On June 23, 1989, Tim Burton’s noir spin on the well-known story of the DC Comics hero Batman is released in theaters.
Michael Keaton starred in the film as the multimillionaire Bruce Wayne, who has transformed himself into the crime-fighting Batman after witnessing his parents’ brutal murder as a child. As the film’s action begins, mob henchman Jack Napier (Jack Nicholson) is gruesomely disfigured after Batman inadvertently drops him in a vat of acid during a stand-off in a chemical factory. After killing his boss (Jack Palance), Napier–now known as the Joker–goes on the loose in Gotham City, wreaking havoc and trying to turn its people against the caped crusader. When Batman’s affection for a beautiful newspaper reporter, Vicki Vale (Kim Basinger), is revealed, the Joker uses her to draw his rival out into the open, with dramatic results.
Controversy had surrounded the casting of Keaton (best known for comedies like 1983’s Mr. Mom) as Batman. An entire roster of prominent leading men–reportedly including Mel Gibson, Dennis Quaid, Harrison Ford and Kevin Costner–were considered for the role, and Burton reportedly wanted to cast an unknown actor (a la Christopher Reeve in Superman). Having worked previously with Keaton in Beetlejuice (1988), Burton liked the idea of collaborating with him again, and the producers agreed, after screening Keaton’s 1988 film Clean and Sober, that Keaton had talent as a “serious” actor as well.
In a new marketing strategy that would become a trend for movies featuring super heroes, Warner Brothers hyped Batman as a major summer “event” long before its release. The results were stunning, as the film grossed some $100 million in its first ten days of release, including $82.8 million at the domestic box office alone. Reviews for the film were mixed, though most critics praised Nicholson’s scene-stealing performance as the Joker. For his creation of the movie’s impressive Batmobile and the dark, cavernous Gotham City, Batman’s production designer, Anton Furst, won an Oscar for Best Art Direction – Set Decoration.
Burton’s second Batman film, Batman Returns (1989), also starred Keaton as the caped crusader. Most critics considered the sequel, also a box-office hit, to be a better movie than its predecessor. Warner Brothers, seeking even greater commercial success for the franchise, hired Joel Schumacher to direct the next installment, Batman Forever (1995), which starred Val Kilmer as Batman; Tommy Lee Jones and Jim Carrey were the villains in that film, while Nicole Kidman was the love interest and Chris O’Donnell came on as Robin, Batman’s sidekick. Kilmer, like Keaton before him, left the franchise before the making of the next planned film because he felt Batman was getting less attention than his enemies; George Clooney took his place for Schumacher’s Batman & Robin (1997), which was roundly panned by critics.
A few years later, the director Christopher Nolan reoriented the series, going back to Bruce Wayne’s childhood for Batman Begins (2005), starring Christian Bale in the title role. Nolan and Bale returned for a 2008 sequel, The Dark Knight, which featured a stunning turn by Heath Ledger (who was found dead of an accidental prescription drug overdose soon after filming was completed) as the Joker. The third and final installment was The Dark Knight Rises (2012), also a critical and commercial success.
Batman later appeared in several D.C. Extended Universe films, including Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), starring Ben Affleck as the Caped Crusader.
Batman Forever is a 1995 American superhero film directed by Joel Schumacher and produced by Tim Burton, based on the DC Comics character Batman. The third installment of Warner Bros.' initial Batman film series, it is a sequel to the 1992 film Batman Returns, starring Val Kilmer replacing Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne / Batman, alongside Tommy Lee Jones, Jim Carrey, Nicole Kidman, Chris O'Donnell, Michael Gough, and Pat Hingle. The plot focuses on Batman trying to stop Two-Face and the Riddler in their villainous scheme to extract confidential information from all the minds in Gotham City and use it to learn Batman's identity and bring the city under their control. In the process, he gains allegiance from a young, orphaned circus acrobat named Dick Grayson, who becomes his sidekick Robin, and meets and develops feelings for psychologist Dr. Chase Meridian, which brings him to the point to decide if he will lead a normal life or if he is destined to fight crime as Batman forever.
