July 21, 2012

Batman (1989)



"The Dark Knight of Gotham City begins his war on crime with his first major enemy being the clownishly homicidal Joker."

Back in 1989, when this movie was being shown theatrically, I had more important things on my mind such as girlfriends, boozing every weekend, and studying for my first year of University exams. I had no interest in stupid superhero movies meant for little kids, had no idea who Michael Keaton or Tim Burton were, and really didn't have much knowledge about Jack Nicholson except that he was a big name as a Hollywood actor.

It was probably at least another three years before I saw this version of "Batman" for the first time on television. I wasn't overly impressed by it either; in fact, it bored me. I tried to concentrate on it, tried to enjoy Jack Nicholson as The Joker, but, alas, I just wrote it off as a load of old crap.

Having rewatched it this afternoon, I'm still not overly impressed by Tim Burton's "Batman". Given that it's supposed to be a darker and more gothic version of the comic book, it failed miserably at being either.

For a start, Michael Keaton was all wrong for the role. I think any fool could dress up in the stiff, rubber Batman costume and make that part work, but Michael Keaton was way too inconsistent as Bruce Wayne. One minute, he was all jokey and comedic; the next, he was supposed to be resourceful and tough. There's no brooding, no sense of grief about him, and he wasn't very attractive either even for the late '80s. He looked like a dweeb.

Many people have said over the years that "Batman" was really Jack Nicholson's show all the way with Michael Keaton being little more than a supporting player. While there was an element of truth in that, the poorly worked love story between Bruce Wayne and Vicky Vale was supposed to even the balance. Michael Keaton seemed to have as much time on screen as Jack Nicholson, but, because of the lack of chemistry between him and the rather plain-looking Kim Basinger, none of it was particularly memorable. The Joker's side of the story (and his character) was simply a lot more interesting.


Apart from the quite powerful music by Danny Elfman and the look of the movie, there really wasn't a lot to praise in "Batman". Any of the other actors' performances were either too weak or too short to even notice. While Billy Dee Williams almost stood out in a bad way as a totally miscast Harvey Dent, Michael Gough as Alfred just got lost in the maelstrom of weirdness. I'm still not entirely sure what happened to Jerry Hall either.

Jack Nicholson's more horrific and psychotic moments nearly elevated my viewing pleasure to a more adult level, but then too much early Tim Burton-ness crept in and ruined it all. There was a definite lag in the middle of the movie from around the point where The Joker decided to terrorize Vicky Vale for no good reason right up until the useless Batplane scenes. All this, coupled with the shitty pop music by Prince, should have caused me to switch "Batman" off and never return to it. I would have done too if I hadn't wanted to write this review.

When The Joker turned out to be the criminal who killed Bruce Wayne's parents, not only was it unbelievably clich├ęd, but I could feel my will to not kick the TV screen in slipping away. When the big clown balloons appeared looking like prototypes for things from "A Nightmare Before Christmas", I decided to start clipping my own toenails because I knew that would be more beneficial to me than what I was seeing on screen, and would also prevent me from doing what I really wanted to do with my feet.

Having stayed with it until the rather predictable and "Die Hard" inspired end, I feel like I deserve some kind of medal. I hated over 50% of "Batman" with every fibre of my being.

I hate Tim Burton, I hate Michael Keaton, I hate stupid rubber Batman suits which don't allow an actor to move his head, I hate the weather, and, most of all, right now, I really hate "Batman".

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