Batman is a 1989 American superhero film directed by Tim Burton and produced by Jon Peters, based on the DC Comics character of the same name. It is the first installment of Warner Bros.' initial Batman film series. The film stars Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne/Batman, alongside Jack Nicholson, Kim Basinger, Robert Wuhl, Pat Hingle, Billy Dee Williams, Michael Gough and Jack Palance. In the film, Batman is widely believed to be an urban legend until he actively goes to war with a rising criminal mastermind known as the Joker.
As Gotham City approaches its bicentennial, Mayor Borg orders district attorney Harvey Dent and police commissioner James Gordon to make the city safer. Meanwhile, reporter Alexander Knox and photojournalist Vicki Vale begin to investigate rumors of a vigilante nicknamed "Batman", who is targeting the city's criminals.
Mob boss Carl Grissom, who has already been targeted by Dent, discovers his mistress Alicia is involved with his second-in-command Jack Napier. With the help of corrupt police lieutenant Max Eckhardt, Grissom sets Napier up to be killed in a raid at Axis Chemicals. However, Grissom's plan is foiled with the arrival of Commissioner Gordon, who wants Napier captured alive. In the ensuing shootout, Napier kills Eckhardt, but Batman suddenly appears and, in a struggle, Napier is knocked into a vat of chemicals. Batman escapes, and Napier is presumed dead.
Batman's alter-ego is Bruce Wayne, a billionaire industrialist who, as a child, witnessed his parents' murder at the hands of a psychotic mugger. At a fundraiser at his mansion, Bruce meets and falls for Vale, and the two begin a romantic relationship. Meanwhile, Napier is revealed to have survived the accident, but is horribly disfigured with chalk white skin, emerald green hair, and a ruby red grin. Driven insane, Napier calls himself "the Joker", killing Grissom and taking over his criminal empire.
The Joker begins to terrorize Gotham City by lacing hygiene products with "Smilex", a deadly chemical which causes victims to die laughing with the same maniacal grin as the Joker. During his search for information on Batman, the Joker also falls for Vale. He lures her to the Gotham Museum of Art, but Batman arrives and rescues her. They escape in the Batmobile, but are pursued by the Joker's men, whom Batman manages to defeat. Batman takes Vicki to the Batcave, where he gives her information from his research on Smilex that will allow the city's residents to protect themselves from the toxin. Furious, the Joker vows to kill Batman.
Bruce visits Vicki at her apartment, prepared to tell her about his alter-ego, but the Joker interrupts their meeting, asking Bruce, "Have you ever danced with the devil by the pale moonlight?" before shooting him. Bruce, however, survives and escapes, as he had been wearing body armor. He remembers that the mugger who killed his parents asked the same question, and deduces that Napier was the mugger. Vicki suddenly appears in the Batcave, having been let in by Bruce's butler, Alfred Pennyworth. After telling her that with the Joker terrorizing Gotham, he cannot focus on their relationship, Bruce departs as Batman to destroy the Axis plant. Meanwhile, the Joker lures the citizens of Gotham to a parade with the promise of free money, but while throwing cash at the crowd as promised, also attacks them with Smilex gas released from his giant parade balloons. Batman arrives and saves Gotham City using the Batwing. Furious, the Joker kills Bob, his number one thug, then shoots down the Batwing using a long barreled gun, causing it to crash.
The Joker kidnaps Vicki and takes her to the top of a cathedral. Batman, who survived the crash, fends off the Joker's remaining men despite his injuries, and confronts the Joker. The two struggle, with Joker eventually gaining the upper hand and leaving Batman and Vicki clinging onto an outcropping. The Joker attempts to escape on his helicopter, but Batman ties the Joker's leg to a statue using a grappling hook, causing him to fall to his death.
Commissioner Gordon announces that the police have arrested the Joker's men and unveils the Bat-Signal. Harvey Dent reads a note from Batman, promising that he will defend Gotham whenever crime strikes again. Vicki is taken to Wayne Manor by Alfred, who tells her that Bruce will be a little late. She responds by claiming that she is not a bit surprised, as Batman looks at the bat-signal, standing watch over the city.
