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BATMAN (1989)
Batman 1989 poster

CAST
KIM BASINGER
MICHAEL KEATON
JACK NICHOLSON
MICHAEL GOUGH
JERRY HALL
PATT HINGLE
WILLIAM HOOTKINS
JACK PALANCE
LEE WALLACE
TRACY WALTER
BILLY DEE WILLIAMS
ROBERT WUHL

DIRECTED BY
TIM BURTON

BASED ON CHARACTERS CREATED BY
BOB KANE

SCREENPLAY BY
SAM HAMM
WARREN SKAAREN

PRODUCED BY
PETER GUBER
JON PETERS

CINEMATOGRAPHY BY
ROGER PRATT

EDITED BY
RAY LOVEJOY

MUSIC BY
DANNY ELFMAN

GENRE
ACTION
CRIME
THRILLER

RATING
AUS:PG
UK:15
USA:PG-13

RUNTIME
2h 6m

 

 

 


Batman Prime Video
Batman 1989 image
Image Credit © Warner Media

A dark and refreshing interpretation of a legendary superhero character, Tim Burton’s Batman successfully proved that comic-book to film adaptations can be artistically bold and highly entertaining viewing.         

Much like Richard Donner’s Superman, Batman succeeds due to the creative passion invested in it. Unlike Superman, however, Batman does not play slave to its dense comic book mythology. Director Tim Burton (Beetlejuice) instead takes the raw elements from Batman creator Bob Kane’s original interpretation of the character and –for better or worse - reshaped its mythology.

Paying tribute to the shadows in which the Dark Knight inhabits, Burton’s gothic vision gives way to a decaying Gotham City, weathered by corrupt officials and treacherous criminals. Designed by Anton Furst and Peter Young, Gotham City sets the stage for a twisted relationship between a vengeful hero dressed like a bat; a homicidal clown bent for destruction; and a female photojournalist stuck in the middle of their dangerous dance.    

With his choice of who will play his masked vigilante, Burton dropped the gauntlet by casting Michael Keaton, the star of comedy hits Mr. Mom and Gung-ho!. It was a risky move, but one that works. Keaton successfully portrays the duality, anger, and shattered psyche which is Bruce Wayne/Batman, delivering a disarming portrayal of brooding intensity all while wearing a rubber suit.       

With Batman all mood, it is natural that his arch-nemesis The Joker be the opposite, and with such a larger than like character a larger-than-life actor was needed. Enter Jack Nicholson. Distorting his already animated features –trademark grin, raised eyebrows, and cheekbones are permanently plastered into a grotesque version of himself – Nicholson shamelessly hams it up as only he can, delivering a performance with such exhilarating energy that it is hard not to be infected by its fervour.    

As the third party in this freakish triangle, Kim Basinger plays the part of Vicki Vale, a journalist on the trail of the Bat while falling in love –and obsession - with the man behind the mask. She unfortunately also evokes the attention of the Joker, who hilariously declares to all other potential suitors to “Never mess with another man’s rhubarb!”         

A scene where the Joker attempts to “seduce” Vale sets the stage for his first showdown with the Batman. Set in a museum –recently defaced by Joker and his men – the scene highlight the films stellar prop designs with Batman’s arsenal of gadgets enough to make James Bond weep and prompt the Joker to ask: “Where does he get those wonderful toys!?”

Among them is the ultimate big-boy-toy in the sleek and jet black Batmobile, and its aerial counterpart the Batwing, which Burton spectacularly introduces piercing the murky Gotham City night sky in one of the films memorable action sequences. 

There are notable flaws in Batman, to be sure. Poor casting decisions of key supporting roles such as Commissioner Gordon (a bland Patt Hingle) and Harvey Dent (a slick but not very convincing Billy Dee Williams) stick out. Fight choreography, meanwhile, proves to be a weakness for Burton.

Thankfully, the look, themes, and performances in Batman are more than able to counter the films faults, resulting in a innovative and thrilling example of superhero movie making done right.    


****

 

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