As I grew older and really dug myself deep into the Batman Legacy by reading the comics religiously, and exposing myself to the Batman: Animated Series, I found a new appreciation for the film. I stopped seeing it as just a superhero film. I started to see it with a lot more depth. And I really started to understand the themes that were in this. This is problem nowadays when you try and get people to watch this film. While it was made in 1989, it doesn't make the film 'old' or 'camp'. People today are so spoilt with what is available to them in terms of Special FX, that they are not willing to look at a film like Batman and see a masterpiece. Instead they decide not to ACTUALLY watch it but listen to the haters and the critics who would prefer a new Batman film which in MY OPINION is too far away from the actual source material.
The best Batman ever to be portrayed on screen besides Adam West is Michael Keaton. A lot of people were not happy that he got cast as Batman, because people were so used to the comedies he had been in and were not sure if he could portray a serious and brooding character like Batman. But he did it with ease. You can see the turmoil in his eyes. You can see he has gone through some rough times emotionally, and he has a hard time connecting with anyone besides Alfred. While he may appear to be confident to the public eye, not many people can really make a crack in his psyche. But Vicki Vale slowly starts to seep into his mind, and he tries telling her who he is, with great difficulty. The perfect scene to explain that was when Bruce goes to Vicki Vale's apartment and tries to tell her he is Batman. And he is trying to discuss what every day people do in their life, and he tries to convey that his every day life is far from normal. It's a great scene because you get to see Bruce struggle with his duality of his two identities. What I love about this Batman movie, is that it is ABOUT Batman. It doesn't just concentrate on the villain. It shows you what Bruce Wayne is really about and it in my opinion is the most honest portrayal of the comics on a live action screen.
What can you say about such a flawless interpretation of The Joker? Jack Nicholson seems to have taken the time to research The Joker and just brings the comic book character to life. He portrayed it so well, it seemed almost natural. It is really awesome to see the progression of his character throughout the whole film. At the beginning we just see him as a mobster really and then when he falls into the vat of chemicals, he just becomes unhinged and totally unpredictable. This is why I love his interpretation of The Joker the most. Sure The Joker is a disgusting waste of life, and he knows that, but why not class it up? He does this with his outrageous schemes, his amazing outfits and his wit. But while he does have an extremely comical side to him, he is a vile creature. And he has had that creature inside of him, long before he fell into the vat of chemicals. It's just now he can unleash it upon everyone, whenever he chooses. One of the main elements you could say about him, is that he is unpredictable to the max. There are several scenes that convey this and I will like to share a couple of them with you.
Here we have Batman foiling The Joker's plot, and as you can imagine, there is a huge annoyance boiling inside of The Joker. So what does he do? He shoots his 'Number one guy'. Bob was pretty much the 2IC in his gang, and because The Joker is feeling slightly defeated he shoots Bob. But what is great about the scene, is that you don't suspect that The Joker is ACTUALLY going to kill Bob. That is how unpredictability is done.
Now I know The Joker can be violent when it comes to being unpredictable. But he also possesses a warped humour even in the most serious of times. And that really adds to his unpredictable personality. What I love about this scene, is that even though Batman is kicking the shit out of him, he still manages to try and see the humour in the seriousness of what is actually happening. Perfect example is when The Joker is putting on the glasses after being roughed up by Batman and he says 'You wouldn't hit a guy with glasses now would ya?'
People seem to think that The Joker is unpredictable because he is violent. Now while that is true, he is unpredictable with his humour, and with his reasoning on any situation. A lot of people think that The Joker is just this bat shit crazy guy who is extremely violent. That is true, but at the same time, he is very in control of what he is doing and very calculating. I thought Jack Nicholson's portrayal showed that.
I really love Kim Basinger's portrayal of Vicki Vale, because she is very genuine. While she is a photo journalist, and always persistent in getting the best photos, she is also persistent in trying to crack open the tomb that surrounds Bruce Wayne's heart. And she really gets in there and shows him a soft and genuine side to her that not everyone sees. I think what stuns him more than anything, that she can see right through him. He may be very wealthy and have everything at his fingertips, but she notices he wants more substance in his life. At the end of the film she knows that Bruce is Batman, and she doesn't try to change that. She understands this is what he needs to do, to feel he is making a difference. Vicki doesn't come between that, she accepts him for who he is. What a good sport right? How many chicks out there would want to date Bruce Wayne, knowing he may have to take a hefty beating with some of the crew from the Rogues Gallery from time to time? Not many.
Danny Elfman's score in this is pure heaven. I just love everything about it. It has so much character, and each musical piece really adds to the emotion of every scene. Elfman totally got it right in terms of getting the Batman theme 100% spot on. Here, just listen to the Batman theme from the opening credits of the film. It is just out of this world!
There are so many great elements that could be said about this film. But if I kept on going, this article would be so damn long, and you would be reading about Batman for about a month or so. That is how much I love this film. It is a film that has been with me nearly all my life, and I love how it makes me feel, every time I watch it. I don't think it's campy or silly. It is a very dark film, which I believe needs to be given more credit. I have found that a lot of people forget this film because newer versions have come along. Sure the newer films are bigger budget and better quality in terms of what they can do on film, that they couldn't do in the 1989. But having said that, it doesn't make this film less relevant to what it did for the Batman legacy.
I would have to say hands down my favourite scene in this film, is when The Joker and his gang go into the museum and just trash all the art work, with Prince's song 'Party Man' playing in the background. It is just so fun, and it captures The Joker's hilarious side perfectly. The Joker is pretty much saying 'Fuck you and your art', its pure genius.
Tim Burton did such an excellent job with this film He cast the right people to all come together and create something so different and he managed to keep Gotham City in a fantasy and he brought so much of his imagination to the table, and so did everyone else who worked behind the scenes and in front of the camera. Burton really captured the essence of the comics, and brought it to life on the big screen. If you haven't ever seen this film or if it's been so long since you have seen it, I think it's time you purchased it and enjoyed its awesomeness. I know I say this a lot, but please do not listen to the haters. Don't think about it, just watch it for all the beautiful elements it possesses. While this film is quite dark and at times scummy it does possess a little elegance in certain scenes and in the setting and also the way it is shot. For a film to have these completely opposite elements, and then have them come together so naturally, is so damn hard to do in film. Burton executed everything in this film, so damn perfectly. Sure this version of the Batman legacy may not speak to everyone but you cannot deny the greatness of the personality that this film has. Not many super hero films will stand up after twenty years or more. But Batman will.