Batman (1989)

1989’s Batman was a watershed moment in comic book movie history, just like Superman eleven years before it. It’s a film that’s only grown in stature in the (nearly) 25 years since it was released. I recently watched it again for the first time in a long time, and… well…

Relax. I’m not going to say the film hasn’t aged well. And I’m not going to say that Batman now seems horribly flawed in retrospect. That’s because all of this movie’s flaws were readily apparent when it opened back in 1989. Batman is a testament to how with enough hype, even a fundamentally mediocre film can break box office records and automatically become a “classic” after the requisite number of years have passed.

I clearly recall seeing it the first weekend it opened, after months of relentless marketing to my demographic, after months of my peers wearing Bat-logo T-shirts, after weeks of Prince on MTV riding the wave of Bat-hype with what might be the worst number one single in the history of the charts. And as I left the theater that night, all I remember feeling was “meh”. When you can’t get a teenager excited over a Batman movie, you’ve done something very wrong.

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The 1988 WGA strike began just after screenwriter Sam Hamm turned in his final draft, and that’s more or less what sealed this movie’s fate. Script doctor Warren Skaaren was brought in to do polishes without Hamm’s involvement, and at the behest of the producers and the studio, the screenplay was constantly being rewritten even after filming began. The end result is a directionless, patchwork quilt of a story that often feels like director Tim Burton and his cast just kind of winging it.

Not that telling a coherent story has ever been Burton’s strong suit, but Batman leaves all kinds of plot threads dangling, and contains long stretches of time where it looks like he simply let the cameras roll and told Jack Nicholson to just “be Jack” for a while. The film has a few good moments, but overall, there’s a rough, messy, amateurish feel to the proceedings. Batman might just be the most influential unfinished movie ever.

Batman (1989)

But hey, no one fondly remembers Batman for its finely honed screenplay, am I right? The important thing is that it reclaimed the dark, serious nature of the character, decades after the campy ‘60s show had become entrenched in popular culture. Well, this was important to Batman fans, anyway, who have a tendency to internalize their pastimes to a disturbing degree. It seems many of them bitterly resented Batman being linked with Adam West in the public consciousness, but personally, I loved the ‘60s show, and I never got the anger. There’s plenty of room for different interpretations of an iconic character like Batman, including silly, lighthearted takes, and the problem with the later Schumacher Batman films isn’t that they went for comedy—it’s that the “comedy” was soul-crushingly unfunny.

Of course, that’s only if you buy into what’s become conventional geek wisdom, that Batman was actually all that “dark” in the first place. I don’t think Batman in the 1940s was much darker than his superhero contemporaries, especially keeping in mind that Robin came along just one year after Batman’s introduction in an attempt to make the character more kid-friendly. It really wasn’t until the ‘80s and Frank Miller and Alan Moore that Batman got his current rep for being a grim, self-important, humorless crime fighter (which is why he eventually became perfect material for grim, self-important, humorless director Christopher Nolan).

When it was first announced, there was some initial fear that Burton’s Batman would be just as goofy as the ‘60s show, particularly after Michael Keaton (best known at that point for Mr. Mom and Beetlejuice) was cast in the lead role, causing the expected backlash from Batman fans. That turned out not to be the case, exactly, and now enough time has passed that Keaton in the role seems perfectly reasonable. But even as I write this, I find myself thinking: Burton cast Michael Keaton as Batman? For real?

While I’ll concede that he doesn’t embarrass himself (mostly thanks to stunt doubles, sculpted suits, and darkly lit sets), no way and no how does Keaton look like a man who’s achieved peak physical condition and is out kicking ass nightly. Hell, even Clooney looked more physically imposing in the role. Nothing against Keaton as an actor, but his casting ultimately hurts the film, and more than that, it says a lot about how seriously the director took the character.

The fact is, Burton’s Batman is only “dark and serious” compared to the TV show that came before. Taken on its own, Batman is a pretty silly, jokey film. It’s camp, just not the in-your-face variety of camp. Despite the horror-lite, pseudo-goth trappings of most of his films, Burton is far too precious and quirky to do anything truly dark; the best he can muster up here is various shades of black comedy.

Batman (1989)

We begin in Gotham City with a couple and their young son heading into an alleyway and getting mugged, in a nice little fake-out that makes you think we’re about to see Bruce Wayne’s parents get gunned down. But instead, Batman shows up to deliver a well-deserved beating to the muggers, and we learn he’s just beginning to make himself known to the crime world. And kudos to the filmmakers for mostly dispensing with the standard comic book movie origin story here, which nine times out of ten is boring as hell.

Batman (1989)

Later, the cops arrive on the scene, along with a newspaper reporter named Knox (Robert Wuhl) who’s investigating stories he’s been hearing about a guy dressed up as a bat. He’s sought out by Vicki Vale (Kim Basinger), a photojournalist whose work just made the cover of Time. She wants to team up with Knox on the story (because she has a bat fetish, you see) and the two decide to go harass Police Commissioner Gordon (Pat Hingle) at a charity benefit thrown at the home of wealthy businessman Bruce Wayne.

Batman (1989)

While there, Vicki catches the eye of Bruce Wayne himself and agrees to go on a date with him. And by “date”, I mean they stay at his mansion the whole time and eat at opposite ends of a comically long dinner table. After Bruce’s butler Alfred (Michael Gough) regales them with tales of Master Bruce’s youth, Vicki ends up staying the night.

Batman (1989)

Meanwhile, the 200th anniversary of the founding of Gotham City is approaching, and the mayor (an Ed Koch-lookalike) is concerned that all the mob-related violence of late is going to put a damper on festivities. He wants Gordon and D.A. Harvey Dent (Billy Dee Williams, who tragically never got to be Two-Face) to clean up the town, starting with crime boss Carl Grissom (pushup enthusiast Jack Palance).

Batman (1989)

Grissom’s main man is a former two-bit criminal named Jack Napier (Nicholson) who also happens to be sleeping with Grissom’s woman on the side. Napier seems to have a fondness for a deck of playing cards, particularly the Joker in the pack, but I’m sure this will never become poetically apropos.

Batman (1989)

Grissom orders Napier to handle a job down at the Axis Chemical plant, but it’s really a setup. Grissom has found out about Jack’s affair with his girlfriend and tipped off the police.

Down at the plant, a gunfight breaks out between the cops and Napier’s men. That’s when Batman appears, attempting to apprehend Napier. It’s a curious moment for him to suddenly show up. Batman taking on muggers who attacked a helpless family makes sense. But why insert himself, uninvited, into a situation where the police have already responded? I’m pretty sure an unknown vigilante running around an active crime scene can only make the cops’ lives more difficult.

Batman immediately proves my point when he basically causes what appears to be Napier’s death. Jack shoots at Batman and Batman deflects the bullet back into his face, and as a result, Jack ends up accidentally tumbling over a railing into a big vat of toxic green goo.

Batman (1989)

But as the scene ends, a chalky white hand reaches up out of the waters behind the plant. Jack has survived, and he’s soon paying a visit to a mob doctor to repair the damage done to his face. In a memorably creepy scene, we only see the back of Jack’s head as he unravels his bandages, beholds his new face in a mirror, and walks off laughing maniacally.