Schumacher mostly eschewed the dark, dystopian atmosphere of Burton's films by drawing inspiration from the Batman comic books of the Dick Sprang era, as well as the 1960s television series, but without the campiness of the later film. After Keaton chose not to reprise his role, William Baldwin and Ethan Hawke were considered as a replacement before Val Kilmer joined the cast.
The film was released on June 16, 1995. Batman Forever grossed over $336 million worldwide and became the sixth-highest-grossing film worldwide of 1995. The film received mixed reviews, with criticism directed towards the CGI, Kilmer's performance, costume designs and tonal departure from previous films, but praising the visuals, action sequences and performances of Carrey and Jones. The film was followed by Batman & Robin in 1997, with Schumacher returning as the director, Chris O'Donnell returning as Robin, and George Clooney replacing Kilmer as Batman.
In Gotham City, local vigilante Batman defuses a hostage situation orchestrated by a criminal known as Two-Face, formerly district attorney Harvey Dent. Two-Face was disfigured with acid by mobster Sal Maroni, which Batman failed to prevent. Two-Face escapes. Edward Nygma, an eccentric researcher at Wayne Enterprises, approaches his employer, Bruce Wayne (Batman's civilian identity), with an invention that can beam television signals directly into a person's brain. Bruce rejects the device, concerned the technology could manipulate minds. After killing his supervisor and staging the death as a suicide, Nygma resigns and plots revenge against Bruce, obsessively sending him riddles criminal psychologist Chase Meridian diagnoses Bruce's stalker as psychotic.
Bruce invites Chase (who is obsessed with Batman) to a circus. Two-Face hijacks the event and threatens to detonate a bomb unless Batman surrenders himself. Acrobat Dick Grayson, the youngest member of the Flying Graysons, manages to throw the bomb into the river, but Two-Face kills his family. Bruce persuades the orphaned Dick to live at Wayne Manor as his ward, and Dick discovers Bruce is Batman. Taking the Batmobile for a joyride, Batman saves Dick from thugs. Determined to avenge his family, Dick demands to join Batman in crime-fighting, hoping to kill Two-Face, but Bruce refuses. He then tells Dick firmly that if he does kill Two-Face, his pain will only get stronger, but Dick tells Bruce he is a part of this no matter what he says.
Nygma, inspired by Two-Face's raid at the circus, adopts a criminal persona, the Riddler, and allies with Two-Face, promising to uncover Batman's identity. While Two Face almost kills the Riddler, he is able to persuade Two Face into helping him. In return, he'll help uncover Batman's identity. They commit a series of robberies to finance Nygma's new company and mass-produce his brainwave device, the "Box," which secretly steals information from users' minds. Nygma hosts a party where he goads Bruce into using the Box, before Two-Face unexpectedly arrives. As Batman, Bruce pursues Two-Face and is nearly killed, but Dick rescues him. Back at the Bat cave, Bruce is not happy with this and does not want Dick involved anymore.
Batman visits Chase, who explains that she has fallen in love with Bruce. He invites her to the manor and will reveal his secret identity, and even declares his days as Batman are over. Dick, who is unhappy about Bruce abandoning a promise he made, runs away after taking parts from one of Bruce's Batsuits to build his own suit. The Riddler and Two-Face, having discovered Bruce's secret through the Box, arrive and blow up the Batcave, shooting Bruce and kidnapping Chase. As Bruce recovers, he and his butler, Alfred, use the riddles to deduce that Nygma is the Riddler. Bruce dons a new Batsuit, and Dick joins him as Batman's partner, "Robin."
Batman and Robin reach Riddler and Two-Face's lair on Claw Island, where they are separated. Robin encounters Two-Face and nearly kills him, but he spares his life and is captured. Batman confronts the Riddler, who reveals Chase and Robin, trapped in containment tubes above a deadly drop, giving Batman the chance to save only one hostage. Instead, Batman destroys the Riddler's brainwave receiver with a Batarang, overwhelming the Riddler's mind and allowing Batman to rescue both. Two-Face corners the trio and determines their fate by flipping a coin, but Batman throws a handful of identical coins in the air, causing Two-Face to stumble and fall to his death.
Committed to Arkham Asylum, Nygma claims to know Batman's secret identity and is visited by Chase. However, it is revealed that the delusional Nygma now believes that he is Batman. Chase tells Bruce that his secret is safe before they part ways. Bruce resumes his crusade as Batman, with Robin as his partner.
