It’s no secret among my friends and colleagues that I live under a metaphorical rock when it comes to pop culture, especially of the cinematic variety. My list of “must-see” films is practically miles long at this point, with new additions piling up monthly as I continue to invest further into the reviewing business. It can be really hard to make any headway with the list when your free time is spent reviewing movies and TV shows. However, I was very fortunate that I was able to review a film that had been on my list for over a decade. Of course, I’m talking about the film that launched his career into the mainstream stratosphere. I’m talking about Tim Burton‘s BATMAN.
It is difficult for me personally to think of a time when superhero movies weren’t the norm that they are now. Part of that could be because of my age. BATMAN came out in 1989 and I was born a few years after that. My first experiences with the titular character were from the animated series before my mother broke me in with the live-action Adam West version. You know, the one with the BAM! BOOM! POW! The tone of the live-action TV series is light years different compared to the serious nature of what has been released in recent years. So, when taking in Tim Burton’s BATMAN for the first time, I had to keep in mind that a lot of what I was going to see was going to be drastically different in tone, color usage, and just – well – everything.
The film focuses on millionaire philanthropist Bruce Wayne (Michael Keaton), who is living a double life as Batman. He’s taken up the mantle of the caped crusader in Gotham City to fight the rampant crime. His need to protect the weak and defeat evil is more or less driven by the trauma he experienced watching his parents get murdered in an alleyway one fateful night. He soon finds himself facing a villain that he can’t quite get a handle on. This villain calls himself “The Joker” (Jack Nicholson) and has been inflicted with deformities as a result of Bruce Wayne’s actions. Now as “The Joker” is trying to take control of Gotham’s criminal base, Batman must find a way to defeat this villain for good while also protecting his love interest, reporter Vicky Vale (Kim Basinger), whose beauty and love for the macabre end up catching the attention of “The Joker”.
The film is truly something else. And, as someone who had experienced both the Adam West TV series and the Dark Knight trilogy, it was definitely an adjustment for me to witness this happy medium between all-out silliness and the dark, grim palate that many of us have come to expect from a DC film these days. Keaton’s Bruce Wayne toes the line between wanting to do good, but also secretly wanting to really let loose and crush all the bad guys in his wake. I kind of wish we got more of Kim Basinger’s Vicki Vale, but her character construction seemed more typical for the ’80s. Now, in terms of Jack Nicholson, I had built up this image of what his performance would be like prior to viewing. And, I hate to say it, but I was kind of let down. As Jack Napier, I found his performance to be quite typical in terms of the type of characters he usually plays. However, I started to see what everyone was talking about after the infamous disfiguring event that would break down his psyche into the madman we knew as “The Joker”. It wasn’t until the film started peeling the layers off the character that I really found myself investing in this incarnation.
Overall, after a lot of time processing what I had just seen, I found that I really enjoyed the film. It certainly was a film that seemed very much rooted in the ’80s, with Prince songs appearing every now and again, the more over the top acting style, and the large, soundstage style sets of yore. There’s a lot of callback to film noir movies, which I think really help to keep the film as rooted as it will allow itself to be. The 4K helps to illuminate the details that many previous viewers might have missed prior. As a fan of large scale sets, I greatly appreciated being able to take in every detail. The one thing that might be a problem for long-time fans of this film is that I think the 4K might have made the overall palette lighter in color. It seemed like it was originally meant to be darker but, without having seen the original cut of the film, I can’t say otherwise.
BATMAN will be a part of a four-film collection, which includes BATMAN RETURN, BATMAN FOREVER, and BATMAN & ROBIN. The films are available now as 4K UHD singles and will also be available as a four-film collection on September 17. The 4K UHD singles and the four-film collection available in September will also include remastered Blu-ray discs of the films.