Thirty years ago, Warner Bros. released Batman, a movie that not only became one of the highest grossing films of its time but also left a massive cultural impact on the film industry, catapulting the superhero genre into the mainstream and securing it as one of the most respectable and profitable movie categories. And just this month, Batman returned to theaters for a limited time.
Batman is a 1989 film directed by Tim Burton and stars Michael Keaton playing tortured millionaire Bruce Wayne as well as the titular hero who needs no introducing at this point, as Batman is one of the most iconic characters in pop culture history. Batman has the criminals of the most crooked city on Earth, Gotham City, running scared. But after small mob man Jack Napier, played by Jack Nicholson, falls into a vat of acid during a police raid at Axis Chemicals, he comes out of a drain a completely changed man. He takes on the persona of the Joker, Batman’s most twisted and trying foe yet. It becomes personal for Bruce when the Joker begins to threaten his love interest, reporter Vicki Vale, played by Kim Basinger.
Michael Keaton’s portrayal of Batman is one of the boldest and most unexpected casting decisions in film history. What makes his Batman so revolutionary is that he is neither the handsome playboy of the comics nor is he the goofy Batman of the 60s movie and TV show. Keaton’s Batman is totally revolutionary and paved the way for more serious superhero movies in the future. Jack Nicholson as the Joker, however, is one of the most perfect casting decisions in the history of film villains. Nicholson’s natural expressions and mannerisms are perfect for the Joker and make him one of the funniest, most entertaining, and most unique villains in cinema history.
One of the most common concerns I heard from people anticipating seeing Batman in theaters again was that it might be dated. While that point of view is justifiable, with some shots bordering on straight animation (and not good animation), and some of the miniatures used in action shots being painfully obvious, many aspects of the film are borderline timeless. The gothic production design of Gotham City is one of the best fictional settings ever created for a film and still holds up perfectly today. The music, score and soundtrack (by Prince, which some may have forgotten) are still fantastic. The costumes of every character are iconic, fitting in perfectly with each of the characters’ personalities and setting. So have no fear, Batman is just as good today as I imagine it was 30 years ago, and each performance, every set, and every action scene is still incredible, and definitely worth revisiting.