|Directed by:||Tim Burton|
|Produced by:||Peter Guber|
Mark Canton (uncredited)
Batman is a 1989 film directed by Tim Burton, based on the character of the same name from DC Comics. It is the first installment in what would later be referred to as the Batman Motion Picture Anthology. In Gotham City, billionaire Bruce Wayne begins a war on crime as a costumed vigilante known as the Batman. His emergence causes the rise of a equally powerful costumed criminal known as the Joker.
The Mayor of Gotham City orders District Attorney Harvey Dent and Commissioner James Gordon to increase police activity and combat crime in preparation for the city's 200th anniversary. Newspaper reporter Alexander Knox and photojournalist Vicki Vale begin to investigate reports of a elusive dark vigilante nicknamed "Batman", who is also targeting criminals in an effort to clean up the city.
Mob boss Carl Grissom, who has already been targeted by Dent, discovers his mistress is involved with his second-in-command, Jack Napier. With the help of corrupt policeman Max Eckhardt, Grissom sets up Napier to be murdered during a raid at the Axis Chemicals plant. During the ensuing shootout, Eckhardt is killed by Napier after which Batman suddenly appears. The two struggle, and Napier is accidentally knocked into a vat of chemical waste. Batman flees, and Napier is though to be dead.
Batman is in actuality billionaire industrialist Bruce Wayne, an orphan who lives in the large mansion Wayne Manor with his butler Alfred Pennyworth. Bruce later meets and falls for Vicki at a fundraiser, and the two begin a relationship. Napier is revealed to have survived the accident. Following a botched attempt to repair physical damage from exposure to chemical waste, Napier is horribly disfigured with chalk-white skin, emerald-green hair and a permanent ruby-red grin. Calling himself "The Joker", he kills Grissom and usurps his criminal empire, making the Axis plant his headquarters.
The Joker begins to spread terror in the city, first by lacing hygiene products with a deadly chemical known as "Smylex", which causes victims to laugh to death when used in certain combinations. The Joker then sets a trap at the Gotham Museum of Art for Vicki, and he and his henchmen vandalize the surrounding works of art. Batman arrives and rescues Vicki, and the pair escape in the Batmobile. Batman gives information about Smilex to Vicki so she can warn the city via Gotham newspapers about the poisoned products.
The Joker begins plans to eliminate Batman. After recalling The Joker earlier asking him "Have you ever danced with the devil by the pale moonlight?" and remembering hearing the same quote as a child, Bruce discovers that The Joker (as Napier) is also the man who murdered his parents. Vicki suddenly appears in the Batcave, having been let in by Alfred. After avouching himself to Vicki, Bruce—as Batman—leaves to destroy the Axis Chemical plant. Meanwhile, planning to use poison gas to murder citizens, The Joker lures the townspeople to a nighttime parade with a promise to give away $20 million in cash. Batman arrives on the scene and saves Gotham City from the attack, but The Joker kidnaps Vicki and takes her to the top of Gotham City's Cathedral.
Batman pursues the two, and at the top of the dusty edifice, the two adversaries confront each other in single combat. When The Joker attempts an escape via a helecopter, Batman secures The Joker's leg to a heavy stone sculpture, causing The Joker to fall from the helecopter and plummet to his doom. Following The Joker's death, Commissioner Gordon unveils the Bat-Signal along with a note from Batman read by Harvey Dent, promising to defend Gotham whenever crime strikes again.
Cast and characters
- Jack Nicholson as Jack Napier/The Joker
- Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne/Batman
- Kim Basinger as Vicki Vale
- Michael Gough as Alfred Pennyworth
- Robert Wuhl as Alexander Knox
- Tracey Walter as Bob Hawkins
- Pat Hingle as Commissioner Gordon
- Billy Dee Williams as Harvey Dent
- Jack Palance as Carl Grissom
- Jerry Hall as Alicia Hunt
- Lee Wallace as Mayor Borg
- William Hootkins as Lt. Max Eckhardt
- David Baxt as Thomas Wayne
- Sharon Holm as Martha Wayne
- Charles Roskilly as young Bruce Wayne
- Hugo E. Blick as young Jack Napier
Batman was the most successful movie of 1989, earning $251,188,924 domestically and over $160 million abroad. As a result, the movie spawned all sorts of merchandise: action figures, t-shirts, beach towels, trading cards and even a cereal.
The movie received mostly positive reviews, with Erik Preminger of San Francisco's KGO-TV hailing it as "the movie of the decade". Jack Nicholson was widely praised as ruthless thug Jack Napier and the even more ruthless Joker, while Michael Keaton won over many viewers with his portrayal of a conflicted Bruce Wayne and Batman. Danny Elfman's score received positive feedback, leading to nominations in various institutions (although not for an Academy Award). The film was criticized, though, for its dark, grisly nature in comparison with the campy 1960s TV show, and for a Prince-dominated soundtrack which was seen as an obvious marketing tie-in. While applauded for its efforts to return to the staid nature of the character, the movie was attacked by many comic book purists who claimed that the film took too many elective liberties with the original character's established backstory and ideals, most notably in Batman's lethal tactics in the film.
The film inspired the equally successful Batman: The Animated Series, and has influenced Hollywood's modern marketing and development techniques of the superhero film genre.