Batman (1989)

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Film Review: Batman (1989)

I remember the first time I watched Tim Burton's Batman, I quite honestly hated it. At the time, I was admittedly a massive fanboy of Christopher Nolan's Batman films, and although I adore them today just as much as I did then, I was blinded by the thought that nothing could match my beloved Batman capers. Although I maintain that those films are better than Batman, that isn't to say I had a bad time with it.

As I'm sure most of you know, Batman follows Bruce Wayne (Michael Keaton) as he struggles to balance his life as billionaire and winged vigilante Batman. He faces opposition from The Joker (Jack Nicholson), who has a plan that will leave Gotham City in tatters, but he can't do it alone. With help from girlfriend Vicki Vale (Kim Basinger) and loyal butler Alfred (Michael Gough), it is up to Gotham's hero to save it from purgatory.

The aspect that stands out most about Batman is its design. All of the typical Burton-isms are here, including gothic halls and gargoyles, and the design of Gotham itself is very retro whilst also having futuristic qualities, thus not giving this film a specific time-frame, making it effectively timeless. Alongside this, I loved Batman's costume, and although clunky and impractical, it remains true to Batman's comic roots, and I commend Burton for that. The Batmobile itself is also fantastic, and it's no surprise that elements of it have been used in other Batman media such as Batman: The Animated Series and, much more recently, Batman: Arkham Knight. Unlike some of the other parts of the film, the design is quintessentially Batman.

The script itself is also marvelous, with some highly quotable lines having established themselves firmly into the pop culture history books. Classics such as "You ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight?" and "Where does he get these wonderful toys?" remain as witty and groundbreaking as the day they were written (or so I presume). The script does a good job of communicating a pretty run-of-the-mill story, and although it can't help the story - thus the film - shine, it does have some massive highlights.

The tone of the film is at times its greatest strength, but at others its greatest weakness. Some moments are tremendously dark and depressing, which had never been communicated on-screen with Batman before, but others are just plain silly and jarring, which makes the film feel unbalanced. One minute, Joker is covered in acid with his skin literally peeling off, and the next he is dancing around to Prince songs. Don't get me started on those Prince songs.

Performances here are also fantastic, especially Jack Nicholson as the Joker. He's frequently considered one of the first true method actors, and with a performance like this, it's hard to argue against it, because he is simply nuts. Nicholson manages to pull off Jack Napier and Joker in one film, and his performance is so convincing that you could even argue that it rivals Heath Ledger's Joker. Michael Keaton is the other standout performer, and has easily the most layered performance, not just handling Bruce Wayne and Batman, but also tortured Bruce Wayne, public Bruce Wayne, and meltdown Bruce Wayne in Vicki's apartment. It's a massive shame that Keaton dropped off the radar, but after such a fantastic performance in Birdman, I'm so glad he's back. Kim Basinger is far less impressive as Vicki Vale, and hers is a one-dimensional performance: all she seems to do is scream and beckon for saving from the eponymous hero.

How could I review Batman and not talk about the score? Danny Elfman's legendary soundtrack blasts alongside the opening credits, creating a synthesis of image and audio, resulting in one of my all-time favourite openings, and the score itself is so resilient and legendary that it is used still, particularly in Batman: The Animated Series and the LEGO Batman games.

The biggest problem that faces Batman is its deviation from the comics, occasionally working in its favour, but most of the time dragging it down. Giving the Joker a definitive origin takes away some of the mystique of his character, and that's what makes the Joker in the comics so special: he has no defined motive or origin, which helps keep his character fresh and interesting throughout. But with Nicholson's Joker, his motives and origin are spoon-fed to the viewer, and once it's all clear, his character has nothing left to offer. I also didn't like that Joker killed Bruce's parents, but it did introduce some interesting talking points, however far it deviated from comic book lore.

Although it goes quite far away from the comics, Batman had enough style to introduce a darker genre of superhero film, and if it weren't for this, we may not have comic-book films half as good as The Dark Knight or The Avengers. It falters at points and isn't always true to the character, but Batman is a good time if you're looking for some great design and layered performances.




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I love Burtons Batman, especially Batman Returns.. There awesome.
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Love your review of this film as much as I love this film...especially agree with your comment regarding Keaton's layered work as Bruce Wayne. I also agree that Nicholson is awesome. He was my Lead Actor of 1989.



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"Lois, I never lie."
"Don't get me started on those Prince songs."

This was one of the low points of the movie and quite a boggling choice.
Nothing against Prince or his music, just that it has nothing to do with Batman; stylistically or otherwise. It was in no way congruous with the mood or settings that Burton presented (IMO).