Jack heads to Grissom’s office to have his (somewhat misplaced) revenge. And here it’s revealed that thanks to the chemicals and the surgery, Jack’s skin is now chalk white, his hair green, and his mouth curved into a permanent smile, making him look exactly like the Joker in a deck of playing cards.

The Joker shoots Grissom, and in the film’s first bit of abject silliness, circus music plays as the Joker continues to shoot at the dead Grissom, holding the gun behind his back, and aiming it over his shoulder, and so forth. During my first viewing, I distinctly remember this as the moment when I got that “uh-oh” feeling about the movie, where it seemed like things were headed south. Sadly, I turned out to be right.

Batman (1989)

Honestly, up until this very scene, they were doing pretty well. We had mobsters, a mysterious masked crime fighter, a couple of reporters on the case, a dash of city politics, obvious signs of corruption in the Gotham City police force, and just how is this Bruce Wayne guy involved, anyway? But from this point forward, the whole thing falls apart. Most of those plot threads vanish, and all we get is a repetitive tale of the Joker indulging in random acts of mayhem while Batman tries to stop him. I’m guessing this is about where the material from the original screenplay ends, because Knox becomes little more than a bit player, the corruption angle is completely forgotten, Harvey Dent basically disappears, and so forth.

The Joker assumes control of the mob by meeting with the other bosses in a scene where he’s painted his face flesh-colored for some reason. Is he trying to be inconspicuous? Because using a joy buzzer to incinerate one of your rivals is generally not a good way to keep a low profile. And this scene drags on for several minutes after it should have ended, with Jack doing lame shtick with the guy’s charred corpse.

Batman (1989)

The Joker next decides to get into product tampering. After researching CIA nerve gas, he creates a chemical he calls “Smilex” and poisons various household products, leading to random deaths in the city. He even breaks into a news broadcast to do a whole TV ad for “Joker Products”. Naturally, this scares the crap out of the residents of Gotham. Though, wouldn’t this be an issue of national concern, or does Gotham City really produce its own supply of hairspray, cologne, deodorant, and soap?

Batman (1989)

After this, Joker spies a photo of Vicki Vale and becomes infatuated with her. He sets it up so that she’s in an art museum with a gas mask while he puts everyone else to sleep with purple knockout gas (and tell me again how this movie is more “serious” than the Adam West show?). He and his men then enter the museum, with the Joker again wearing flesh-colored makeup (pretty sure they only did this to reduce Nicholson’s time in the makeup chair), and they begin defacing various works of art in a tedious scene that only exists so they can play a Prince song in the movie.

Batman (1989)

I’ll never understand why Prince, of all people, was asked to write songs for the movie. Well, of course I understand the real reason, which is that movie soundtracks were huge business in the ‘80s, and Batman was a Warner Brothers release, and Prince was the biggest artist on the Warner record label, so it all makes perfect financial sense, at least. But who thinks of Batman and immediately associates him with R&B/dance funk?

The Joker sits down with Vicki, revealing that he horribly disfigured Grissom’s girlfriend, and he plans to do the same to her. Luckily, Batman comes crashing down through a skylight to rescue her. And then he just zip-lines out of there with Vicki and takes off. That’s right: Batman doesn’t even bother to go back and catch the guy who’s been poisoning products and randomly killing people. Batman was more than happy to apprehend Napier back when he was just an ordinary hood breaking into the Axis Chemical plant. But now that he’s a supervillain, he’s free to go about his business unperturbed?

Batman (1989)

Batman and Vicki hop into his incredibly impractical-looking Batmobile. The bad guys chase after them, though I can’t even tell you why. Is the Joker trying to get Vicki back? Because later on, he has numerous chances to kidnap her and never does.

Batman (1989)

The Batmobile gets blocked by a bulldozer, so they completely abandon the bulletproof vehicle and take off on foot. What? Why not just tell the guy driving the bulldozer to back up, for god’s sake?

Batman fights off the Joker’s men in an alleyway, then he calls the Batmobile back so he can take Vicki to the Batcave. There, he reveals that he’s cracked the case of the Joker’s product tampering, and he knows exactly which combinations of products are killing people. And then, he just flat out tells Vicki he wants to have sex with her. Smooth, Bruce. Actually, he’s most likely doing this to get a roll of film from her that might reveal his secret identity. Still: smooth, Bruce.

And it’s not until she wakes up the next morning that Vicki calls the newspaper with the solution to the product poisoning case. I wonder how many people died while she was screwing Batman and then getting a good night’s sleep afterwards?

Bruce then decides that Vicki is special, and she needs to know that he’s Batman. He heads to her apartment to tell her the truth, but before he can get around to it, the Joker and his men show up to menace her. This inspires Bruce to grab a fireplace poker and start doing a hilariously non-threatening tough guy act, screaming, “You want to get nuts? Let’s get nuts!” Okay, remind me who thought Michael Keaton was the perfect choice to play Batman?

Caption contributed by Winston

“You want to look for the purple banana till they put us in the truck? Let’s look for the purple banana till they put us in the truck!”

The Joker delivers his now-famous line where he asks Bruce if he “ever danced with the devil by the pale moonlight”, and then shoots him. Satisfied that Bruce is dead, Joker and his men just leave, not even bothering to take Vicki with them. Meaning, they apparently came all this way just to leave her a creepy present (a mannequin hand holding dead roses?) and then take off.

Luckily, Bruce put a silver tray over his chest, knowing ahead of time that a) the Joker would shoot him, and b) he wouldn’t go for a head shot. As far as I can tell, the only reason this scene exists is so Joker can say the “pale moonlight” line.

Next, the mayor goes on TV to announce that Gotham’s 200th anniversary festival has been canceled due to all the violence and bedlam, but the Joker breaks into the broadcast to say he’ll be having his own festival, with floats, and giant balloons, and blackjack, and hookers! And, oh yeah, he’s also going to give out $20 million in cash, because apparently the product tampering business is more lucrative than it seems.

In the Batcave, Bruce watches this and then flashes back to the night his parents were murdered. He suddenly remembers they were shot by a guy named “Jack” who also said the “dance with the devil” line.

Batman (1989)

Yes, in the lamest moment of the movie, it turns out a young Jack Napier killed Bruce’s parents. I really don’t get why they felt this plot twist (which isn’t based on anything in the comics) was necessary. Was the random poisoning of innocent people not enough motivation for Batman? Sadly, this crappy “twist” got imitated in other superhero movies (the Sandman killed Uncle Ben??) and it’s lame every time. Making this stupider is how they cast an actor who looks and sounds nothing like a young Jack Nicholson, and he even has blue eyes. Hmm, if only there were some way to know what Nicholson looked like when he was younger

And that’s when Alfred takes it upon himself to bring Vicki into the Batcave. 25 years later, this still stands as one of the dumbest things a superhero side character has ever done. Who was the standup comic who did a whole routine about Batman sitting Alfred down and patiently re-explaining to him who is and isn’t allowed in the Batcave? Because that was gold. They even ended up adding a line to Batman Returns where Bruce sarcastically lashes out at Alfred because of this.

Batman (1989)

So Vicki knows Bruce’s secret, but he’s got no time to do the boyfriend thing. Now that he knows the Joker killed his parents, Batman goes on an all-out assault on the Joker’s hideout, which also happens to be the Axis Chemical plant. How long did he know the Joker was hiding out here? Because I have to wonder why didn’t he do this sooner.

