Before the ridiculous Schumacher sequels director Tim Burton brought a great vision to the Batman world with solid story-telling and excellent cast performances.
Billionaire Bruce Wayne has an alter ego as he fights crime in Gotham and finds his first enemy to be the sinister ‘Clown Prince of Crime’.
The genre of comic-book films in the latter half of the 80’s were fading in relevance. There would be a continuation of this trend well into the 90’s but in when “Batman” came out in the summer of 1989 I do not think many people thought Tim Burton would have created such a masterpiece of a comic-book film.
I really enjoyed this film and regardless of whether I grew up watching this one, it is not nostalgia that makes me feel it deserves the rating I gave it. This was a great comic-book adventure that was a seamless blend of an origin story as well as your traditional superhero adventure. Burton clearly embraced the source material and expanded on the world of Batman with a creative eye and a true interest in the theme.
The entire movie never loses its comic-book feel, and it adds many great elements to the story. You cannot really pinpoint the time-frame the story takes place in and this ambiguity adds a high amount of appeal to the backdrops and settings. Burton’s vision for Gotham and the characters living in it were darker in tone and it helps build the anticipation for Batman to clean things up.
Danny Elfman created a magnificent score and it fits perfectly with the look and tone of the film. To this day the music in this one is some of the better that have ever been in the genre. Eflman uses a range of instruments and weaves many foreboding tones to build suspense that blend perfectly into more somber tones to ease the tension. Unlike many other projects that attempt this, “Batman” truly feels like a live orchestra is following along to a film much like a Broadway play. Mix this with a hip and energetic soundtrack from Prince and to this day, the film sounds better than any other comic-book movie that has ever been created.
The script was also well written, it was much darker than the usual, but it was not obsessively violent and showed a good range of detail to create a solid crime story that could build the character of Batman as well as the city he is needed to save. This script was swift in its creation of Batman without lacking information the viewer needs and going back to my earlier comment of this being an origins story at times – something that I thought was enjoyable for building the creation of the films antagonist, the Joker.
I really liked how this story established the Batman character quickly then spent a little more time introducing the world to who the Joker was and why he came to be the violent psychopath bent of destroying Batman. What made this script so enjoyable was that it clearly took itself seriously and wanted to tell a full story without simply relying on superhero screen-time.
The cast was without question the driving force of this films success. Despite the ambitious creativity and effort of Tim Burton, this movie would not have been as enjoyable as it was without the excellent cast performances. Michael Keaton was fantastic and managed to easily deliver the dueling roles of Bruce Wayne and Batman. He was different enough for each persona to give both their own tone and connection to the audience. Keaton was intriguing as the conflicted Bruce Wayne and you can sense it easily with his portrayal.
Jack Nicholson was just as great in his performance of the Joker, he was charming and charismatic and easily pulled off the role of the wildly crazy man. You could still fear his intentions, while laughing at his comical physical performance. Something that I enjoyed given it reminded at times of the character from the comics who was always putting on a gag, but never diminishing his sinister, dangerous mind. Nicholson and Keaton also worked very well off one another and gave the film a solid protagonist/antagonist battle of wills that drive all successful comic-book films.
In the end “Batman” is still one of my favorite films in the genre and even today still holds its own validity despite the impressive trilogy Christopher Nolan recently gave us. The film looks awesome for the time, the wardrobes, settings and locations were all perfect and the elements all blend in with some nice camera-work to create a beautifully dark, but at times colorful retelling of the Batman saga.