Adding insult to injury, they had Prince write a whole album's worth of songs for the movie (which they played throughout the movie). I remember going to buy the Batman soundtrack (on cassette back then) and ending up with this awful Prince album which was nowhere near as good as some of his other stuff because it was force-produced to sell within a movie! Luckily, I later found the actual movie score on tape.

Why was I looking for the Batman soundtrack? Why for the tremendous Danny Elfman score which was used in sequels and reprised for Batman the Animated Series. Now, unlike anything Prince produced, that music WAS Batman through and through.

So - Danny Elfman's music? One of the definite high-points of the movie that made it forever memorable.
Prince's Batman soundtrack? Next to altering the origin by making the Joker the murderer of Bruce Wayne's parents, one of the lowest, most cringe-worthy aspects of the film.



Hey guys, below is my review of Batman Returns as part of my 'Batman Week' series over at my blog, thatfilmbloguk.wordpress.com. Any feedback would be really appreciated as I'm an aspiring film reviewer trying to get some practice in!



Movie Review: Batman Returns (1992)

After the success of Tim Burton's 1989 hit Batman, it shocked no-one when a sequel was announced. But, as I'm sure you know, he was never brought back for a third entry. Today, I am going to discuss why, in my review of Batman Returns.

In Batman Returns, Bruce Wayne (Michael Keaton) has settled down as Batman, and with the Joker and Vicki Vale out of his life, is returning to his form of normality. However, from the sewers emerges Penguin (Danny DeVito), an orphaned child raised alone, and alongside Selina Kyle/Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer) and Max Shreck (Christopher Walken), plans to bring Batman's city of Gotham to its knees.
The plot of Batman Returns is a very mixed bag. At times, it tells a heartfelt tale of a man left isolated in this world, becoming more of a tragedy, but then takes a u-turn by introducing ridiculous plot devices that feel out of place. The film's plot feels slightly too bloated due to the multitude of villains, all with different plots and motives, whilst still having to be a Batman film. That is where I believe Batman Returns falls down: it doesn't know whether it wants to be a tragedy or a comedy, which leaves it feeling very lacklustre. The second half of the film is the main culprit of this. For example, one moment Penguin is riding a duck boat, and the next he is coughing up phlegm, covered in blood and falls, dead, to the floor: the film tries to reach out to everyone with its plot, but end up falling short of wholly pleasing anyone.

That said, the best parts of Batman are still here in Batman Returns. Michael Keaton is sublime once again as Bruce Wayne, arguably (and in my opinion) better than the first entry, with an even more layered performance that proves how fantastic he is. In the suit he is also brilliant, and although given less to do than in the first film, capitalises on his screen time. As per the first film, the design of Gotham city is superb, and I can't get enough of Burton's gothic and dark vision of Batman's city. The Batmobile is also back and as stylish and sleek as ever, and it makes me sad that the film's hero gets pushed to the sidelines, because Keaton's Batman is easily one of my favourites as Batman.

Michelle Pfeiffer is also fantastic as Catwoman and Selina Kyle, giving a performance as layered as Keaton's due to the various personalities of both Selina and her feline alter-ego. She has great chemistry with Keaton and when on screen together they are electrifying, but more importantly believeable as a couple, something that couldn't be said for Keaton and Kim Basinger in the first. It was great to see the development of the series, as in the first film, the leading lady was only there to scream and be saved, whereas here Catwoman is fierce and truly a force to be reckoned with. I would say Pfeiffer's performance is better than Anne Hathaway's in The Dark Knight Rises, making her the best cinematic Catwoman yet.

Danny Elfman once again knocks it out of the park, not only bringing back the classic score from Batman, but adding in segments and new tracks entirely to signify the change in tone. We hear a lot more organs than in the first film, suitable considering its tone, and it proves that Elfman is truly one of the greatest film composers of all time.

Tim Burton's direction is also better here than in Batman. Although I didn't write it in my review, I felt that the action scenes in the 1989 film felt clunky and didn't flow, something I can wholeheartedly say is not the case in Batman Returns. Action scenes are fluid, believable and very tense at times, proving to be some of the film's best moments. The fights are choreographed superbly and the pyrotechnics are brilliant, especially the series of large explosions in the film's final act.

