|The Bar was Set with this Film||2 out of 2 users found this review helpful.|
Tim Burton's original take on the Dark Knight set the standard for cinematic super hero fare. Without a doubt any comic book film adaptation is compared with this film. The overall plot of the film is simple, and easy to follow. Given that during 1989 the average moviegoer was not as familiar with the Batman as we are now, the movie perfectly balances introducing the characters without confusing the audience. The introductions for the all 3 of the main characters (Batman/Bruce Wayne, played by Michael Keaton, Vicki Vale played by Kim Basinger, and Jack Nicholson as the Joker) give a cohesive explanation of who they are and how they got to the that exact point in the realm of Gotham. The performances in the film still stand strong in the long line of Batman films.
To this day I still feel no actor has captured the essence of Batman and Bruce Wayne like Michael Keaton has. There is a sense of calm in Keaton's Batman. Batman never seems truly agitated, until the final conflict with the Joker. Bruce Wayne is the quintessential charmer in the film. With the traits of being humble, yet humorous, Bruce Wayne becomes a appealing character in all of his facets. In contrast with Wayne's alter ego, the films pacing works incredibly well as the scenes shift from Bruce to the Bat.
The Joker's exposition differs from Batman's in how his story is told. Jack Nicholson gives a epic performance as the Joker. If you have seen any of Mr.Nicholson's films, then you know exactly what you are getting. Jack knows crazy, and the Joker has it in spades. The Joker's performance definitely steals the show, not only is the movie's driving force the motivations and actions of the Joker, his personality and presence personify the film.
Vicki Vale plays a simple role in the film, a love interest for Bruce Wayne, and a hostage for the Joker. The character does not contribute to much to the over all plot other than as the beginning of a relationship with Bruce Wayne, and as a tension piece between Batman and the Joker. Basinger plays the part well, given it's limitation to the film. Gratefully the film does the romantic interaction between Batman/Bruce and Vale well by developing it simple and in small doses. Vicki Vale comes across as a character that would be very well developed if the continuity of the film continued, but she becomes background static when staged next to the conflict between the Batman and Joker.
The secondary characters are hit or miss, or at least in my opinion compared to its source material. The standouts are of course butler Alfred Pennyworth and Crime Boss Carl Grissom. Alfred plays the warm, cheerful, father figure for Bruce, portrayed wonderfully by Michael Gough, while Jack Palance's Carl Grissom becomes the perfect example of Gotham's worst: A violent, careless, back stabbing criminal with no regard for human life. Grissom's final stand with the Joker really introduces the Joker extremely well, and is one of the most memorable moments of the film.
Everyone else...well, for lack of a better word, lacks. Commissioner Gordon seems rather overwhelmed, and somewhat flustered through almost the entire film. Harvey Dent provided a interesting take on the character who would be Batman nemesis Two Face. The role was filled by Billy Dee Williams. Two Face was originally depicted as a white man, so the casting of Williams was a unexpected choice. Harvey Dent had a lot of energy in his motivation to become the next District Attorney of Gotham. There was a lot of anticipation to see Billy Dee as Two Face, but sadly it never happened, so overall the character had very minimal impact on the film.
The films plot is not the most complicated, but its simplicity helps ease those unfamiliar with comic book story telling. A hero fights through adversity to defeat the evil villain. The film does not dig too deeply into the semantics of masked vigilantism, it just focuses on the conflict at hand, and presents it at face value. The film presents itself in a way where you can accept a man in a black suit and cape fighting a man in clown make up without having to think to hard why. If anything, I would call this the movie the most accurate assessment of what a Batman story is. There are some parts of the film that don't work well, such as the Prince songs being used as brief song and dance pieces in the film. The only thing that kept me from cringing was thinking that the Joker was so crazy he just thought busting out the Prince randomly would be a fun way to troll the denizens of Gotham. Another strange thing is how Batman seemingly kills one of The Jokers hired goons. While its debatable that either the goon did not die, or whether Batman did it as pure necessary self preservation, I always figured Batman was capable of dispatching a single goon non-lethally, as opposed to pulling him over a ledge and throwing him down a 100+ story staircase.
While these minor blurbs take away from the film, over all Tim Burton's Batman is a flawed masterpiece. The plot is a genuine and comic book rooted, and it is simultaneously courteous to those unfamiliar with the intellectual property as well as appease and impress the comic book nerds with their heads full of Detective Comics lore. This film is a guidestone for how to properly adapt a comic book into film.
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