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on 2 January 2015
What a year to be a Batman fan 1989 was, special release graphic novel like Arkham Asylum and Gotham by Gaslight, the 1943 serial shown on channel 4 & of course the release of the 1st big budget and seriously intended film about our favourite relationship-challenged avenger!

The story is a simple one but a good one to work in a comic book world. Batman appears in a Gotham run down by organised crime & earns an outlaw reputation hunting criminals but with even the cops after him.
One crimelord Carl Grissom sets up his number 2 Jack Napier, to be hit by crooked cops but in the melee Batman intervenes & trying but failing to prevent Jack falling into a vat of chemicals unwittingly creats the Joker-the chemicals contorting his face into a rictus grin while turning skin white and hair green.

The Joker decides to take a warped revenge on Gotham and wants to bring Batman down.

The well worn story of Michael Keaton's left field casting is worth repeating. Keaton was best known for comedies such as Mr Mom and Johnny Dangerously (I recommend that one) plus his previous collaboration with Batman director Tim Burton, Beetlejuice(*2). But Burton boldly gambled that Keaton would convince as a Bruce Wayne damaged enough to want to don the batsuit and beat up criminals and he does. His Bruce Wayne is complicated and brooding and the scenes where he sweated in the batsuit e.g. grabbing a villain by the lapels & informing him "I'm Batman", do not disappoint.
You get a good Batman then you need a good villain, who you gonna call? Jack Nicholson. Nicholson uses the acting skills he brought to a number of variously deranged and dangerous characters and takes it to ahn operatic level for a villian that is comic book, yet dangerous. His Joker is almost definitive and if he saw this film then the late Heath Ledger must have bene daunted by it (That's not to say his Joker isn't wonderful too, because it is).

Michael Gough's Alfred is the character most like his counterpart in the famous TV series, butler to the last, loyal and appropriate e.g. emphasising "Comissioner Gordon left suddenly" in front of guests so that Wayne guesses that he needs to visit the batcave. It lets the character down that he takes Vicki Vale into the Batcave without permission though!

Speaking of Miss Vale Kim Basinger hits the spot as the reporter, conveying that Vicki is thinking all the time, trying to work out Wayne's secrets despite her attraction to him.
Robert Wuhl actor and writer plays new charcater Knox who could be a rival for Vicki's affections. We don't root for him but he is likeable.

Vicki is mirrored in Napier/The Joker's girlfriend Alicia played by Jerry Hall.

Sadly Commisoner Gordon although well cast in J Pat Hingle never gets a lot to do but in fairness, so many characters are present they can't all be used to their best.

Billy Dee Williams as Harvey Dent points at a different road the sequels could have taken & he admits in the extras he took the role so he could be Two Face in a sequel. But in the event when Dent did become Two Face, Tommy Lee Jones was playing the character, in Batman Forever.

The batsuit although surely uncomfortable to wear being all rubber, looks great and it's no surprise the basics of this approach continued into the Christian Bale films.

The makeup and purple suit (*2) are incredible for the Joker and really bring him to life.

The sets have a timeless look comtemporary but somehow 40's.

Great toys in the batmobile, batwing plane and Joker copter.

A good script with plenty of menace & humour, naturally the Joker gets the best lines.

Burton was a great director for this and balances all the elements very well. He's especially good at the set pieces like the fight at the Gotham bicentenary.

There's quite a comic book feel e.g. the Joker pulling a trouser leg length pistol out of his trousers to shoot at the batwing and where the batwing flies in front of the moon to make the bat signal (I saw it on 1st release and the audience cheered at this). Occasionally the pudding is over-egged e.g. Bruce Wayne hanging form a railing by his toes upside down like a bat! But in the main, sheer entertainment!

Terrific extras incuding a documentary on the history of the Batman, not long enough to be definitive but well worth a look.
there's also Shadow of the bat the cinematic history of batman 1-3 taking us from the 1st interest in getting the rights and the failed attempts to get a deal, the shot in the arm provided by the Superman series and the possible deals following, right up to the filming of this movie.

There are also beyond Batman shorts each looking at aspects such as the Joker, costumes, gadgets etc & with these and Shadow.of the Bat there are a variety of interviews archive and new with Burton, Keaton, Nicholson and many more. Nicholson is the star of these, Joker Jack telling us he decided he had best go right over the top , he was a fan of the comics and loved the Joker best plus went around at Hollywood parties talking up the film!

There's a short featuring creator Bob Kane on the set and a fun commentary with Burton telling of his influences, casting decisions e.g. he got Michael Gough for the Hammer films connectio & how great it was to work with a supportive actor of Nicholson's calibre.

