Batman (1989)

Joker: Tell me something, my friend.  You ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight?

Bruce Wayne: What?

Joker: I always ask that of my prey.  I just…like the sound of it.

Batman is an American superhero film directed by Tim Burton and produced by Jon Peters, based on the DC Comicscharacter of the same name. It is the first installment of Warner Bros.’ initial Batman film series. The film stars Michael Keaton in the title role, and Jack Nicholson as the main villain The Joker. Kim Basinger, Robert Wuhl, Pat Hingle, Billy Dee Williams, Michael Gough, and Jack Palance. In the film, Batman deals with the rise of a costumed criminal known as The Joker.  (Running Time: 126 minutes)(Rated PG)

It’s hard not to talk about Batman without mentioning where you first met him.  In my case, I met him in comics.  Although I primarily read Marvel, Batman was my reason number one love in the DC universe.  So there was the comics, and there was Adam West on the TV show and the movie from the ’60s.  For a kid, Robin’s “Holy Torpedoes, Batman!” was the bomb-diggidy.

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I remember when I was little, I looked up at the tall movie shelf and could make out the bat symbol silhouetted in cartoon yellow, with a plain black background draped behind.  I had seen it maybe once before.  I was five, maybe six.  But the images stuck to me like glue. Sadly, my mum–being the protective woman she was–said we couldn’t watch it anymore. She said it was “too dark” for little kids to see.  It also didn’t help that my brother made a poor judgement when Batman enters the scene for the very first time.  He turned to my parents and asked, “Is that the bad guy?”

Last year, my brother and decided to re-watch Batman, barely remembering what it was like for us the first time.  We recalled images and that was primarily it.  Our love for Batman erupted like a volcano when we saw Batman Begins.  Oh!  Then The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises to top that trilogy off?  I can speak for myself when I say that Nolan’s trilogy of Batman is by far some of my favorite movies of all time.  You will see them on my top ten list.

So, pulling the dusty VHS off the shelf was a daring action to say the least.  I didn’t expect it to completely change our view on the caped crusader or the Nolan films.  I just didn’t know what to expect.

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We laughed through most of it.  Paused and noted some of the elements that rinsed over into The Dark Knight Trilogy’s world…but only a few.  It was fun to compare.  And, I enjoyed it.  Keaton wasn’t the Batman of my generation, but we can recognize his portrayal–as well as Tim Burton’s take–on the hero from a comic book-ish, entertaining, spooky, Burton-darker style as a win.

Your six-year-old viewpoint of one of your favorite superheroes on the big screen (or medium-ish Zenith television set) makes Bruce Wayne’s dining room table seem longer, the Joker’s laugh more menacing, the crooks in the beginning were uglier, and so on and so forth for two-plus hours of comic book wonder.

I’m not a Tim Burton fan.  I’m just not.  Looking over Batman, the only one of his movies that I actually enjoyed was Sleepy Hollow (1999).  But Batman came when he was still a young and slightly stuiod-obedient director.  His dark tastes did not linger too long in the shadows–or in the light.  Although it still has all the “color” a Burton movie would have, it is not as prominent, therefore, making it more tolerable for moviegoers like me.

He did well, overall.

The Joker is a mad hatter.  It wasn’t the time to see Heath Ledger’s take on the murderous clown.  As much as The Dark Knight (2008) rates so so so high on my list–a lot for the reason for Ledger’s Joker–I still like Nicholson’s take.  Benign and wicked, like a sick clown.  He can make it funny and make you laugh.  It’s totally a Jack Nicholson transformed character…and you are always entertained by Nicholson.  At least I am.  “Never rub another man’s rhubarb.”

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Danny Elfman’s music is good.  It stands on its own, once again, for the time and place of this movie and its release.  I’m confused by the random songs by Prince, though.  The art direction is spectacular.  The Gotham we know from the old comic books comes to life and it looks like such a real city in several scenes.

I mean, overall, I can’t put this in the same ballpark as The Dark Knight Trilogy.  I just can’t!  So when the argument is presented to me on which ones do I think is better?–well, I admit, I say Nolan’s Batman is the best yet.  But I do not dismiss this version (tied in with the darker Batman Returns).  Different people, different tastes.  Do you lean more towards Burton or Nolan?  Keaton or Bale?  Or…God forbid…Kilmer or Clooney?  Bah!  We will not speak of such things.

If you’re in the mood for a comic classic, a killer clown, a dark hero, and a city full of peril and adventure, try Batman.  He’ll give you a good show.

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About Morgan

January 2016 Update: This blog is under reconstruction. Please be patient while we gradually remove old material, posts, and pages, and create new ones. Thank you.
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