Quick recap: In this installment, Batman battles The Joker (Jack Nicholson). He falls in love as well, but that subplot was a little too Lois Lane and Clark if you ask me and I’d rather just forget that it happened.
Fun (?) Fact: There’s a lot I could put up here, but I’ll just sum it up by saying comic book fans hated this movie.
My thoughts: I’m going to do my best not to compare 1989’s Batman to the later installment directed by Christopher Nolan because this Batman has PLENTY wrong with it without me needing to reference the rebooted trilogy. There is a lot to trash here but I’ll start with Batman himself. I’m not a comic book fan by any means but even I know how complicated a superhero he is. Batman’s appeal comes from the fact that he is burdened by being a superhero. He is the only one to save Gotham City and I would imagine that takes its toll after awhile. But in this movie, everything is neatly wrapped up in a tidy little package. Everything is explained by the end of the movie so that there doesn’t need to be another, except for more chances to sell merchandise. For starters, the movie makes it seem as if Bruce Wayne becomes Batman because his parents were murdered and he has the means to own cool gadgets. It’s like any person with a lot of money could step into this role. And Wayne for his part, quietly enjoys the attention Batman gets. It’s such an egotistical portrayal and turned me off. As for why he chooses a bat as his symbol, in one scene he says that he likes bats because ‘they are survivors’. NO THEY AREN’T. They are nocturnal animals that enjoy caves and hunting for their food. Now, if someone had held a gun to a bat’s head and it got away, THEN it would be a survivor. An animal being itself is not survival.
The character of Batman has been reduced to a rich boy showing off his cool toys. I was especially annoyed during the scene when The Joker puts on a parade with a bunch of balloons filled with deadly gas. Batman gets in his Bat plane and uses a BALLOON SNATCHER on his plane to save the day. WTF?
When talked about, most people mention that this movie’s saving grace is Jack Nicholson playing The Joker and I don’t disagree with that assessment. Nicholson stole every scene he was in and I enjoyed watching his various maniacal plans take shapes. But I wouldn’t call him a joker, per se, mainly because he didn’t tell jokes. If anything, he should’ve been called The Prankster or something. A joker he was not. I have no idea how authentic The Joker’s origin story is in this movie, but once again I felt that it was told too simply. The Joker killed Batman’s parents so it was ok for him to take revenge. The Joker has it in for Batman because early on in the movie he pushed him into a vat of chemicals. I felt like there should’ve been less explanation and just left it that some people are just evil.
And finally- Prince writing songs for this movie? Seriously? I know that it was 1989 and he was cool but didn’t any one stop and think that maybe his sound would be a little dated at some point. Any scene with Prince music became laughable and cringeworthy.
Final review: 2/5. The movie was at best, mildly entertaining. Nicholson was great but then again, he’s sort of known as being the go to for playing ‘insane guy’.
Up next: The Silence of the Lambs or Spring in a Small Town
Hmmm. I understand your points, and I get where you are coming from, but as a person who was obsessed with this movie as a kid, I just had to respond.
You have to view this movie in the context of 1989. Before then, the only screen version of Batman that anyone was familiar with was the campy, comedic series with Adam West from the 1960’s. Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman stunned people because of its darkness. People thought it was really, really black and adult; there had never been a dark superhero film before, and there had never been one that depicted a depressed, troubled superhero. In fact, people thought that Batman in this movie was very psychologically complex. Watch the scene on the roof of the Axis Chemical factory, when Batman is stands against the neon sign that says “Axis.” Tim Burton is pretty much equating Batman with a fascist.
Also, the look of the film was hugely influential, as was the Danny Elfman score. And Nicholson’s Joker was so insane and evil that it took people off guard, because they were expecting a much more clownish figure. The film was the biggest box office hit in history because it was, at the time, a totally unique film, unlike anything anyone had seen before.
None of this excuses the film’s flaws; it’s certainly dated today and the Prince songs (which were forced on Burton by the studio) are embarrassing. But Burton’s two Batman movies were necessary steps on the road to Nolan’s trilogy.
I agree that Burton’s vision of Batman was much darker than the general public was used to and I would even go so far to say that he started the trend of dark superhero movies. I suppose my frustration comes from Batman being portrayed as just some rich guy with a tragic past. The Batman from the comics is non violent ( would never use a gun) and creates his own tools.
If I could erase Nolan’s version from my mind I would’ve given this movie a 4 or 5 but it was just too difficult to do knowing what I know now.
And thanks for commenting! I always enjoy your P.O.V!
Thanks for the thanks!
I think the best way to put it is that Burton’s version (and its even more off-the-beam sequel) succeeded as Tim Burton movies, but not necessarily as Batman movies.
Sorry, that was kind of a lengthy response. I might add that you’re absolutely correct… the film doesn’t hold a candle to Nolan’s incredible masterpiece of a trilogy.
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