Monday, June 23, 2014

25th Anniversary of Batman (1989)

Today marks the 25th anniversary of one of the most iconic superhero/comic book movies ever made. Batman (1989) changed the way superhero and comic book movies were seen and started off a whole new era of "Batmania!" Batman (1989) was released on June 23, 1989 through Warner Bros. Pictures. Directed by Tim Burton, it starred Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson and Kim Basinger. Like Superman (1978) before it, Batman had a big budget, experienced director, Hollywood star quality celebrities and gritty, realistic edge that audiences could relate to. Gone were the 60's era campy action, Batman would return to his darker roots. I consider this movie to be one of my favorite movies of all time, as it would come to define my childhood and teenage years and inspire my already fervent love for comic books and superheroes. I had watched the Saturday morning cartoons (Super Friends, Super Powers) and watched reruns of the 1960's TV show of my Dad's generation. But when I first saw this Batman in the Summer of 1989, around my 10th birthday, from that day on, I was a "Bat-Fan" and this was MY Batman!
Joker & Batman
My family have always loved movies, already a fan of Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Star Trek movies, and the like. To celebrate mine and my Mom's birthday (3 days apart) my parents and I decided to have a movie marathon at one of our local movie theaters. That Saturday we watched some of the biggest movies of the Summer all in one Saturday (at that time movie tickets were about $3 or $4) including: Ghostbusters II, Star Trek V, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and of course, Batman!
Little did I know, I was already a fan of Tim Burton's films, having little awareness of director's and actor's involvement with movies. I had enjoyed his previous films Pee-Wee's Big Adventure (1985) and Beetlejuice (1988). I even recognized Michael Keaton from one of my parent's favorite comedies Mr. Mom (1983) however, I had not seen some of the more mature movies that Jack Nicholson was famous for like One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest (1975) and The Shining (1980). I can remember before the movie was released, critics and people were talking how Michael Keaton was a poor choice to play the Dark Knight and it had been announced that Robin Williams was set to play the Joker.
I was engrossed in the dark tone of the story, the action, the excitement, Batman's cool gadgets, and of course: The Batmobile! The new Joker was scary and deeply disturbing, no longer the mustachioed and hyperactive Caesar Romero of the 60's, this Joker had a more sinister edge and made me wonder if there were really people like that who killed people for fun. Clowns already scared me and I admit to this day, I have never seen Stephen King's IT in it's entirety. The music was a big part of the experience, and with Danny Elfman's powerful and haunting, bellicose theme, I was drawn into to the action. I think the biggest reason this Batman still resonates today after 25 years is it's originality and timelessness of the movie. Although the additional 80's music by Prince dates it horribly, much of the movie seems to jump right out of the 1940's comic books. It has a noir feel to it as a lot of the characters, detectives and gangsters even wear suits and trench-coats. The city is dark and gritty, with a Gothic style of architecture to it, thanks to Tim Burton's style and production designer Anton Furst. While a lot of the technology Batman uses is also very dated, it remains a very small part of the movie. At the time I had no idea what liberties Burton had taken with Batman's origins and looking back, the choice to make Joker aka  Jack Napier, his parent's killer was interesting yet confusing. Batman (1989) still remains my favorite Batman movie, while the franchise declined after Joel Schumacher destroyed it, the recent Christopher Nolan trilogy has brought it back up to it's level, but in my opinion will never truly surpass the 1989 film.
"Batman is very extreme and I love extreme characters. A man who dresses up as a bat and his arch rival who is transformed into a clown are very popular images and one of the reasons why Batman remains so popular. Batman is not a super-hero, he's not a guy from another planet. So I like to take a straightforward approach and just present it." - Tim Burton

LINKS: Batman DC Comics, Batman Official Facebook, Batman on Warner Bros.