Batman (1989)

However, the Joker wasn’t even inside the plant, meaning Batman just murdered a whole bunch of goons for no reason. Soon, the Joker is on a float riding through town to the tune of another Prince song. As promised, he’s making it rain, but it seems his real plan is to kill the gathered crowds with poison gas canisters affixed to giant helium balloons. Just out of curiosity, why aren’t the police already swarming the area, trying to stop him? He did give them advance notice, no?

Batman arrives in the Batplane he suddenly has, using it to cut the balloons free and release them high in the air, and this is about the point where I zone out hard. All we get is Batman flying around aimlessly, and Vicki Vale driving through unruly crowds, and nothing else is going on, and somewhere in the middle of this monotony, the Batplane flies up above the clouds just to imitate the Batman logo.

Batman (1989)

Finally, Batman decides to directly fire upon the Joker, but even while blasting away with multiple rockets and machine guns, he can’t put a scratch on him. And then the Joker pulls out a really long pistol, fires one bullet, and completely takes out the Batplane. I don’t have to explain why this is dumb, do I? I’m pretty sure that after 25 years, the dumbness of this is appreciated by all.

Batman (1989)

The big finale involves the Joker dragging Vicki up endless stairs to the top of an insanely tall cathedral, in what I can only assume was a deranged homage to Alfred Hitchcock. Once they all get up there, the Joker waltzes with Vicki while Batman fights his henchmen, casually killing a couple of them, and I have no idea how Joker’s henchmen made it to the top of the cathedral before he did. And then, in a truly uncomfortable moment, Vicki distracts the Joker by going down on him, apparently, allowing Batman to take him by surprise and start pounding the crap out of him.

Batman (1989)

Eventually, they all end up on out on a ledge, with Batman and Vicki hanging on for dear life. The Joker’s goons arrive in a helicopter, lowering a ladder for him, but Batman uses a Bat-grappling hook to tie the Joker’s leg to one of the cathedral’s gargoyles. This causes him to fall to his death, meaning Batman not only basically murdered the Joker in cold blood, but he also tried to make it look like an accident.

Batman (1989)

Somehow, this convinces Commissioner Gordon that Batman is on the side of the police, and the movie wraps up with him unveiling the brand new Bat-Signal.

Batman (1989)

It’s a lackluster film, but I can’t totally dismiss it. The first act (basically, everything leading up to Napier becoming the Joker) was actually rather well done. And the cast is generally likeable, even when they’re not given much to do. Nicholson more or less saves this film with his various memorable quips on subjects ranging from “rub[bing] another man’s rhubarb” to whether or not Gotham City needs an enema. Though, one must admit, most of these quips are non-sequiturs dropped into scenes where they have little to do with anything that happens before or after.

Also, the art design was groundbreaking for the time, with Gotham presented as a city of Fritz Lang-esque architecture, a beautifully hideous combination of retro sensibilities and modern technology. But with all the art deco interiors and old-fashioned gangsters and fedora-wearing going on, I don’t know why they didn’t just make Batman a 1940s period piece.

Batman (1989)

Ultimately, the story is hopelessly banal; a large chunk of this movie is little more than Batman and Joker fighting over a woman. And disappointingly, the movie never feels like it’s reintroducing us to the Batman character. It’s taken as a given that you know who Batman is, and that Bruce Wayne is Batman. And the truth is… you probably do. And you probably know Clark Kent is Superman too, but 1978’s Superman still had that great moment where Clark ripped open his suit to reveal the big red S for the first time as if it were a stunning reveal.

Batman is missing a similar moment, which might not be the worst oversight in the film, but it is the most telling; Clearly, Tim Burton had no real wonder or excitement about the character (he certainly didn’t seem overly concerned about whether or not Batman should be killing people), and as such, he was probably the wrong guy to direct this movie.

But given the insane amount of money it made, Burton was naturally offered the opportunity to direct the sequel. Batman Returns was a moderately better film, and yet, much worse when you take into account that they didn’t have the excuse of a writer’s strike to explain away the movie’s lack of coherence. There was just as much stupid stuff (an army of penguins with rockets strapped to their backs? really?) and just as many ill-advised attempts at humor. This, frankly, is why I don’t bear any ill will against Joel Schumacher for what he did with the franchise. He was really only amplifying the silliness that was present in this series from the very beginning.

But the real legacy of this film is how it singlehandedly ushered in the age of front-loading. Batman made it to $100 million in record time, then completely dropped off the map. Compare this film’s box office performance to Superman, which was the number one movie for ten weeks. Nowadays, the strategy has become: market the hell out of your movie, get it into tons of theaters, and pray that you make your money back before word of mouth gets around. Batman may not have invented this formula, but it sure as hell perfected it.

And with that, all the Batman feature films have been reviewed on this site. And it only took us 11 years! But this is most assuredly not the end of Batman movies being dissected and re-dissected on the Agony Booth. With seven mediocre films (and counting!) that have somehow become pop cultural touchstones, I’m sure we’ll all be reviewing Batman… forever. See what I did there?

Tag: The Batman Films

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  • Sir Raider Duck, OMS

    For years, I’d thought the original Burton Batman a classic (I’d only seen it the one time in a theater). Then I finally bought a four-pack of the original quadrilogy on sale, popped the first one in and fell asleep halfway through, but not before repeatedly thinking “I don’t remember it being this boring.”

    • CaptainCalvinCat

      Funny, this is how I felt with “Batman begins”. ^^

  • rizzo

    For all of that it’s still better than the Nolan movies, and Nicholson’s Joker is second only to Hammel’s. Good enough that the Ledger totally copied him for the new movie.

    • tedzey71

      This… I can’t agree with. Ledger’s Joker is a great combination of all the elements of the character’s past. Added on the fact that both characters have different motives. Ledger is just a force trying to spread anarchy since he feels it’s part of nature’s course. It’s a murky motivation, but still something. Nicholson just… sort of goes crazy poisoning people and screwing with museums. It isn’t trying to prove a point like in “The Killing Joke” where any sane person can cross the line and be as horrible as him. Just… doing stuff. Dismissing it as just an imitation of Jack Nicholson’s performance undermines what’s great about the character.

      • Ricardo Cantoral

        I thought the motivations of Nicholson’s Joker were closer to the character. He wanted chaos and made no declaration about it, he just did it. Ledger as The Joker talked too much. Still, I have to give the edge to Ledger because the performance itself is what made him such a gripping character.

    • doc

      Wait, what? Am I reading that correctly? Are you sure you haven’t been watching some funny or die youtube fan made batman movies loosely based on the Nolan movies using Nicholson footage in place of ledger footage? You’re out of your fracking mind.

  • Doc Skippy

    Boy, this movie was SOMETHING when it came out in ’89. As a 12-year-old boy at the time, I was probably the perfect target audience for it, and I do remember liking it in that sort of undifferentiated way kids like things. I didn’t watch it again for well over a decade, and when I did, I was amazed, as Dr. O’Boogie notes, how mediocre a flick it is. My jaw dropped at the scene where Keaton (as Bruce) threatens the Joker with a poker. Why is he doing that? That same question can be asked of quite a few characters at various points in the film.
    One quick off-topic Batman Returns story: that movie came out on or pretty near my friend’s birthday, and as he was unhealthily obsessed with Michelle Pfeiffer at the time (I don’t get it either), he forced us to go see it not once, but twice. Let me tell you, when the movie started up for the second time, I was about as desperate for escape as I’ve ever been in a movie theater.

