Superhero Films – Batman (1989)


My video review series covering superhero films, I arrive at 1989 and a little film called Batman starring Michael Keaton, Kim Basinger and Jack Nicholson

Batman 1989 Michael Keaton Jack Nicholson Joker

The summer of 1989 would see the release of many highly anticipated movies. It would be movie heaven for fans. As my one friend has described those warm months many years ago, “The best summer of our lifetime for movies was definitely 1989.”

As the summer of 1989 approached there would be one film in particular that would dominate the season, one movie that would be the most anticipated film of the year helped along by endless hype of merchandise and billboards – Batman.

Anyone around during that summer will recall how you couldn’t go anywhere without seeing that Bat logo on t-shirts or cut into people’s hair! Batman would be a big-budget attempt at a much darker Batman then general audiences were familiar with. While most people were asking, “Where’s Adam West?”, comic book fans embraced the idea of a more faithful, serious telling of the caped crusader. That is until they heard Michael Keaton would be wearing the cowl. Huh???

With a huge budget, a young director by the name of Tim Burton, Jack Nicholson getting a huge payday, complete secrecy from the set and an early movie trailer that ignited the spark in the eyes of everyone who saw it, when the film finally hit Bat fans and everyone else swarmed theaters to make it a huge hit. I go back and revisit Burton’s Batman.

Superhero Films – Chapter 32: Batman (1989) from HaphazardStuff on Vimeo.

3 thoughts on “Superhero Films – Batman (1989)

  1. Are you seriously trying to make us cry with your use of music from BIG? Well congratulations…because you f*cking pulled it off!

    I still vividly remember seeing BATMAN in the theater with my dad when I was 10 years old. All of the adults complained it was too violent while myself and many of my schoolmates thought it was the greatest thing in the world. I remember buying all of those Topps bubblegum cards as well as the Batman cereal.

    When Halloween came around, everyone wanted to be Batman except me…I wanted to be the Joker! Thus, I dyed my hair green, painted my face white, bought the purple suit with gloves, etc. The cherry on top, however, was the squirt flower which I filled up with water. Our school had a Halloween costume contest/party, and when I walked by judges, I squirted every one of them in the face. I won 4 awards for that costume.

    As for the movie itself, it holds up very well considering all of the Batman movies/media we have had since then. Excellent job of pointing out CLEAN AND SOBER which nobody did in '89 even though Keaton had clearly shown dramatic chops there. That being said, the clips of NIGHT SHIFT, MR. MOM and JOHNNY DANGEROUSLY really made me smile; I recently watched ONE GOOD COP and PACIFIC HEIGHTS and while Keaton was good in both, the movies themselves were so mediocre and forgettable.

    Screenwriter Sam Hamm is evidently on record saying that Warren Skaaren (Burton's writer on BEETLEJUICE) was responsible for Alfred bringing Vicki into the Batcave and having Joker be murderer of Bruce's parents. At the time, these things never bothered me but of course can see why they do now. I wish the characters of Harvey Dent, Alexander Knox and Commissioner Gordon had much more to do.

    Finally, as for the Prince music, I totally agree with you even though the songs themselves are okay on their own. Prince may have been a great entertainer, but he was more like a financial safety valve for Warner Bros. at the time. Another reason of many why I prefer 1992's BURTON RETURNS.

    Oddly enough, I watched ROMANCING THE STONE for like the 100th time recently and I've always loved that line that Danny DeVito says after he gets Joan to put the stone in his bag in the cave: "Now move it before Batman comes home!"

  2. As usual, a superb article and an excellent review – thanks. I recall the summer of 1989 very well. Walking in Leicester Square (London) I saw Batman memorabilia everywhere, from badges to calenders to T-Shirts to posters. I remember, to this day, feeling then that was the first time I saw a film being successfully sold as a product even before anyone had seen it. Batman during that summer was just massive. So thanks for the memories.

    I saw the film twice in the theatres and thinking it was excellent. It certainly brought Batman into a dark place that I had never seen before as the only exposure I got was from Adam West kapow / splat / bam TV show. never read the comics.

    Today, for me, it doesn't stand the test of time. It feels clunky and disjointed and not because modern films today are more zippy or have better plots but as you state in your analysis a lot of the motivations of the Joker is left too ambiguous to merit investment. It seems he is playing bad….because he wants to.

    To round off on a positive note I do like Burton's vision of Gotham City. Its originality and grittiness feels like a "Gotham" city. I never really cared much for Nolan's take of using a modern everyday city we all see today. That is a cop out, cheap and just….well…bland.

  3. Brilliant video. I may have loved the James Bond series more as a child, but Batman was the film of my childhood! I first saw it on VHS on my 5th birthday in 1990 and, at the time, it was the greatest thing I've ever seen. I watched this film constantly over the next 10 years and it's a film I still go back to on occassion. My parents spoilt me rotten, Batman action figures, the toy Bat Cave, the toy Batmobile, sticker book, soundtrack, video… you name it, I had it.

    Looking back on it now, the film has sadly not withstood the test of time. The story is practicaly non existant and the film hangs on to the dark aesthtic, the brilliant set pieces and the performances of Keaton and Nicholson (who are just brilliant) Kids these days that have grown up on the Dark Knight trilogy forget how risky Burton's film truly was. A dark Batman was a major gamble, so much so that the budget did not even reflect the blockbuster status. I mean just two years later T2 would be released with a $100 million budget.

    Despite the negatives there are still factors that make this film worthwhile, but the nostalgia factor is the one the cements it as essential viewing.

    By the way your montage at the end using the score from BIG. You insensative a***ole, I was weeping in bucket loads. For me Batman was not just a childhood film, it was a memory I cherise to this day. Batman was something that my parents and I got involved with. Even though they didn't like it, they still tried to make me happy by trying to get involved with it and for that I will always be enternly grateful to them.

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