Twenty-three years after Tim Burton's Batman made its way to theaters - without sinking deeper into the Adam West territory of Spoof and Bad puns - I'm flabbergasted to know what moviegoers were thinking to make this one of the most popular and profitable movies of the 1980's.
Batman is a gorgeous film, with dark skyscrapers, alleyways filled with smoke, characters that look like they've stepped out of the 1940's, with old fashion clothing, holding revolvers and machine guns Al Capone might have used back in the day. Burton certainly has the character of Gotham down perfectly, it's the flesh and blood people he has trouble with. Their brooding yet boring, flashy but without pulse, laid back versions of wonderful characters that DC Comics probably wouldn't dare publish because they would get too much flack from the audiences who feel they've just wasted their money.
Batman (Michael Keaton) is an urban myth in a city full of crime, a metropolitan called Gotham which is sinking ever deeper into a cesspool of violence, bad cops and even worse, cowardly, brainless politicians. It is not until an old figure in organized crime makes a new entrance that the trouble for Gotham gets even worse. That trouble's name is Jack Napier (Jack Nicolson), who will be pushed too far over the edge, who will be mutilated and made to look like a clown. He will kill because he enjoys it, because he is insane, because he says he's an artist and death is a kind of art, at least to him.
Now, from that movie synopses called Batman this surely doesn't sound like its about Batman. Don't get me wrong, the Joker is a fascinating character but he was never called Jack Napier and he really never had a back-story. Well, he does now!
The Joker is, or should be, an enigma. We know a few tidbits but really this guy is scary because we don't know who he is.
The Joker could have told me he's from Hell itself and I'd would probably believe him but even then that would be less scary then he is in most comic books.
In the film, Burton tries to humanize the Joker, making him just a madman who goes even madder. That is not, I'm sorry to say, scary.
There are some interesting scenes with Batman himself, hence the time when his car pulls up, when he uses his plane, when his gadgets help him out of a mess but that too is not Batman. Burton tries to make Batman human by giving him a girlfriend, a photo journalist who wants to find out who Batman is, Vicky Vale (Kim Basinger) but she, Bruce Wayne and Batman have no chemistry together and we are left to wonder how these two would even get along let alone fall in love with each other.
The magic is just not here folks.
Michael Keaton plays Batman as a soulless, emotionless outsider and wants to kill - KILL Mind You - the kind of people who murdered his parents…which there is a twist on the legend in this film on how his parents died that should leave a very bad taste in the audience's mouth. It's cheap and while Burton tries to make it appear epic, it instead sinks to the lowest pits of implausibility.
Again, Batman looks pretty cool…but then, without emotion, a good character or a lack of focus, who the hell cares?