A terrific package for a film worth revisiting that few Batman films would not enjoy to some degree.

*1 a Bettlejuice sequel was recently announced

*2 made by London tailors the appropriately named "Tommy Nutter" they had it on display during release & it looked incredible
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on 24 July 2014
Nostalgia
It has to be said that my review may come across as biased - I first saw this film when I was roughly 6 when the BBC premiered it at Christmas in 1991 - I fell in love with the dark and twisted world of Batman. This particular interpretation of the Dark Knight was a breath of fresh air for many fans, so far as they could tell from the trailer (which I gather people saw when they purchased cinema tickets for other films - then when the trailer was over, they would leave the cinema) which showed a far different Batman to the campy and colorful 1966 Adam West TV series, which seemed to overshadow any seriousness or tragedy for which Batman's origins are now far more well known. The movie incorporates set designs which echo the 1930s through 40s but then crosses that over with 1980s cars/technology and fashion. Michael Keaton's unexpected choice for the Dark Knight is both calm as Bruce Wayne, but intense and intimidating as Batman. Kim Basinger gives a good performance as Vicky Vale, though I feel that particular interpretation of the character would be better off in this day and age changing into a far more confident role (for which the Video Game Arkham City has accomplished). Jack Nicholson's acting as the Joker is exemplary, a top notch performance backed up by classic Hollywood stars like Pat Hingle as Commissioner James Gordon and Jack Palance as mob chief Carl Grissom. Despite this being one of the far stronger films of the original Batman Motion Picture Series, I have found over the years that it is not so fondly remembered as I had thought.

Differences from the comic books (+++SPOILER ALERT!!!+++)
The main pieces of the the film which displeased fans at the time were mainly being that Bruce Wayne's parents were not killed by Jack Nappier (the man who would become the Joker) and that Alfred had let a journalist into the Batcave. This is extremely out of character for the faithful butler who has protected and looked after Bruce Wayne's secret since the day he took up the cape and cowl. Although as a Batman fan I can completely see that changing his origin story is not a good decision, I still can forgive this film for making changes.

DVD Review
The release of this DVD set was exciting, as for years Batman fans only had a very vanilla DVD copy with only a trailer and cast list for special features. The documentary with it's interviews and stock footage of behind the scenes set designs and historical account of Comic Book to Movie is a must watch for any Batman fan or enthusiast.

All in all, a wonderful movie in a great package.
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Tim Burton's 1989 reimagining of the Batman universe is a masterpiece. Totally eschewing the rather camp and comic Adam West style, and taking a dark path that better represented the gothic graphic strip origins. It was the film that set the trend for later morally complicated superhero tales with its musings on vigilantism. Burton was also rather inspired in his choice of Jack Nicholson to play the Joker, who plays a villain so charismatic and colourful that you almost favour him over the dour, brooding bat.

The film centres around the essential nature of the Batman. He is a vigilante, willing to cross the law so that he can uphold what he sees as justice for those who cannot fend for themselves. During his fight against the underworld of Gotham City he inadvertently creates a monster in the form of the Joker, brilliantly played by an unhinged Jack Nicholson. He must then fight to destroy the Joker and end the reign of terror he unleashes. At the same time he must also be Bruce Wayne, playboy billionaire, and control the conflicts within that arise from his two very different personas.

With big thrills and a decent lashing of humour along the way, along with Burton's trademark Gothic stylings this is a lot of fun that really entertains, but also a film that has a well thought through and interesting plot and character study that means it delivers on many levels. Superb.
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on 19 July 2007
One really can't overstate this film's lasting impact on contemporary Hollywood cinema. While Richard Donner's Superman laid the foundations Tim Burton's gothic masterpiece established what we know today as the comic book adaptation as huge summer event flick. The commendable successes of the recent X Men and Spider-Man franchise owe their success (and indeed production) to the 1989 Batman.
There's nothing I can say about the film itself that hasn't already been said. But just in case you spent the 80s and 90s on the moon;
It looked amazing in 1989 and it still looks amazing today!
Michael Keaton silenced any critics with his deft portrayal of a tormented, psychologically plausible Dark Knight and remains my favourite big screen Batman (with Christian Bale a close second).
Jack Nicholson's Joker provided us with one of the most iconic screen villains of all time.
But I'm assuming you know all about the film.
You want to hear about the DVD don't you?
You know when I bought my first DVD player back in '01 I was shocked and appalled that I couldn't find a Special Edition of one of my favourite films Batman. So I stuck with my VHS copy until I my girlfriend bought me the vanilla DVD one Christmas. Still I yearned and cursed Warner Brothers for not giving Bat-fans and cinema enthusiasts the 2 disc treatment that had been awarded to so many lesser films.
While it was a wait of nearly 5 years WB really pulled out the stops to create a Special Edition worthy of the Dark Knight's legacy.