- Michael Keaton as Batman / Bruce Wayne
- Jack Nicholson as The Joker / Jack Napier
- Kim Basinger as Vicki Vale
- Robert Wuhl as Alexander Knox
- Pat Hingle as Commissioner Gordon
- Billy Dee Williams as Harvey Dent
- Michael Gough as Alfred Pennyworth
- Jack Palance as Carl Grissom
- Jerry Hall as Alicia Hunt
- Tracey Walter as Bob the Goon
- Lee Wallace as Mayor Borg
- William Hootkins as Lt. Max Eckhardt
- Hugo E. Blick as Young Jack Napier
- Charles Roskilly as Young Bruce Wayne
- David Baxt as Thomas Wayne
- Sharon Holm as Martha Wayne
- Garrick Hagon as Tourist Dad
- Liza Ross as Tourist Mom
- Adrian Meyers as Tourist Son
- Tim Burton - Director
- Sam Hamm, Warren Skaaren, Charles McKeown (uncredited), and Jonathan Gems (uncredited) - Writers
- Peter Guber and Jon Peters - Producers
- Benjamin Melniker and Michael Uslan - Executive Producers
- Chris Kenny - Co-Producer
- Danny Elfman - Music Score
- Prince - Songs
- Roger Pratt - Cinematographer
- Anton Furst - Production Designer
- Ray Lovejoy - Editor
- Bob Ringwood and Linda Henrkison - Costume Designers
- Marion Dougherty - Casting
This film has been rated PG-13 by the MPAA for intense stylized violence, some language and sexual innuendo. The film was originally rated 12 by the BBFC for moderate violence and horror, but later changed the rating to 15.
Tim Burton said that he chose Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne/Batman because he thought he could play a dark, tortured Batman and a serious Bruce Wayne. Some people thought that Keaton wasn't built enough for the role of Batman and that he couldn't play a serious role because of his comedic roles in the past. However, before shooting Batman, Keaton worked out for two months and spent some time kickboxing with the help of his stunt double. In spite of Keaton's being cast, Alec Baldwin and Charlie Sheen were also considered for the role. The tone and themes of the film were influenced in part by Alan Moore's Batman: The Killing Joke and Frank Miller's Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. The early Batman comics from late thirties and forties were also an influence. There are also notable similarities to Beauty and the Beast and The Phantom of the Opera. The climax is an homage to Fritz Lang's Metropolis.
- Main article: Batman (1989 soundtrack)
There were two albums released in conjunction with Batman. The first was an album by Prince featuring songs from the film (including "Batdance") and others inspired by it. It is considered the official soundtrack album.
The second album features the original score by composer Danny Elfman. According to the DVD Special Edition, Elfman says that Jon Peters was not sure about him as a composer until Burton made him play the main titles. The theme score, however, went on to become an incredibly iconic piece. It also served as the basis for the theme tune to Batman: The Animated Series, which premiered in 1992 although the theme tune was later retooled.
When the film was approved for production, there was considerable fan concern that it would emulate the farcical parodying tone of the 1960s Batman television series starring Adam West, concerns that seemed even more worrying after the casting of Michael Keaton (who was, at that time, known for his comedic acting) in the title role. To quell the concern, a rushed teaser trailer was released to prove the film would be more faithful to the original comic books.
The teaser trailer became so popular that many purchased movie tickets simply to see the trailer. The positive reaction to the trailer inspired a buzz that entered the general popular culture as t-shirts with the Batman symbol sold in large numbers in the weeks before the movie's premiere.
Despite the early worries, the film became the second most successful of 1989 and received praise from many Batman readers, especially those who had read the Frank Miller stories that inspired it. Furthermore, Keaton changed many doubters' minds about his casting to become hailed as one of the best actors to play the title role. Critical reaction was mostly positive, with many praising the film for its set design and production value, while others panned it as being too much of an intellectual exercise for Burton and too little of a Batman movie. Roger Ebert gave the film two stars (out of four), remarking, "Batman is a triumph of design over story, style over substance - a great-looking movie with a plot you can't care much about." Hal Hinson of the Washington Post gave a more enthusiastic review calling the film "Dark, haunting and poetic".
Despite a mostly positive reaction, many comic book fans took issue with some aspects of the storyline, though, especially the fact that Batman killed Joker's henchmen, while in comics he only acted like that in early issues and was soon established as a superhero that doesn't kill. Many fans also complained that the Joker was portrayed as the killer of Bruce's parents, while in the comics it was an ordinary thug. One of the movie's screenwriters, Sam Hamm, even claimed, during an interview for the film's Special Edition DVD, that the only reason why he didn't protest against that decision was that he was participating in a writers' strike at the time. Some fans, however, thought the idea helped to further establish the parallel between the two characters.
Robin was originally written into the earliest drafts of the script. His introduction would take place in the latter portion of the second act, during a chase between Batman and the Joker and his thugs, in which the thugs drive into a local flea market. At the market, the flying Graysons are performing their acrobatic skills to a large crowd. The cars crash through the area, causing the hundreds of people to run away in fear. The Joker's car hits a pole that the Graysons are standing on and causes them to fall off, killing all except one: Robin. Robin joins in the chase screaming "You killed my parents!". At the end of the chase Batman comforts him. This idea was mainly disliked, and rewrites would later remove Robin from the script entirely. The preproduction storyboards for the sequence can be seen on the 2-disc Special Edition DVD. Actor Kiefer Sutherland revealed that he was considered for the role of Robin but turned it down, which he later stated regretting after the film's success.
Box Office Performance
Batman opened in 2,194 cinemas in North America, on June 23rd, 1989. In its opening weekend, it grossed $40,489,746, which, at the time of its release, was a record. The film ended its theatrical run with $251,188,924, and was not only the biggest moneymaker of the year, but was also the fifth highest-grossing film of all time.
