21 November 2000 | CuriosityKilledShawn
Dark and Doomy
If you were around in summer 1989 then you'll remember that Bat-fever was EV-ER-Y-WHERE! You couldn't look anywhere without seeing the Bat Logo in some incarnation. The film was a mega-hit. People were queueing up around the block for hours (the literal meaning of a blockbuster).
The marketing team at Warner had to saturate the minds of the public with the big-screen coming of the Dark Knight. Up until this point the Batman series from the 1960s is how people regarded the Batman character and universe. Tim Burton corrected all that by giving us a dark, sinister and Gothic world with rich production design and a great score by Danny Elfman (who has made a career out of recycling the same old generic cues in nearly every movie he has scored). The original material is respected (to a degree), and the characters are deep instead of just campy.
Michael Keaton is the best Bruce Wayne in my opinion. When he plays both Bruce Wayne and Batman you have to watch what he doesn't say and doesn't do. He's a rich, socio-phobic megalomaniac who has more money than sense. This is very different from Adam West's turtleneck playboy.
Jack Nicholson is a great Joker too, not quite as intimidating or as iconic as Heath Ledger's take on the character, but still a role that has defined his career in a way. Nicholson's Joker isn't much more than an attention-seeking lunatic. But it's still nothing like Caesar Romero's campy, hopping-skipping-and-jumping villain.
Anton Furst's Oscar-winning design of Gotham City is very original and unique, and is very much in the style of the Comic book. The smoke-blackened, cramped and claustrophobic 1920s buildings look and create a very oppressive atmosphere. This is definitely GOTHam City. Not LA like the TV series.
They didn't even make any attempt with that show did they? In fact the Batcave in the TV series was like the set of a mad scientists lab from a 1950s movie. But the REAL Batcave in this movie is a monstrous cavern filled with stalagmites and it actually HAS bats in it. And there's no fireman's pole leading into it.
With Christopher Nolan's reboot of the franchise currently the only Batman worth considering for most fans, it'd be a shame if you were to let this go ignored. It may not be as mature as Nolan's work but it has an edge that no other recent comic-book movie has.
It's NOT an origin story. There's no 60 precious minutes on a build-up, it just goes straight to the action. Why can't more comic-book movies do this?