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February 1, 2019

Batman (1989)
Director: Tim Burton
Actors: Jack Nicholson, Michael Keaton, Kim Basinger

Image result for batman 1989 film

Synopsis: Batman (Michael Keaton) is required to save Gotham City from the nefarious Joker (Jack Nicholson), who just happens to be the man who murdered his parents in cold blood some decades before.

Review: It’s hard to believe Tim Burton’s Batman is 30 years old this year. In many respects, it was the film that kicked off the present trend for superhero movies, although it was ultimately with the MCU’s Iron Man (2008) that the studios fully realised the endless cash cow they could create out of spinning entire connected universes for the fanboy and millennial crowd.

So Batman comes with the baggage of being this form of harbinger for the blockbuster superhero movie, but, rather conversely, its least impressive element is its sense of show and spectacle. It’s surprisingly noirish in style (as if Burton was watching a lot of ’40s studio films in the development period), and Burton evidently spent most of his time fleshing out this stylised, Art Deco look for Gotham City. The visuals are fantastic, but they totally outshine the relative timidity of the narrative that takes place around them.

The film is also on an indecisive precipice between the camp (the ethos of the ’60s film and TV series, and where Joel Schumacher was to take this run), and the more serious side that Christopher Nolan fully explored in the later Dark Knight trilogy. The camp is perhaps more prevalent though with some particularly lame and silly touches: the action scenes are ever so ropy, and there’s a nonsensical moment when Bruce Wayne decides to hang upside down from a bar in the middle of the night, despite his squeeze Vicki Vale being right there in his bedroom (not the most stealthy way to retain his secret identity!)

Saving the flashback over Bruce Wayne’s seminal childhood trauma ’til a good two-thirds of the way through the film is a clever touch in it gaining more context through the Batman-Joker trajectories we’ve seen to that point. Sadly, the film otherwise is largely unmemorable, save for a typically relaxed turn from Jack Nicholson. Other than its prescience as a pop cultural milestone, this won’t go down as one of the better superhero movies, nor even one of the best in the Batman cinematic canon. (February 2019)

2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 29, 2020 8:01 am

    How old are you? This is an amazing piece of cinema. Reading your review is is like ingesting garbage.

  2. May 7, 2021 6:15 pm

    I disagree, I think this was a good superhero film and a good Batman movie. I think it holds up well 32 years later.

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