Biography [ edit | edit source ]
Early life [ edit | edit source ]
Bruce Wayne was the son of Dr. Thomas and Martha Wayne. They were murdered in front of him by a criminal named Jack Napier, while he was still very young.
He was raised by his family's trusted butler, Alfred Pennyworth, from then on.
Claiming the night [ edit | edit source ]
After the death of his parents, Wayne devoted most of his time and energy to becoming a very well equipped vigilante with the intent of waging a war on crime. His years of training are only hinted at, with a armory display in Wayne Manor. He took on the name Batman, and dons a Bat-themed suit to strike fear in the hearts of criminals.
Dance with the devil [ edit | edit source ]
He later met and began a relationship with photographer Vicki Vale, who would later discover his secret. He would also encounter and battle his parents' killer, now known as Joker, and stopped him from killing Gotham's citizens with tempered cosmetics.
This Day in Horror History: Tim Burton’s BATMAN Opened in 1989
On this day in horror history, director Tim Burton&rsquos Batmanwith Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson as The Joker was unleashed back in 1989.
Greenlit until after the success of Burton&rsquos Beetlejuice, filming took place at Pinewood Studios from October 1988 to January 1989 with a budget that escalated from $30 million to $48 million.
Sam Hamm wrote the first screenplay but the 1988 Writers Guild of America strike forced Hamm to drop out so Warren Skaaren did the rewrite along with Charles McKeown and Jonathan Gems.
Batman was a financial success, earning over $400 million at the box office becoming the fifth-highest-grossing film in history at the time. The film won the Academy Award for Best Art Direction and spawned three sequels, Batman Returns, Batman Forever, and Batman & Robin.
Having witnessed his parents&rsquo brutal murder as a child, millionaire philanthropist Bruce Wayne (Michael Keaton) fights crime in Gotham City disguised as Batman, a costumed hero who strikes fear into the hearts of villains. But when a deformed madman who calls himself &ldquoThe Joker&rdquo (Jack Nicholson) seizes control of Gotham&rsquos criminal underworld, Batman must face his most ruthless nemesis ever while protecting both his identity and his love interest, reporter Vicki Vale (Kim Basinger).
It sports a 71% on Rotten Tomatoes with a Critics Consensus that reads: An eerie, haunting spectacle, Batman succeeds as dark entertainment, even if Jack Nicholson&rsquos Joker too often overshadows the title character.
Directed by Tim Burton and produced by Jon Peters and Peter Guber, based on the DC Comics character, it co-starred Kim Basinger, Robert Wuhl, Pat Hingle, Billy Dee Williams, Michael Gough, and Jack Palance.
How much do you love Tim Burton&rsquos Batman? Let us know what you think in the comments or on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram!
Batman: Tim Burton Changed Hollywood Forever in 1989
The release of Tim Burton’s “Batman,” in the summer of 1989, should be considered a crucial turning point in history: It changed forever Hollywood’s concetion, execution, and marketing of the comic-strip genre.
In its dark, noirish theme, tone, and visual style, Burton’s “Batman” was removed from most other big-screen adaptations of superheroes to date, such as “Superman” and “Flash Gordon.”
Going back to the source elements of the cartoon figure, which made his debut in 1939 for Detective Comics, Burton conveys the visual style of the original Bob Kane comics, while stamping the production with his own signature. Set in crime-ridden, debris-strewn Gotham City, with allusions to the state of New York City in the late 1980s, the slender plot centers on its crime fighters, the Mayor (Lee Wallace, who looks like real-life mayor Ed Koch) and District Attorney Billy Dee Williams), posit against scary crime boss Carl Grisson (Jack Palance, turning in a tame performance, for a change) and his top henchman, Jack Napier.
Unevenly scripted by Sam Hamm and Warren Skaaren, the film, lacks dramatic locus and narrative coherence, unfolding as a series of impressive set-pieces. And it doesn’t help that the central romantic story between Bruce Wayne (Michael Keaton) and photojournalist Vicki Vale (the beautiful Kim Basinger, who looks and acts like a model) is bland and uninvolving.
