With yesterday (June 23rd) being the 25th anniversary of the original premiere for the movie known as “Batman”, I figured now would be the perfect time to reflect on the importance of such a movie that came out on a summer day way back in 1989.
Batman (or Batman ’89 to many of us fans) has become a cult classic that is enjoyed by people of many ages from the young to the old. Not to mention the fact that this movie, as well as its first sequel, Batman Returns, is in constant playing on movie channels, cable channels as well as over-the-air channels. There is no denying the influence and popularity this comic book hero movie has on us fans. What takes a mixture of the comics with some creative differences and tweaks, Batman ’89 has solidified a legacy that is often referred back to in regards to how to create, film, and produce a comic book hero movie that can not only draw from the comics and serials/shows/movies prior but uses that director taste to make the subtle differences to further compliment the movie’s story. Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson deliver as the Batman and the Joker, respectively. Tim Burton works a masterpiece as the director of the movie. The entire cast does its part in developing a story that has funny moments, serious moments, as well as action and excitement.
Let’s take a further look at the movie as well as what it means:
- Dark, gritty movie
Adam West had his three season television show of “Batman” AND a full length movie based on the hit tv series and is still considered a legend for taking on the cowl of the bat. But while yes, everyone including myself loved the campy and comedic Batman tv show from the ‘60s, the nature of the show does not line up well with the more current storylines in comic books. Batman came off more so like Superman did in the pages and Christopher Reeves’ movies; a boy scout that has good manners and proper comebacks for anything and everything. Burton’s Bat film gave us that dark, gritty type of movie that showed us something that falls in line with not only the description of Gotham City for Batman, but also a major metropolis city in current times. Many people see Gotham City as a mirror comparison to New York City-the real Gotham-on a “bad day”. With that in mind, the movie gave us the underbelly of a city where not everything is fine and dandy. Murder, robbery, corruption are all a part of the plan. A police detective worked as a mole for the crime boss. You didn’t see such action in West’s batman universe, nor the superman movies that came out prior. Everything was more so on the straight and narrow and gave that after school special feeling at times. But Batman ’89 gave us that alternative that many fans feel did a perfect job on creating the story, the backstory, and the development of a character that would be seen in 6 other movies since 1989, portrayed by 3 other actors with two other directors once Burton and Keaton decide to hang up the cowl and move on.
- Nolan’s predecessor
Whether the diehard Nolan fan likes it or not, there are many similarities established with the latter’s ‘Dark Knight” Trilogy and this movie made 25 years ago. It gives us that simple beginning to a story of a mere mortal man that has a hunger for justice and seeks out to rid his beloved city of the crime and corruption that manifestoed and grew over years of police and political negligence. Many quote and remember the backlash of Tim Burton being considered the director for Batman ’89. “How could a comedic director like Burton be the man for Batman? How could Beetlejuice himself Michael Keaton be picked to be Bruce Wayne and the Bat? It would NEVER Work..” Well, luckily, such backlash wasn’t the driving force in casting and producing since Keaton rocked the job as Batman and Wayne, with many fans still clamoring for his role as “Best of all time”. Burton is also given his due and is often praised in his role for the first two Batman Movies.
Nolan never got that much heat as did Burton, but Bale, and even Heath Ledger and his Joker performance, all got some reaction from the fans and followers of Batman. Once again, however, those fans were wrong. Bale did a solid job as Wayne and Batman while Ledger portrayed an amazing role of Joker. It’s honestly hard to pick Nicholson or Ledger for best Joker role…although Cesar Romero also knocked the house down in the 1960’s.
One can say that while it’s not the same exact thing, there are many other sites that have already made the comparison to the movies, as well as the sad comparison of “The Dark Knight Rises” to “Batman and Robin”.
- Gave us “those wonderful toys”
Perhaps the best part for any young child during the release of a comic book hero movie is the wonderful and amazing toys that are created and sold to the mass public. Based off of the movie, DC did a great job in selling batman, joker batmobiles and bat wings that all resembled the movie 100%. Those toys were always a blast to play with. Shame they’re almost forgotten now…except for since this is the big 25 year celebration there is a return to action figures, toys, prints, videos, and even contests in honor of the film. 25 years is a decent amount of time: it’s the minimum requirement to be inducted into the Rock n Roll hall of fame as well as a quarter of a century. But in the film and superhero world, 25 is still a baby in terms of past and future success. These toys? Collectors’ items.
- Gave us that hybrid influx of comic book basis with creative altering
Batman could be anybody, and in this case it’s the man known as Bruce Wayne. Sticking to the comic book mythos about a man that witnessed both his parents being killed cold blooded in the streets of Gotham City, Wayne dedicates his life to fighting the villains and stopping the crime that infiltrates his beloved City. By day he’s the millionaire heir to the Wayne family fortune and CEO of Wayne Enterprises. At night he’s the masked vigilante striking fear into those cowardly criminals. Wayne’s backstory for the most part follows perfectly, however the movie does make some interesting twists.
For one, Jack Napier kills Bruce’s parents, not Joe Chill. Joe Chill was the common thug that was labeled as the man that pulled the trigger on that cold, dark night. However, this film develops Jack Napier as the man that shot the parents and then falls into a batch of chemicals to become the Joker. While joker’s development is considered the same, the fact the Joker in hindsight made batman while batman made the joker is a take Burton does in this film. While some people actually had a problem with this, there was one man that didn’t. Warner Bros. Films had Bob Kane stick around the filming as a consultant. Who is Bob Kane you ask? Well, he’s one of the creators of Batman. He along with Bill Finger developed the Batman, Gotham City and the rest of Batman’s backstory in the comics’ way back in the early part of the 20th Century. So if Bob Kane is ok with some alterations, then who are we to complain?
Throwing in the design of the bat wing, batmobile perhaps even the batsuit itself, one might say all of this was different in times to the comics. But it has shown that it’s OK to be a little different. I’m pretty sure the 21st century Terrorists in Asia don’t capture Tony Stark in every Marvel comic. In fact, while taking this detour to Marvel, I remember an Iron Man cartoon that saw Stark make the suit out of metal with the traditional blacksmith route of heating up and altering the metal. No Jarvis. Yet we all seem ok with the most modern take on the film. But to get back on track, some change is ok as long as it’s not totally random and changing EVERYTHING.
Batman ’89 should be in its own category for the inspiration, admiration and overall enjoyment that many people have with this film. It kicked off a 4 movie set at a time when Batman was an awesome sight ot see on screen, and still is to this day. There are often jokes that Warner Brothers and DC Comics ALWAYS have a Batman film on tap to be picked into production if ever the time arises. But this movie in particular started that off.
It wasn’t that goofy and comedy type of movie from the good time vibes of the 1960’s, but it’s also not that dark and extremely racist Movie Serial version we all saw prior to the 1950’s. That maybe the first Batman live on screen, the serial was more of a warm up show before the actual movie itself. And even those serials had some bad acting, bat costumes, and such racial treatment on sore subjects that all Americans obviously had at the time of creation.
If other movies get released into the theaters on the 20th, 30th, 50th years and so on, Batman ’89 should get its own run in the theaters. Why wait 5 more years? Doing it this year could easily get huge box office receipts…even for a movie many of us have seen over 100 times.