The film itself has been completely remastered. Grain is seriously reduced (no mean feat in a film with this amount of matte work), colours (particularly blacks) are nice and rich which is essential in a film with this dark a palette, and the film is generally much crisper and sharper. The 5.1 and DTS tracks are superb and really do justice to Danny Elfman's score. Tim Burton's commentary track is pretty good. Anyone who's seen an interview with him knows he prefers to let the films speak for themselves but he raises some interesting points on why he knew Keaton was the man for the job, why Robin was cut from the film and what HE would have done with Two Face.
Disc 2 is where the real meat of the extras lies in easily negotiable (but sadly non-animated) menus.
Legends of the Dark Knight is an in depth look at the origins of the comics and the varying multi media representations of The Batman from the Pulp rooted violent detective of the 30s through to the swashbuckler of the 40s (and visiting the enjoyable movie serials of 1943 and 1949 along the way), the time travelling, space exploring self parody of the 50s and 60s and the darker return to source material of the 70s and 80s culminating neatly in the work of Frank Miller and its effect on the Batman film. While the 60s TV show is mentioned it is (unfortunately) devoid of footage, presumably due to the ongoing rights wars between WB and Fox for the show. Narrated by Mark Hammill and featuring interviews with everyone from Stan Lee to Frank Miller to Dennis O'Neil this is a quintessential Batman documentary.
The 3 Shadows Of The Bat documentaries comprehensibly track the film's long, LONG journey from conception to post production in an incredibly informative and enjoyable way from the perspective of Executive Producer and Bat-fan Michael Uslan. Interestingly these run all across the 4 Burton / Schumacher films and are an excellent means of illustrating the journey the franchise took in the space of 8 years.
The Beyond Batman documentaries are slightly smaller, more manageable featurettes that document every aspect of production from the production design to scoring.
As if all this weren't enough there are some nice little touches like the fun but short On The Set With Bob Kane segment and the Heroes and Villains mini segments in which Batman comic writers, the film makers and the actors themselves share their thoughts on what the character is all about. Another neat little segment is the Robin Animated Storyboard Sequence. Voiced by Batman Animated Series actors Kevin Conroy and Mark Hammill this illustrates how the introduction of Robin might have looked had it not been jettisoned.
In conclusion this 2 disc DVD is one of the few Special Editions truly worthy of the title. WB have finally given The Dark Knight his due!
Thank you reader for making it all the way to the end of this extremely long winded (but I hope, helpful) review!
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on 23 February 2008
Batman shows a mature, dark side of the Caped Crusader, and is portrayed by the dark and mysterious Michael Keaton and directed by Tim Burton.

Michael Keaton is absolutely amazing in this movie. With all the doubt going on at the time about the Batman movie, casting Michael Keaton was a mistake etc. But it wasn't. As Tim Burton himself says, Michael Keaton seems like the kind of person that would have to dress up as a bat. Val Kilmer and George Clooney do not seem like that kind of person. Jack Nicholson is amazing as the Joker and he made it darker than the Joker was in THAT TV show. Kim Basinger is a very good leading lady in this movie (and she wasn't originally the actress wanted by Tim Burton!) And yes, Tim Burton faced a hell of a lot of slack for focusing too heavily on the Joker, but both Batman and the Joker are done credit here.

Batman-the best superhero movie, about the best superhero (my personal opinion, as Batman has no super powers and is just an 'ordinary' guy. (OK he's a billionaire playboy but you've got to love him.)

The film never gets dull!
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on 13 June 2015
Of course when I was growing up, Batman had not yet come about. The superhero for my childhood was Whisperingman. An bland banker by day called Henry Graves and by night a man who lowers his voice to whisper to intimidate his enemies. Admittedly, it was thin on the action as his prime enemies were his own wife and next door neighbour. Graves would firmly yet politely whisper to his wife to 'turn down the wireless' in many episodes of the serial. The highlight was mid - season, when in a particularly frosty encounter with his neighbour, Graves leans across the fence and whispers if his neighbour would mind if he trims back one of his unruly planters, which has crept into his Graves' own garden.

When Batman did arrive, I was enthralled, as was my brother Anders. We would play-act at Batman. Naturally, I would take the lead role. Anders played Catwoman, a role which required him to wear mother's grey tights and nothing else.