However, that is where my praise for Batman Returns ends. Unfortunately, I really couldn't stand Danny DeVito's Penguin. Admittedly, at times I enjoyed his performance, thinking he helped make Penguin a tragic character that may deserve the viewer's sympathy, but there were other times where I just cringed. His performance is pretty hammy - typically DeVito - and his character's plan is awful, not fitting in at all with the tone of the film or having any correlation with the previous events. I feel like some of the scenes that would've helped me like the character more were rushed, especially the falling-out of Catwoman and Penguin, which felt forced and hard to believe. If that scene had been done better, and perhaps if his character was taken out of the film altogether and saved for another film with less villains, I may be saying the opposite.
Tonally, Batman Returns is all over the place, quite like its plot. As mentioned, at times the film is so dark and depressing, with truly sadistic and depraved characters on-screen that invoked true terror into me, but at other times it felt like a corny 90s comedy, with cringe-worthy innuendos and ridiculous plot devices leaving this film feel like a tug of war between Burton, who clearly pushed for a darker and more depressing tone, and the studio, who wanted to sell tickets and merchandise. If Burton had won, we may have seen him helm the third installment, and maybe even see this film with a better reputation.

Batman Returns manages to retain some of Batman's best elements, such as the brilliant design, performances and score, but is dragged down by a muddled plot and tone that never really knows where it is going.

I give Batman Returns



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Adding insult to injury, they had Prince write a whole album's worth of songs for the movie (which they played throughout the movie). I remember going to buy the Batman soundtrack (on cassette back then) and ending up with this awful Prince album which was nowhere near as good as some of his other stuff because it was force-produced to sell within a movie! Luckily, I later found the actual movie score on tape.
I actually really like "The Arms of Orion". I thought that was a fairly decent song on the album. I didn't really see how it fit with anything else, though. I agree about all of that. I just liked the song and wished it would've been on another one of Prince's albums instead.
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...but at other times it felt like a corny 90s comedy, with cringe-worthy innuendos and ridiculous plot devices leaving this film feel like a tug of war between Burton, who clearly pushed for a darker and more depressing tone, and the studio, who wanted to sell tickets and merchandise.
Actually, I feel the opposite. I think Batman Returns is the superior film, with Burton's sensibilities fully in place. I thought the first film showed more interference from the studio and producer Jon Peters (whose girlfriend at the time, Kim Basinger was mysteriously cast in the female lead). I hated most of the dialogue, as opposed to BR. I do like the first movie, and thought Michael Keaton was great, as he was in BR. Enjoyed Jack Nicholson also, but felt his dialogue was fairly awful i.e. "I'm of a mind to make some mookie" and "Never rub another man's rhubarb." Then Robert Wuhl's, "He must be the sorriest guy in the world" (I'm not sure I got that last one right but it was said by Robert Wuhl when they were looking through Wayne's treasures) and again, The Joker's, "Who is this loss?" There was some good dialogue but enough of the bad to make me cringe when I heard them.

And some of the casting, the aforementioned Kim Basinger, whom I like, but like you stated, thatfilmbloguk, all she did was scream and wait to be rescued. Robert Wuhl, whom I like in almost anything, I thought did a bad job here as the mostly comic relief. And especially Jerry Hall as Alicia. Yikes, what bad acting! And the goons of the Joker, who tried to sound like old-time movie gangsters with lines like, "Get outta herayyyhhh!"

Not saying the movie was bad. Keaton was awesome, Nicholson was mostly great, the action was super and the film looks great. Just for me, it's not as good when compared to Batman Returns.
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I love the Tim Burton Batman films, possibly more than the rest of the lot. But yes, they were heavily compromised by studio interference. Burton did NOT want Prince songs, but the studio had already contracted that they would be in the film before they even had a star or director. Jack Nicholson insisted that he needed funnier dialogue and catchphrases, so he had his own personal team rewriting the script during filming. In the really great book Burton on Burton the director says he felt like he lost control of the film pretty early on. He only agreed to make the second film if he could do it his way with no interference. (Sadly, set designer Anton Furst was released from the second film as a way to save money.)

And Warner Brothers hated the finished product, demanding rewrites even if they left the film itself nearly incomprehensible. Max Shreck was supposed to be the Penguin's brother, which is why he began targeting him in the first place. The ending was originally that the Penguin sends all the first born children of Gotham down to the sewers in baskets, just as he had been at the start of the film, but the studio found this distasteful despite the children being saved by Batman. Burton described the making of the film as being comparable to "pulling teeth," but he'd already started fielding writers for a sequel that would have starred Robin Williams as the Riddler when Warner Brothers asked him to step aside as director.

