Batman (1989) – Tim Burton

Batman and the Joker, two sides of the same coin, both created in a moment of violence and both letting it define everything that comes after it…

The 101 Action Movies scores again with this fantastic interpretation of the Batman story by Tim Burton.

Set in a neo-noir gothic Gotham City which features fashions that are both current, and reminiscent of the 40s, the visual style, as well as the brilliant score by Danny Elfman (and some songs by Prince – remember Batdance?) set the tone for the definitive cartoon series the film inspired, Batman: The Animated Series.

Michael Keaton is Bruce Wayne, a bold move at the time, as Keaton was mainly known for his comedy work, and the idea of him as an action hero was kind of mind-boggling.

The casting of Jack Nicholson as Jack Napier, who in turn becomes The Joker, however seemed to be inspired casting, and still is. He plays the iconic villain with a homicidal glee that is reserved for the truly insane.

batThe story introduces all the familiar Batman elements, now served without cheese, Alfred (Michael Gough) butles after Keaton’s eccentric Wayne, collecting misplaced pens and glasses, while watching over his charge. Commisioner Gordon  (Pat Hingle) over sees the police force, which is sadly ripe with corruption, and Harvey Dent (Billy Dee Williams) promises to clean up the crime that is plaguing Gotham City.

Tracking down the elusive Bat that seems to be terrorizing the city’s underworld, is photojournalist Vicky Vale (Kim Bassinger) and reporter Knox (Robert Wuhl).

When Grissom (Jack Palance) discovers Jack is making time with his moll (Jerry Hall), the crime lord sets up his chief enforcer at Axis Chemicals. Batman shows up however, and Jack ends up falling into a vat of chemicals, coming out forever altered and ready to exact revenge on the crimefighter for turning him into a freak.

wayneSo begins a battle of wits and wills, as each both not only for control of the city, but to get the girl as well.

Yes, there are faults in the film, Batman’s cape and cowl constantly change, some of the modelwork is apparently that, but despite that, this one still works as blockbuster entertainment, and I certainly find it more enjoyable than Nolan’s final entry in his trilogy.

It’s dark, exciting, and was the fist superhero movie since the first Superman film that showed that if it was done right, movies based on comic book material could be amazing.

batsFilled with Tim Burton’s dark touches, this Gotham City is a character all its own, towering over its denizens, but kept safed by the Caped Crusader, whether stalking rooftops, tearing up the streets in his jet-powered Batmobile, or patrolling the skies in his Batwing.

Nicholson steals every scene he has, but Keaton’s Batman was the real surprise when I first saw this film at the Little Theater in Bermuda… He pulls it off, I believed he was the Dark Knight.

This one is a great interpretation of the Batman story, no matter how you feel about the Nolan films if you haven’t seen it, you should probably take a look.

What’s your fave Batman moment?


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