    • Stubris

      Wait what?!?…you don’t understand why a teenage boy would be obsessed with Michelle Pfeiffer in 1992???

  • Mike

    “I don’t think Batman in the 1940s was much darker than his superhero contemporaries, especially keeping in mind that Robin came along just one year after Batman’s introduction in an attempt to make the character more kid-friendly.”

    Say what? Are you forgetting that Batman made his debut in 1939? The very decision to add Robin in order to get more young readers, seems to suggest the character WAS darker compared to other comic book of the time!
    Maybe not as dark as character in many hard boil pulp fiction magazines of the 1930s or possibly even much darker than characters like Dick Tracy who debuted in newspaper strip form, but for character created originally for comic books (which were itself a rarity at the time) Batman certainly had a more ominous presence and ruthless approach when he showed up in the pages of Detective Comics. He carrying a gun at first (!), but criminals had a nasty habit of falling to their death in early stories without him showing much concern
    He even didn’t have backstory at first. They eventually choice to make him an orphan so he might be a little more sympathetic to readers, if not to other characters. It’s possible they feared without a side character for kids to relate to making Batman more of a father figure, those reader would grow to find him completely unlikable.

    • Robin was added after only 8 comics because the darker tone really wasn’t selling as well as Superman and other more light hearted stuff. The original Batman character was drastically reformed very quickly, he was not a very established franchise that they rebooted… like they do now.

      And even when he was dark, those comics are not well written by today’s standards. Holding them up as definitive blueprints for a movie really would not work.

      • Mike

        I agree that we can’t expect movie adaptation of anything franchise more than fifty years to follow the earliest versions. Of course the oldest ones are (probably) not going to be on par with the modern writing standards of any medium, especially when where talking about works in a medium that was pretty much in it’s infancy at the time. I just found it strange for Winston to say that Batman is only ‘imagined’ to have been darker than Superman from his inception. A close comparison of there respect first appearences only suggests otherwise.

        • Superman was actually a lot darker in tone than people remember. Too much dark vs light stuff is based on costume coloring rather than content. Superman kidnapped people, coerced confessions, and fought wife beaters in his early days. It was really the silver age when Superman became really light in tone, but only when compared to Marvel comics of the era.

  • Mike

    “But the real legacy of this film is how it singlehandedly ushered in the age of front-loading. Batman made it to $100 million in record time, then completely dropped off the map. Compare this film’s box office performance to Superman, which was the number one movie for ten weeks. Nowadays, the strategy has become: market the hell out of your movie, get it into tons of theaters, and pray that you make your money back before word of mouth gets around.”

    Taking a quick look at box office mojo, I find this claim overlooks several factors. First, although Batman (1989) did quickly drop from the number one spot, is stayed in the top 10 for 13 weeks. Two, it was still the highest grossing film of to out that summer. Three, Superman (1978) was released at years end in a year when fewer other action-fantasy films to compete with. And most importantly four, the summer of 1989 remains one the biggest summer for mega hits in history! Simple put, ticket sales did not dip far and fast so it’s hard to believe the negative word of mouth really kept this movie from being a “quick” money maker built more on mass hype and wide premiers.

  • John Wilson

    The “Dark Knight” trilogy had as many problems, and it wasn’t even light hearted about it. Nolan movies turned into lame political metaphors. At at least the old movies were under 2 and a half hours. I take light hearted camp over cheesy darkness anyday

    • CaptainCalvinCat

      You say it, John, you say it. ^^

  • When I first watched this I was 5 and mostly found it boring. I had no grasp of the politics, corruption, I actually confused Gordon and (whatever the fat corrupt detective was named) because all I saw were two fat guys.
    I had no idea what was going on.

  • Gallen_Dugall

    You give the first part of the film too much pass. Robert Wuhl’s Knox character couldn’t leave the film fast enough for me as almost every line he has (“king of the wicker people”) makes me want to throttle him.
    To speak in Keaton’s defense I think he is the only actor to yet play the role that understood Bruce Wayne is the fake persona that Batman occasionally gets lost in.

  • $36060516

    I waited in line with my friends for the earliest showing of this film in my city, a midnight showing at the start of opening day, and I had essentially the same reaction to and disappointment in it you did.

    That out of the way, random notes:

    The guy who played young Jack Nicholson (Hugo Blick) actually went on to write and direct a recent British miniseries that was a much, much better and darker crime story than this movie. It’s called “The Shadow Line,” with Chiwetel Ejiofor, Christopher Eccleston, and Stephen Rea as a truly memorable and creepy villain.

    You ask why Prince was selected to create music for this film and gave some good reasons for it. Another reason you didn’t mention was something that “Mr. Plinkett” mentioned about the Star Wars prequels — Samuel Jackson was brought in as a Jedi for demographic purposes because the rest of the movie was mostly full of white people and they wanted some prominent aspect that widened the potential audience for the film beyond white Star Wars nerds. Likewise, Prince was possibly brought in to expand the Batman audience into a market beyond white comic book nerds. I agree that “Batdance” was horrible and didn’t remember it went to #1.

    The only thing I really like that came out of this movie was that one of Jack Nicholson’s lines in the movie later inspired and was quoted in a great song by Hot Chip, “Ready for the Floor,” which has a music video also inspired by the film:

  • Hal_10000

    A few nitpicks.

    “And then, he just flat out tells Vicki he wants to have sex with her. ”

    I don’t think this is right. Batman says, “there’s something else you have that I want” and then raises his wings and the screen goes dark. She then wakes up in her apartment and realizes that he took the film she shot of his exploits as Batman. My interpretation of the scene was that he knocked her out, took the film and dumped her off at her place, no sex involved.

    You also left off a key element of Vicki going to the Batcave, which is that she realizes that Bruce Wayne is Batman and then goes to talk to Alfred.

    Overall, I have a higher opinion of the film mostly due to Burton’s directing. But I agree with most of the plot problems you identify. I know a number of long-time fans who were outraged that Batman a) killed a bunch of goons; b) deliberately killed the Joker and c) shot up a street in his batpod with lots of innocent civilians in the way.

    • $36060516

      A lot of people consider it more violating and inappropriate rather than less when a man wearing a mask knocks out a woman (presumably you’re talking about some sort of sleep-inducing roofie and not a blow to the head), kidnaps her, breaks into her home, and steals her property than if he states he would like to have consensual sex with her and happens to nab a roll of film on the way out after a night of mutually enjoyable physical and emotional intimacy.

      Or, at least that’s what my parole officer tells me.

    • mamb

      Also remember that Bruce Wayne had just told Alfred that he was on his way to tell Vale that he was Batman. Neither men knew that Joker would interrupt that telling. So when Vale turns up at Bruce’s mansion, Alfred had no reason at all to assume that she didn’t already know the truth. So why NOT let her see Bruce in the Batcave when she asks where he is because she wanted to talk to him? As far as he’s concerned, she already knows he’s Batman and knows that Bruce loves her, and thus no reason to pretend he’s “not home” or whatever excuse he’d normally use.

