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8 reviews

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Movie Details

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Directed By
Tim Burton

Written By:
Sam Hamm, Warren Skaaren

Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson, Kim Basinger, Robert Wuhl, Tracey Walter, Billy Dee Williams, Pat Hingle, Michael Gough, Jack Palance, Lee Wallace, William Hootkins, Richard Strange, Mac McDonald, Philip Tan, John Sterland, Edwin Craig, Vincent Wong, Joel Cutrara, Christopher Fairbank, Bruce McGuire, Richard Durden, Lachele Carl, Rocky Taylor, Keith Edwards, Philip O'Brien, Michael Balfour, Garrick Hagon, David Baxt, Sam Douglas, Paul Birchard, Paul Michael, Pat Gorman, Carl Chase, Liza Ross, Steve Plytas, Jerry Hall, George Lane Cooper, Terence Plummer, John Dair, George Roth, Kate Harper, Del Baker, Wayne Michaels, Leon Herbert, Anthony Wellington, Amir M. Korangy, Hugo Blick, Charles Roskilly, Adrian Meyers, Sharon Holm, Clyde Gatell, Elliott Stein, Denis Lill, Priscilla Cory, Clive Curtis, Rachel Ryan, Kit Hollerbach, Jazzer Jeyes, Valentino Musetti, Jon Soresi

Batman (1989)
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Movie Review by Filmkiller
July 15th, 2008

Dark For Its Day

I'm not sure that there's a movie that polarizes film fans more than Tim Burton's Batman, and it's got little to do with whether it's technically sound or not. Whether you like Tim Burton's Batman is 100% about what you like versus what you don't. You either like a pudgy Nicholson dancing to Prince in the late '80's screaming "he stole my balloons!" or you don't. For my money, it was a cross between Chris Nolan's darker realism - I did like most of the production design - and the '60's campy Adam West number.

As everybody knows, Batman is Bruce Wayne (ballsy, against type choice Michael Keaton) the billionaire who moonlights as the grapple-launching vigilante. In this iteration, the Joker is spawned from mob bagman Jack Napier (Jack Nicholson) who gets dumped in some cartoony toxic waste, bumps off his duplicitous boss Grissom (the always hammy Jack Palance), and adopts the role of the Clown Prince of Crime. Unlike Nolan's two Batman flicks which feature the same bat-love - if not the same actress - the other bat-flicks treated the female characters as Bond girls; this first installment had reporter Vicky Vale (Kim Basinger). The characters interact, though there isn't really much with regards to a plot.

Where to begin?

On a positive note, while Burton's films usually look like clown-diarrhea, Batman actually has a good gothic look for a town called, ahem, Gotham. While not as functional as one would hope, the Batman costume failed to be laughable which was something Adam West's iterations could certainly never state. Though the entire film is mired in a retro look that I don't favor, the Batmobile did look fairly cool as well.

Looking as the glass 80% empty, Nicholson's Joker fails to inspire any real menace. Most of the time you're expecting him to give Batman a pie-in-face rather than a knife in the kidney, what with his 4' long revolver, boxing glove on the end of an extension-accordian, and ridiculous prosthetic grin. His character (and Batman's for that matter) is muddied up with a history that includes being the killer of Bruce Wayne's parents, and his junior high infatuation with Vicky Vale.

Keaton himself was a bold choice, one that worked out far better than I thought it would at the time, but he's still miscast or misdirected. While I appreciate Keaton as one of the sadly underappreciated actors of his generation capable of a wide spectrum, he's not allowed to plumb the appropriate depths of darkness that he later exhibited in Pacific Heights, One Good Cop, and Desperate Measures. His Bruce Wayne also behaves a little too 'new money' for who he is.

If this had been as odd-duck as the first four Batman films had gotten it probably would've been okay but sadly it was the most grounded. I remember it for being dark for its day, but no way was it dark enough for me.

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Jul 17, 2008 3:38 PM
hmmmm I think sometimes that Jack Nicholson's joker is one of my favorite film characters of all time... I understand your point of view though and never really thought about it how he comes across as not very menacing....but for some reason he lines are delivered so well and he is so humerous that I can watch this film over and over again and im not even that big on the Batman series.
Jul 18, 2008 12:41 AM
Well, as I put in the review, "Batman is 100% about what you like versus what you don't." That's as far as I'm willing to compromise on that. I'll tell you what I think of Heath Ledger's version in 6 hours. I've always said that the Joker is probably the hardest comic book villain to visualize; the animated series did well, but even their character (voiced by Mark Hammill no less) would not translate to love action without some tweaks. Visually, Ledger's Joker is where he needs to be.
Jul 18, 2008 12:44 AM
Make that "live" action. : )

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