Batman Retrospective Review Part 1: Tim Burton's Batman
In honor of another Batman franchise completing it's storyline I felt it was appropriate to look at each of the theatrically released Batman films starting with Tim Burton's take on the character.
With the release of The Dark Knight Rises just about a week away many of us are having memories of all the films featuring our beloved Caped Crusader. We fell in love with the original Tim Burton film, had mixed feelings about Returns, showed contempt for Forever, despised B&R and Catwoman, and finally embraced Nolan's reimagining. However with approximately 22 years worth of film history how do all these films hold up today? Is the original movie simply lost in the times? Could Batman Forever be worth another look? Well this week I take a look at each of these films starting with the movie that got us all "bat-crazy"...
HISTORY- The year was 1989. Around this time the understanding of Batman according to the general public was based on the campy Adam West T.V. series, despite the fact that this image of the character had long since been lost in the comics and replaced by a dark and gothic version. This thought process finally changed with the release of Batman. Directed by Tim Burton and staring the likes of Micheal Keaton, Jack Nicholson, and Kim Basinger this retelling of the Batman mythos brought a compelling story combined with fascinating characters and a dark tone that made the world rethink the concept of a superhero in film. So after two decades how does this film hold up? let's find out.
1) THE PLOT
The story follows a Bruce Wayne after completing his training and assuming the mantle of Batman for some time now. During a botched mission to stop some gangsters from commiting a heist one of the criminals falls into a vat of chemicals to become the villainous Joker. With the help of photographer Vicki Vale it's up to Batman to stop the Joker from his scheme to destroy the city of Gotham in a journey that would shape him into the legendary Dark Knight.
The plot is just phenomenal with how it combines the dark tone of the more modern comics with the feel of this being a comic book character. What I mean by this is that one moment the story could dive deep into the psychology of Bruce's tragic past and then the next minute throw in a huge parade lead by the Joker who finishes the festivities by releasing a deadly laughing gas. This type of storytelling could only be brought to us by Tim Burton who's well known for creating these dark and goofy worlds.
It also has a unique way of telling the tale. instead of giving us an origin story that takes up half the film it instead focuses on Bruce after he assumes the mantle allowing his motives for becoming Batman to be revealed as sort of a mystery that fits naturally into the tale. It also doesn't focus on the hero as other modern superheroes do. Instead the story follows more on Vicki, the love interest, and the Joker, the villain. This method really provides a sense of mystery about the character of Batman and almost feels like we the audience are discovering him all over again. this does lead to issues with certain characters but i'll get into that when I talk about them individually.
2) THE HERO
Naturally in the film, titled Batman, we have our hero Bruce Wayne... A.K.A. Batman. While many of us on this site praise Kevin Conroy as being the definitive Batman I believe that Micheal Keaton has come the closest to capturing the true essense of the character. Here's a Batman you can tell just by looking into his eyes that he has nothing to lose. When he's Batman he's absolutely terrifying with every movement of his body and each word he speaks. When he's in his cave he's in anguish over the loss of his parents. And when he's in the public view as Bruce Wayne he's just an average joe...who lives in a mansion and drives a mercedes. Yes Keaton does a fantastic job embodying each personality of the Caped Crusader causing us to believe he's motivated and for us to believe why he's never been caught. Going on the nitpicky side of it though, as a reviewer i must, I should point out that I don't like how his life as Bruce Wayne feels too normal. I know he's trying to be inconspicuous but I just feel he should have played it a bit more like a rich jerk like in the recent reboot (I'll talk about that one later). Though that is a minor complaint it's still an awesome performance and I salute him as the essential Batman.
3) THE VILLAIN
We can't have a great story without a great villain, and this movie has one of the greatest villains in comic book history...the Joker. In order to give us a great Joker all we truly need is an actor who can play a funny psychopath with no motive but absolute chaos, and who better to play this beloved psychopath than our own Jack Nicholson (except for Mark Hamill...and Heath Ledger)? Yes in this film Jack Nicholson plays...Jack Nicholson. Heck, even the Joker's real name in this movie, Jack Napier, has his initials. But that's fine by me, because he's been playing this kind of maniac ever since his role in The Shining. In this movie he's twisted, psychotic, and of course hilarious. I do have some complaints and that's how the Joker is given a name and a past. In the comics we were given very little information about the Joker's past and, at least to me, that's what made him really terrifying. They even gave him a needless backstory involving how HE killed Bruce's parents. But most of these issues are with the plot and not with the awesome character Jack Nicholson gave us.
4) THE LOVE INTEREST
I gave Vicki her own section here instead of with the supporting cast because Kim Basinger managed to give us a more developed love interest then what we have been getting for years. This is a character who can get selfish and headstrong but not to the point where she becomes unlikeable, just relatable. She gets involved because of her story, leaving her feelings for Bruce as a side story without it being the focus of her character. Also she isn't kidnapped at the end because of the villain's plan to stop our hero. In a shocking twist that's pretty unique even by today's standards she's kidnapped because of the Joker's attraction to her. However she does suffer from the damsel in distress disorder and it does feel like she ends up less developed then when we began but she's still a solid character in a solid film.
5) SUPPORTING CAST
In most Batman films the talk of the supporting cast mainly consists of talk of just Alfred and Gordon but here there's not much to say. Alfred does show a caring nature for Bruce but also an understanding of Bruce being his boss and respecting that fact. Gordon also is seen as a dedicated officer but his role here isn't nearly as involved as other incarnations. Also Knox does get a few good lines as a reporter who teams up with Vicki. Aside from that the cast is solid there isn't anyone here to get particularly excited about...except for Bob.
6) FINAL VERDICT
In conclusion this is a film that holds up surprisingly well by today's standards. It's got great action with an incredible cast and plot that helped shape how comic book movies would look today. Any Batman fan should definitally check this out as you'll find it holds up surprisingly well.
So that ends the first part of my Batman Retrospective. Hope you follow as I take a look at the remaining Bat-films as we get ready for The Dark Knight Rises. Tomorrow will be my review of Batman Returns. Sound off your opinion of this movie in the comments and be sure to click like if you liked this article. See you later.
: This article was submitted by a volunteer contributor who has agreed to our code of conduct
. ComicBookMovie.com is protected from liability under "safe harbor" provisions and will disable users who knowingly commit plagiarism, piracy, trademark or copyright infringement. For expeditious removal, contact us HERE