Robin Williams was actually Jon Peters' first choice for The Joker, and his name attached to the film helped get investors interested. Then Jack Nicholson showed interest, and Williams was out the door, but still under contract for the sequel, which he still didn't appear in, and he was replaced by Jim Carrey in Batman Forever. When offered a chance to audition for the Joker in The Dark Knight, Williams declined, saying that they did this to him three times before, he wouldn't let himself be burned again.
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Movie Review - Batman Forever (1995)

Quite like one of its villains - The Riddler - Batman Forever is a mystery wrapped in an enigma, because it tries to balance thoughtful storytelling and some interesting character moments with some downright ridiculous characters and set-pieces, which just leaves it feeling lacklustre and generally poor.

Batman Forever follows Bruce Wayne (now played by Val Kilmer) as he faces off with Edward Nigma/The Riddler (Jim Carrey), a former employee of Wayne's who wants to control the world using television, and Two-Face (Tommy Lee Jones), who wants to bring Gotham to its knees, and Batman along with it. However, this time the Caped Crusader receives help from Dick Grayson (Chris O'Donnell), a young man not unlike Bruce, who together must save Gotham once more.

The main problem I had with the plot of Batman Forever is that it has no direction and was clearly made by merging the ideas of two different parties. There is a darker subplot of Bruce delving into his past to recount his parents' death, which fits perfectly into the established universe here and really works, but then there are zany action scenes and ridiculous set-pieces that shatter any of the realism or depth that the film was trying to create. The film, for the most-part, takes time to set up characters and their relationships with others, mainly with Dick Grayson and the Riddler, who have decent chunks of time dedicated to developing their characters. Although I didn't like the Riddler (I'll get on to that later), I appreciate the efforts made to flesh out his character.

Like its plot, the characters of Batman Forever are a mixed bag. Val Kilmer is, in my opinion, pretty great as Batman, and he delivers a mostly dark and brooding performance as the Bat and his alter-ego, which I was definitely impressed with. Unfortunately, the villains are the main problem. Tommy Lee Jones' Two-Face is simply horrendous: hammily acted with poor dialogue and costumes, with little to no background to flesh out his character and very unclear motives. Jim Carrey's Riddler is another confusing one, since his character is developed fully and he has plenty of screen-time, but I just hated his performance. The Riddler in the comics is not zany and doesn't bounce off the walls and chew the scenery, and is intellectually equal to Batman, trying to outsmart him, which is touched upon but never fully realised here. I was also left with a bitter taste from Nicole Kidman's Chase Meridian, since she has some superb character moments and good chemistry with Kilmer's Bruce Wayne, but towards the first half comes across simply besotted with Batman without her own interests, which I found corny and cringe-worthy.

The best parts of Burton's Batman films were the designs: be it the Batsuit, Gotham City or the Batmobile, everything was stylish and fit in perfectly with the tone of the film. The same can't be said for Batman Forever, where the Batmobile has been simply ruined thanks to neon wheels and tacky gadgets, and the Batman himself has been vandalised due to those dreaded Bat-nipples. Oh God. Gotham City is now plagued with neon lights and ridiculous gangs that would never intimidate anyone in the real world, and it all ends up making the film even less believable than it already was, a true shame considering the quality of Burton's designs.

Director Joel Schumacher's cinematography is mediocre and at times downright embarrassing. There were far less of the spectacular establishing shots of Gotham than in Forever's predecessors, and the few shots that did stand out were for all the wrong reasons. Why, on God's Earth, would you take Batman, a dark, brooding hero who strikes fear into the hearts of his enemies, and give him nipples on his costume, and moreover, have entire shots focused on his crotch or rear? It baffles me that these decisions were given the green light, and it unfortunately goes to show that in contemporary cinema, the amount of money made is valued more than decent storytelling or sticking to the source material. The film's CGI, when rarely implemented, is also abysmal, and if I had to compare it to any other film it would be Alien 3. In both cases, the CGI looks unfathomably bad and is incredibly jarring, and I would argue that the CGI from Batman Returns, released 3 years before this, is far superior.

Not everything about Batman Forever is terrible thanks to the few character-driven moments that give fans of Burton's films something to look out for. I love the fact that it delved much deeper into Bruce Wayne's past, which gave him a layer of depth that hadn't been explicitly explored before, and character moments, such as between Bruce and Chase and then Bruce and Dick, are fantastic when executed correctly: if this film had focused on its plot more than its action, it potentially could've been superb. There are also a couple of easter eggs to look out for if you're a fan of the comics; my particular favourites being the Metropolis reference, the 'Excelsior' casino, the array of previous Batsuits and the suggestion of 'Nightwing' as Dick's superhero name.

Batman Forever isn't a train-wreck per se, but falls down due to its lack of focus and muddled storytelling and tone. It doesn't know whether it wants to appeal to those who like Burton's grittier, story-driven films, or those who want to see Jim Carrey chewing the scenery and nipples on the Batsuit, eventually ending up satisfying nobody.

