Justin Peterson’s review published on Letterboxd:
Burton, Keaton, Nicholson, along with the music of Elfman and Prince … what a combination to deliver the first serious movie adaptation of the caped crusader.
“I'm not going to kill you. I want you to do me a favor. I want you to tell all your friends about me … What are you? … I'm Batman.”
Many people will say the original blockbuster Super Hero movie was Superman from 1978, but for me as a late 80s kid it was all about Batman which I watched countless times on VHS. It begins with that incredible Batman theme song from Danny Elfman during the opening credits, before it is revealed that the rocky surface we have been looking at is none other than the Batman logo. It's a shame that so many modern Super Hero flicks are lacking when it comes to a great theme song.
Looking back on it now, it was such a perfect choice to bring Gotham City to life through the zany gothic vision of Director Tim Burton. And he went right for the jugular by bringing on the Dark Knight’s most iconic foe with the Joker in this first film. It would not be fair to compare Jack Nicholson’s Joker to Heath Ledger, since they are such different approaches to the character. Nicholson’s Joker is much more of the showy boss type, that lets his goons do most of the work. But his charisma as this psychotic clown is on point, and I love all the production design around his character. Also I enjoyed how his sinister plan to poison Gotham City included some social commentary on the overuse of cosmetics. Whatever he did to that girlfriend of his with the mask added a nice eerie touch to what he is capable of, which springs up again when he suddenly guns down his main goon.
“Jack, it's an important job. I need... someone I can trust. You are my number one guy!”
Personally I kind of liked them having a young Joker be the one to kill Bruce’s parents. How he turns into the Joker by falling into the chemicals was very effective, especially when he is getting worked on by the plastic surgeon. But there was something about the makeup involved with his forced grin that I started to find distracting, but I guess that was the point. Finally I would say the final encounter between Batman and Joker is so underwhelming since they don’t really fight, and instead he just causes him to fall from that cliche bell tower.
“Batman... Batman... Can somebody tell me what kind of a world we live in, where a man dressed up as a *bat* gets all of my press? This town needs an enema!”
Michael Keaton looks great in that big rubber Bat suit, which was pretty stiff maneuvering wise at this point, but he does have a few solid karate moves. Also, I think I caught a few shots when the stunt double was standing in for him. All his Bat gizmos looked great including the Batarang and his variety of grappling hooks. What a great design for the Batmobile, with his ability to remotely armor it. They even included the Batwing which looked amazing in that shot against the moon, but what a disappointment to see it get shot down so easily.
(Was it a bit much to have him sleeping while hanging upside down?)
For being an origin story it was nice that not so much time was spent actually setting up how he became Batman, and instead leaving that to the Journalists. Keaton is a solid and suave Bruce Wayne that also looks great doing that detective work in the Bat Cave. It was a nice touch to show how some parts of his mansion are a little ridiculous, like his long Dinner table. Also Michael Gough as Alfred was perfection. Come to think of it, everyone who has ever played Alfred has done an amazing job. The only slight exception was how uneven Christopher Nolan wrote his character in 'The Dark Knight Rises'. Personally, I think my biggest flaw with the movie is Kim Basinger as the love interest, since I find her to be so blah.
The special effects for 1989 looked great, and I am so fascinated by the one downward shot early on of him on that building which looked a lot like a video game. Speaking of the games, I could never get very far in the Batman 1989 Nintendo game, but that gameplay music sounded AWESOME! Overall Burton's team did a great job bringing Gotham to life with those mood-setting establishing shots like of the chemical factory, and introducing the Bat-signal at the end.
After this point, as a kid I remember getting so excited during the Summers when a new Batman movie would hit theaters. And I look forward to revisiting all of the pre-Christopher Nolan Batman movies soon. Even the infamous ‘Batman and Robin’.
Thanks for reading.
Happy movie watching ... SKOL!