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Peter Martin
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Posted: 23 June 2019 at 5:17pm | IP Logged | 1 post reply

30 years ago to this day, amidst a groundwave of hype, Warner Bros released Batman (with Keaton, Nicholson, Basinger & Co) to US theatres. 

For me, the event was a cultural phenomenon and the film itself a bit of a bore. Elfman's score remains a classic and the look of the film has resonated across cinema through the years, but narrative-wise it really didn't work. And I wanted to like it so much.

Discuss!


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Brian Hague
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Posted: 23 June 2019 at 8:47pm | IP Logged | 2 post reply

With unprecedented hype surrounding the premiere of the film and the image of the updated Bat-symbol everywhere (memorably prompting one friend at the time to ask, "What's up with all the hillbilly teeth?" Even when I pointed out the negative space forming the shape of the bat, she still couldn't see anything there but a mouthful of mis-shapen teeth... :-) I agreed to man one of the tables set up by my local comics shop at a nearby theater. 

With the blessing of the theater management, we sold back issues, GN's, and cheesy vinyl merchandise (mostly from Applause!) to theater-goer's before and after every showing of the film. Man, was that a long day... If memory serves, I was paid $30 bucks for my time and they were miffed that I preferred cash to merchandise. I think they insisted that kicked it down to around $20. 

At the time, I was primed to enjoy the film more so than most. Having seen Michael Keaton in CLEAN AND SOBER, I knew he could do well in the part and was looking forward to the film's take on the character. Clearly they weren't going for the comic-book version exactly, so what were they going to do? (For those who insist the role should have gone to Alec Baldwin, for the strength of his chin if nothing else, you have THE SHADOW, in which he covers his chin completely when in costume. Haha!) 

I liked it overall, but I could see the Caesar Romero peeking out from under Jack Nicholson's greasepaint in the museum scene especially. Burton's take was not nearly as far from the TV show's as people made it out to be. This would be further underscored in the next film when two of the Penguin's many, many master plans replicated plots from the show, specifically running for mayor and taking over the Batmobile via remote control. 

Ultimately, the film was an exercise in style over story or substance and a great deal of damage was done to the character, rendered here as an immobilized rubber statue with an explosives fetish. You could almost see what they were going for a few times and feel the sting as they missed it, time and time again. ("Ah, geez... I'll bet that line was written when it was still going to be DaFoe or Elfman in the make-up...! Damn, that would have worked...") And nothing, nothing can dim or erase the pure awfulness of "Have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight...?" One cannot put enough syllables into "ew-w-w-w..." to cover that whole yucky business. Still, the film strikes a certain nostalgic bone somewhere in my fat-and-cholesterol-insulated skeletal structure. I like it in kind of weird way, although I do not revisit it often. Or ever, really. 

Maybe I should. Kim Basinger was lovely, as I recall.

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Peter Martin
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Posted: 23 June 2019 at 9:08pm | IP Logged | 3 post reply

She certainly was. In terms of nostalgia, I think it was the last film for which I ever collected bubble-gum picture cards.

Looking back it was a weird time. Spielberg and Lucas caught all sorts of flak for innovating the summer blockbuster as we know it, but those films still relied on a narrative cohesion for their popularity. Batman seemed to eschew that in lieu of the marketing power of product/symbol recognition.
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John Byrne
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Posted: 23 June 2019 at 9:15pm | IP Logged | 4 post reply

They caught flak?
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Jozef Brandt
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Posted: 23 June 2019 at 11:39pm | IP Logged | 5 post reply


There were film critics who bemoaned the summer blockbusters crowding out the "Easy Riders and Raging Bulls" era of filmmaking, but not the public and not the movie companies, they were raking in cash. 

As for Batman 1989, I bought the bubblegum cards before I had even seen the movie.  It certainly looked pretty cool.  By the time I saw the movie, it was a bit of a letdown.  I couldn't understand why people were so in love with Nicholson's Joker.  As others mentioned above, the score is the most memorable thing about the movie. 
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John Byrne
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Posted: 24 June 2019 at 5:13am | IP Logged | 6 post reply

There were film critics who bemoaned the summer blockbusters crowding out the "Easy Riders and Raging Bulls" era of filmmaking, but not the public and not the movie companies, they were raking in cash.

I don't recall any of that.

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John Byrne
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Posted: 24 June 2019 at 5:19am | IP Logged | 7 post reply

This thread reminds me of when fans were complaining about the casting of Michael Keaton. Buck toothed, weak chinned, curly (thinning) haired--and short. Don Thompson, from his pompous pulpit in THE BUYER'S GUIDE dismissed these complaints, stating that so many different artists had drawn Bruce Wayne over the years, in so many different ways, we could not say what he "really" looked like.

Except that even with their range of styles, the likes of Dick Sprang, Jerry Robinson, Shelly Moldoff, Carmine Infantino, Neal Adams, Irv Novic, etc had all drawn a tall guy with a strong chin and straight black hair. In other words, not Michael Keaton.

(I knew we were in trouble when Burton declared that he "didn't want to make a movie about a guy with a big chin and a big chest." Then don't do BATMAN!!)

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Brian Miller
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Posted: 24 June 2019 at 5:38am | IP Logged | 8 post reply

I never understood why the change to the Bat-emblem. So silly and unnecessary. They even went to the original in the sequel making it more puzzling. 
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John Byrne
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Posted: 24 June 2019 at 6:45am | IP Logged | 9 post reply

Ae one point my mother asked me what movie was being advertised by the posters around town showing "the big, ugly mouth".
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Jason G. Michalski
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Posted: 24 June 2019 at 7:54am | IP Logged | 10 post reply

Batman has a special place in my heart. I was 11 years old that summer and I saw Batman close to 10 times. For the next 5 years, comics were my entire life. 


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Greg McPhee
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Posted: 24 June 2019 at 7:54am | IP Logged | 11 post reply

At 10 years old I was looking forward to it, and then when I saw it, it was just slow.

If I see it now, its Jack Nicholson that gets me through it.
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Eric Sofer
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Posted: 24 June 2019 at 7:58am | IP Logged | 12 post reply

On the second hand, the first and second times I watched "Batman", I couldn't help but laugh at Nicholson the whole way through. I didn't think his interpretation was off; it was the Joker, so anything went. I just found him really funny (which, supposedly, the Joker is.) Every expression seemed amusing to me.

But on the first hand, I took my then girlfriend on a date to the movie, and proposed during the opening credits. It was very romantic... "So, you wanna get married?" She suitably replied, "Yeah, right."

I did a little better after the film, taking her to a local spot with a beautiful waterfall. I got lucky... she said yes for real that time. Thirty-odd years later, "Batman" still holds a special spot in my life for no reason that deals with the film. We might have gone to see "Lethal Weapon 2" and had the same result... but it was Batman. BATMAN.

Luckily it was the second time that I had seen it, so I could spend most of the movie kicking myself when I wasn't laughing. It's been a weird life...
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