly gets the best dialog.
“Batman… Batman… Can somebody tell me what kind of a world we live in, where a man dressed up as a *bat* gets all of my press? This town needs an enema!”