Tim Burton’s first outing was successful enough to launch a franchise.
Cast, Crew, and Other Info
Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne/Batman
Kim Basinger as Vicky Vale
Jack Nicholson as Joker/Jack Napier
Robert Wuhl as Alexander Knox
Pat Hingle as Commissioner Gordon
Billy Dee Williams as Harvey Dent
Michael Gough as Alfred
Jack Palance as Grissom
Written by Sam Hamm and Warren Skaaren.
Directed by Tim Burton
Complete information is available from the IMDB.
Batman has already begun waging his war on crime when Jack Napier becomes the Joker and starts to take over Gotham’s crime scene.
The first sequence in Axis Chemicals, with Napier, his goons, the police, and the Batman really showing his style for the first time.
Batman doesn’t need glasses. The “you shouldn’ta turned the gun on that kid, man, you shouldn’ta turned the gun on that kid…” hissy fit is a close runner up.
General Comments About The Adaptation
Before becoming familiar with the comics, I thought this movie was great. Now that I am more familiar with the comics, I see elements that bug me, not because they make a bad movie, but because they make a poor adaptation. Alfred wouldn’t contradict Bruce if he’d said they’d be out of town for a while. Batman wouldn’t sit in the Batcave in jeans and the Bruce Wayne persona. Little things like that bug me when I go back and watch the film today. Still, as a film, it works. (Every time I start to grumble about a adaptation, I remind myself of Blade Runner, which is a fantastic film inspired by an excellent book that have little similarity to each other.)
The originality suffers somewhat because it is, after all, an adaptation. Still, Batman has been adapted to film many times before and after this, and I think Burton has come the closest to truly capturing what the character is all about. I give it 3 out of 6.
The effects are generally good. The early “moving gargoyle” effect and the shield deployment and retraction are weak and cartoony, but the rest of the effects are quite good. (There are a lot of other effects, too.) I give it 5 out of 6.
The story is fairly well done. They did a nice job of tying the origins together. I’ve learned to appreciate the focus on one villain now that I’ve seen a few of the sequels. I give it 4 out of 6.
The acting from Michael Keaton was pretty good, which is significantly better than I expected from an actor I knew only from Mr. Mom. Jack Nicholson did a simply fantastic job, and earned his Oscar nomination. He nailed the over-the-top villain, and he did it with makeup that didn’t allow him to emote from the bottom half of his face, although he had to emote to the extreme in the top half of his face. That takes talent, and he did it. Kim Basinger did not do a particularly good job, but hers was mainly a supporting role. Alfred Gough, Pat Hingle, and Billy Dee Williams did well in their roles, and tied the background characters together. I give it 4 out of 6.
The emotional response this produced is good, in spite of the irritations I feel from the adaptation choices. It’s a well done movie that still pulls me in, although I’ve seen it many, many times. I give it 6 out of 6.
The production was spectacular. Burton and his team created an entire world for Batman to inhabit, and they did it well. The production design for Gotham is just incredible, and is almost reason enough to watch the movie. Danny Elfman was the perfect choice for the composer, too. I give it 6 out of 6.
Overall, this is a very good super hero movie, even if it won’t completely satisfy devoted fans of the source material. I give it 5 out of 6.
In total, the 1989 version of Batman receives 33 out of 42.