In a departure from the usual amiable comic-style, Batman is scripted by Hamm and acted by Keaton as a lonely, obsessive man of haunted intensity, devoid of the company of Robin. Were the filmmakers concerned about the homoerotic overtones in the relationship between the two men (“Robin” will appear as a major character in the fourth Batman picture, in 1997)
The film’s subversive nature is best embodies in the dual character of Jack Napier/the Joker, flamboyantly played by Jack Nicholson. A memorable scene depicts the Joker commandeering an art museum and destroying great art works just for the fun of it. One of the Joker’s scariest lines was, “I’m the world’s first fully functional homicidal artist.” Intentionally or not, but rather dangerously, “Batman” encouraged the audience to join the Joker in thoroughly enjoying the culture of destruction.
The story’s main characters, both the Caped Crusader and the Joker, are both conceptualized as unquestionably and irredeemably diabolical, with one exception, one is obsessive and vengeful believing he’s ser4ving justice, whereas the other is Evil incarnate.
The movie begins with a brief tragic scene, in which the young Bruce Wayne loses both of his parents in a random street crime, which is fully recreated in greater detail later on in an extended flashback. Horrifyingly witnessing the murder of his parents is meant to explain Bruce Wayne/Batman’s revenge-driven conduct and his adoption of his butler Alfred as his surrogate parent.
Moreover, the true antagonist is an eternally nocturnal Gotham City, a campy Fritz Langian revision” of New York City, conjured by designer Anton Furst, who deservedly won an Oscar for his art direction. Unlike the New York City-inspired utopia of Fritz Lang’s 1927 masterpiece “Metropolis,” Furst’s Big Apple is visibly corrupt and full of worms. The art museum (the “Fluegelheim”) is depicted as a spectacular pile mixing Gothic, stripped-down Classicism and industrial architecture, as it might have been designed if the W.P.A. had built it during the Depression.
It’s the industrial edge to Furst’s sets that makes the images of sunless New York hit close to home. The allusions to New York were certainly deliberate. The Gotham City Hall, for instance, is a dead ringer for New York’s Criminal Courts Building. Moreover, in the picture, Gotham has run out of money for its Bicentennial celebrations!
If the 1966-1968 “Bat-Man” TV series destroyed the comic-book hero, leaving in its place campy and glorified superheroes like Christopher Reeves’s “Superman” of the early 1980s, “Batman,” in turn, destroyed this second phase. As a result, director Burton and star Michael Keaton, cast-against-type, found themselves at the center of a moral debate.
The genius of Burton’s conception was in decentralizing the superhero. By closely pairing Batman with the Joker, Burton showed two halves of same obsession. The strong similarities between hero and villain became the new movie’s focus. Burton realize what the makers of the “Superman” movies did not, that “Star Wars” Darth Vader was as, if not more, interesting, than Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, and Han Solo. A Manhattan bank employee told Newsweek: “Batman is the best of both worlds, a hero who looks like a villain.” To be honest, the Joker was far more interesting than Batmanas a character and as a performance.
The movie’s most “hilarious” sequence involves the Joker’s plot to distribute poisoned cosmetics, which freeze a person’s face into an everlasting Joker smile. While the film had fun with its “shopper’s nightmare,” “Batman” the movie became a shopper’s nightmare itself.
Despite mixed reviews, “Batman” was the biggest commercial hit of 1989, grossing domestically over $250 million and another $150 million or so internationally, thus making it one of the top-grossing films of all time to date.
Art Direction-Set Decoration: Anton Furst Peter Young
Art Direction-Set Decoration
In 1989, the other nominees for Art Direction were James Cameron’s “The Abyss,” Terry Gilliam’s “The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, “Driving Miss Daisy,” and “Glory.”
Bruce Wayne/Batman (Michael Keaton)
Jack Napier/the Joker (Jack Nicholson)
Vicki Vale (Kim Basinger)
Alexander Knox (Robert Wuhl)
Commissioner Gordon (Pat Hingle)
District Attorney Harvey Dent (Blly Dee Williams)
Alfred (Michael Gough)
Carl Grissom (Jack Palance)
Alicia (Jerry Hall)
Mayor (Lee Wallace)
Directed by Tim Burton.
Producers: Jon Peters, Peter Guber.
