Having witnessed his parents' brutal murder as a child, millionaire philanthropist Bruce Wayne fights crime in Gotham City disguised as Batman, a costumed hero who strikes fear into the hearts of villains. But when a deformed madman who calls himself "The Joker" seizes control of Gotham's criminal underworld, Batman must face his most ruthless nemesis ever while protecting both his identity and his love interest, reporter Vicki Vale.
Vision not fully realised, but still a template of sorts.
It could never have lived up to the hype back in 1989, it was hailed as the film to rival the impact of "Jaws" & "Star Wars" as regards historical cinema conventions, it was, we were led to believe, a new age in cinema, or so it seemed. As it was, the film went down a treat for the modern cinema going audience, it raked in cash galore and spawned a raft of very inferior sequels, even though ultimately critics of the time were less than impressed.
So it makes for something of an interesting experience viewing it again as each decade passes. More so in light of Christopher Nolan's bank busting "Dark Knight" series of films. I remember the hype and marketing campaign (T-Shirts and toys bonanza) that ensured that the film could never live up to the gargantuan hype, and I'm honest enough to say that I was a little underwhelmed on first viewing. Yet time has been very kind to it, now showing that Burton had the nous and foresight to reignite a genre without going purely for kiddie like appeasements.
Visually the film still stands up with the best that today's genre pieces can offer, the sets are incredible, with Anton Furst rightly winning the big award for his work here, whilst Burton's dark and deep tone captures the essence of Gotham City and Bruce Wayne's troubled mind perfectly, but does the cast fully realise the potential on offer?. Michael Keaton as the troubled and vengeful Bruce Wayne, is a fine actor and it would only be in time where his take on Wayne the man would be appreciated, as the caped crusader he is outstanding and he set the bar high for all those that followed him.
Jack Nicholson has the time of his life camping it up as The Joker, and he steals the film for sure. This is not because he is acting with great poise and class, but purely because in a film calling for the battle of two unhinged characters, he is the one awash in colour and overacting the maniacal side of the character to the max. Kim Basinger looks great but doesn't have to do much as Vicki Vale except say her lines right, pout, look scared when required and scream with conviction, and she does all of these. But really any other actress could have done the same thing - though I'm personally relieved that Sean Young dropped out of the film and thus allowed some other actress to step in.
The supporting cast do OK, and the soundtrack by Prince pushes the boundaries of annoying caricature indulgence. Ultimately it's a fun ride, respectful of the source material and giving the comic book genre of fil a shot in the arm. Yet you can't help feeling that there is some great Burton vision here that never got fully realised. And that is a damn shame, and something that Burton himself would come to admit down the line. 8/10
DC Entertainment, DC Comics, Polygram Entertainment, The Guber-Peters Company, Warner Bros. Pictures by Tim Burton, Bob Kane, Sam Hamm, Warren Skaaren.
Stars: Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson, Kim Basinger, Robert Wuhl.
Genres: Action, Adventure
Keywords: double life dc comics dual identity chemical crime fighter superhero super power
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