The Reviewing Network’s Favorite Movies #6: Batman

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Batman (1989) theatrical poster.jpg

Gotham City: dark, dangerous, ‘protected’ only by a mostly corrupt police department. Despite the best efforts of D.A. Harvey Dent (Billy Dee Williams) and police commissioner Jim Gordon (Pat Hingle), the city becomes increasingly unsafe…until a Dark Knight arises. We all know criminals are a superstitious, cowardly lot…so his disguise must be able to strike terror into their hearts. He becomes a bat. Enter Vicky Vale (Kim Basinger), a prize-winning photo journalist who wants to uncover the secret of the mysterious “bat-man”. And enter Jack Napier (Jack Nicholson), one-time enforcer for Boss Grissom, horribly disfigured after a firefight in a chemical factory…who, devoid of the last vestiges of sanity, seizes control of Gotham’s underworld as the psychotic, unpredictable Clown Prince of Crime…the Joker. Gotham’s only hope, it seems, lies in this dark, brooding vigilante. And just how does billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne (Michael Keaton) fit into all of this?

For a guy who’s never read the comic books, Tim Burton manages to deliver a very impressive Batman movie that is the equivalent of Superman: The Movie.

The film has a great cast that play their parts very well. Michael Keaton will still be the definitive Batman who managed to make his Bruce Wayne and Batman sound completely different unlike what Christian Bale did. Jack Nicholson’s interpretation of the Joker is nicely done as well. Sure, Heath Ledger will always be considered the best Joker performance but Nicholson’s portrayal is very nicely handled and when he plays the Joker, he’s very maniacal and seems very threatening and he can also spout out some great one-liners. Nicholson has the best lines in the film from the first scene we see of him as the Joker to the scene where he’s wondering “where does he get those wonderful toys?” It’s a great portrayal and Nicholson could’ve just slept walked through the role but nope, he lets himself go and does a phenomenal job in the role. Kim Basinger does a good job as Vicki Vale, she’s not the typical damsel-in-distress as she actually does stuff in the film like finds out more about why Bruce keeps dropping roses in the alley and all that. Granted, she does get into the typical damsel-in-distress stuff towards the end but thankfully, it’s not in the stereotypical stuff that’s been done to death in other films.

The film also has a lot of great supporting performances from both Pat Hingle & Michael Gough, who appear in all four of the original Batman films as Commissioner Gordon and Alfred, plus Billy Dee Williams as Harvey Dent, a shame that he didn’t get to reprise the role in Batman Forever, Robert Wuhl as Alex Knox, and Jack Palance as Carl Grissom.

The look of the film is spectacular capturing the style and feel of what Gotham City should look like and a lot of these sets were built at the world famous Pinewood Studios, the place where a number of classic action films such as the James Bond films and the first two Superman movies were shot at. You’re not seeing CG scenery that shows up in so many movies today, they look real because a lot of them are practically built.

The music by Danny Elfman is spectacular, it’s one of the greatest movie scores in film history beautifully handled by Elfman and the film does a very good job mixing the score perfectly into the story plus how can you not love that theme?:

GODDAMN, that’s badassness all around.

Does the movie have its’ problems? Absolutely. The main problem with the film is that its’ story really does suffer at key points. Part of the reasoning behind that was because of the 1988 writers’ strike which was going on at the time they were filming. But despite that, the two biggest flaws with the film are the ones that everybody keeps talking about like how Alfred lets Vicki into the Batcave now knowing that Bruce is Batman. I mean, come on, I have no idea what Burton was thinking with that move. But the biggest flaw of all, having Jack Napier be the killer of Bruce Wayne’s parents. I’m sorry, but there’s no reason why we have to make their rivalry personal and it makes no sense to the story whatsoever. Even Sam Hamm, the screenwriter himself, has said that was not his fault because he wasn’t working on the script at the time because of the writers’ strike. It’s a pointless move to make it personal for Bruce and it almost ruins what could’ve been a good story.

Despite those two flaws, this is one of my all-time favorite movies. I give Tim Burton a lot of credit for giving us the classic Batman from the original comics with a ton of great performances, amazing action scenes, nice looking sets and a badass score by Danny Elfman. It really is one of DC’s finest movie achievements they’ve made and it was only the beginning of what was to come for the Dark Knight over the course of the next 25 years.

What better way to end this review of Batman with the finale score:

GODDAMN, that’s still badass.

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