As I've mentioned here, it's difficult to assess the previous Batman films mainly because of the trilogy that Christopher Nolan brought, so I'll try my best to be as objective as possible. This movie introduced the start of the movie versions of Batman (not including the film adaptation of the series), and while it was a good start, I felt that it was a lesser version of the sequel (Batman Returns). While it had a colorful villain, the screenplay was off-putting and unsatisfactory, leaving me with mediocre feelings towards the first film.

Batman already had a presence looming over in Gotham City, but instead of being praised, he was being feared. People didn't know what to make of him, and the police force was ignoring his existence because it sounds absurd. A man dressing up as a bat, who would believe that? This was what Vicki Vale and a fellow reporter were trying to get at the bottom off. Meanwhile, we meet the identity of Batman's rival, Jack Napier, who is portrayed as a cunning right hand man of one of the notorious bad men of Gotham City. In an botched attempt to get rid of Napier, he comes back to the world as Joker, who intends to get revenge to the world, and try to upstage Batman, who was feared by all. Then there's Bruce Wayne, whom we casually meet, and whom strikes a romance with the lady reporter. The connections all tie up somewhere in the movie, but this movie basically marks the start of Batman's presence as a defender of the city. 

I've always found Michael Keaton to be an odd choice to play Batman. He seems lost as Bruce Wayne.  He always seemed to be panicking. Even Michael Gough, who plays Alfred, would steal the scenes he has with Bruce Wayne.  I think maybe it's partly due to the material he was given. His Bruce Wayne wasn't written well; I actually enjoyed his scenes as Batman, and not as Bruce Wayne. 

I found Kim Basinger a bit mediocre as Vicki Vale. Granted there were scenes that she acted lifeless, and seemed that she was overdoing parts a bit, she was good as a damsel in distress. She always looked distraught after a night's work of screaming and spying. Her performance can be attributed to her material. She's not my favorite Batman love interest, but she was more interesting than Bruce Wayne.

Jack Nicholson was the best part of this movie. His Joker was psychotic, sadistic and crazy. Plus he got the musical numbers (which was oddly weird for a Tim Burton movie). He wasn't given much of a background, and what he had against Batman. The story does tie him up with Bruce Wayne, but even that was left untouched. Still, he had the best scenes.

The movie made a 'big deal' of having Harvey Dent as Gotham's district attorney, but his addition to the movie didn't have any relevance. His parts might have been left on the editing room, so in that case, they should have removed the scenes that show that he was of importance to the plot. They can't just keep mentioning an important factor and not show his necessity to the plot.

The movie was flawed, but I think it may be because it was experimental. The franchise just came off from a television series, and this was the trial movie. I guess if audiences receive it well, then it'll spurn off more movies (it did). I found the latter part of the movie to be anti-climactic. It could have been more of a blast, but it wasn't. It felt rather dull and prolonged. I expected more from a Tim Burton movie, considering that he always had eccentric taste, but this does not have the Burton flash. I was surprised this was even directed by Tim Burton.

While I'm not particularly a fan of this installment, it helps to view this before the succeeding movies. It gives the background and history of Batman, something that is deprived of the latter installments (except the ones of Nolan). As a start of a sequel, this makes a solid background to knowing the masked hero a bit better. If this was a stand alone flick, this is not what I expected.

Final Word: A good start to the Batman movie franchises.

Cast: Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson, Kim Basinger
Director: Tim Burton
Year: 1989


  1. Nice review! As a big fan of the Batman movies (pretty much all of them), it's easy to look back at the Batman movies and don't feel that they live up to the superhero movies of today. But it's great that you pointed out how this was really a trial movie. Some of the script is weak but I think the early Batman movies still have a lot to say beneath the veneer of being the start of a mega superhero franchise. (Batman & Robin is probably the most horrendous one.)

  2. I'm a huge fan of this movie. It's my 2nd face of all the Bat- flicks. However, your arguments against it are well explained so I won't try to dissuade you from them.

    As far as he director goes, I've always maintained that this is Burton filtered through the corporate big wigs at Warner Bros. while Batman Returns is truer to his own vision.

    Great post.

  3. I can understand fully why you were not fully on board for this movie. Unless you were around in 1989 when this hit theaters. You had no idea on how huge this movie was. You made some good points about Micheal Keaton, but I still thought he did a good job in both roles. At least he didnt have to dramatically alter his voice like Bale did in Nolan's version. I agree with Wendell that Batman Returns is more with Burton's vision then this was. Good Post.