I remember the night my parents allowed me to watch Batman with them. They were very cautious, not wanting the violence, language, and overall dark tone to scar my delicate mind. My media diet at that point had mostly consisted of G-PG movies and loads of cartoons (heroes in a half shell!). This might very well have been my first PG-13 movie.
And how could it not be? I had seen the strikingly simple cover dozens of times in the video stores; completely wordless, just a shimmering golden bat symbol. It was probably shimmering because I had drooled on it.
My dad said I could watch it with them if I promised to close my eyes and not watch the scenes they didn’t want me to see. I promised immediately. The experience was exhilarating. I had finally watched BATMAN (excluding the scene where Joker fries that mob boss).
In the wake of the Christopher Nolan Bat-films, it’s nearly impossible to not subject the ’89 original to comparisons and criticism. And I will get to that in a minute. But right now, I’m going attempt to block out every other bat-film and try to look at this movie like I did all those years ago.
The High Points
Batman introduction: The punks mug that dumbass family and are chilling on the rooftop because, ya know, that’s where you go to hide in Gotham. Just as they’re discussing how ‘there ain’t no bat’, you know who shows up and scares the living guano out of them. Then he beats them up.
Bruce Wayne introduction: I’ve always enjoyed the scene where Vicki Vale and Alexander Knox wander into the armory room and are joined by an aloof Wayne. Though, he could have been a little less obvious about rushing out upon hearing that Commissioner Gordon had to leave rather unexpectedly. “I’ve got to go ..uh….not be Batman or anything.”
Every scene with the Joker: It’s been rightly said that Jack Nicholson steals the show (I personally feel Knox is absolutely hilarious! You my boy, Knox!). This is a crazy, uninhibited Joker, and is also quite funny. In multiple scenes, he mumbles incoherent lines that add to the insanity. In recent years, Heath Ledgers performance as the Joker has caused some to talk negatively about Jacks’ version. To those people, I have one thing to say:
While The Dark Knight Joker is superbly awesome, this Joker is equally satisfying to me. It’s truer to the comics and is timeless. Jack was born for this role.
The Batwing: It. Rules. It was my favorite as a kid and still is today.
The Joker blowing up T.V. sets: How many T.V.s does he have in there?
The Low Points
Sleeping upside down like a bat: Really? Bruce is so immersed in his bat theme that he can’t sleep like a human anymore? Not even when there’s a chick in bed with him? And this didn’t set off any freak alarm in Vickis’ head? She doesn’t mention it and then actually wants to go out with him again. She probably thought, “Well that’s really weird, but he’s rich.” That’s low, Vicki. Even for someone who gave it up on the first date.
Harvey Dent not turning into Two-Face: Ever. Poor Billy Dee Williams was excited to play Two-Face, and took the role in hopes of being the villain in a sequel. Well, by the time ‘Forever’ came around, there was a new captain at the helm, and Billy got the shaft. Harvey has a somewhat substantial role in this, then he just disappears and turns into a white guy with a burnt face. There isn’t much continuity with the Bat-films, but I feel bad for Billy Dee. He’s forced to betray his friends by Vader, he gets killed by Drago, he gets killed by the Predator, and gets his hand eaten by an aligator. Wait a minute….that was the other guy.
I still love 89 Batman. And as a huge bat-fan, I love that there are so many different takes on the character. In it’s day,this movie was as big a phenomenon as Star Wars or Harry Potter. It’s locked into pop culture, with moments and quotes I will never forget. Is it the best Bat-movie still? I’d say no. But it’s definitely not the worst. We’ll get to that one..