      As for the sex, yeah, literally next line is when Vale’s waking up and says “Ugh, he took the film”, so that was the obvious thing he “wanted”. The sex was supposed to happen AFTER he told her the truth about his identity…but Joker stopped that cold.

      BTW, if you want to know why he’d do something so stupid as to threaten Joker with the poker, consider that he had NO plan, NO escape, had his lover threatened by a madman, and was dealing with an egotist. doing nothing was guaranteed death for him, but by at least appealing to his ego he gambled that he’d go for the chest shot…so the guy sold watch the man who killed him laugh. Remember, Batman studied Jack Napier’s psych profile…he knew where he’d aim.

      As for the rest of the nitpics, makes sense to me. Joker literally states at the beginning “we’re going to run this city into the ground”. THAT’S his entire motivation…not Batman, not Vale, just sheer destruction of the city through random chaos and terror. Hell he doesn’t even CARE about Batman until after hour 1 and barely knows who he is at all outside of a curiosity that happened to disfigure him! and he LIKES his disfigurement once it snapped his mind. Why people think he had more of a plan than this is beyond me.

      Speaking of snapped minds, notice how Joker portrays almost every mental illness at one point in the movie? (hearing voices, delusion, OCD, ADHD, etc…) Nickolson’s acting really shines if you know where to look…

      As for “why Joker chased Batman after the museum”, he said ‘Get those wonderful toys”. This wasn’t a laminating on the cool stuff Batman had, he was telling his men to “go get those toys” because he liked them. he didn’t even know who batman was at that point, but he knew he had something he wanted…the grappling gun.

      Batman leaving Joker untouched? He’s outnumbered completely, and the lives of millions are at stake (Vale’s the only one he trusts to report on the cure to the poisoning) as well as the life of a girl he likes. Who NOT run for it while you still have the element of surprise and dozens of guns pointed at you both? He can always deal with napier later on once the immediate threat is gone. Sometimes the consolation prize is all you get.

  • MichaelANovelli

    “But who thinks of Batman and immediately associates him with R&B/dance funk?”

    Um, someone awesome?

    • John Wilson

      So true. Many movie soundtracks today, while good, are preatty samey. I would like more pop/funk music soundtracks:)

      • Jerome Cloutier

        “I’ve seen the future and it will be…” god damn fucking Hanz Zimmer dundundundundundundun as far as the ear can hear. IN EVERYTHING. Prince anytime, thanks.

  • Alexa

    I think the best Batman movie, and the one I watched the most when I was a kid was Batman: Mask of the Phantasm. But I will admit that without this movie in particular we wouldn’t of had B:TAS and its subsequent movie, and for that I appreciate it a lot. But still not a major fan of this film but I like that its at least having some fun as opposed to the sloggish Nolan movies, which tried so hard to make a serious and “realistic” version that it became kind of comical itself in the end. Sorry but that voice by Bale is so hard for me to get over and enjoy the film, and the pacing of DK didn’t do the movie any favors either. Really the only thing I liked about DK was Ledger because he looked like he was having fun, even though his character was less Joker and more Riddler in some respects…

    • Ricardo Cantoral

      I am so glad people are starting to realize the genius of Mask of The Phantasm. It’s the only Batman film that is honest-to-god ABOUT Bruce Wayne. The other films only are about the concept of the character, they hold him at arms length.

      • Alexa

        Well people always say that Batman is who Bruce Wayne truly is and Bruce Wayne is the mask that he puts on for other people. But yeah it was nice to get some insight into Bruce Wayne as a person, but generally I agree with that assessment of Batman overall, it makes a good amount of sense.

        • Ricardo Cantoral

          And what’s even better is that for once, it was not “GOTHAM CITY IN DANGER !”. It was purely about Batman’s reputation. It’s all about Bruce, his love, his pain, and his tragedy. Burton, Schumacher, and Nolan never got this deep.

          • Alexa

            They got kind of close, but yeah Phantasm was the most deep and personal it seems in regards to the character. All they do in the live action films is kind of touch upon it and then make really weird and complicated films plot wise and try to pull it of as “deep” when its just kind of superficial in a way. Plus a another good insight into the character came in the episode of B:TAS “Perchance to Dream” where the plot is about him battling what he wants in life, a fantasy, and having to accept, the reality. This is probably the deepest a media adaptation got as well, but some can’t take it seriously because its a cartoon. *eye roll*

  • You make an interesting point. This is one of my top 5/10 superhero films, but pretty much everything I love is from the first half. This is Joker’s story, not Batman’s. As you mentioned, Batman is pretty much assumed to be known to the audience – which is something I like about the film – but it keeps the focus from being on the titular character.

  • Cameron Vale

    I disagree with far too much of this, so I’ll just quibble with a random point. Keaton’s Batman is by far the best. He’s believable as a vigilante held in awe by criminals and civilians alike, but equally believable as a civilian alter ego that no one would ever suspect of being the same guy, yet absolutely is that exact same guy. That’s better than anyone else did.

  • CaptainCalvinCat

    I have to admit, that I like the Idea, of “the Joker” being the killer of Martha and Thomas Wayne more, than them being killed by “just a guy” named Joe Chill. After all, that makes it more personal.

    • The_Stig

      The thing is though, Joe Chill isn’t ‘just a guy’. Sure, in the story he’s just a random street punk but what he truly is and what he represents is crime itself. That Joe Chill was just a small time mugger is the beauty of Batman’s origin. Nobody targeted the Waynes that night, Thomas Wayne didn’t cross the wrong crime boss. The only thing they did was to go see a movie. They died for a string of pearls and the contents of a wallet. Their murder was as random as it was senseless. It’s because his parents’ murder was so senseless and without rhyme or reason that angers Bruce Wayne and that is why he resolved to train himself for a one man war against crime, By taking away the pointlessness of the murder at the hands of some random street punk and making The Joker into the guy that pulled the trigger you turn what should be an unquenchable and neverending thirst for justice that goes beyond the red tape that binds the police’s hands into the typical boring “You killed my x and now you’re going to pay” revenge story we’ve seen a billion times.

      To paraphrase Keaton’s Batman successor Val Kilmer from Tombstone, “It’s not revenge Batman is after. It’s the reckoning.”

      • CaptainCalvinCat

        Bruce didn’t know, that that random crook, who killed his parents was a young Jack Napier until the midth or three-quarters into the movie. So, to him it was this street punk all the time – that random guy – and that’s what is sending him on his journey.
        Unless Joker tells his famous line – that’s what triggers the memory for Bruce and… to be honest: I think, that this story makes sense.

        What happened to Joe Chill? Well – due to a short wiki-research, there are some variations of the Story, in which Joe Chill is never named as the killer of the Waynes , in some versions, Chill is the killer and in some of them, in which Chill is the killer Bruce decides to revenge his parents. In one or two he decides not to do so, because Chill was just a man , who wanted money or because Chill was gunned down (like in Batman Begins) by someone other, but in “Begins”, Bruce had a gun and wanted to kill Chill himself.

        So – even there, there is a boring “You killed my x and now you’re going to pay” revenge story, that we have seen a billion times before – at least aspects of that.

