Dir: Tim Burton
Star: Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson, Kim Basinger, Michael Gough
Cert / Year: 12 - PG13/ 1989
Format: VIDEO

I don't expect many people don't know the basic story of Batman, as he is one of the more prominent pop-icon characters of the 20th century. First bursting onto the Detective Comics (DC) scene in 1943, amidst the second world war, The Batman was created by artist and writer Bob Kane. The Batman told the story of multimillionaire Bruce Wayne, who after witnessing the brutal murder of his wealthy parents when he was a child vowed that he would use his ample wealth when he was old enough to fight crime on it's own ground. He became a vigilante, striking fear into the hearts of the criminal elements who had kept Gotham City in a stranglehold of fear for far too long. He was a champion for truth and justice, a Dark Knight.

Batman begins with a dark and brooding Gotham City held in a tight grip of a crime wave orchestrated by Carl Grissom (Jack Palance) who controls all of the organised crime in the city. He has several corrupt officials in his employ, including police officers, enabling him and his gang to basically rule the city with impunity. This is until a new district attorney, Harvey Dent (Billy Dee Williams) declares war on organised crime and specifically Grissom, as a means to clean up the city making it safe for decent people. At the same time the police and city hall are investigating a series of incidents where local thugs and thieves are being apprehended and/or incapacitated, ready for the police to arrest. Allegedly the work of a menacing supernatural form kind of like a six foot Bat. The reports are scoffed at by local authorities whilst they are secretly investigated by both them and a local newspaper reporter Alexander Knox (Robert Wuhl) who believes the rumours and is determined to get to the bottom of them. This is laughed at by his peers, who waste no effort in ridiculing Knox for his off the wall theories. Intrigued by Knox's frequent tales of "the Batman" professional photographer and all round babe Vicki Vale (Kim Basinger) travels to Gotham City to team up with Knox in order to photograph the mysterious Batman which they hope they can use, along with Knox's story to win a Pulitzer Prize.

In order to catch a few words with Police Commissioner Gordon (Pat Hingle) regarding the alleged secret file on the Batman, Vale and Knox attend local millionaire Bruce Wayne's (Michael Keaton) charity ball at his immense mansion on the outskirts of Gotham. After an awkward meeting with Bruce Wayne, Vale and Knox discover that Commissioner Gordon has been suddenly called away on urgent police business, at which point Bruce Wayne is also called away urgently. Meanwhile at the Axis Chemical factory on the other side of town, Grissom's lieutenant Jack Napier (Jack Nicholson) is breaking into the safe in order to make away with any documents that can link the chemical plant as a "front" for Grissom's dealings. Unbeknown to him, Grissom has set him up because Napier has been seeing Grissom's girlfriend Alicia, (Jerry Hall) behind his back and ordered bent cop, Eckhardt to kill him during the robbery before he can be arrested.

Unfortunately for all concerned Commissioner Gordon knows of Eckhardt's extra pay checks and arrives at the plant, determined to catch Napier due to his connection with Grissom. But things don't go to plan and with the police pinned down by gunfire Napier starts to make good his escape, until the Batman arrives from behind the Gang and starts to take them all out allowing the police to move forward and make arrests. During which time Napier meets the Batman who accidentally drops him into a vat of chemicals much to Commissioner Gordon's displeasure. Only to later discover that Napier survived and due to the toxicity of the chemicals he has been irreparably disfigured, and now uses the name Joker, due to his big grin and love of psychotic jokes.

The creator of Batman, Bob Kane died in 1998 and his original story of the Batman is most evident in this film. Tim Burton has managed to capture the essence of what Bob Kane had envisioned. Unlike the overly camp and silly 60's TV show, it retains the dark brooding and oppressive landscape that was originally intended for Gotham and the Batman. What needs to be taken into consideration is the fact that the original story was written during World War 2, and as with the general feeling at that time was intended to portray a dark, brooding and forlorn city without hope until the arrival of this "Dark Knight". A hero that fights for the people and stands up for them, giving them hope and a hero that they can root for against the oppression of crime and lawlessness. Okay, so it may be a bit idealistic but at that point in time everyone needed a hero and The Batman gave them that which Captain America couldn't, instead of battling the Nazi's Batman was battling the enemies at home, more precisely crime, but enough of the history.

Batman, is a good film with fine performances all round, Jack Palance is his usual unnervingly freaky self, Jack Nicholson is superbly deranged and you could not have gotten anyone better suited to play the Joker. Michael Keaton hot off the success of Beetlejuice actually managed to play a very good Bruce Wayne/Batman, as he has a certain quality and presence that makes him more believable in a role which demands a subtle degree of psychosis and vulnerability. On the whole I was pleasantly surprised by the film in general, which is superbly directed by Burton who seems to have been the only person to have made a Batman film that actually paid any attention to the original characters and the story (Which was tweaked by Sam Hamm for this film, and who has written the story for the upcoming Fantastic Four Movie). The Batmobile is fantastic the gadgets are excellent and the special effects are cool. My only real criticism's are the excessive use of "Prince" music, a pretty poor performance by Kim Basinger who looks completely out of place for the most part and one or two of the effects are looking a little dated nowadays. Other than that this is a good film, unlike most of the sequels!!!! (Joel Schumacher is Pants!!!)

Rating: 4 out of 5

Reviewed by Logan Back Top Home