Howdy ladies and gentlemen and welcome to Day #22 of my Month of Superhero Film Reviews! During this month I’ll be reviewing of some of the best and worst comic book adapted films. Alright so we’ve talked a lot Marvel films recently, time to get back to DC films. So for the next few days we’re talking BATMAN! So let’s go back to 1989 with the first live action adaptation of the character with Tim Burton’s Batman.
Wow, didn’t think I’d ever have a reason to watch this film again. Now don’t get me wrong, Tim Burton’s first Batman film was one I watched for the first time around 2 years ago, but I wasn’t overly keen on it and didn’t really see what all the hype was about. And that’s not because I’d seen the Chris Nolan films already, it’s because on a personal level it wasn’t the Batman film that I liked that much. So now we’re in 2013 and I’m watching it again, so have my opinions changed at all? Read on to find out.
The plot summary for this film can be described as the following:
“In Gotham City, a dark knight known as Batman helps to defeat evil and keep the city’s citizens safe. When Jack Napier is transformed into the evil, Joker, he promises to take over Gotham City it is up to Batman to stop him in his tracks before it is too late.”
The story was pretty cool. It’s interesting how in this film we don’t get an origin story, Batman is already out there taking the law into his own hands with street thugs freaking out and the Gotham police trying to figure out if he’s real or not. Then you have Bruce Wayne whose life gets a bit more complicated once Vicki Vale got involved and then there’s the Jack Napier, the bad guy who literally turns into a freak of nature after becoming the Joker and decides to terrorize Gotham just to be noticed. There was a lot of great elements of danger, mystery, corruption and the central theme of two freaks going up against each other as polar opposites. I really liked the script because there are some funny as hell moments in this film, some on purpose and some that are completely random and some of the dialogue written for this film is great especially when it comes from the Joker. I feel like the story dragged at points with there being scenes focused on some irrelevant matters and in final sort of 15-20 minutes of the film I feel like the finale could have been shorter too.
Now let’s talk about the cast. Michael Keaton does well as Bruce Wayne/Batman. Initially I was never keen on him in the role because he didn’t have the look of Bruce Wayne to me, a while I still believe that, Keaton definitely a handle on the character. Keaton portrays the character as a man who is cool, calm and assertive but with a lot to hide and a complicated life behind the scenes. As Batman he’s pretty cool and thank god he doesn’t have a stupid gruff voice like the Chris Nolan version. Next we have Jack Nicholson as Jack Napier/The Joker. Nicholson has always been a very charismatic actor and his performance in this film just looked like he was having the time of his life. He did emulate a lot of the Joker’s good qualities like his sick sense of humour, maniacal laugh and crazy physical movements and was very similar to the Cesar Romero version from the 1960s TV series. Though at times I couldn’t but see him more as Jack Nicholson playing Jack Nicholson.
Kim Basinger as Vicki Vale was incredibly pretty and I liked what she did with her character but did scream a lot and when it comes to love interests for Batman I’m not overly interested. Michael Gough was fabulous as Alfred Pennyworth, he really did a good job at having a presence even when he wasn’t the main focus on the screen, his dialogue, mannerisms and actions were cool and sometimes hilarious too.
Robert Wuhl was pretty funny as Alexander Knox, I liked his moments in the film though his character was a little annoying at times. As for Pat Hingle as Commissioner Gordon and Billy Dee Williams as Harvey Dent they were both good in the small roles that they had, but I feel like they weren’t around long enough to leave an impression.
Now let’s talk about the presentation. Visually the film is great, Gotham City is a very stylized, dark and moody place and it is well presented with interesting set design and great lighting. There are some wonderful shot of Batman just standing or moving through barely lit locations and it adds a good level of mystery, creepiness and makes the character look cool and iconic. Though it is clear that some of the special and practical effects are old now and do look very questionable by today’s standards. As for the soundtrack by Danny Elfman, well, this was the soundtrack that won him an Oscar. If that doesn’t tell you something about his skills then I don’t know what will. Elfman crafts a score that is loud, full of epic instruments and know just how to create the right mood for each scene. “The Batman Theme” is pretty epic, though I prefer the reworked version that found its way into the opening credits of Batman: The Animated Series. While I don’t believe its Elfman’s finest work, it is a pretty cracking score on the whole.
And lastly how does it compare to the comics? When it comes to Batman I’ve only read a few comics, most of my knowledge comes from years of watching Batman cartoons and research online. From what I understand this film took most of the elements from the comics and translated them to live-action pretty well. Batman’s costume is very good as is his vehicles the Batmobile and Batwing. I feel like this film captured the look of Gotham well and the mood and atmosphere was pretty cool too. I’d say the only things that were odd was the fact that Harvey Dent was suddenly black and the annoy way that the Joker had to keep putting on make up to conceal his bleached skin.
So to conclude Batman is a film I underestimated and is definitely a lot better than the last time I saw it. There are wonderful aspects like the story, cast and presentation that makes this film work not only as an adaptation of the source material but also as a standalone film. The film has definitely aged and there are a good few strange, inconsistent and silly things going on in this film, but I do like it and for comic book fans willing to look a little further into the past this film is worth your time,
Rating: 8/10 (While its ages somewhat, there are still a lot of great things to be found in this film)
So there’s my review people, only 8 more to go. So have you seen Batman and if so what are your thoughts on it? Drop me a comment and let me know your thoughts yo! Come back tomorrow and I’ll have a new film review online, until then peace out!