Screenplay: Sam Hamm, Warren Skaaren.
Camera: Roger Pratt.
Editor: Ray Lovejoy.
Music: Danny Elfman.
Art Director: Anton Furst
Costumes: Bob Ringwood, Linda Henrikson
Looking back at Tim Burton’s Batman
Our look back at the work of Tim Burton arrives at the film that launched the modern day blockbuster as we know it: Batman.
“You made me. Remember? You dropped me into that vat of chemicals. That wasn’t easy to get over, and don’t think that I didn’t try.” – The Joker
By the time 1989 rolled around Tim Burton was riding high on his successes with Pee-wee’s Big Adventure and Beetlejuice, the latter of which would lead to him getting the green light to push ahead with a project he had been working on for some time previously. Little could Burton have imagined that his next film, and only his third studio directed picture, would become one of the most successful movies of the decade and re-launch the superhero movie for a new generation of cinema goers.
From the 60s to the early 80s the fate of superheroes seemed to lie in the land of over the top camp TV shows. Spider-Man, The Incredible Hulk and Superman (being paraded around as Superboy) were all victims of this and none more so than Batman. Each week Adam West and Burt Ward took on their foes in bright Technicolor with a BOW, BAM, WHAM! as Batman and Robin, but by 1989 things had changed and Batman was due for a re-vamp. And Mr Burton was the man charged with doing it.
After witnessing his parents’ brutal murder as a child, Bruce Wayne (Michael Keaton), multi-millionaire playboy and owner of Wayne Enterprises, decides to avenge their death by taking to the streets of his home city Gotham at night as Batman.
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Gotham is in the middle of a war against criminals that it is not winning, with the city being controlled by Carl Grissom (Jack Palance) and even with the efforts of Police Commissioner Gordon (Pat Hingle) and newly elected district attorney Harvey Dent (Billy Dee Williams), corruption throughout the system is rife. With this in mind, Gotham Globe journalists Vicki Vale (Kim Basinger) and Alexander Knox (Robert Wuhl) decide to investigate the phantom bat that has been scaring the criminals of the city.
While attending a party at Wayne Manor that night, Vicki and Alexander meet Bruce who is automatically attracted to Vicki but is soon called away when there is a raid at Axis Chemicals, which is being lead by Jack Napier (Jack Nicholson). When the police come to arrest him, Jack realises he has been set up by Grissom due to his extra-curricular activates with his mistress.
As the bullets fly, Batman arrives, taking out Jack’s men and in a face-to-face between the two, Jack shoots at Batman but the bullet ricochets off the bat suit and back at Jack. Injured, he falls over the platform he is standing on. Trying to save him, Batman grabs his hand but he loses grip and Jack falls into a vat of chemicals.
While everybody believes Jack is dead, he has survived and with his hair and skin discoloured he turns to a back-street surgeon, whose only choice is to give Jack a permanent, twisted grin, thus giving birth to the Joker.
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With revenge on his mind, the Joker firstly takes on Grissom and then takes over his empire. As head of the biggest criminal gang in Gotham, he holds the city hostage by altering an array of personal hygiene products, which kills anybody who uses them by making them laugh to death.
Bruce tries to trace the Joker’s location but has bigger things to worry about when the Joker takes an interest in Vicki, who since their meeting at his party have grown closer together.
It is revealed that the Joker was, in fact, the criminal that killed Bruce’s parents and after destroying the chemical factory creating the deadly products, Batman goes solely after the Joker who is in the process of attempting to kill the occupants of Gotham by luring them out of their homes with the promise of free cash and then poisoning them with his lethal laughing gas.
Batman manages to come in time to foil his ultimate plan but the Joker takes off with Vicki and a climatic chase takes place up the spire of Gotham Cathedral. In a final showdown, the Joker falls to his death and the city can rest easy again, for a while at least.
Thankful for his help, Police Commissioner Gordon and Harvey Dent unveil the Bat-Signal, a call for help when the city needs it (which would be around three years later).
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When news of an all action re-vamped Batman movie came to light, fans of the caped crusader were less than impressed with the casting of Michael Keaton in the lead (50,000 letters to Warner Bros unimpressed), but nothing could stop the machine that was Batman and with pre-release hype, it became the first movie to earn $100 million in its first ten days of release.