The film version arrived in the mid eighties and I was delighted to see Steve Guttenberg take the role of Batman. Three quarters of the film's budget went to Nicholson though, who demanded eighty million to play The Joker, a fifty percent share of all gross profits and a trailer with a bidet.

The charisma of the actors carries the film, aside from Kathleen Turner who is unconvincing as the love interest. She does have a memorable encounter with Bruce Wayne though. The two have gone out to dinner, she is wearing a low cut white dress and he has gone in his Batman outfit, but just left the mask off. I was astonished that at this point she still had not worked out that Bruce Wayne was Batman, especially when he picked her up for the date in the Batmobile.

The film is helped by a rip roaring soundtrack from The Village People and a brilliantly conceived plot. The Joker plans to sell packs of playing cards with one extra Joker in the pack, to confuse players. It is down to Batman to stop this plan from going ahead. However, Bruce Wayne has little time to be wasting on the Joker, as he is in the process of doing up his mansion. The first hour of the film is devoted to Wayne repainting the drawing room and getting the colour scheme just right. While many felt this slowed the film down, I found it gave audiences a valuable insight into the private life of Wayne. The scene where he measures for curtains and finds they are an inch too long for his venetian windows is gripping.
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VINE VOICEon 7 August 2014
The first major feature film for the Dark Knight (removed from the 60s Adam West adaptation) was to introduce audiences to the real Batman; dark, broody, exciting and dangerous. Director Tim Burton managed to deliver on all points mixed with his trademark blend of gothic surrealism and black comedy. The push for DC to launch the marketing campaign to really spread Bat-mania around the world was kick started by this major blockbuster and was the foundation for home media, music soundtracks, toys, clothes and games. It was almost the ‘Star Wars’ of the 80s in terms of marketing a franchise.

Michael Keaton embodies an everyday quality to his Bruce Wayne. He’s not overly tormented and broken like modern interpretations now portray him, but keeps his grief and reservations inside. He uses them as a weapon in his role as Batman to become a dark, silent avenger of justice and the balance is perfect because of this. Keaton splits both “characters” perfectly, much like Christopher Reeve did with his Clark Kent / Superman role. He ticks all the boxes and certainly proved to doubters he could convey Batman as a dark and dangerous crime fighter with the imposing presence in the suit, his looming voice and involvement in the action.

The supporting cast are equally enjoyable in their roles, never coming across as hammy or mis-cast. Basinger, Wuhl, Palance and Hingle play the clear lines of good and bad and are strong actors themselves to bring their characters to life to either oppose or work with Batman in their own way.

It’s Jack Nicholson however whom Burton clearly focuses on as the Joker, bringing an eccentric, psychotic and deadly essence to the character who has a clear trait as a manic criminal. Nicholson has a devilish glint in his eye at all times and he acts the fool perfectly, but never leaves doubt that he kills for pleasure and is 100% dangerous. With brilliant one-liners and a nightmarish quality to his visual look with the emerald hair and ruby lips, our Joker is certainly more humane in some aspects as we get to see his origins, but he certainly becomes a monster whom you can’t help enjoy watching thanks to Nicholson’s eccentric performance.

Looking far more like a film noir comic than most other super-hero films, it is almost a timeless film that could be set in the 50s or modern day thanks to Burtons’ visual style like trilbies and trenchcoats for the majority of the male cast and smoke rising from the man-holes between tall, dark and industrial looking skyscrapers. It’s a Gotham City you can’t really place in time or match to any other location. It’s a character in itself to capture the action in, and looks very good because of it.

With effective use of miniatures and models for the action sequences involving lots of fan favourites such as the Batmobile and Batwing, Burton ensures we get as much action from the Dark Knight as we can as well as a decent narrative exploring human tragedy and redemption in the comic-book world. The set design is very faithful to the comics as well is the costume and make-up for our hero and villain with Batman staying dark and broody and the Joker a camp and deadly adversary.

While the film can stray a little in terms of fluidity and the Joker can be a little repetitive in his slap-stick eccentrics, it doesn’t take long to get back on track with a bang and continue the excitement. It actually plays out at times more like a detective thriller, which essentially is what Batman should be seen as; a detective working in the shadows rather than an invincible super-hero.

Still, it’s great fun and very visually stunning as a comic-book adaptation, introducing Batman to old and new fans and ensuring that Keaton is the man who can carry on numerous adventures in Burton’s faithful world.
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Sometimes it’s hard to imagine the Batman franchise without Christopher Bale and co, let alone with someone other than Heath Ledger as ‘the Joker.’ However, many years before Bale donned the famous black cowl, Michael Keaton was the ‘Dark Knight.’ And, believe it or not, he didn’t do a bad job (at the time).

