Today, I’m revisiting a classic! Tim Burton’s Batman from 1989 starring Michael Keaton, who is, in my opinion, the best Batman (and best Bruce Wayne. Yes, when judging a Batman movie, you must think of those two separately.)
This movie is as old as my little brother so prepare for spoilers, but let’s be honest - if you haven’t seen this Batman movie, you’re probably not going to and you likely wouldn’t be reading this…
…so let’s go!
This movie has a few things driving the overall plot along. First, we see a family lost in downtown Gotham turn down an alley and get mugged. Shortly thereafter, the muggers are on a rooftop counting their money to split. One of the muggers is paranoid about this rumored man-sized bat that’s been coming after the criminals in Gotham lately. His partner brushes it off as a rumor until Batman makes his appearance.
Later, as the police pick up Batman’s scraps, we learn that only one report is taking the Bat-sightings seriously, Elliot Knox from the newspaper. Knox is talking to Detective Eckhardt, who like everyone else, has no comment on Batman. Moments later, we see Eckhardt talking to Jack Napier, a mobster that works for the leader of the crime syndicate Carl Grissom. This shows that there is a crime spree and the police are on the take.
Don’t worry too much about the names. It cleans up pretty nice here shortly.
Also going on in Gotham City, the 200th anniversary of the city’s founding is approaching. The mayor wants to go all out, spending money the city doesn’t have, but the citizens are worried that, with the recent wave of crime, it’s not safe and this safe issue stands to ruin this event. Working with the mayor is District Attorney Harvey Dent (played by Billy Dee Williams. There’s a reason that I mention this here now as I’m going to mention it in future reviews for “Batman Returns” and “Batman Forever”. No need to focus on this now. Just tuck it in your pocket for later.) who has promised that it’ll be safe for Gotham very soon.
Oh yeah, and Napier is sleeping with Grissom’s girlfriend! Hold on to that nugget!
As Dent is cracking down on the crime and getting closer to uncovering the companies that are posing as a front for the crime syndicate, Grissom talks to his underbosses about how to stop Dent from discovering their secrets. Napier suggests that they break into their own front business, a chemical plant, steal their own files and call it industrial espionage. Grissom loves the idea and insists that Jack leads the mission himself. After Grissom adjourns the meeting, Grissom tips off the police.
It’s a setup. Grissom knows about Jack and his girlfriend!
At the plant, it’s Napier & Co. versus the Gotham City Police Department with a bonus player - Batman! It’s of course during this scuffle that Batman knocks Napier into a vat of chemicals, seemingly killing Jack, which is ultimately what Grissom wanted.
This isn’t what happens. “Napier” dies, but from his ashes, The Joker is born!
Realizing he was set up, Joker kills Grissom and all the other underbosses. Joker is now the only one leading the gang.
In the course of all of this, a photographer named Vickie Vale is drawn to Gotham because of Knox’s writing about Batman. She, along with Knox looks to uncover the secrets of Batman, but in the process, meets Bruce Wayne AND gains the romantic attention of the Joker.
Joker develops a plan to poison Gotham via regular household items using his “Smilex” chemical, assumingly, the same stuff that affected him. Batman discovers the secret and sends the results with Vickie to the press to save Gotham from Joker’s plot. Joker doesn’t seem to care because he’s still distracted.
As Bruce and Jack fight over Vickie, Batman and Joker fight all over Gotham. It gets so bad that the Mayor, who’s been adamant that this anniversary parade and celebration will happen no matter what, concedes and cancels it - until the Joker calls a truce with Gotham. And as an apology of sorts, promises to drop 25 million dollars on the city to draw people in.
He also promises a one-on-one fight between himself and Batman.
The climax shows that the Joker had every intention to kill everyone there with Smilex gas hidden in the parade balloons, but he does have his confrontation with Batman with ultimately leaves Joker defeated, having fallen off the top of a ball tower and landing many many feet to the ground. The city is safe, Batman is revered as a hero, and Vickie gets her man.
I’m giving this movie an 8, compared to the unfair 7 I give it originally, taking all the points away from the ending. I’ve never liked the way this movie closed, starting after the gas is released during the parade. It goes downhill once Vickie and Joker go into the building. It’s slow, it’s boring, and goes on too long to be that unentertaining.