Film and Documentary

Batman (1989): Retro Review

“Millionaire Bruce Wayne by day, avenging Batman by night, the caped crusader encounters a grinning face from his past when a madman known as the Joker threatens Gotham city.” This is the best description I’ve ever seen of this movie.

We all know the story. Bruce Wayne’s parents were killed in front of him as a child, and as an adult, he’s vowed to use their fortune to dedicate his life to fighting crime. He also wants to avenge their death, and to keep this tragedy from occurring to another young child. Michael Keaton’s Batman is slightly dotty, and deliciously absent minded, but those nuances humanize him, and make him the best and deepest Batman. The movie is filmed in Tim Burton’s dark Gothic vision, which only adds to the mystique.

Jack Nicholson is truly beyond masterful as the Joker and provides the color in Burton’s gloomy expressionist Gotham City. His performance is about as unrestrained as he’s ever been allowed to get away with, and Jack gives a showboating swagger that pretty much dominates the movie. His lines are amusingly epic: “Never Rub Another Man’s Rhubarb!,” “Where Does He Get Those Wonderful Toys?,” and “The Pen is Truly Mightier Than the Sword.” All are worthy of the trademark caustic wit of the Joker persona, and Nicholson’s delivery is spot on. But the best lines in the movie are these:

“The Joker : Tell me something, my friend. You ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight?

Bruce Wayne : What?

The Joker : I always ask that of all my prey. I just… like the sound of it.”

The same phrase spoken the night Wayne’s parents were killed. And with those words, he knows exactly who their murderer was. You can momentarily see the rage, disgust, and shock on Bruce Wayne’s face before he remembers his mission. The remainder of the movie is an epic showdown mainly between those two characters. The ultimate good versus evil, with good winning in the end. Absolutely brilliant.

Kim Basinger as Vicki Vale was adequate, but barely. Aside from being stunningly beautiful, well-dressed, and apparently a talented photographer, she doesn’t add a whole lot to the movie. She screams entirely too much, and she isn’t even surprised at the reveal that her “boyfriend” (after ONE date? Seriously?) Bruce Wayne is Batman. How does she react? She doesn’t. I felt she was more decorative than anything, and she had more chemistry with reporter Alexander Knox than she did with Bruce Wayne. Robert Wuhl does the Knox character justice and makes him far more interesting. Michael Gough as Wayne’s butler and confidante Alfred Pennyworth is truly outstanding as well.

This movie has held up very well over the course of 30+ years since its original release in 1989. Both Keaton and Nicholson’s performances are truly stellar, and highly entertaining. The slightly comedic moments are inspired, yet subtle. If you’ve never seen this one, you really should watch it. In my opinion, this was the best of all the Batman movies.

Tami Danielson is the main in-house blogger and Director of Operations for Pop-Daze. She was raised in California and Florida and currently resides in Oregon. Tami has written for a variety of periodicals and has provided digital marketing services for a number of artists. She can be reached at [email protected]