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Batman (1989 film)

The 1989 superhero film based on the DC Comics character and directed by Tim Burton.

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You can't make an omelet without breaking some eggs. 84%

  • Jul 4, 2011
  • by
Since this is my first review of anything Batman-related, I should share my history with this superhero since he's such a huge part of American culture. From the early 90's up until around 2000 or so, I was actually a pretty big Batman fan. I loved this Batman and Batman Returns, along with the Batman Animated Series during my years of fandom. However, after the turn of the century, my interest in Batman steadily declined as I moved on to other interests (like anime and death metal), but for the last several days, I see myself crawling back to him for reasons I'll state later.


In Tim Burton's Batman, the story is that Gotham City is a cesspool of filth and crime. In the shadows of Gotham, a masked, caped crusader known only as Batman stalks the streets, beating and killing the scum. The Batman catches the attention of reporters Alexander Knox and Vicky Vale, who seek out the Batman and hope to get footage of him for a juicy story. Meanwhile, after a horrendous accident in a chemical factory, a dangerous criminal named Jack Napier turns into the colorfully-depicted psychopath known as the Joker.


The characters, in all honesty, are a little of a mixed bag. Some are fleshed out excellently while some others feel just "meh." However, it's the two main characters, Batman (Michael Keaton) and the Joker (Jack Nicholson) that everyone focuses on, and I can certainly see why since the movie really is about these two freaks. Keaton's role as Batman/Bruce Wayne really shows his versatility as an actor since he does a great job portraying Wayne as a run-of-the-mill billionaire, but when he dons the Bat suit, he unleashes a truly intimidating feeling when he preys on Gotham City's criminals. I also commend Burton for portraying Batman as a man who has no agenda for nobility since in this movie, Wayne suffered great losses as a child and even as the years pass, the pain from that event hardly simmers, so he tries to quell his agony by purging Gotham City of its criminals. When Batman fights crime, he really does show off a sheer hatred for the criminals since in one scene at the Axis Chemical plant (prior to Napier's transformation into the Joker), Batman manages to tangle one of Napier's minions by the neck and essentially lynches him from one of the catwalks in the factory. Also, towards the beginning, when Batman confronts two criminals who robbed a rich family, he pummels one of them and tells his accomplice "I'm not going to kill you, I want you to do me a favor. I want you to tell all your friends about me." Also, unlike Christopher Nolan's spin on the Batman franchise, Burton's Batman isn't afraid to kill his enemies, which I personally like since it gives Batman a more menacing edge, thought all together, it's Batman's complexity that's making me come back to the whole franchise. Then there's the Joker. Of course, with Jack Nicholson behind the makeup, you know he's gonna nail his role perfectly. Nicholson really makes a great Joker because his take on the character truly gives out a feeling of insanity. Joker harms people just because he thinks it's fun, and keeping true to the comics, he adds a good amount of crazy gags to his crimes that adds more depth to the feeling of insanity (he's also one of the rare villains to be menacing and funny at the same time). In a scene where the Joker sets up a meeting with Gotham City's main crime bosses, he kills one with an intense electro-shock hand buzzer and after everyone is forcefully escorted out, the Joker talks to the charred skeleton and at the end, says "I'm glad you're dead!!" and unleashes a really creepy laugh afterwards. There's also scenes where the Joker doesn't really kill or hurt anyone that show how crazy he is. The best example of this would be when he and his henchmen enter the art museum after killing everyone (except Vicky) with the Smilex gas, goes around the museum defacing a bunch of paintings while dancing to Prince. Also, I love the fact that Burton decided to flesh out the Joker more than Batman because in the context of this film, it's very fitting. The Joker wants to be known throughout while Batman wants to remain hidden from the public so he can keep doing what he does. Now supporting characters, that's a little different story. While Robert Wuhl and Kim Basinger do quite well as their roles as Knox and Vale (respectively), I felt the characters themselves felt a little hollow and stereotypical. Knox felt pretty geeky and Vale at the end of the day, feels a little too much like the typical "damsel in distress." However, despite being on the stereotypical side, they were enjoyable to have on screen. It would have been nice to have seen other characters like Harvey Dent fleshed out better as well.


Thanks to the vision of set designer Anton Furst, Batman is a visual feast. The gritty, Gothic, and claustrophobic vision of Gotham City is truly amazing and is a huge component to the whole Batman experience. However, unlike that Alex Proyas abomination Dark City, Burton doesn't depend entirely on visuals since he also has two of the most interesting (and entertaining) characters ever put on screen to bolster the fantastic visuals. The way Gotham City looks really does look like it's in a universe of its own since it takes place in modern times but the citizens of the city dress in a style from the 1920's-30's complete with trench-coats and fedora hats, and not to mention that the colorful characters (particularly with the Joker) add some more flare to the already amazing set designs.


Danny Elfman struck gold with Batman's soundtrack since after all, he did create the iconic Batman theme that would be a part of Batman and would even live on in the intros of the Batman animated series (if I recall correctly). Most of the scenes are powerful by themselves, but Elfman's ear-grabbing music really bolsters the emotional impact of the scenes throughout the movie. I'm not a big follower of Prince, but the scenes featuring his music feel really well-placed (especially the art museum scene featuring the song "Party Man").