The film's total worldwide box office gross is $411,348,924,which is about $680 million in 2006 dollars.
Batman was the first UK film to be given a '12' certificate but the '12' at that time was a cinema only certificate and for it's video release the rating was upgraded to a '15' certificate which had remained ever since.
Awards and Nominations
Batman won an Academy Award for Best Art Direction/Set Decoration (awarded to Anton Furst and Peter Young), making it the first Batman film to win an Oscar until The Dark Knight. It was also nominated for a Golden Globe, two Grammys and several BAFTAs.
The film was first released on VHS, Betamax, and Laserdisc in 1989.
The film's first release on DVD was in late 1997, shortly after the format debuted; it was a single disc release featuring the ability to watch the film either in widescreen or in full-screen but not featuring any bonus materials, save for sparse production notes and cast info. On top of that, the scene selection menu was a nightmare, with random scenes picked for the menu while the rest were left out.
To coincide with the release of Batman Begins on DVD in 2005, Warner Bros decided to give all four of the original Batman films new DVD treatments and special edition versions of all four films were created. The special edition DVDs feature newly restored audio and video, a re-mastered Dolby Digital audio track, a new DTS audio track, and a second disc filled with bonus materials. Each title is available both individually and as part of a pack featuring the special editions of all four films in the franchise.
Behind The Scenes
- This movie is the only Batman movie where there is only one supervillain.
- October 16: Date on issue of Time that covered Vicki Vale's pictures on the Corto Maltese Revolution, an event ocurred in Frank Miller's comic book, The Dark Knight Returns.
- Thursday, October 26: Day news of Thomas and Martha Wayne's murders covered in Gotham Globe.
- Friday, November 7: Date given for news of Smylex combos revealed in Gotham Globe.
- The original draft of the movie was originally much different, and also included Dick Grayson. Also, Joker's death was completely different, as he was about to finish off Batman (who was battered up from the earlier battles), but Batman decided to try and take The Joker with him by activating a bomb on his belt. Joker then has to try and escape, but is essentially trapped in the clock tower, and has to get on board the chopper to get away from the explosion, and just as he is about to make his escape, a huge swarm of Bats attack the chopper, causing Joker to let go of the ladder to his death. The Chopper was later destroyed by Batman throwing the bomb at it.
- In order to combat negative rumors about the production, a theatrical trailer was hastily assembled to be distributed to theaters. To test its effectiveness, Warner Bros. executives showed it at a theater in Westwood, California to an unsuspecting audience. The ninety-second trailer received a standing ovation. Later, it would become a popular bootleg at comic book conventions, and theater owners would report patrons paying full price for movie tickets just to have an opportunity to see the trailer, and leaving before the feature began.
- This movie was released the year of Batman's 50th birthday.
- Michael Jackson was asked to write and perform the songs for the movie, but he had to turn it down due to his concert commitments.
- The Joker would be returned in the cancelled fifth film, Batman Unchained, as a hallucination by the Scarecrow's fear gas.
- Adam West, who played Batman in Batman: The Series, tried to get the role of Batman again in this movie. However, Michael Keaton was hired for the role. Later, West was considered for the role of Thomas Wayne, but David Baxt was hired for the role. Curiously, nineteen years later after the movie's release, West voiced Thomas Wayne in the animated series Batman: The Brave and the Bold.
- In an alternate scene, Batman was held at gunpoint by the police at Axis Chemicals. He raises his hands as if to surrender, but then throws two smoke capsules against the cops to be able to "fly" away. This scene was shot but not used and then reshot. The comic adaptation show the alternative take.
- Footage was filmed of Joker pulling Carl Grissom's body from his chair.
- After Joker asked "Where does he get those wonderful toys?", he looked at his Goons and commanded "Don't just stand there, go and ask him!"
- After fleeing with Vicki Vale from the Flugelheim Museum, a girl got caught in the ensuing attack by Joker's Goons. Batman carried her to safety, and after setting her down the girl asked "Is it Halloween?" in reference to Batman's suit.
- Rather than dropping his knife and fleeing, Bob the Goon attacked Batman with the knife. It is possible that the scene in which the goon who attacked Batman with the two swords, may have taken the place of the scene with Bob. The only known pics of the fight scene with Bob and Batman was on the Batman Movie trading cards, that were released directly before the film was released in theaters.
- Directly after the scene where Commissioner Gordon listens to the Joker's laughing box, there was a scene involving the unconscious Alexander Knox. In an attempt to evade the police Batman puts his cloak over an unconscious Alexander Knox as a distraction. Gordon and the police find him and pull the cape off to reveal Knox instead of Batman.
- Originally, the final scene of the movie when the Bat-Signal is released, Gordon and Dent threaten even the cops are corrupt police department.
- At the end of the movie, there is a scene where Vicki goes over to Alfred's car and sees two children dressed as Batman.