        What changes, when it is known, that the Joker is – in this outing – the killer of the Waynes?
        Answer: Not that much.
        Bruce finds out about it, when he is already “at war” with the Joker. Sure, yeah, it ends with the Joker being killed, but on the other hand – that is pretty much his own fault.

        A) when you want to retreat – you DON’T go in the nearest church with the highest-possible-clocktower!!!
        B) When Batman wants to help you – yeah: he puts you in jail… But you don’t try anything stupid there.Granted – Bats tied the Joker to the Gargoyle, that pulled him down… that making Bats a bit more fierce.

        And for Bruce it is more or less about justice – if it hadn’t been, do you think, after the Joker was killed, that he would have put on the Batsuit once again and had stood on the rooftop, reacting to the batsign?
        Of course not – then he would have returned home, with Vicky, they would have treated his and her wounds etc.

  • Adam Bomb 1701

    The “Ed Koch lookalike” actor was Lee Wallace. In a nicely prescient bit of casting, he played New York City’s mayor in the first (and by far the best) film version of “The Taking of Pelham One Two Three”. That movie was released in October, 1974 – three years before Koch was elected NYC’s mayor.
    Didn’t Billy Dee Williams take the Harvey Dent role with the expectation of becoming Two-Face in a (then-prospective) sequel? IIRC, Williams had to be paid off to allow Tommy Lee Jones to assume the role. (I’m supressing the urge to vomit over that one).
    Nicholson earned for his Joker role what was (and still may be) the highest payday for one film – some $60 million. He had a piece of the merchandising, and he also had a piece of “Batman Returns”. Which he didn’t even appear in.

    • Ricardo Cantoral

      Oh shit, That was him in Pelham One Two Three ? I should have recognized him ! Great thriller.

  • Ricardo Cantoral

    “And this scene drags on for several minutes after it should have ended, with Jack doing lame shtick with the guy’s charred corpse.”

    Oh, I disagree. That scene pays off and was very creepy. Joker talking to a charred corpse ? What’s not to love ?

    “Batman and Vicki hop into his incredibly impractical-looking Batmobile.”

    How exactly is it “impractical” ? And more to the point, why should any super hero be practical ? They aren’t suppose to be practical or realistic, they are suppose to be larger than life. I am getting sick and tired of the nit-picking that goes on amongst fans. That is why comics today are so dreary and boring.

    • Alexa

      But I can’t relate to the character if every little detail of how everything works isn’t explained and has to be on some level “realistic”…

      But seriously I too am really getting tired of people claiming superheroes aren’t relatable because everything isn’t always logical or has realism to it. I had no trouble getting into superhero stories before the Nolan films, its called the DCAU. Plus I don’t remember the term “realistic” involved the mood being more dour than a David Fincher film, and even in those you have to bend logic for the stories to work.

      • Ricardo Cantoral

        I think the criticism that can apply here is how it all works as a film. Batman is a generally sloppy film and I think “O’Boogie” here is correct in pointing out that it falls apart when Jack becomes Joker.

        • Alexa

          True, but focus on the whether the story works as opposed to whether things are practical or “realistic”. If you establish a world and build upon it then things can make sense, because you established that world’s rules, and from there you are just going to have to suspend your disbelief to a degree. For me at least, I don’t need to be spoon fed every single detail on how everything works I can just draw my own conclusions and enjoy the story and characters, if these things are written well. And as I said before I am not a big fan of this film but it at least had the decency to embrace some other worldly qualities that I sadly missed in the Nolan films, even though I will contest Ledger made for a good Joker.

          • Ricardo Cantoral

            Nolan’s Batman verse sorely needed some color.

          • Alexa

            Indeed, and that was also sadly the case with Man of Steel as well.

  • Richard Davies

    I remember almost all my friends got into Batmania, but I didn’t get round to seeing it, mostly because I went on holiday & then was starting a new school.

    It seemed really odd compaired to the Adam West version, as this was the best known to most people who hadn’t read the comics.

    It was one of the 1st films to get a 12 rating in the UK, with some questions asked about the amount of violence in it.

  • The_Stig

    “But why insert himself, uninvited, into a situation where the police have already responded?”

    It probably has something to do with the fact that the lead cop on the scene, Lt. Eckhardt has been shown to be a dirty cop who’s in Grissom’s pocket.

    Also there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation why The Joker doesn’t just kidnap Vicki Vale when he has the chance: THE JOKER IS CRAZY. He wants Vicki to fall in love with him, not to have her as a hostage.

    But yeah, most of this movie is REALLY silly.

    • Batfan

      “If we could get our hands on [Napier], we’d have Grissom.” -Commissioner Gordon.
      Like you said, Eckhardt is a dirty cop who is there to KILL Napier, and Batman shows up to capture him for the police so he’ll give up some dirt on Grissom. He’s trying to put a stop to organized crime in Gotham by going after the boss. His interference arguably made things worse though.

      • John Berndt

        Agreed, the reason he interfered seemed clear cut to me. Batman knew Eckhardt was a dirty cop, particularly when Gordon says “Oh my God” when he finds out that it is Eckhardt who was on the case.

  • akoops79

    “… while he puts everyone else to sleep with purple knockout gas (and tell me again how this movie is more “serious” than the Adam West show?). ”
    I always thought it was deadly gas, and he basically killed everyone in the restaurant. Is there any indication in the scene one way or the other?

    • Ricardo Cantoral

      The first ones that fell victim of the gas have to be the worst acting extras I’ve ever seen. They go like “Huh ? Huh ?” *faint*.

    • mamba

      Many of the people in the restaurant fell to the table eyes wide open and mouth agape…looked like poisoning to me, which is classic Joker.

  • TheCrazyFish

    For me, I never felt like Batman had to be dark and gritty, but I also never really liked the Adam West show, or Superfriends. Let me explain why by way of example:

    Batman: The Brave & The Bold is a more lighthearted take, it’s lots of fun, but it’s also able to be taken seriously. Batman and friends all come across as legitimate badasses, the villains always come across as legitimately threatening, and the plot points and character interactions are believable. It’s the same with Justice League – it’s not dark and Nolany, it’s fun, but it’s also something you can take seriously.

    Adam West’s campy Batman… can not be taken seriously. Same with the Superfriends. The heroes aren’t badasses, they’re idiots who luckily blunder their way to victory every week. The villains aren’t threatening, either. There’s no interest in the story, there’s no threat, there’s no suspense.

    You’re sadly falling for the same false dichotomy that so many moviegoers fall into – this idea that something must either be dark and horrifying, or else campy and harmless, and that there is no middle ground. But of course there’s a middle ground, and that middle ground is where the really good shows and movies always fall.

  • TheCrazyFish

    And now to really tick everyone off… Jack Nicholson is now, and will always be, a better Joker than Heath Ledger.

    No, really, it’s true. I know the disappearing pencil trick was cool, and all the explosions were awesome, but Heath Ledger’s Joker is pretty much the Joker in name only. Joker is not a criminal mastermind. He’s not philosophical – his whole “put two hostages in different places so Batman can’t rescue both of them in order to teach everyone some stupid moral lesson about the darkness in humanity or whatever” thing is not the kind of thing the Joker would ever waste his time on, because the Joker doesn’t CARE about moral lessons, or the darkness in humanity, or hypocrisy, or anything like that.

