There are movies that change your life the moment you see them, films that you always remember when and where you saw them for the first time. There are films that defy expectations and define a genre for decades to come. This is one of those films. This is Batman.
Todays Key Movie:
This one has been a long time coming but I kept putting it off because so many have reviewed this film in so many ways. It was when I realized that this was indeed a defining movie in my youth that I knew I had to add it to my series.
If I have to describe this film to you then you either live under a rock or are far too young to know your comic book movie history. This is the first REAL theatrical interpretation of Batman and it is one that changed the landscape of superhero films for years to come. It is both origin story and a slice of life in the antic of the masked vigilante known as Batman (Played by Michael Keaton).
Why this movie?
To this day I still get chills every time I start this movie. With Danny Elfman’s amazing score I am immediately whisked away to the streets of Gotham City and I am a kid again, sitting in the dark theater ready for my favorite superhero to appear on screen.
This was THE summer blockbuster for me and it was a film that blew away all expectations I had for a superhero film. Opening with what looked like the fabled murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne, this film begins well into the career of the title character. He is still a myth in Gotham but has already started making a name for himself in the dark streets of Gotham. When a new villain going by the name of The Joker arrives, played by the incomparable Jack Nicholson, things go from crazy to insane as Batman fights to save Gotham City from its own greed.
Okay, you like this film, but is it really a ‘good film’?
To me, this is MY Batman. It is the very film that all other Batman films are held up to and so far only a couple have revived the feeling I had as a kid watching this film for the first time. It is the movie that set the bar for heroes and spawned not only a sequel but also an incredible animated series that would develop the Dark Knight even further as DC’s most successful and recognizable hero. I vividly remember going to the theater to see this film and getting chills when the opening credits began to roll. Elfman’s music blew me away and I had no idea what I was about to experience. To say it deepened my fandom of the The Gotham Knight would be an understatement. From that day forward, Batman was king and I would follow his rule anywhere.
No one had seen anything even remotely like this film when it arrived in theaters. The last time the Caped Crusader graced the silver screen was in the form of the campy 60’s Adam West. So, in most people’s minds at the time, Batman still had a goofy fun side. This film changed all of that and returned the World’s Greatest Detective to the dark gritty world of Gotham City thus cementing him as one of the best of the DC Universe.
Many people had doubts in the casting of Michael Keaton as Batman but in hindsight, he was the perfect man for the job. Having a chance to break from comedy for a moment, he channels some of his dark and serious acting that could also be seen in other films of his such as Clean and Sober. This film also managed to cast a person who would forever be known as one of the greatest interpretations of The Joker ever seen on the screen. This was the Mob Boss Joker, the mastermind, the crazy leader who was willing to kill for a joke. Played by none other than Jack Nicholson, he was able to channel some of his own crazy persona into the role of a lifetime. Not even the incredible performance of Heath Ledger could unseat this amazing man in this version of the Clown Prince of Crime.
I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention the amazing work of Kim Basinger as Vicki Vale. Taking a classic and relatively unknown character such as Vale and breathing life into her the way Basinger did is nothing short of amazing. She came across as a tough independent woman who could hold her own even against the likes of the Joker. Her portrayal will forever be remembered to this day and it was greatly disappointed that she did not appear in the second film.
Lets not forget his wonderful toys. Nothing thrilled me more than getting my hands on the toy version of the Batmobile from this film. This was THE car that everyone wanted and when it rolled up on screen it was the most amazing thing I had ever seen in my life. It was sleek, it was sexy and it was also a powerful beast. Then there was the Batwing, not only was it a jet but it was also the very symbol of The Bat himself.
Another aspect that I loved was that it was clear director Tim Burton had his eye out for the future with key casting choices. Casting Billy Dee Williams as Harvey Dent was a obvious plan to bring in a later villain that, sadly, would never be seen on screen under Burton’s Vision. This was a full world with a history and a future, for the first time in history, Gotham City was alive on the silver screen and it was amazing in all of it’s darkness and shadows.
Finally, the music. The score from Danny Elfman alone was enough to set the tone, but the brilliant choice to bring in the the High Priest of Pop himself, Prince, was nothing but genius. I vividly remember listening to his Batman album and being enthralled by how amazing this artist was. I had been into other music at the time but it was because of the Batman Soundtrack that I came to really appreciate the genius of the man known as Prince.
OK, where do I get this movie?
You can find this film still in print pretty much anywhere movies are sold. Seriously, there are numerous editions of it available in the market and, if you haven’t seen it yet, you need to do yourself a favor and fix that mistake. This is the definitive Batman film, the one that started it all and put Batman on the map for generations to come.
This is a film that will turn any kid who is on the edge of comic book fandom into a true Batman fan. To say it has aged well is an understatement, It is one that defines the genre and transcends time itself.
This was the trailer that got us so very excited for this film.
Late To The Game 4/20/2019 (Originally posted 07/05/2018)
If you would like to read more reviews please check out the rest of the Key Movies Of My Life that comes out every Thursday.
For more retro TV goodness check out the rest of the Retro TV Reviews here. and, If you dig Music, I have a semi regular series called Stand Out Albums that covers some of my favorite records I have come across in life.
As always, please feel free to comment below and share your experiences with these episodes as well. If you just happened by, tell me what you think! Don’t Forget To Follow me if you like the blog!
3 thoughts on “Key Movies Of My Life: BATMAN (1989)”
Great review. And the most “real” Batman to me, including the newest ones — where Batman actually (kinda) killed people, and got close to people. Love it.
LikeLiked by 1 person
The closest thing since was Batman the Animated Series which, interestingly, was originally meant to be set in the same universe.
LikeLiked by 1 person
That is a GREAT show
LikeLiked by 1 person