With the conclusion of the Dark Knight trilogy and the upcoming release of “Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice,” it is important to look back on the film that made superhero movies viable. This is Tim Burton’s “Batman,” and despite its effect and all the good it did for the genre, you probably remember it far more fondly than you should.
“Batman” is the story of an extremely bland Bruce Wayne (Michael Keaton) and his mission to become the Batman, therefore ridding Gotham City of crime and corruption. He is opposed by Jack Nicholson playing the Joker in what comes off as an unconvincing and poorly-made Joker cosplay.
Batman is supported by his love interest Vicki Vale (Kim Basinger) and reporter Alexander Knox (Robert Wuhl), who are investigating the appearance of the caped crusader in Gotham.
When “Batman” was released, people were afraid that Michael Keaton would be unable to pull off such a serious role, and they were right. He switches between an awkward and bored Bruce Wayne and a Batman who is generally confused as to where he is.
Jack Nicholson is a bad Joker — probably the worst Joker. He can be entertaining on occasion, but he adds little depth to the greatest super-villain of all time. Part of this is due to writing that never decides who exactly the Joker is besides “some crazy person,” while another part is due to the fact that Nicholson’s performance seems like the same one he’s given time and time again: it’s nothing special. The other fixtures are simply alright, with Kim Basinger faring the best. Unfortunately, she has nothing to do but be a damsel in distress for Batman to save.
However, a lot of charm comes from the spectacular set design and Burton’s top-notch direction, which emphasizes the film’s gothic style. The writing is also focused on the circle of crime that created Batman — a circle of crime that also resulted in the creation of the Joker. A circle that is, perhaps, encouraged by Batman as opposed to being stopped by him. Sadly, this is put on the back-burner by action scenes that have not aged well at all.
When it comes to “Batman,” audiences may ask why it was so popular. It is remembered more for the influence it had on film, and the modern day superhero genre, than for its quality. It’s worth checking out to see an important piece of film history, but not much else.