I give Batman Forever



Pretty much agreed with what you said about Batman Forever. I did enjoy it while seeing it in the cinema, but it doesn't really hold up on repeated viewings. I liked most of the things you did about the movie. I had to laugh in agreement with what you said about the ridiculous gangs, all the neon in the city, etc. I really hated the moment when the Batmobile drove up the side of the tall building! C'mon!



I totally agree with you: Batman in the first two films was brooding and struck fear into the hearts of his enemies, but in this instalment, he was nothing like what we had seen. I'm glad this series didn't last forever!



I have like almost 3000 or so films in my categorized definitive 80's movie list. Any Batman film that comes after Batman Returns in that decade didn't even make the list.
And rightly so!



Check this out. I just happened to find this on Cinema Blend's website today, and even though they say it sounds fantastic, I think it sounds horrible. You be the judge:

It’s safe to say that Joel Schumacher forever ruined his legacy with the Batman franchise because of Batman & Robin. However, despite the Bat-nipples and Arnie’s campy Mr. Freeze, it turns out that a third Batman film that Scumacher had planned actually sounded rather incredible.

Joel Schumacher originally took to the Batman franchise with 1995’s Batman Forever, which had Val Kilmer as the titular caped crusader and was an enjoyable, family-friendly take on the character. It was forgettable fun. That all changed with Batman & Robin, which is widely regarded as one of the worst superhero films ever made, and proved to be such a colossal failure that it took Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins to rejuvenate the hero.

Joel Schumacher would have gone some way toward salvaging his reputation if he’d been given the chance to create his third Batman film, though. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Schumacher ambitiously wanted to cast Nicolas Cage as the Scarecrow, the villain who would later be portrayed throughout the Dark Knight saga by Cillian Murphy, in a sequel titled Batman Unchained.

Straight off the bat, that’s a pretty appealing casting choice. A maniacal Nicholas Cage, who in the late 90s would be at the peak of his powers (having recently been presented with the Best Actor Academy Award for his performance in Leaving Las Vegas, before then appearing in The Rock, Face/Off and Bringing Out The Dead), given free reign as a Batman villain would certainly have been intriguing to see. Especially if George Clooney, minus his diabolical cheesy approach, was still Batman.

But that’s not all, because Schumacher also wanted to include a cameo from every single Batman villain from the movie franchise, as well. Yes, that would have included Jack Nicholson’s Joker, while Jim Carrey’s The Riddler, Tommy Lee Jones’ Two-Face, Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman, and Danny DeVito’s Penguin would have also been featured.

Why would this gaggle of villainy have been needed? The report says Schumacher wanted to end the blockbuster with an all-star sequence, which would have featured Batman hallucinating and then facing the demons from his past. Each of these villains would then put Batman on trial. This news also comes just a few days after it was teased that Batman Unchained’s Harley Quinn was almost played by Courtney Love. All of which suggests that Batman Unchained could have possessed a terrific coagulation of iconic villains from the comic’s illustrious past.

Now, of course, it’s all good that Joel Schumacher envisioned this conclusion, but actually getting each of these actors to sign up for the scene would have been a huge stretch.

Anyway, in the end, it was all a pipe dream – because Schumacher’s diabolical Batman & Robin immediately brought an end to these ambitious plans. We’ll get to see the latest incarnation of Harley Quinn and The Joker in Suicide Squad on August 5, 2016, where they’ll be played by Margot Robbie and Jared Leto, respectively. Meanwhile Catwoman, Penguin, Two-Face and The Riddler are each on Gotham too. If you want to see them all in one scene, you’re just going to have to wait for a nifty YouTube editor to slice a clip together.



Sounds interesting in theory but I doubt Schumacher would've been able to pull it off, maybe if Burton came back he would've been able to helm it.



guys, do you think that Kim Basinger was a bit too annoying with her screaming in Batman, as it felt to me as if she was one of those useless bond girls, she reminds me of Tanya Roberts from a view to a kill..but a bit more useful as to working as a reporter and trying to uncover who batman is...



guys, do you think that Kim Basinger was a bit too annoying with her screaming in Batman,
Very much so, yeah.

as it felt to me as if she was one of those useless bond girls,
I can't remember – was her character any use in Never Say Never Again ?

she reminds me of Tanya Roberts from a view to a kill..but a bit more useful as to working as a reporter and trying to uncover who batman is...
Yeah, she doesn't really come over as a character who would do the Perils of Pauline schtick.