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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Batman (1989)

#1 - 1989 Box Office: Gross $251,188,924

After witnessing the murder of his parents as a child, billionaire Bruce Wayne (Michael Keaton) vows to avenge their deaths, becoming masked vigilante, Batman.  This is a difficult task, as Gotham City is run by criminals and corrupt cops.  When crime-lord Carl Grissom (Jack Palance) finds out his second in command, Jack Napier (Jack Nicholson), is having an affair with his mistress, he decides to set him up at a local chemical plant.  Batman arrives, and after a gun- and fist-fight, Jack winds up hanging over a vat of chemicals.  Batman tries to save him, but Jack falls into the chemicals and is presumed dead.  Things never work out that way though, and after a bit of botched plastic surgery, the green-haired, white-faced and perma-smiled Joker is born.  After taking care of his ex-boss, the Joker takes Gotham hostage by tainting the city's hygiene products with a set of chemicals that cause its users to laugh themselves to death.  Meanwhile, photojournalist Vicki Vale (Kim Basinger) catches the eye of both Bruce Wayne and the Joker.  Not only does our titular hero need to save the city from the Joker's fatal plans, but he has to save Vale from the Joker's playful hands.

Trivia (mostly courtesy of the IMDb)
  • Batman opened on June 23, 1989, grossing $43.6 million in its opening weekend, breaking the opening weekend record of $29.4 million, set by Ghostbusters II one week earlier
  • Robin Williams lobbied for the role of the Joker; he would later be considered for the Riddler as well
  • The Batmobile was built on the chassis of a Chevy Impala
  • The Joker's line, "Take thy beak from out my heart" (said at Vale's apartment) is from Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven"
  • The only two actors to appear in all four Burton/Schumacher films are Pat Hingle (Commissioner Gordon) and Michael Gough (Alfred)
  • The surgical tools used to reconstruct the Joker's face are the same props as the dental tools used by Steve Martin in Little Shop of Horrors
  • The cartoon sketch of a bat-man (a bat in pin stripe suit) handed to Knox in the press room is signed by Bob Kane, the original creator of the Batman comic book
  • The painting that the Joker spares during his vandalism spree is Francis Bacon's "Figure with Meat"
I kind of like this one, Bob. Leave it
Fresh off their success working together on Beetle Juice, Tim Burton & Michael Keaton seemed like odd choices for a Batman movie (in fact Warner Bros claims to have received 50,000 protest letters at news of Keaton's casting). After watching The Dark Knight a few weeks ago, this film definitely isn't as good as I remembered it to be.  Nicholson's Joker is still great (he steals every scene he's in), however, the film is just so cheesy when he's not on screen (and even when he was on screen, every time one of Prince's songs started playing, I cringed a little). I suppose, at the time, Burton was able to reinvent the Batman story, taking away the KAPOW! and BOFF! campiness that was prevalent in Adam West's version, but 20+ years later, I can't say the story or presentation holds up all that well (especially considering Nolan's recent reimaginings).  Plus, the effects are painfully dated—when the Batwing crashes on the streets of Gotham, the surrounding cars look like Hot Wheels. I really hope this MLiF project doesn't ruin other films I used to remember fondly from my childhood.

Ponch's Rating:

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