movie film review | chris tookey


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  Batman Review
Tookey's Rating
5 /10
Average Rating
6.58 /10
Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson , Kim Basinger
Full Cast >

Directed by: Tim Burton
Written by: Sam Hamm, Warren Skaaren from story by Sam Hamm

Released: 1989
Origin: US
Length: 126


Small boy is driven batty by the murder of his parents, and turns urban vigilante (Michael Keaton, pictured).

Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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Great sets (Anton Furstís design rightly won an Oscar) are dwarfed by colossal pretentiousness. Many films trivialise, but Batman does the opposite: it seeks to elevate the trivial to the level of an epic. Director Burton treats the psychological motivation of Batman (Michael Keaton) with a reverence more usually devoted to the life of Christ. Gone is the camped crusader played in the original Batman TV series and movie by Adam West, not to mention his even more questionable sidekick Robin. Instead, our hero is a lonely, unquestionably heterosexual, emotionally disturbed multi-billionaire. In keeping with this dark interpretation, Michael Keaton and blonde but bland Kim Basinger (playing his girl-friend) act their pathetically underwritten parts with a praiseworthy attempt at realism.
Burton's downbeat approach has two disastrous consequences. One is that the film becomes bogged down as it raises (but conspicuously fails to answer) moral questions about how one man's terrorist can be another man's super-hero. The other unwanted side-effect is that it leads to a lot of awkward practical questions.
How did Wayne enrich himself to so elaborate an extent, yet still find time to become an expert in martial arts, a skilled acrobat, a crack racing-driver and a fearless fighter-pilot? Who made all his idosyncratic gadgets, his car and his plane, and how did he keep their manufacture a secret? And why has Wayne waited more than twenty years before starting to fight back against the criminals of Gotham City? Don't expect the film to answer any of the above questions. It doesn't. The credibility of Batman's character is, as a result, nil; and there is a bat-shaped vacuum at the centre of the film.
Which brings us to the star of the show. For that is what the Joker (Jack Nicholson) undoubtedly is. Nicholson's performance has the unselfish, self-effacing quality of Sir Donald Wolfit upstaging a performance of Hamlet by riding a unicycle across the Niagara Falls in lurex hot pants. I rather enjoyed it. The trouble is that he is working in so different a style and on so different a scale from Keaton, that he utterly destroys the balance of the film. His performance is a brilliant disaster.
At least when Nicholson is on screen, Batman isn't a bore. Without him, the plotting is slow and over-reminiscent of the first Superman movie; the dialogue is banal when it is not being facetious; and there is a sadistic quality to the movieís delight in violence and destruction . The fact that so many people were fooled into paying to see such meretricious garbage was a horribly revealing comment on the power of hype.
"To me, it's much bigger than a film - or an event. The world is in need of direction and help. Everyone's looking for the answers. So this can be a great educator. It's a film very much about good and evil, about two great things on this earth: love and fear. The only two emotions there are. You choose which one to be - good or evil. You choose love or fear. Everything else stems from fear - anger, hatred, jealousy, greed, which causes war, devastation, terrorism, everything that's happening in the rain forests, the way the earth is now. And when something like this happens, it's a real symbol that help is there - and that it's in yourself. If you love yourself, and give out that love, then you can get it back. You can change the earth with that."
(Kim Basinger)

Key to Symbols