    The Joker is a lunatic who does whatever he wants whenever he wants, and he doesn’t care who gets hurt in the name of his fun. He wants to kill Batman, sure, but he’s not even entirely consistent about that. There was one Batman comic where the plot revolved around the Joker setting up an elaborate plot to trap Batman, and then after he finally got the Bats cornered and basically helpless… he throws a pie in his face and runs away laughing. I am not even kidding.

    That’s who the Joker is. He’s not a philosopher, he’s a madman and his only consistent personality trait is inconsistency. Jack Nicholson did a MUCH better job of presenting that personality than Heath Ledger did, and that’s why Nicholson is now and will always be the better Joker.

    • Ricardo Cantoral

      Exactly. I think Heath’s acting puts him ahead but his motivations always were always wrong to me. Jack reflects the character better.

    • Tony Thurisaz

      What you said completely contradicts some of the best depictions of the character. Ever read The Killing Joke? The whole premise of taking a good man and trying to break him to demonstrate that there’s only one bad day stands between everyone and a freak like himself came directly from that. Nicholson looked like the common representation and had the cartoonish aspects, but the Ledger Joker characterised the Joker’s personality. The Joker doesn’t want power or money. As evident by the opening bank robbery, that’s rather a dull course to him to rob even from the mob. That’s why he doesn’t want to kill Batman. He’s finally found a challenge, as it’s much more fun to see how far someone so rigid in their morals can be pushed before they finally give in. I sincerely don’t know what version of the Joker you’re used to, but it’s certainly not been the definitive version. The character is more interesting when he threatens Batman’s very moral backbone. To face a villain who has no predictable goals, has no allegiances or prized possessions, and who holds no regard for anyone’s life, including his own, is a perfect adversary to Batman with his “no kill” rule. And that aspect is what makes Batman so interesting. Remember, “it’s what separates us from them.” The film didn’t even get the Batman right, thus bollixing up the whole dynamic of these two foils.

      However, probably the best means to objectively examine the two revolves around their fall from tall buildings: Ledger’s Joker went down laughing, whereas Nicholson’s plummeted to his death screaming like a bitch. That’s irrefutable.

      Oh, and Ledger’s Joker was actually funny. I love the dark humour approach. Nicholson’s Joker’s gags got old fairly quickly. It’s like the Uncle who cracks you up when you’re 8, but over a decade later, you realise that his jokes were always aiming for a juvenile mind, which makes it kind of sad.

    • R.

      I agree with TheCrazyFish 100%.

    • John Berndt

      I think part of the reason Heath’s performance got overrated in the first place is that he died soon afterwards and so there was a kind of “sympathy vote” there. He wasn’t bad but he wasn’t equal to Nicholson’s Joker either. But that could be the writing. As you say Joker is an A-1 Homicidal Sociopath with a list of mental problems a mile long. He isn’t a philosopher but someone who does crazy things because he is maybe the biggest nut in all fiction.

    • T. Morrissey

      That’s a bizarre misconception of the character, which I might understand if you’d never read/seen much other Batman material at all, but even in THIS movie, he’s obviously got a complex plan! Creating a chemical that you secret into thousands of products isn’t some frivolous prank that takes 10 minutes to pull off. You made him sound like a hyperactive puppy careening wildly from one escapade to the next. Joker is absolutely a criminal mastermind, it’s one of the only consistent aspects of his character across his many different incarnations.

      Leaving aside that you’re actually saying Batman’s writer is better than the Dark Knight’s writer, you really, really don’t get the Joker at all.

      • TheCrazyFish

        You’re sadly falling victim to the same false dichotomy of so many others who believe that everyone must always be ALL one way, or ALL another. In reality nothing is ever pure, but you don’t get that and that’s why you don’t get what I’m saying.

        It’s like this: In general the writer for The Dark Knight is a better writer than the one who wrote this movie. In terms of ability to write a Batman movie, however, he’s much, MUCH worse. Christopher Nolan HATED Batman. He never liked comic books, he refused to do any research before writing, and he got every character wrong.

        Also, I never said the Joker didn’t make complex plans. I said he didn’t really care that much about /goals/ – he doesn’t want to rule the world, or teach anyone a moral lesson, he’s not even consistent about wanting to kill Batman. He’s definitely a mad genius of a sort, and has certainly proved his ability to form a plan and follow it through, but even then he quite often subverts his own plans by the end because something he thought was better came up.

        • T. Morrissey

          True, I “don’t get” what you’re saying because aside from being patronizing (actually, I did get that part), it doesn’t make sense.

          It’s funny that you say I think everything has to be all one way, then you make the ludicrous argument that Nolan got “every character wrong,” as if there is one absolute incarnation of Batman & co that is even possible to get “wrong.” Which one is “right,” then?

          In that same vein, you also sneer at TDK’s writer as though there is clearly a certain way a Batman movie is to be written, which was clearly set out in 1989. You’re beholden to Burton’s Batman like it’s unequivocally the way Batman is supposed to be.

          I can’t recall any specific examples of Joker subverting his own plan because something better came up – not to say there aren’t any – but I can think of many where he stickhandled a plan to a specific goal he cared about.

          And even with TDK, Joker first wants to kill Batman, then changes his mind. So the movie got that right. Except it’s wrong. Are you the Joker?

          But on second though, offering the silly canard that Nolan HATES Batman kinda undermines your post and this entire discussion. The whole argument is chock-full of cognitive dissonance but that one statement betrays an irrationality that probably makes this discussion pointless. You hate the movie, even if you’re not entirely sure why.

          • TheCrazyFish

            And because I like this movie’s portrayal of the Joker better that means I hate The Dark Knight, because you have to either love something dearly above all other things or else hate it from the depths of your soul and there can be no in-betweens.

            The Dark Knight trilogy was a solid series, and if it had been its own thing then it could have even been great. But it wasn’t its own thing. It was Batman, made by a guy who hates comic books and doesn’t want to be making comic book movies.

            Batman became a walking metaphor for U.S. national security policy. He became a childish, irresponsible, hypocrite who people hated.

            Bane was a fat Russian guy.

            (And as an aside, why is Bane such a hard character for movie makers to get right? He’s not dumb muscle. [I’m looking at you, Joel Schumacher!] He doesn’t wear a gimp mask OR a sub-zero ninja mask. He’s not RUSSIAN. The cartoons have never had a problem getting Bane right, why is it so hard for Hollywood?)

    • Social Crime Radio

      Take the name Batman from the Dark Knight, rename him “Entitled rich guy who bought a ninja costume” instead.
      Rename Joker “Eccentric criminal guy who always licks his lips and needs chapstick badly.
      Call Bane “Guy wearing mask with nothing attached to it so therefore no need for it except to look S and M.”
      The films were batman in name only.
      Hell Selina wasn’t even called Catwoman.

  • Tony Thurisaz

    I remember re-watching this when The Dark Knight was still 3 years away, and during the viewing I steadily found myself being dumbfounded by how much it didn’t hold up. This is a classic case of viewing things from thick nostalgia glasses. It’s the only explanation for such still lingering hard-ons for this. While visually fascinating, there’s no real meat in the script. Meandering plot, cut-and-paste caricatures from the comics with no substitutive characterisation. The fact that they had to have the Joker be the murderer of Bruce’s parents felt like a cheat for both the plot and the characters. Typical example of style over substance.

