Batman

Batman ★★★★

You ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight?

When it comes to onscreen interpretations of The Dark Knight, by all accounts, Batman should not work one bit given it's probably the most anti-Batman Batman film ever. Yet somehow, Tim Burton manages to pull it off in such a way that it defines the look of The Dark Knight to this day and set the benchmark for superhero movies in the years to come.

Gotham City: dark, dangerous, 'protected' only by a mostly corrupt police department. Despite the best efforts of D.A. Harvey Dent and police commissioner Jim Gordon, the city becomes increasingly unsafe... until a Dark Knight arises. We all know criminals are a superstitious, cowardly lot... so his disguise must be able to strike terror into their hearts. He becomes a bat. Vicky Vale, a prize-winning photojournalist who wants to uncover the secret of the mysterious "bat-man". Jack Napier, the one-time enforcer for Boss Grissom, horribly disfigured after a firefight in a chemical factory... who, devoid of the last vestiges of sanity, seizes control of Gotham's underworld as the psychotic, unpredictable Clown Prince of Crime... the Joker. Gotham's only hope, it seems, lies in this dark, brooding vigilante...

Tim Burton has essentially managed to craft a near timeless movie in terms of his directing and the incredible gothic stylings of Gotham City. Taking cues from Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns and Alan Moore's controversial The Killing Joke, the film primarily adapts and diverts from the "Red Hood" origin story for the Joker, having Batman inadvertently cause gangster Jack Napier to fall into Axis Chemical acid, triggering his transformation into the psychopathic Joker. It even goes as far as to change Batman's own origins by having the younger Jack Napier be the man behind the trigger as opposed to Joe Chill's random act of violence, it certainly pays off for the better since it allows Bruce to get emotionally invested in bringing the Joker to justice... Even if this version of Batman's "no killing" rule is somewhat lax.

Danny Elfman's music is gorgeously gothic and very much his norm when it comes to Tim Burton, bombastic and character-driven. The main theme still defines The Dark Knight to this day, his theme for the Joker is suitably chaotic and clownish it's a score that makes for very easy listening in its own right and as amazing as it is, I gravitate towards his work on Batman Returns more so...

The late Derek Meddings leads the special and visual effects team for this film and crafts some truly stunning sequences, especially near the end with the Batwing flight resulting in the iconic silhouette of the plane against the moon. My nitpicking issue with the sequences is that you can tell the scale of the model work due to Burton favouring the 1.85:1 aspect ratio as opposed to the industry standard of 2.35:1.

The cast for the film is great but my annoyance is at the character of Vicki Vale and how Kim Basinger only really plays her as a damsel in distress and not a very capable person in her own right. That being said, however, Michael Keaton as Batman is phenomenal and what still manages to impress me each time I watch this is his pure dedication to the role, going above and beyond. Equally impressive to me is just how well Jack Nicholson's performance as the Joker still stands the test of time, even in the wake of the late Heath Ledger...

Overall, Batman on paper shouldn't work, yet somehow results in a film that is both visually timeless and equal parts gothic, since these are essentially comics that come to life. How superhero movies should be...

Now comes the part where I relieve you, the little people, of the burden of your failed and useless lives. But, as my plastic surgeon always said: if you gotta go, go with a smile.

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