Batman ★★★★½

Movie memories have the power to be ineffable, and my earliest one is seeing Batman on a double bill with The Last Crusade at the drive-in. I was just a little bopper in 1989, but I distinctly remember being crammed into the family Suburban with my six siblings, absolutely hypnotized by the powerful images of both pictures.

Returning to the picture this past week, I was struck by the high romanticism and expressionism of the sets and art direction. No wonder I was spellbound as a child. Anton Furst and Tim Burton created a Gotham that evokes Fritz Lang’s silent films, but it’s rendered with a pop-art sensibility, giving the visuals even more distinction. Approaching a comic-strip story as if it were a fairytale gives the film a magical pull (whereas everything Nolan does in his Batman films feels wrongheaded and idiotic).

And Jack Nicholson! He essentially reinvents himself through self-parody and creates a whole new acting style for himself. His performance as Joker is exemplary, and Michael Keaton deserves so much more recognition for the brooding, mysterious qualities he brings to his Wayne. In a better world, this would be celebrated as the classic it really is.

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