Taking a much darker tone than any previous superhero movie (just look at the stunning set designs), Batman wasn’t afraid to make its lead less than perfect. Like his counterpart, the Joker, both men were hiding behind masks and their fate would be to face each other. This very dysfunctional relationship is the centre of the movie and everything else really revolves around it, and although various plot strands evolve from it, it all ties into the main story.
Although slightly criticised at the time for focusing too much on the Joker rather than the movie’s lead namesake, it would be an impossible task for it to go any other way. The Joker is a big in-your-face character, as we have seen more recently in The Dark Knight. The thought and presence of him is enough to make you sit up in your seat and pay attention, and although Heath Ledger’s performance may be the award winning one, Jack Nicholson does a great job in a role that defined him many years after. He also, to me, is a fitting embodiment of the time. I am hardly calling him a yuppie Joker but there is something just so 80s about him that, in many ways, he is an embodiment of the decade.
Michael Keaton plays the lead of Bruce Wayne/Batman admirably. Studying the character through The Dark Knight Returns comic series rather than any previous live action incarnations, Bruce is more of a tortured soul than anything else. He can feel his need to keep putting on the bat suit and trying to save the city, but the cost can also be seen: what real life can he really have with such a dark secret?
Both men are supported well by the surrounding cast, but you can’t help but feel they are mostly pawns in the bigger game. Basinger does well as the love interest for Bruce and special mention to Robert Wuhl whose Alexander Knox brings some light-hearted moments when required.
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Comic book fans are the hardest to please when it comes to adapting graphic novels and legendary characters to the screen and Batman was no exception. As mentioned above, they were highly against the casting of Michael Keaton but they were soon appeased once they saw his portrayal. That said, a few gripes were brought up, including the fact the Joker killed Bruce’s parents, when, in fact, a character called Joe Chill was behind it, as well as the fact Alfred allowed Vicki into the Bat Cave, a travesty that would never have been allowed.
Burton’s style again seeps through this movie and the gothic ambience of Gotham is wonderful. His pacing is great there is never any moment that you wish would stop dragging until something else happens. Each scene melds and blends into each other in glorious comic book style. His interpretation of Bruce Wayne is just dark enough you don’t feel depressed while watching and his use of special effects is limited, focusing more on make-up, costumes and props to tell the story, something I do sometimes wish more directors would do.
The success of Batman ensured that a sequel was quickly green lit, but first Burton would release a movie that would in many ways prove to be his calling card, a tale of a boy with scissors for hands, next time I’ll be taking a visit to the magical Edward Scissorhands.
BatmanKey Info:Released: 23rd June 1989 (US) / 11TH August 1989 (UK)Distributed By: Warner Bros. PicturesBudget: $48,000,000Box Office Gross: $411,350,000Best DVD Edition: Batman Two Disc Special Edition
This article is a non-fanon page. Non-fanon means if it is not fanmade or it is also canon.
Timothy Walter "Thomas" or "Tim" Burton (born August 25, 1940) is an American film director, producer, artist, writer and animator. He is known for his dark, gothic, eccentric and quirky fantasy films such as the animated musical Wolfie and Sally 007 (1957-), A Christmas Story (1983), Freaky Friday (1983), Little Shop of Horrors (1986), Oz the Great of Powerful (1987), Beetlejuice (1989), Edward Scissorhands (1990), The Addams Family (1991), The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), The Littlest Elf (1994) The Crow (1995), James and the Giant Peach (1996), Corpse Bride (1997), A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004) and Frankenweenie (2012), the biographical film Ed Wood (1994), the horror fantasy Sleepy Hollow (1999) and later efforts such as Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007) and Dark Shadows (2012). His film directing career begun with 1985's Pee-Wee's Big Adventure.
10 Ridiculous Facts About Tim Burton’s ‘Batman’
If you were around and old enough to know anything in the summer of 1989, you remember what a phenomenon the release of Batman was. Tim Burton’s comic book movie was almost as significant to blockbuster history as Star Wars, only in a different way. The DC superhero adaptation was sort of a peak for Hollywood’s aims in the wake of the surprise game-changer of 12 years prior. Warner Bros. went all out to sell Batman as an event long ahead of its June 23rd opening and then used that hype to in turn sell the world on Batman merchandising, especially to those who weren’t already hardcore fans. There’s very little about today’s blockbuster and fan culture that wasn’t around for Batman 25 years ago. Even the Internet was involved.
