Plot: An unknown presence has been lurking in the shadows of Gotham City, one that has criminals whispering about a bat that strikes out of nowhere, then vanishes back into the darkness. These whispers are indeed true, as there is a bat that hunts down the city’s criminals, a vigilante known as Batman. Under the mask, he is Bruce Wayne (Michael Keaton) and when he isn’t patrolling the streets, he lives a luxurious life as a super rich philanthropist. His presence as Batman isn’t universally welcomed, as many wonder if he is just another criminal who happens to prey on his own, or some kind of mysterious hero. When he tries to collar crime kingpin Jack Napier (Jack Nicholson) and fails, the crook is dropped into a vat of acid and assumed dead. But Napier rises again and takes on a persona he calls the Joker, then he unleashes a sadistic crime wave on Gotham. As he watches this brutal assault unfold, can even Batman manage to bring down the ruthless Joker?
Entertainment Value: I should reveal that to me, Adam West is the definitive Batman and as such, that might bias me a little when it comes to the other incarnations of the iconic character. I do really like Tim Burton’s take on Batman however, as I think it has a comic book feel, but takes things in a much different direction. Not as outlandish as West, but not as pretentious as Nolan’s vision, Burton’s Batman is kind of a middle ground that has elements of both. I love how rich and immersive Gotham City is here, it feels alive and that adds so much atmosphere to the movie. A lot of superhero movies tend to overlook that kind of world building, opting for generic backdrops for their battles, but I appreciate the effort to avoid that here. The dark visuals are impressive as well, another important component used to craft this eerie, bleak atmosphere. Michael Keaton is fine as Batman, but obviously gets overshadowed by Jack Nicholson’s tour de force presence as the Joker. He embraces the madness of the role and to me, turns in the best take on this colorful, remarkable character. Kim Basinger, Robert Wuhl, and Billy Dee Williams are also present, while Jack Palance has a small role as well. I feel this version of Batman gets a little lost in the shuffle in the wake of Nolan’s blockbusters, but Burton’s Batman is a must see for anyone who appreciates superhero/comic book cinema.
No nakedness. The movie has some light romance and of course, Joker’s creepy fascination with Vicki Vale, but no sexual content is present. The movie has some action scenes and violent moments, but it is handled in comic book fashion, just with a little more brutal edge. A little blood can be seen, but it is all non graphic, such as bruises and such from fights. I suppose the aftermath of Joker’s amateur surgery efforts might spook some viewers, however. I love the joy buzzer sequence, as the special effects haven’t held up well, but it is still a fun scene. A lot of fun, quotable dialogue pops up in Batman, most of which is supplied by the Joker. His one liners and odd observations are hilarious and very random at times, making his outrageous presence the ideal foil for the uptight, reserved Batman. In addition to the Joker’s big, boisterous lines, we have some tough guy talk, brooding about the hardships of being insanely rich, and Robert Wuhl chimes in with some fun bursts of dialogue. Nicholson’s wild performance earns some craziness, but this is mostly a dark, more serious comic book adventure.
Overall Insanity: 2/10
The Disc: Warner Brothers has given Batman a new 4k release, which proves to be a remarkable improvement over previous editions. The movie has some gorgeous visuals and this new treatment brings out even the smallest details, just a visual feast that could easily be a reference level disc. The print is super clean, colors are natural when needed, but also vibrant when the design requires that. And contrast in this movie is crucial, so it is nice to have such slick, flawless black levels present. This is simply a beautiful, dynamic visual presentation that should have fans more than satisfied, a welcome, considerable improvement across the board.
The extras from earlier releases have been ported over, including Tim Burton’s audio commentary session, in which the director talks about how the project came to be and shares insights from the production itself. You can also browse featurettes that include a look at the history of Batman, the cinematic legacy of Batman, and piece that looks at Bob Kane. More promotional featurettes examine both the heroes and villains of Batman, while the extras also include three music videos, the storyboards from the Robin sequence, and the film’s trailer.