Batman really has some good action scenes to bolster the movie. One of the best is when Batman saves Vicky from the Joker and when the Joker and his henchmen chase them down, Batman manages to evade the Jokers crew in the Batmobile and causes the Joker's crew to fly into a huge traffic pile up on the streets. The other has to be with the final showdown between Batman and the Joker on top of the Gotham Cathedral. It shows that Batman isn't an unstoppable titan since he takes some considerable hits from one of the Joker's henchmen (though Batman would make him fall to his death in the bell tower) and it also shows the imposing strength of Batman when compared to the Joker.


If you're looking for a really well-made superhero film with some interesting characters and a magnificently gritty universe that's strictly its own, then Batman should be in your collection if it isn't already.

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June 10, 2013
I thought this movie was ok for its time. I mean, the Batman character had involved significantly after this 1989 movie, Vicky Vale did play some part as Wayne's love interest in the past, but she wasn't significant. Burton is great when making his own characters and movies, but I don't think he is that good in adapting any original material. I am with Frank with his observations. Nice write up.
More Batman (1989 film) reviews
review by . December 12, 2010
Stephanie's Favourite Films: Batman      While some people may not agree with me, I think that this is the best Batman film. Granted, I love the Nolan films, and they are definitely their own creations, but this film just seems like the more traditional film, and sometimes, the traditional way is the best way to go. The joker overshadows batman a lot, and in some ways I don't like that, because in most of these cases, less is more. The casting is great, the story is …
review by . September 26, 2010
I was at the perfect age when Batman came out, 12, which was not so young that the movie was over my head and not quite old enough to start being jaded about adaptations.  More personally, I was also a year into collecting comics pretty heavily so I felt like I was at the forefront of the entire comic industry boom that literally blew up overnight after the release of this flick.  This film also marked another turning point in my life as it was what was bouncing around my head right before …
Quick Tip by . August 11, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
my second favorite batman movie next to the Dark Night. i liked the costumes a lot in this one.
Quick Tip by . July 21, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
For as much accolades that this still gets, without Jack Nicholson as the Joker, this movie strings together a few too many undeveloped stories. The wonderful toys and other production save it in other places.
Quick Tip by . August 11, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
When I see this on the Tim Burton poll, I want to sing "One of these things is not like the others...." It just seems out of place compared to the usual Tim Burton fare.
Quick Tip by . May 10, 2010
A medicore Batman movie is made into a great one with Jack Nicholson as the crazed Joker. Fun to look at otherwise.
review by . September 30, 2009
Jack is the Joker
The first major Batman movie was like a nuclear bomb's fallout in 89.  It didn't matter where you hid, it didn't matter where you go, Batman was going to get to you.      A dark direction, controversy in casting and a unique look add up to what becomes a real experience but one that isn't quite as great once you peel it's main appeal away, in one Jack Nicholson.      Jack Nicholson who walked away reportedly $70 million richer from ticket sales, …
Quick Tip by . September 29, 2009
Awesome blockbuster that 's a little too dingy and could have used had better story telling. Jack's Joker makes up for plenty shortcomings.
review by . May 15, 2009
When Tim Burton put out Batman in 1989, comic book fans and movie fans alike were pleased with this movie about the caped crusader. Coming in at 2 hours in length, this was the first "modern" comic book movie. Starkly different from the optimistic Superman movies of Christopher Reeves with its bright colors and undercurrents of patriotism and American greatness, Burton's Batman was more of a drama than a comic book come to life. Good and evil often fought it out at night, in hidden places, away …
review by . October 27, 2005
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Havingly recently seen Christopher Nolan's spectacular "Batman Begins", I thought it was time to go back and re-visit Tim Burton's "Batman".     Tim Burton has long been one of my very favorite directors. With his taste for dark, humorous, wacky and often weird films, he was the perfect choice to direct "Batman".     Michael Keaton plays Bruce Wayne, who - shhh - is actually Batman. Keaton was an interesting choice for Wayne/Batman, and he gives a great performance. …
About the reviewer
David Kozak ()
Ranked #20
I'm a morbid cynic who thinks very, very differently from most other people. Chances are, if the majority says X is the greatest in its category, I'll disagree with that notion, because I tend … more
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About this movie


Thanks to the ambitious vision of director Tim Burton, the blockbuster hit of 1989 delivers the goods despite an occasionally spotty script, giving the caped crusader a thorough overhaul in keeping with the crime fighter's evolution in DC Comics. Michael Keaton strikes just the right mood as the brooding "Dark Knight" of Gotham City; Kim Basinger plays Gotham's intrepid reporter Vicki Vale; and Jack Nicholson goes wild as the maniacal and scene-stealing Joker, who plots a takeover of the city with his lethal Smilex gas. Triumphant Oscar-winning production design by the late Anton Furst turns Batman into a visual feast, and Burton brilliantly establishes a darkly mythic approach to Batman's legacy. Danny Elfman's now-classic score propels the action with bold, muscular verve.--Jeff Shannon
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Director: Tim Burton
Genre: Action, Drama, Thriller
Release Date: June 23, 1989
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Screen Writer: Sam Hamm, Warren Skaaren
DVD Release Date: February 10, 2009; May 19, 2009
Runtime: 126 minutes
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures
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