Release Date: June 23, 1989
Director: Tim Burton
Starring: Jack Nicholson, Michael Keaton, Kim Bassinger, Robert Wuhl, Pat Hingle, Billy Dee Williams, Michael Gough, Jack Palance.
Tag Lines: “Only one will claim the night.”
“Justice is always Darkest before the Dawn.”
Relevance: As I had mentioned on this blog before when discussing ‘Superman’ (see 211. Superman), I was not a huge superhero or comic book fan as a kid. My only knowledge of Batman was through the late 1960’s television program that I watched as a kid through re-runs. Pow! Blam! Batman and Robin were also member of the animated series “The Super Friends Hour” that I absolutely loved watching every Saturday morning. But that was my real extent of my fandom for superheroes, until 1989 rolled around.
In June of 1989, I had just graduated high school and for some reason I was completely swept up in the “Bat-mania” that was sweeping the country. I was definitely a huge fan of Tim Burton’s films by that time. If you have been following this blog, you will know that this is the sixth of seven Tim Burton films to appear on my list of most influential movies of all time (see 315. Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street, 300. Mars Attacks, 293. Ed Wood, 267. Edward Scissorhands and 172. Beetlejuice for the other five). More importantly, I was a huge fan of Prince. In the 1980’s, Prince was really only second to Madonna when it came to musical icons that I idolized. I absolutely loved his music and even more so loved the fact that he scared people and pushed their buttons when it came to sex, religion and pop culture. Madonna. Prince. Similar molds. So the fact that he was releasing a “Batman” soundtrack only fueled my interest in the upcoming caped crusader film.
Still on a “Like A Prayer” high from March, when Prince’s song “Batdance” was released in early June, I was in heaven. The song was fun and funky and danced its way up to the number one position on the United States Billboard singles chart. For me, both “Batdance” and Madonna’s “Express Yourself,” were the songs of that summer. Prince’s full album, “Batman,” which reached number one on the Album charts, was released a few days before the movie hit theaters. I bought the CD immediately (I got a CD player for graduation, so my cassette buying days were officially over), loved it and listened to it non-stop right until I went to see the film opening night.
‘Batman’ was receiving mixed reviews from critics, but that didn’t stop audiences from flooding the theaters. The film went on to break many box office records and became the second highest grossing film in the world in 1989. I was one of those proud theater goers that waited in a very long line to be one of the first to see it on opening day. And I was not disappointed. I loved the dark, eerie, Tim Burtonesque world that was created and was more than entertained by the film. As soon as the film was finished, I proclaimed myself a huge Batman fan.
The rest of the summer was spent listening to Prince and buying as much Batman paraphernalia I could afford on my busboy income. I wanted my first ever dorm room in September to wreak of Batman and Madonna. And boy, did it ever. I received a lot of gifts from friends as “going away” presents, and a majority of them were Batman related. Posters, figurines, artwork, beach towels, t-shirts and hats filled my life and I was a happy camper.
My love for Batman lasted right through my first semester of college. That Christmas, I received the VHS of the movie as a gift and watched and re-watched it alone as well as with my family. I loved it more and more each time. However, by the time its sequel, ‘Batman Returns’ was released in 1992, my Batman fever had subsided a bit. Although I did enjoy that film, I was not as interested as I was for the original. Over the years, although I continued to enjoy all of the reincarnations of Batman and the Gotham world, nothing really compared to the thrill of ‘Batman’ in 1989. And I don’t think anything ever will again.
Today’s Thoughts: “Haven’t you ever heard of the healing power of laughter?”
Before watching ‘Batman’ today, I listened to Prince’s “Batman” album from track one through track nine and got lost in his genius. I miss him. I am still gutted that he is no longer on this planet creating art. But the art he left behind will be listened to by me until the day I die. After finishing the album, I grabbed my DVD of ‘Batman’ and watched it for the first time in quite awhile.
There is still something exciting about this film. I really love Tim Burton and the worlds that he is able to create. He also fills those worlds with great actors. I know that people were outraged by Micheal Keaton’s casting as the caped crusader, but I loved him in 1989 and I loved him today. Jack Nicholson as the Joker usually gets all of the love and admiration, and although I think he does a fine job, I really love Mr. Keaton’s performance. The rest of the cast including Kim Bassinger, Robert Wuhl, Pat Hingle, Billy Dee Williams, Michael Gough and Jack Palance all fit in nicely in Gotham City.
‘Batman’ is a fun superhero film that gets overlooked thanks to its many, many predecessors. Where it may now lack in special effects, it makes up for in style and substance. I am sure fans of the character of Batman have seen the film, but those who are not may still enjoy the exciting trip that this film offers. If for nothing, you get to hear some pretty funky kick ass Prince songs.
Awards: Academy Award for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Anton Furst, Peter Young (winner), Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical, Jack Nicholson (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role, Jack Nicholson (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Costume Design, Bob Ringwood (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Make Up Artist, Paul Engelen, Nick Dudman (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Production Design, Anton Furst (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Sound, Don Sharpe, Tony Dawe, Bill Rowe (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Special Effects, Derek Meddings, John Evans (nomination).
Ways to Watch: HBO Max, iTunes, YouTube, Google Play, Vudu, Amazon Prime, DVD Availability.