Batman (1989)

The 1989 smash hit Batman is distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures.  Some of its stars include Michael Keaton as Batman/Bruce Wayne, Jack Nicholson as the Joker, Kim Basinger as Vicki Vale, Michael Gough as Alfred Pennyworth, and Pat Hingle as Commissioner Gordon.  The original music is composed by Danny Elfman (Spider-Man).  The director is Tim Burton (Beetlejuice).

The story focuses in on a man named Bruce Wayne, who witnessed his parents’ murder at a young age.  His alterego, Batman, attempts to avenge their deaths by intimidating and sometimes killing criminals like the ones who killed his parents.  He lives in a major city known as Gotham City.  It is ruled by a crime boss Carl Grissom and his right-hand man Jack Napier.  District attorney Harvey Dent is closing in on one of the gang’s businesses, Axis Chemicals.  Napier suggests they break in and steal all the records and claim industrial espionage.  Grissom, who knows that Napier is secretly seeing his girlfriend Alicia, calls the police after Jack leaves and tips them off to Napier’s Axis Chemicals breakin.  A dirty cop named Lt. Eckhardt leads the force and tells his men to shoot to kill.  Meanwhile, Bruce Wayne is having a benefit party at Wayne Manor that same night.  But he is alerted to the events at Axis after overhearing the police commissioner talking about it and heads over there as Batman.  Commissioner Gordon arrives and seizes control over Eckhardt, warning his forces to take Jack Napier alive.  Batman has Napier cornered as he tries to shoot but the bullet is deflected back in his face, causing him to fall.  Napier catches a bar hanging on the wall to keep him from falling into a vat of chemicals.  Batman has his other hand.  Napier, thinking Batman will lift him to safety, lets go of the bar.  The dark knight then lets go of the thief’s hand and he falls into the vat, much to the chagrin of Commissioner Gordon who had witnessed the whole thing.  But it’s not over as Napier survived the fall but was severely scarred on his face.  The chemicals had caused his skin to turn white and his hair green and, thus, creating the Joker.  He kills Grissom and his men and takes over his gang.

In the beginning of the film, we see Batman as a form of vigilante justice at work.  Our first example is at the very beginning after two thieves rob an unsuspecting family.  One of them believes in “the Bat” and claims that someone he knew, Johnny Gobbs, was forced off the roof of a building by a mysterious figure resembling a bat.  The other one doesn’t believe him and scoffs at the story.  Then, Batman busts both of them on the roof of a building, kicking one in the groin and sending the other into a frightened shock.

The other instance was when Batman dropped Jack Napier into the vat of chemicals at Axis.  It is clear here that, at that time, Batman was only thinking about personal revenge rather than true justice because, as we all know, vigilante justice is really not justice at all.  The dark knight wanted revenge for the death of his parents at the hands of a remorseless thief.

Another fascinating characteristic of Batman is the portrayal of the Joker as the devil.  Before every kill Jack Napier, and later the Joker, asks his victims if they’ve ever “danced with the devil by the pale moonlight?”  Later in the film, this is literally what’s happening as the “damsel in distress”, Vicki Vale, is dancing with the Joker in the pale moonlight.  But there is a scene before this that more accurately shows the Joker under this light (no pun intended).  The scene is when the Joker throws out $20 million in cash at the people of Gotham.  Then, after all the cash is gone, he tries to kill everyone with Smylex gas.  Many could see this as giving into the temptations of evil and facing punishment.  It could also be said that the people of Gotham had sold their souls to the devil, which is the Joker in this case.

To wrap, Batman was a huge hit when it first came out and, for many reasons, remains one today.

1 thought on “Batman (1989)”

  1. Excellent review. You’ve hit the nail on the head why this remains a great movie to this day. Hell, Michael Keaton remains one of the best, if not THE best Batman to date (although Adam West gets credit for his epic cheesiness), and Jack Nicholson was only surpassed by Heath Ledger’s phenomenal performance. Total agreement.

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