Batman

Batman ★★★★

One of the most gorgeous-looking comic book movies ever created, Tim Burton’s Batman revels in glorious excess, using every cent of its presumably massive budget to excellent effect. This is essentially two hours of an uncharacteristically serious Michael Keaton chasing an uncharacteristically goofy Jack Nicholson throughout some of the most beautifully lavish sets ever crafted for a Hollywood action movie. The film wisely uses Keaton’s Batman sparingly, embracing the shadowy reputation of the character — I was pleasantly surprised to see that Burton doesn’t even show his origin until the final third of the film. Nicholson doesn’t really play the Joker as a particularly consistent character, but his chaotic spirit makes him even more magnetic.

I’m not sure that the plot makes any sense on a logical or emotional level, but it barely matters, because the magnificent lighting, combined with the surreal production design and ridiculous costumes, makes even the goofiest scenes into visual feasts. And the soundtrack — with amazing contributions from Danny Elfman and hilarious tracks from Prince — creates a unique atmosphere that feels like an incredibly dangerous party.

Despite massive narrative flaws, Batman is a success because its Batman is competent and mysterious, its Joker is charismatic and hateable, and its Gotham is a hypnotic dreamscape. I appreciate Nolan’s take on these characters, but I’d rather watch this, any day of the week.

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