FFlashback: Batman (1989)

The Dark Knight was reinvented as a brooding, gothic hero in Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman movie…

 

The One Where: An urban legend of a Bat-Man is sweeping Gotham, just as mobster Jack Napier has a hideous accident and is reborn as self-styled ‘homicidal artist’ The Joker. Can Batman step out of the shadows and at long last avenge the death of his parents?

Star Turns: It’s not often remembered now how controversial a choice Michael Keaton was for Bruce Wayne – with fans queuing up outside Warner Bros. offices to protest. Once people saw him in action, though, they realised Keaton gets the character spot on. His is a brilliantly understated performance, with hints at mania underneath, which perfectly plays off Jack Nicholson’s scenery-chewing turn as The Joker (who is also fantastic).

Best Scene: The opening scene is an ingenious play off the well-known Batman origins story (even if this was the first time it was shown on screen) and it cleverly segues into Batman’s spectacular entrance. The swooping. The mist. The music. The “I’m Batman'” line. It is simply a perfect introduction for the first serious take of the character on the big screen.

Verdict: If you don’t expect any fidelity to the source material (The Joker killed who now?!), Batman is a visually-stunning film – one that is probably closer to old-fashioned noir movies than comic books. The story might be slight, but the gothic atmosphere is pitched perfectly and Gotham is suitably foreboding and timeless (everyone dresses like its the 30s but they have 80s hair). There are flaws – Kim Basinger’s Vicki Vale basically screams her way through the film – but Batman is so grand and sweeping it remains one of the definitive superhero films ever.

Holy interesting trivia, Batman! At an earlier stage, the film was set to be directed by Ivan Reitman of Ghostbusters fame. He would have cast Bill Murray as Bruce Wayne!

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4 thoughts on “FFlashback: Batman (1989)

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  1. It’s an odd movie to look back on after Nolan and Snyder. It’s a little camper and source material, pah who cares no one reads comic books. I’m not a Burton fan, he’s a good filmmaker but his work is a little arrogant when he works on established characters. Much like Alice in wonderland and Charlie and the chocolate factory he has his vision and does what he wants, be dammed the cannon. He gives the joker too much play, never developed Wayne or Batman. It’s actually not until batman forever we see any care or interest given to the title character. Burton has said that batman bored him and he liked the villains better.
    It’s a decent movie but gets more difficult to watch the more of a batman fan you are.
    I heard about the Ivan Reitman version it was going to be serio-comic and Peter O’Toole was going the be the joker and be this sad English gent clown figure. Now that would have been interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Burton definitely likes to imprint his own style on his films – I have no idea how he is going to tackle Dumbo, as is his next project.

      I don’t know, I would tend to agree with him. I love Batman’s rogues gallery probably even more than I love Batman (which is quite a lot). But yes you do have to accept that there is less of an emphasis on him here.

      I didn’t know that! That would have been interesting to see. I did hear that David Bowie was also linked with The Joker. He would have been awesome.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s going to be interesting. Dumbo has a lot of weird aspects that could work well with him but he’ll likely do something weirder that’ll alienate me…again.
        I don’t mind shining the spotlight on the villain but make us invested in the hero but developing him rather than just assuming a casual watcher identified with this comics icon.
        David Bowie always seems to pop up in role talks in the late 80s early 90s. Rarely did the rumours come to anything he way just such an amazing artist that everyone wanted to use him they just either didn’t know how or David himself wasn’t interested. He would have been a very interesting Joker.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I guess there are some stranger moments in it but, yes, I don’t think he is a natural fit for the film.

        The movie does seem to be more comfortable when following the Joker than when Bruce is on screen. That said, I have to confess that Keaton is probably my favourite cinematic Batman so I like him anyway!

        Yeah, everyone wanted a bit of Bowie!

        Liked by 1 person

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