Although, despite Keaton being reasonably well-known, top billing – naturally – went to Jack Nicholson as the Joker. And for a good reason – he steals every scene. Until Ledger’s final performance as the psychotic clown, no one could really see anyone else as the Batman’s most infamous nemesis. Perhaps the only downside was that Jack Nicholson was given so much screen time and so many of the best lines, it’s hard to see Batman as anything but a secondary character who just pops up every now and again to thwart whatever the Joker happened to be doing at the time. Despite the fact that Batman – technically – has wings, his character doesn’t get much of an opportunity to fly. Even the fact that Bruce Wayne had a ‘love interest’ in the form of Kim Basinger’s Vicki Vale didn’t give Batman too much extra time on screen. Plus Basinger was little more than a ‘damsel in distress,’ screaming and gasping in bewilderment and fear almost as much as she spoke.

The 1989 vision of Batman was a smash hit, but not without its detractors. A lot of comic book fans resented the choice of director (Tim Burton) and his casting of Keaton in the titular role. Tim Burton confessed that he had never actually read a comic book (and some said it showed). However, his vision of the Dark Knight may not have been completely in keeping with its comic book roots, but it was pretty impressive. He certainly got the tone right, bringing Batman away from his ‘campy’ TV roots and portraying him as something much darker. Most described the outing as a ‘twisted fairytale’ which, although didn’t reflect the source material, was a pretty accurate description.

It’s safe to say that now, after Nolan’s Batman trilogy, that most people consider his to be the ‘definitive’ Batman. However, Burton’s outing/outings shouldn’t be written off as anything but good. If you don’t mind the villain being given more screen time than the hero, it’s worth a watch alone for Nicholson’s performance. Heath Ledger may be the Joker of today, but Nicholson will always be the Joker of my childhood, therefore, I give him the last laugh.
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on 5 May 2013
Hi, I have to say that this Batman film in the late 80's/ early 90's is the definitive super hero flick for me as a true comic geek ! Although Michael Keaton is only finding his feet as the caped crusader, this for me was a return to the true origins for the superhero character! When I saw this for the first time as a 19 year old, gulp almost a quarter of century ago ! . It shows how the complex use of models and special effects were so much ahead of its time. What else can I say about this gothic masterpiece, Jack Nicholson was born to play the epitome of the Joker, this was the first serious attempt by Tim Burton to portray the characters in the film as they should be portrayed.

I remember about 10 years ago with my mate going to see the Daredevil Film as he is very much into Daredevil, as I can well remember the anticipation and excitement that we both felt as the opening credits were about to start .I have timeless affection for this movie because it is such a masterpiece in the concept, the design of the sets, the story line and each time that I watch Michael Keaton in this film. I feel that I am 19 years old again, caught up in the excitement, the drama and the twists and turns that made this film such a classic and a joy towatch. One can only wonder what would had happen if Michael Keaton had chosen to play Batman for a 3rd time under Tim Burton ?
One can only wonder and imagine. This is my ALL TIME favourite superhero action film which I would place on an equal par with the first and best Superman film with Christopher Reeve in the spandex and blue tights.
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on 4 March 2008
As somebody that has loved the batman mythos for over twenty years I have to say that this movie is absolutley superb. While it can be considered as an 'elsewords' take on the batman which takes severe liberties with the overall story arcs (The joker didn't kill batman's parents, harvey dent is white and becomes two face!) It still maintains the ethos of the character and takes it too a new and interesting place. While batman begins sets its stall in a more realistic take on the dark knight (begins is superior to this but only just!) burtons vison sets up Gotham city and its architecture as part of the tortured soul of bruce wayne, here corruption, graft, murder are all par of the course. The designs for the costumes point toward the old pulp comics in which kane based his vision on originally such as 'the shadow'. The film is dark, people always comment that this joker is a fun trickster but they have clearly missed the point, here is a man who disfigures an innocent woman's face, kills his detractors and shows no remorse. The joker here is a dark psychotic madman. Yes he's fun but you wouldn't want to meet this guy in a dark alley! Another Myth is that Nicholson steals the show, while that is true to an extent I dont think the people that make that comment appreciate that burtons batman lies in the shadow and is therefore a more introverted batman in the film. This does not make either actor, nicolson or keaton better or worse in this movie it just means that the joker is by definition the focal point of the extroverted style which he has in the comics and in this movie. I dont like getting into which batman films are better but just to say that batman, batman returns, begins and the forthcoming dark knight are the greatest not only batman films but comic book adaptations in the world. Thankyou to Burton and Nolan for giving us TRUE BATMAN FANS what we deserved after years of kapow crap.
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