Tuesday, February 04, 2014

My Review of Batman (1989)

Written by Sam Hamm and Warren Skaaren
Directed by Tim Burton

Batman: "I'm going to kill you."
The Joker: "You idiot! You made me. Remember? You dropped me into that vat of chemicals. That wasn't easy to get over, and don't think that I didn't try."
Batman: "I know you did."

Well, I did promise to review the Batman movie franchise and of course, I was going to start with the Burton/Schumacher films first. I have to confess while it's the next movie that ultimately is my favourite of the four movies that were released between 1989-1997, this was an impressive start to the franchise that would eventually hit something of a nadir.

It's also a rather dark start as well with the way the entire movie is shot. Even the few scenes set during the day look positively gloomy and the amount of swearing and mild language as well as the casual violence served as a nice reminder that Batman's whole world definitely is a dark one to behold.

As the Caped Crusader, Michael Keaton is undoubtedly one of the best actors to have taken on the role. He embodied a nice charm (and even an edge) to Bruce Wayne and certainly delivered when it came to Batman. It's almost a shame that he didn't actually continue the role post Burton but at least he's a delight throughout the first two movies and his battle with an uncertain Gotham and The Joker certainly made sure the movie moved along nicely.

As The Joker, I actually do think Jack Nicholson is excellent. While I do ultimately prefer Heath Ledger's take on the role almost 20 years after this movie was made, I like that Nicholson embodied The Joker's pure insanity and love for chaos with the havoc he wreaked on Gotham with tampering with products (Smylex) to give the locals the same smiley face (as well as laughing themselves to death) he became cursed with as well as his pursuit of both Batman and photo journalist, Vicki Vale as well.

When it comes to love interests, they can be pretty hit and miss in the Batman franchise (unless you're Selina Kyle). Kim Basinger does a decent job with making Vicki likeable and competent enough as a character and while she's certainly a better formed character than later love interests like Chase Meridian and Julie Madison are, I have to admit, I wasn't overly enamoured with the romance between Vicki and Batman/Bruce in the movie. It's not terrible but it's not particularly captivating stuff either.

However the highlight of the movie will always be the machinations between the Caped Crusader and the Clown Prince. With both of them (ironically) being responsible for each other's respective fates, their final fight in the bell tower of a church is a beautiful written moment, filled with some nice pathos, shocks and witty banter as well with the latter ultimately meeting his demise.

If there's a downside to the first movie it's probably that the supporting characters aren't particularly interesting. It's not so bad when it's incompetent cops such as Eckhart but the likes of Harvey Dent and Commissioner Gordon aren't particularly interesting to watch either. On the plus side, at least Alfred, played by Michael Gough is given some nice moments in the movie. He certainly would be a consistent joy to watch in the subsequent movies as well.

- This movie did come out 50 years after the character made his comic debut. Coincidence or deliberate good timing there?
- I loved the Beauty & The Beast moment with Joker and Vicki in the bell tower. Subtle it wasn't but it certainly was effective.
- Joker's name was revealed as Jack Napier in this movie prior to his transformation. It's interesting that in these four movies we see every villains transformation into their respective alter-ego.
- One of the original drafts was supposed to feature Dick Grayson. Probably way too early to have introduced the character into the franchise. Batman Forever really was the right time to do that.

Starting off this movie franchise, this was a great debut. Dark in the right places with a great Batman and Joker battling each other as well. I might not have watched this as much as it's respective sequel but I certainly enjoyed Keaton's debut in the role a lot.

Rating: 8 out of 10

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