BATMAN (1989)


DIRECTOR: Tim Burton

May Contain Spoilers!

In 1989, hot off the heels of his previous hit, Beetlejuice, Director, Tim Burton set his sights on reimagining one of the DC Comics most sacred characters, apart of from Superman that is, The Dark  Knight. This incarnation owes a debt to Frank Miller’s mid-80’s, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and Alan Moore’s (Watchmen) The Killing Joke, in which Batman became a darker, more meaningful characters, and not just your run of the mill crime fighter.

Batman, was not perfect, as the film focuses more on fulfilling Jack Nicholson’s screen time obligations over fully realising the central character himself. This would be resolved 16 years later with Batman Begins, but here, it’s the Nicholson’s, The Joker’s show, and he doesn’t half steal it! I don’t hold though, with any comparison to Heath Ledger’s, Joker from 2008’s The Dark Knight, as he was an anarchist, whilst Nicholson is just crazy.

But he is funny, darkly so, but still the clean-cut Clown Prince Of Crime, rather than Ledger’s more serious and frightening take. Both work really well and are on par with each other, but as this film goes, accusations that Batman/Wayne are sidelined are somewhat valid, though not to the extent that some would argue. In short, it works. The film is not only entertaining, it’s a classy and well conceived adaptation of the comic book characters, as influential to the genre back in 1989 and Batman Begins would be in 2005.

Burton set the tone, of a dark and more serious and sinister takes of what was perceived to be the preserve of children or overgrown kids. But as any comic book fan will attest, though I’m not one myself outside the movies, comics are allegorical and not just about cartoon characters knocking each other about.

Then, there’s the Batmobile, the Starship Enterprise of the franchise. But even though this car is impractical, and the later incarnation, the Tumbler in the latest films, would feel more plausible, Burton’s gothic jet powered car would still rank as the best looking Batmobile ever! The Tumbler is great and I love it but the Art Deco stylings of this beast beat the competition full stop. And that’s the key to this project, the style.

With a macabre take on The Joker, bad-ass Dark Knight and some of the most ambitious Art Deco/Gothic stylisation to appear in a mainstream movie makes this a visual feast from start to finish, and with Burton’s twisted sense of humour perfect for this new Joker, Batman was not only a phenomenon in its day, but a classic version of Batman, even in 2012. Oh, and even though the Batwing wouldn’t last five minutes in the sky in real life, it’s still one the coolest things I’ve ever seen!

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