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The Wednesday Review: Batman (1989)

Batman: 1989

Starring:Michael Keaton in the title role, as well as Jack Nicholson, Kim Basinger, Robert Wuhl and Jack Palance

Directed by Tim Burton

 

I picked up Tim Burton’s Batman the other day on bluray as it being a movie I loved as a kid and hadn’t seen in years it was more then worth the ten bucks JB were demanding.

For its time Batman was a very different kind of superhero movie as this was long before the superhero explosion of the last decade. When you compare it to the last Batman outing, which was the Adam West version, it was a pretty stark contrast and newer darker form of the character. It is no real surprise of course considering Tim Burton’s other films deal with dark and gloomy atmosphere but remember that this is still early in his career and before his much deserved reputation.

 

Well onto the actual movie itself.

It is interesting comparing this film to more modern superhero films as this one is not an origin film. Yes it sets up Batman as a new figure in Gotham but we are not introduced to pre Batman Bruce Wayne at all .If anything he feels like more of an established character and we are just getting wind of his publicity. I very much doubt such a story telling method would be done today but it worked well to throw you into the movie straight away.

The first thing that people say about this film when talking about is that it feels dated. In retrospect this is true to a point if you’re really only thinking about the insane soundtrack provided by Prince in all his eighties intensity. In fact the movie is so incredibly rooted in 1930’s fashion and design that if anything it feels more like a period piece. I think the only man in film who doesn’t wear a Fedora hat is Bruce Wayne himself. I do believe it works rather well and has a good contrast between the detective noir roots of Batman and the modern day super detective he evolved into. The art deco inspired Gotham still looks fantastic to this day. It really helps to differentiate this city and make it seem truly unique rather then another American city renamed..

 

But you didn’t really watch this movie for Batman did you? Well of course you did but the other half of the card is of course Jack Nicholson as the Joker. Nicholson most certainly stole the show in every scene he was in and pretty much the movie away from everyone else. This is not to say that Michael Keaton who is in himself a very good character actor did a bad job. He in fact did a very good job but its just difficult to hold a fiddle to Jack Nicholson given permission go crazy.

The comparisons between Heath Ledgers and Nicholson’s Joker have been the subject of far too many internet debates so I wont go into it too much. Suffice to say that they are very much different characters and although both very nasty characters it can be summed up in Nicholson’s was a stylish charismatic nut ball while Ledger’s was a sociopath and basically insane.

There is an incredible amount of detail put into this film. My favourite new realisation is in the news cast scene right after the first female caster dies from the Joker’s products her replacement and the male caster are both obviously dirty and have no make-up on from the poisoning fears. A very nice little addition that escaped me for a dozen viewings as a child.

As I bought in on Bluray I should probably comment on the quality. It ranged from adequate to good across different scenes. Certain effects shots become more obvious with the increase in quality but this is simply something that is inevitable with having such good quality image up so close.

Overall Batman still ranks up as a very good movie and not too terribly aged by time. I would recommend another watch if you loved this when you were younger and really to anyone who gets a kick from superhero movies.

 

Rating: Three and half Bat bombs out of five.

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