Anthony's Film Review

Batman (1989)

The year 1989 introduces a new kind of Batman, one that is a bit darker than before...

The superhero Batman has existed for decades in comic books, but for the first fifty years or so, the only adaptation of Batman in another medium was the 1960s Batman television series starring Adam West as Bruce Wayne/Batman and Burt Ward and Dick Grayson/Robin. A movie was also spun off from the show, so you could say that the first Batman movie came out during that time. Of course, you may wish to ignore that fact because the movie is just an extension of the show or it doesn't present Batman the way it ought to be. Hence, the Batman movie that many would consider to be the first is one that hit theaters a little more than two decades later.

In 1989, director Tim Burton introduced audiences to a Batman that is closer to reality and further from comic fantasy. That's not to say it's 100% realism. It's more like 60% realism and 40% comicness, or maybe more like 50-50. In any event, it's a far cry from the 1960s Batman TV show. Also, Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne/Batman is a far cry from Adam West in the same role. Keaton's Batman is clearly tougher, though not invulnerable, and his portrayal of Bruce Wayne is one with inhibited pleasantness, which gives the character an air of mystery. While Keaton is not bad here, he appears, believes it or not, to be more of a secondary character rather than the primary character. (In fact, the opening credits mentions Michael Keaton second, not first, in the list of cast members.)

In my opinion, this Batman movie actually belongs to the villain. In a fairly solid performance, Jack Nicholson plays a crook named Jack Napier who soon becomes the Joker after falling into a chemical vat. The character is charming yet dangerous before the transformation, then wacky and creepy after. Nicholson's Joker definitely reminded me of Cesar Romero's Joker on the 1960s Batman show. One difference, however, is that Romero's Joker is virtually all wackiness, whereas Nicholson's Joker mixes some of that wackiness with a dose of menace. We can definitely see that this Joker is what you might call psychotic or insane.

While I'm on the subject of characters, I shall talk about the one other main character in this movie: photographer Vicki Vale, played by Kim Basinger. She joins the Gotham Globe newspaper in hopes of earning a Pulitzer Prize for uncovering facts about the mysterious Batman playing vigilante in Gotham City. Her investigation involves going as far as attending a charity ball hosted by Bruce Wayne and going on a date with him. However, the Joker also has an eye on her. This makes things interesting, because Vicki is now a woman who may be captured by the villain and will need to be rescued by the hero.

If I were to describe this movie in a few words, I would say that it provides action and fun while the Joker gradually carries out his plot of mass poisoning. All of it is good. Not phenomenally great, but still good. The action scenes, involving hand-to-hand combat moments and one vehicle chase, are not bad. In between are scenes that show the Joker's insanity and self-glorification. Overall, the movie is watchable, and isn't really a bore at all. It may have taken several decades for a dark Batman movie to finally come along, but once it did in 1989, it would mark the start of a new era for Batman, not to mention a major movie franchise.

Anthony's Rating:

For more information about Batman, visit the Internet Movie Database.


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