    And I still don’t get that ending. I actually bitched about it in the comments for the Batman Returns review, and I’ll repeat myself here. Are you seriously telling me that a masked vigilante takes the law into his hands by taking several lives is not only accepted by the citizens, but even three government officials are going to publicly laud his behaviour and champion his nightly crusades? No wonder the city is such a staging ground for crime if no one can consider the consequences that could follow… As evident by the fact that they are genuinely shocked when Batman seems to kill an innocent woman. Gotham City – Burton’s anyway – is most certainly not a city worth saving. Have at it, Ra’s!

    • Ricardo Cantoral

      I honestly never consider the killing that seriously in this or Batman Returns mostly because it’s clearly meant to be cheap action fodder.

  • Arkin

    I remember loving this movie as a kid. Then my opinion began to change to: ‘the first and last half hours are great, the hour in between… Not so much’. The only bright spot being the brilliantly atmospheric sequence where Batman drives Vicki Vale to the batcave. Another problem with this film is that the more times you watch it, the more it becomes painfully obvious that Gotham City is a set consisting of one street and one alley. Seriously just count the number of times the batmobile drives past Monarch Theatre (which appears in far too many shots btw) during the chase scene. I know they wanted to create their own world in a pre-CGI era but could they not have sent a 2nd unit to do some location shooting somewhere? Used some miniatures perhaps? They used them during the batwing scene.

    • Ricardo Cantoral

      I don’t caulk it up to a tight budget but more like painfully obvious symbolism. Remember what the Monarch Theatre was suppose to mean.

  • Ricardo Cantoral

    “This, frankly, is why I don’t bear any ill will against Joel Schumacher for what he did with the franchise. He was really only amplifying the silliness that was present in this series from the very beginning.”

    Here is where I agree without a doubt. Sure, Burton actually managed to successfully portray Batman as a pathetic, injured child and made Selina Kyle as the perfect female counterpart. However, both films had such moments as hand buzzers roasting human beings to corpses, dancing to prince while spray painting priceless artworks, penguins with spiral painted death rockets, and the villain trying to kill Batman while piloting a grocery store kiddie ride. Yeah, it’s fair to say that Burton did much to open the flood gates and Schumacher really just drove the series to it’s logical conclusion.

  • jbwarner86

    Having only seen bits and pieces of the Burton Batman films on TV as a youngster, I bought them on DVD last year so I could finally watch them all the way through and judge them against the Schumacher films (which I’d seen in their entirety several times). I was genuinely surprised at how goofy they were. And yet, I can’t hold too much against them, since they still entertained me. Mostly because I was riffing the shit out of them MST3K-style.

    I do think Batman Returns is a more solid film than this one. The goofiness is still there, but it’s got a darker shade to it. Stuff like Catwoman giving herself a tongue bath or the Penguin having an army of actual penguins with rocket launchers strapped to their backs still works for me in the context of the movie, because Burton paints Gotham City as a place where everybody is at least slightly insane. There’s a genuinely creepy vibe that permeates that film, and that’s one of the things that’s missing from this movie.

    • Social Crime Radio

      Please don’t say MST3K, there has been too many couch critics co-optting MST3K the past few years. Leave them and their quality goodness be.

  • Social Crime Radio

    I remember the godawful weeks upon weeks of batman shirts in school everywhere. Particularly this one kid in my study hall who gods sakes must have had a total of 200 of them because It was a different one every time I saw him. And I’m talking just of “The Bat” and not even about the Joker, that must have been his other closet.

  • Tyson Golden

    I love your guys recaps of batman and robin and batman forever, but I disagree with this one, I loved nicholsons schtick, and the film I thought was immensely entertaining.

  • MichaelANovelli

    I still think the soundtrack was one of the high points of the film…

  • OverMaster

    “With seven mediocre films (and counting!) that have somehow become pop cultural touchstones, I’m sure we’ll all be reviewing Batman… forever. See what I did there?”

    I’m suspecting you won’t ever be admitting you like a Batman live action movie even if Batman comes from the screen, saves your life from a mugger and then buys you a fancy dinner. Honestly, I cannot, for the life of mine, see what do you WANT from a Batman movie that the best movies in the line haven’t already delivered. Are you playing the hipster contrarian? Because sorry, but that’s the way you come off to me.

    • OverMaster

      I mean, seriously, let Adam West go already. Watch the series again and you’ll realize how truly formulaic, repetitive and shallow it is. It isn’t even a matter of the camp, because Brave and the Bold (the cartoon) did Camp Batman incredibly well, but it was hollow, by-the-motions camp that only became in vogue again because it gives hipsters an anchor to shoot the token protests against the modern Batman.

      • CaptainCalvinCat

        Erm…. no – I for my part will not let go of Adam Wests Batman. I bought the entire show on DVD and I’m enjoying it. You can enjoy grim, gritty, serious Batman, I’m having fun watching Adam Wests show (and reading the comics), thank you very much.

  • There’s an even younger Jack Nicholson than the one in the movie you referenced, and that’s in this one:

  • Redde

    “It seems many of them bitterly resented Batman being linked with Adam West in the public consciousness, but personally, I loved the ‘60s show, and I never got the anger.”

    You don’t see why Bat-fans dislike the public thinking of an incarnation that was a PARODY of the character and the genre as the real Batman? Really?

  • Night dark

    How dare Alfred let Vicki Vale into the Batcave on purpose Bruce Wayne should be angry at him and fire him. But he didn’t because it’s not Alfred’s fault and thought he knows that Vicki already knows his secret identity but he should be mad at her for not getting used to minding her own business it has nothing to do with her to have a right for trying to stop Bruce being Batman forever and fighting crime. When Bruce explains to her the crime business never ends this is why he has to do it because nobody else can’t do something to stop this evil crime but him he is the only one because he is Batman the Dark Knight crime fighter that could save the day but Vicki doesn’t understand. Bruce told her it’s not a perfect world then she says it doesn’t have to be a perfect world What does Vicki expect to like bats and wanna to try to be with him if the world doesn’t have to be perfect without understanding? All she ever cares about is Bruce Wayne and loving him with romance that’s all she want it to know and Bruce understands but it’s not just all about love of romance so he want it her to make sure she has to understand she can’t let the crime win but lose weather she likes it or not it matters to him.

    • Night dark

      That goes for Alfred too for encouraging her or letting anyone else know Batman secret. .

  • Ryan Ann

    To me Michael Keaton will always be the best Batman. I thought he played very well against the over the topness of Nicholson’s Joker (who rocked that role big time). Kim Basinger was very annoying as Vicki Vale. All she did was scream and she had nothing to work with and nothing to do but look pretty. Michelle Pfeiffer was awesome in Batman Returns as Catwoman/Selina Kyle. She is such a good, but underrated actress. 1992 was a great year for Pfeiifer with this film and “Love Field” in which she received an Oscar nomination for Best Actress. I am glad she made a comeback. Keaton was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar in 2015 (in which he should have won) for “Birdman”, his comeback role. I also heard that Nicholson may be having a comeback this year. Will look foward to that for sure if he does.