Movie Review: Batman (1989)

by StevenHelmer

A review of the 1989 movie starring Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson.

Synopsis: A costumed vigilante avenges his parents’ murder by single-handily taking on Gotham City’s criminal element. However, he is forced to up his game when a career criminal survives being dropped into a vat of chemicals, emerges as the deformed and criminally insane Joker and terrorizes the city just before its 200th anniversary celebration.


My wife and I ended up watching this movie the other night because she was getting tired and we didn’t want to start watching a film we hadn’t seen before on the (correct) assumption she wouldn’t be able to finish it. Even though I’ve seen this movie quite a few times, I still think it is one of the most entertaining and well-written superhero films I’ve seen.

While some parts of this movie are a bit campy, including Batman’s (Keaton) one-liners, there are a lot of things this movie does right that many films that came after it failed miserably at.

One of those things is the way the movie writers don’t assume everyone watching the film has read the comic books and already knows everything they need to know about the hero/his nemesis. This is a huge pet peeve of mine with comic book-inspired movies because, while it probably wouldn’t have been as big of a deal with this particular superhero, there are quite a few films that just left me scratching my head because they left out some important details on the assumption I already knew them.

At the same time, while the movie provides a back story that is more than adequate enough to bring the casual viewer up to speed, the writers were also careful not to make it a huge focus of the film. In other words, we weren’t bored with a long narrative or tons of flashbacks about how Bruce Wayne became Batman.  Instead, the film just shows us what we need to know.

Another thing helping this movie is Nicholson’s version of the Joker. I’ve seen a few variations of that character but still think his is the best. He’s somewhat likable because he is always so upbeat and even a little comical at times. Yet, at the same time, Nicholson plays him in a way that makes it perfectly clear he is criminally insane and dangerous. As I’ve said in other reviews, a hero is only as good as his nemesis and Nicholson’s Joker character helps elevate Keaton’s Batman.

Final Opinion

There have been plenty of sequels and reboots of this movie franchise since this film came out. However, this version, by far, is my favorite and one I would recommend watching, even if it’s just because you haven’t seen it in a while.

My Grade: A

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Updated: 08/28/2015, StevenHelmer
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