Update: let me just say this about the DVD... Warner Brothers kinda sucks when it comes to transferring their classics to DVD. Blade Runner shook back and forth and was making me dizzy, and Batman, well... I don't know the technical term, but I think it has to do with normalization. The brightness was normalized on it. This is Batman we're talking about here. This is $60 million for Jack Nicholson. This is Batman logo tattoos and haircuts in the backs of peoples' heads. This is Sean Young stalking Tim Burton... no, wait, that's the second one. The point is, I want a crisp transfer, boys! You better hope you got the Blu-Ray right! I want the brights BRIGHT! I want it to look like the tarmac scenes in 1941, or every Oliver Stone film from the 90s. BRIGHT, BRIGHT, BRIGHT! Okay, on to the review proper.
Awright! It's been a long while, so let's crank out a damn movie review here! So this is the question that surely comes to mind now in this post-9/11 world: is there still room on the DVD shelf for the 1989 Batman? Apparently, Warner Brothers must be having their doubts, as it's now bundled with the likes of Blade Runner, Blade and 2001: A Sbace Odyssey... wait, that last one has no B in it. And I guess I reserved some doubts myself when I first saw it lo those many years ago. Not that I didn't get caught up in the hype, of course. The wall-to-wall ads, the fact that a relative hippie sprout like Tim Burton was helming the project. Oh, I cared about such things back then, don't kid yourselves. But on and on I ramble. Still, kinda hard to believe this was the blockbuster that it was watching it now, but it was.
But since Burton's gone on to ruin the Planet of the Apes franchise, I can't help but think now that there's a little of the ol' TV show in this film incarnation, that Jack Nicholson seems to channel Cesar Romero a little bit, and the camera tilts slightly at times, especially during the art gallery sequence. It still has some satirical bite: The Magic Christian turned slightly on its ear.
But some of the casting choices do suffer a bit. Michael Keaton? Well, once upon a time he was a star, and after doing such films as Gung Ho, Touch and Go and The Squeeze, why wouldn't he be a shoe-in for the role of the new Caped Crusader? A little more down to earth than Superman to be sure, but a little meaner too. Not Superman 3 mean, but mean. Robert Wuhl kinda doesn't work for me, either, but he's suffered enough as it is. I won't heap on him any further.
As for the rest, well, that Hootkins was a hoot with that baritone voice of his. And if you need a mayor of New York or Gotham, why not get someone like Lee Wallace? That voice! That resumé! Sometimes you need a guy with experience. And gotta love Bob, that veteran of Jonathan Demme films like Silence of the Lambs and Philadelphia... even Beloved, for God's sake! Now that's dedication. Of course, he's no Dick Miller to Joe Dante; he wasn't even in Stop Making Sense, for God's sake! It makes no sense! Nevertheless, I have seen that guy before... just, never in person. Anyway, Tim Burton's Batman is at least daring in its casting choices, casting a few people over 30, unlike the new one. Oh, and I forgot to mention Jack Palance, chewing his way through his two scenes harder than even Christopher Walken ever could. I felt sorry for him, but he got through his two-pic deal with Guber and Peters. Somehow ironic that he gets killed early in this one, yet survives to the bitter end in Tango and Cash.
Anyway, I ramble on and on. I must confess I cut right to the good parts when re-watching this one. As with A Fish Called Wanda, I tended to skip around to the parts with Kevin Kline. With Batman, it's straight to the Joker's big scenes. And so, here's a toast to the world's first and last fully functioning homicidal artist.
-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan