Batman ★★★½

“Never rub another man’s rhubarb.”

Tim Burton’s vision of Gotham and the Caped Crusader has always been my favorite. He portrays Gotham as dull and colorless. A city devoid of personality. The emphasis is placed on the characters who breathe life into the overpopulated city and it’s overworked inhabitants. 

Starting with The Joker, Jack Nicholson gives a dastardly performance and his Joker is a dad-joke machine. Every time he makes an appearance he delivers several one-liners that make me giggle. His motivation is not about money or even control. He wants to destroy beauty. A high-concept motive for a villain. For Burton, it fits with the theme of the film. The villain wants to deform the face of the city and to kill the citizens with maniacal laughter. His motives are simple. Direct. And his methods are effective. 

Keaton as Bruce/Batman is a perfect fit. He pulls off the troubled billionaire. He demonstrates vulnerability rather than trying to keep everyone away by self-righteous brooding. Batman is funny in his own right delivering several knee slappers too. His motives are clear since he considers himself responsible for fighting crime in a decaying city to keep something alive. A bit like Sisyphus; admirable effort but ultimately futile. Supporting characters are all competent and memorable from Vale to Lando Calrissian. 

Burton’s comical style and 1920s gangster themes make Batman the cream of the crop of cinematic superhero films. The pacing is perfect, especially compared to modern retellings. This movie understands that we don’t need a hero or messianic figure to combat evil. It just shows us how we would respond if one actually existed. Hate it when it’s present. Love it only if it helps us when a crazed clown threatens our lifestyle drugs.

John D. liked this review