Fitz’s review published on Letterboxd:
Everything a Batman film should be. It perfectly adapts the comic books, Tim Burton brings over all the pulp and atmosphere so well. Batman fits Burton’s style like a glove. Since the release of Chris Nolan’s films, Burton’s films have received more backlash from the fans and it’s quite unfair. Batman has been around for nearly a century and there have been various incarnations of the character, to write films off as inferior just because it doesn’t come in line with your favourite version of the character is extremely unfair.
Batman immediately puts us right into the musty streets of a rotting Gotham City. A mugging occurs, a child left terrified by what he’s seen. Darkness lingers above, ready to wreak vengeance. As the mooks count their take, the Bat slowly descends upon them and strikes his fear into hearts. I can seldom think of a better superhero introduction in cinema. There’s just so much atmosphere in Burton’s film, the comic book atmosphere is done so well.
Visually, the film combines steampunk and noir to create the definitive Gotham City for me. Batman has his gadgets but the cops dress in trench-coats and hats. Gotham is a character in this film. Danny Elfman’s score is one of the greatest in cinema history, no hyperbole. It’s an utterly flawless work that massively improves and enhances the film’s experience. It adds so much character to the scenes, especially when Batman is driving Viki back to the Batcave.
The cast are all phenomenal. Michael Keaton imbues The Dark Knight with a reclusive and striking darkness, he makes so much out of his limited movements as he glides like a phantom towards his prey. His Bruce Wayne is a more realistic version of the character, less of a playboy, more of a shy hermit. Simply put, Keaton remains the all-time best Batman. Jack Nicholson completely lights up the screen as the maniacal Joker. There’s so much energy and vigour in his performance, balancing a creepy psychotic core with a flashy and extravagant exterior. Pair these two together and brilliance ensues.
The story is kind of free form but that’s what you expect from the Joker. It’s perfectly constructed to be constantly entertaining and interesting. Some fans take issue with the character arcs and creative choices by Burton but they work in the context of the universe this film is trying to create. It can go from being funny to creepy in seconds which is something Burton was always very good at.
Batman is certainly a cinematic landmark in that it established the comic book film as a force to be reckoned with at the box office. Whilst that genre has since become a breeding ground for bland, CG powered snore fests, Batman remains a genuine work of art. Its unique use of production design and music make it a fascinating and enrapturing watch. Its fun, breezy story and excellent cast do elevate it to being a legitimately fantastic film. I feel it’s quite underrated today but the Burton camp’s voice has become stronger in recent years and I’m glad.