Bat-mania: Batman

Guest Post

“Decent people shouldn’t live here. They’d be happier some place else,” deadpans Jack Napier (the great Jack Nicholson) when District Attorney Harvey Dent comments on making the streets of Gotham safer and a quote that summarizes the plight of the Batman in Tim Burton’s 1989 classic of the same name.

It is true that I have seen ittoo many times to count. It was one of my favorite movies when I was a little kid and my beat to Hades VHS copy somehow still has some life in it. I have most of the lines memorized to the point where they taste like McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets after you’ve eaten your 25th one in a single sitting which is essentially like dirty rubber.

Ah hah! Dirty Rubber! Just like the Michael Keaton Batsuit which in retrospect seems a little silly, on paper at least, compared to verbally advanced Christopher Nolan/Christian Bale model, which brings an intriguing question: which was the better Batman film? Batman Begins or Batman? My brother challenged me to watch them back to back. And thus was born the first official installment of Bat-Mania, in which I will try my best to provide the readers with a review of something Batman related every week until the release of the Dark Knight on July 18th.

Am I partial to the Tim Burton version because I grew up with it? Does it really hold up almost twenty years after the initial theatrical release? You bet it does. The opening credits could have been more creative but I am in love with the busy, dangerous sun-never shines version of Gotham.

The two thugs in the beginning look genuinely corpse-like and though they deliver some campy lines, they seem scary enough. Enter the first appearance of the Keaton Batman, replete with the horror like music of Danny Elfman. Batman seems relatively normal at this point, with the first appearance of the suit still looking grand. Though I really want to argue for the idiocy of rubber muscles molded into the chest plate, I find no tangible basis for the argument. Of course Michael Keaton is not likely to be that ripped ever. I find the torso the Batsuit molded with muscles reminiscent ofa Grecian warrior’s muscle armor. And the sucker is bulletproof! Yes! No dodging bullets! Perhaps this is why I found the Dailies silly, because this is how I learned Batman.

There are many things I love about this movie, and a few that upset me, but as far as Keaton goes, the reason why I love him as the Bat is because of the looks he gives criminals, especially during the Axis chemicals raid. There is the blank look that screams “PSYCHO” when he hangs a gangster with some twine in front of Commissioner Gordon. He gives similar looks to Jack during their brief fight scene before Batman sends him for dead by allowing him to fall into the vat of chemicals that transforms him into the Joker. After doing some research, I discovered that the initial response was that some fans were concerned with the ruthlessness of the Tim Burton Batman and the fact that he kills the Joker’s henchmen. I say bring it on!

I also love the Batmobile! Twenty feet long, replete with Browning machine guns, a slide open canopy, the obligatory fins and a turbine engine, this is true badassery, foundry forged with lines at once curvaceous and savage for the industrial wasteland of Gotham. The louvered tail reminds me of classic Italian cars from the 1930’s. With minimal ground clearance, an endless wheelbase and suggested rear wheel drive with a long hood and short deck, practicality is truly debatable, but thanks to movie magic, the Batmobile never gets stuck on speed bumps, corpses, cabbages or whatever else lies in the streets of Gotham. Nor does it spin out in the rain. Ever. It does not hurt that it is prime for picking up platinum blonde photo journalist stunner Vicki Vale (Kim Basinger).

Is there any argument with the epic Danny Elfman score and the Prince soundtrack? Overall I don’t think so, though the score can be heavy handed at times. And I do have a problem with a significant plot flaw. How can the Joker, simply with an uber-long barreled revolver, shoot down the undoubtedly bulletproof Batplane? And the goons seem almost too goonish at times. As much as I want to say that these flaws really upset me, I have seen this movie too many times to really be objective in this review. This will, for the foreseeable future, be my definitive film version of Batman.

NEXT WEEK: BatmanBegins

2 thoughts on “Bat-mania: Batman

  1. This was definitely the most iconic of the Batman movies for me. As a kid it defined the star power of Jack Nicholson and Michael Keaton for me. Although MK never really did any blockbusters after that…

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