Director: Tim Burton
Writers: Sam Hamm & Warren Skaaren
Stars: Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson, Kim Basinger, Robert Wuhl, Pat Hingle, Billy Dee Williams, Michael Gough, Jack Palance
Running Time: 126 Minutes
Why so serious? Whoops, wrong one.
We are kicking off our Batman V Superman-athon here with Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman which will be followed by 1978’s Superman in a couple of days. We are hosting a tournament along with these to find out who wins in Batman V Superman in the movies. At the bottom of the review you can vote for either this film and Richard Donner’s first Superman movie. Batman is a very gothic adaptation of the dark knight that thrusts us into Gotham City where the terrifying Batman (Michael Keaton) is a secretly punishing criminals with mad violence. His existence is denied by the authorities who are pretty much all corrupt, and linked to Jack Napier (Jack Nicholson). He works for a criminal organisation and is having an affair with the mob boss’ wife. Unfortunately for him, the boss (Jack Palance) knows and sends him to an AXIS chemical plant during a raid to set up his death. Jack Napier doesn’t die though, as Batman turns up and Napier falls into a vat of acid, disfiguring him into the super-villain we know as the Joker.
At the same time, mocked journalist, Alexander Knox (Robert Wuhl), and photographer, Vicky Vale (Kim Basinger), team up to investigate Batman, who they believe exists. Things get a little difficult with those two after Vicky Vale falls for Bruce Wayne after they meet at a charity event. While the film has many of the important characters of the Batman comics, it does change things up quite a bit. Obviously the origin of the Joker is very different here along with some of the rules of Batman. As it would make sense, Bruce Wayne is a little bit insane. You would be if you dressed up as a bat and beat up people. Michael Keaton plays the role perfectly, coming off of almost exclusively comedic roles prior to this. He’s got a constant mad look in his eyes and it makes him very fun to watch. I wouldn’t personally put him as high as Christian Bale’s Batman but he’s certainly very good in his own rights. His Batman does have some fantastic fighting skills as well as a full arsenal of gadgets including the grapples, bullet proof suit and the Batmobile itself.
A film is only as good as its villain however, and this film more than delivers. While I really can’t rate him as highly as Heath Ledger’s Joker, Jack Nicholson turns in a brilliant performance as the comically sadistic villain. His looks are scary with his constant, artificial smile and his psychotic personality is excitingly dangerous. He’s electric to watch and the puns are almost on the level of classic Bond films. The only thing is, I’m not a Tim Burton fan. It’s odd as I seem to be the only one who actually really enjoyed Big Eyes from a couple years ago. His gothic style is interesting but rarely for me. There was something about this film that just didn’t get me. I wasn’t absolutely drawn into it and that disappointed me a little having heard so many great things going into it (this was my first time viewing of the film). It’s characters are fun and more than a little bit crazy and there are some clever moments like the opening that deceives us into thinking we’re watching the death of Bruce Wayne’s parents when we aren’t, but there is a genericness to the film behind the dark and kooky visual style.
Summary: While a little straightforward, Batman is an interesting twist on the famous comic book character with a strong performance by Michael Keaton as the mad hero and an even stronger one from Jack Nicholson as the iconic green-haired villain.
Best Performance: Jack Nicholson
Rotten Tomatoes: 72%