Tim Burton seemed like the perfect director to bring a realistic version of Batman to the bring screen. Up until then, the only super hero to succeed at the box office was Superman. Burton’s dark and twisted story telling was a perfect match. Then he stunned the world by casting comic actor Michael Keaton as the dark knight.
Burton brought Gotham City to life with the twisted madness of a gothic nightmare. Forgoing the origin story of the caped crusader, the movie begins with the batman being a myth among criminals and street thugs. Jack Nicholson plays Jack Napier, the man becomes the maniacal joker after an accident at a chemical plant when Batman tries to save him. The accident sends the Joker on a murderous rampage, as he seeks to become the crime lord of Gotham.
Of course, the Joker, has some crazy plans, which start with killing off the current crime lord played by Jack Palance. Bruce Wayne/Batman must balance a relationship with photographer Vicky Vale (Kim Basinger), who is as curious about the billionaire as she is about the guy running around dressed as a bat.
The plot of “Batman” kept some elements from the comics but took some strong liberties with its story, most notably making the Joker the killer of Bruce Wayne’s parents. Nicholson’s charm and magnetism made him great choice for the Joker. He plays the part with the giddiness of a school kid with a license to kill. He’s so over the top in his acting that its a throw back to the Cesar Romero Joker from the “Batman” TV show from the 60′s.
As great as the movie is, there are some elements that didn’t quite mesh, one being the soundtrack by Prince. The movie’s dark atmosphere, which also features a fantastic score by Danny Elfman, is constantly and abruptly interrupted by a pop song by Prince, who did a full soundtrack of songs for the movie. The songs were incredibly popular at the time but looking back it just seems kind of…off.
“Batman” is over the top and campy but proved you can still tell a dark and brooding and maintain an element of camp. Michael Keaton, in some fan circles, is still considered the best actor to balance the duel identity of Bruce Wayne and Batman. His Wayne is mysterious and isolated with just enough crazy to convince you that with his billions he could go off the deep end and become a winged vigilante.
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Batman (1989) trailer: