Batman is a 1989 superhero film directed by Tim Burton and written by Sam Hamm. It stars Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne/Batman, Jack Nicholson as Jack Napier/the Joker, Michael Gough as Alfred Pennyworth, and Kim Basinger as Vicki Vale. The movie follows Batman, a masked vigilante from Gotham City, who fights against evil to keep its citizens safe. He must battle Jack Napier, who turns into the Joker and threatens to take over Gotham City. The movie was premiered in Westwood California on June 19, 1989, and it was released by Warner Bros. on June 23, 1989, in the United States.
The film received positive reviews by critics but was criticized for being too dark, however, it was critically acclaimed by the audiences and fans of the series, praising the humor and it's darker, which many of the audience and the fans were considered that the darker tone is the best way to start the Batman movie franchise.
It is almost time for the 200th-anniversary bicentennial festival of Gotham City and for this special day, the city's mayor wants the city safe from all the criminals who run rampant in the streets. It's in this scenario that rumors about a masked vigilante dressed in a bat costume begin to be heard, leading reporters Vicki Vale and Alexander Knox to investigate this mysterious character who seems to be seriously interested in cleaning up the city by himself.
Bruce Wayne, "Batman"'s alter-ego, hosts a fundraiser in Wayne Manor and it is on this occasion that he meets Vicki Vale for the first time falling in love with her. Prior to these events, the notorious mob boss Carl Grissom discovers an affair between his second-in-command Jack Napier and his woman Alice therefore he decides to have his top man killed by the police by setting him up in a raid at Ace Chemicals with the aid of a corrupt policeman.
Batman arrives at the place and during a fight with Jack Napier the latter accidentally falls in a chemical vat full of acid and is presumed dead both by Batman and Gotham City's police Commissioner Gordon.
Unbeknownst to them, Jack Napier has survived what should have been a lethal incident but his appearance is grotesquely disfigured: his face now resembles the one of a clown due to a completely white skin, green hair and a permanent unsettling grin on his now scarlet red lips leading him to call himself "The Joker".
Using his new persona and now completely insane, Jack Napier exacts his revenge on his former boss and manages to take over his criminal empire. Using this new resource, the Joker begins terrorizing Gotham's population with a lethal venom injected in hygiene products but this plan is promptly countered by Batman.
The Joker begins investigating his enemy and casually discover a photograph of Vicki Vale, eventually falling in love with her. Batman's battle against the evil madman has now become personal but it will get even worse when he'll find out something about his nemesis that will make the old but never forgotten ache of the murder of his parents resurface and even more difficult when the Joker hosts the bicentennial festival and is backed up by the greed of the people that Batman is trying so hard to protect.
Why Batman Will Rise
- It's the first dark comic book movie ever made and the one which set the trend of modern dark superhero movies.
- Very good expressionist sceneries that suit the rather dark nature of the comics.
- It features Danny Elfman's iconic musical score which became the trademark "Batman music" used in many Batman related franchises like the Lego Batman video game series and Batman: The Animated Series. The score is a masterpiece and Danny Elfman composed it beautifully. He's just on another level.
- This movie prompted the creation of the extremely popular Batman: The Animated Series (which in turn led to the formation of the DC Animated Universe) and influenced its design.
- Jack Nicholson's Joker is an excellent portrayal of the character due to his blend of spiritedness and insanity, this version of the character influenced the Joker of Batman: The Animated Series.
- Bob Kane has hired as a creative consultant during the film's production meaning that the creator of Batman himself had an important role in the making of the movie. Kane approved the design of Gotham City, Batman's costume, Jack Nicholson's casting as the Joker, and Sam Hamm's script.
- Two cinema veterans participated in this movie: Hammer Film Productions legend Michael Gough as Alfred Pennyworth and western legend Jack Palance as mob boss Carl Grissom.
- Catchy songs by Prince during the Joker's scenes that help creating the weird and unsettling feeling of the Joker being both funny and spirited while still being a dangerous criminal.
- The Joker provides some incredibly entertaining moments also thanks to the intelligent use of harmless-looking deadly gadgets, thus offering a good grasp of the source material.
- The Joker's "commercial".
- Michael Keaton does a good job with his Batman due to his peculiar facial expressions that seem particularly suited for Batman's gloomy attitude. The actor also came up with the idea to perform his Batman voice at a lower register in order to differentiate him from Bruce Wayne, setting the trend for every actor who played the character after him, Christian Bale included.
- The movie doesn't only show Batman as being one who fights and cares for justice: Commissioner Gordon, District Attorney Harvey Dent, and the two reporters are two examples of this, the latter ones especially in the bicentennial festival scene.
- Awesome ending climax during the sequence at the cathedral.
- The movie spawned three good video games: one on the TurboGrafx-16, one on the NES, and one on the Sega Genesis, each one different from one another, an due to being a hit and bringing back the superhero genre, it spawned three sequels: Batman Returns, Batman Forever, and Batman & Robin.
- "Have you ever danced with the devil by the pale moonlight?"
- Alfred letting Vickie Vale in the Batcave nonchalantly is an out-of-character moment for him, even if it is functional to the movie's plot and Bruce Wayne/Batman's relationship with Vickie Vale in particular.
- The film, just like its sequel, doesn't flesh out Batman's backstory to the fullest, only showing a flashback of when Bruce went to the movies with his parents only to be ambushed by Jack Napier and Joe Chill at Crime Alley. This can be ignored, since a lot of people know about Bruce Wayne's tragic backstory, and it was more focused on in Batman Begins.
- In regards to Batman, the movie seems to focus on the Joker more than on Batman, to the point that even Jack Nicholson's name is on both the credits and the poster (see above) before Michael Keaton's.
- Despite that one of Batman's core rules in the comic books is to never kill, this film's Batman doesn't seem to worry about this, not caring either when he kills some of the Joker's goons or when he ties up the Joker's leg to the gargoyle so it drags his enemy to his death hundreds of feet below. However, keep inn mind that Joker's actions did ultimately lead to his death.
- Although it's an integral setting in the comic books, Arkham Asylum is nowhere to be seen here nor in its sequel, which is a wasted opportunity given that its eerie and grim atmosphere could match Tim Burton's style, but as pointed out below, what purpose the Asylum could have if Batman kills his enemies all the time here? This was ultimately rectified in Batman Forever.
Batman was praised by critics and fans of the series, but some critics criticized the film for being too dark, but nonetheless, Batman was widely considered to be the best films before The Dark Knight trilogy. The film currently holds a 71% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 76 reviews, with an average rating of 6.58/10. The site's critical consensus reads: "An eerie, haunting spectacle, Batman succeeds as dark entertainment, even if Jack Nicholson's Joker too often overshadows the title character. Metacritic scores a film a 69/100 based on 21 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale.
Behind the Scenes
- Harvey Dent, who acts as a minor character in this movie, is played by black actor Billy Dee Williams. This casting choice (different from the comics, where Harvey Dent/Two-Face is white) was made with the intention to eventually present the villain Two-Face as a dichotomy of black and white in a sequel. Tommy Lee Jones was later cast as Two-Face in the sequel Batman Forever, much to the dismay of Williams.
- According to some early alternative scripts, other characters like the Penguin, Robin, Silver St. Cloud and Rupert Thorne would have made an appearance in this movie but were later deleted during development.
- The film's theme song actually inspired the NFL on Fox theme.