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Batman (1989)
Rated PG13

Starring: Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson, and Kim Basinger

Rating:
**
out of
*****

In the summer of 1989, there was no movie that could hope to live up to the hype that was built up around Batman -- including Batman. I was horribly disappointed with the film in 1989. So much so that my screening of it this summer was my first since 1989.

Bruce Wayne (Michael Keaton), who's parents were murdered as they left a movie theater when he was a child, has grown up to be a millionaire. He's also become Gotham City's number one crime fighter/vigilante in his dual role as the armored Batman. With a seemingly endless supply of gadgets and machines, Batman lurks in the shadows of the night to strike fear into the hearts of criminals.

While attempting to foil a heist at a chemical factory, Batman drops Jack Napier into a vat of chemicals by accident. Napier becomes horribly disfigured -- with a constant smile etched onto his face -- and he assumes the identity of The Joker (Jack Nicholson). The Joker blames Batman for what he has become and attempts to single-handedly destroy Gotham City in order to lure Batman out of the shadows to face him.

Of course, the plot is secondary to the action in a movie based on a comic book. Surprisingly, however, there is little action in this movie. The Joker eats up most of the screen time as he takes over a crime ring, taints cosmetics and tries to charm Vicky Vale (Kim Basinger), who is trying to solve the mystery of the identity of the Batman. The movie also tries to fit in a romance between Vale and Bruce Wayne that seems forced and bogs the movie down even more.

Tim Burton, who directed, brings a film noir quality to the movie which gives it a great atmosphere, but also brings a heaviness to the film that makes it seem to last forever. By the time The Joker and Batman finally face off, you just want it to end.

Batman deserves much better treatment than he's received at the movies so far. Burton's heart, I believe, was in the right place by making Batman a threatening icon, but the execution of that idea was botched. Nice try, though, Tim.

Trivia: Sean Young was originally cast as Vicki Vale, but broke her collar bone while filming a horse-riding scene with Michael Keaton. The scene was subsequently rewritten out of the script. (Source: The Internet Movie Database)

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