To commemorate the anniversary of the movie that sent America into a frenzy of Batmania, I’m not going to highlight a bunch of scenes we love or controversially compare it preferably to The Dark Knight or champion Michael Keaton’s return to the cape and mask after he returns to the black and white stripes of Beetlejuice. Instead I’ve selected a bunch of my favorite ridiculous facts about Batman, many of which are mostly crazy for how similar the preconception and reception was way back then to what we commonly see with tentpoles today.
1. We Thought This Was a “Dark” Superhero Movie
“Dark” was a typical adjective in reviews for Batman upon release, and for the next couple decades it was our standard for at least a darker take on the Caped Crusader. In the next few years there may have been Darkman, The Crow and Spawn, but as far as a real pop-culture heavy like Batman was concerned this was deemed pretty gritty. Not only was it more serious than the Batman TV series everyone was familiar with, even if they didn’t know the comics, but unlike the comparable Superman movies this one ended in the explicit death of the main villain (unlike Lex Luthor always being dragged to prison and the semi-offscreen deaths of Zod and friends). Once the silly Joel Schumacher Batman installments came out, there was even more relative reason to praise Burton’s version – including Batman Returns, which some critics thought even darker. 25 years later, though, it’s kinda laughable to think of Batman as being a dark movie, let alone a dark superhero movie, in spite of all the inspiration it took from Frank Miller’s “The Dark Knight Returns” and Alan Moore’s “The Killing Joke.” Maybe if it wasn’t for all the goofy Prince songs…
2. Michael Jackson Was Wanted For the Soundtrack
It’s not that Michael Jackson was an alternative choice to Prince, whose contribution allowed Warner Bros. to sell two separate soundtracks to Batman. The King of Pop was originally desired in addition to Prince. Jackson was to provide the movie’s love theme while Prince would do a song for The Joker – that being “Partyman,” possibly, or maybe the cut track “Dance With the Devil,” which was considered too dark (interesting for the above fact). Burton wasn’t into the idea of such a pop-heavy soundtrack, claiming his movies aren’t mainstream stuff like Top Gun. He did want two Prince numbers, though, one for the Joker’s museum scene and one for the parade. But apparently Prince wrote a bunch of songs and the studio went with a lot of them. It’s one of the director’s biggest regrets about the movie, believing the songs to be great but not right for the movie, partly because of how much they date it.
3. Fans Were Against the Movie Sight Unseen Solely Because of Tim Burton and Michael Keaton
Whenever we have overblown reactions to casting choices today, especially for the specific role of Batman, it’s worth remembering that it’s hardly anything new. In 1988, comic book geeks were enraged at the idea of the director of Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure not only being in command of their favorite superhero on the big screen but also of his casting his Beetlejuice star in the lead. To them, there was no way this could be a serious take on the Dark Knight. Warner Bros. attempted to appease the fans, first signing creator Bob Kane as a consultant and then sending him to San Diego’s growing Comic Con in August to give the movie his blessing and share some stills from the production. In September, studio publicist Jeff Walker went to New Orleans for the World Science Fiction Convention for a presentation that was still met with groans. According to the Los Angeles Times, he argued in favor of Keaton by pointing to his performance in the recently released Clean and Sober. It worked for some, but many fans thought Kane was just being paid to support the movie and continued protests. By the end of the year, 50,000 complaint letters had been sent to Warners while additional hundreds went out to publications like “Comic Buyers Guide.” It wasn’t until they all saw the awkwardly cut teaser thrown desperately together for Christmastime that the majority of skeptics calmed down.
4. Kiefer Sutherland Was Approached to Play Robin
Who knows how the fans would have reacted to this close call. Try to picture Kiefer Sutherland at any point in his career where he seemed appropriate for the part of Robin. For one thing, he’s the same height as Keaton, and no scrawnier. According to recent comments from the actor, he was right off Young Guns (and Stand By Me, he says, although those movies were two years apart) and got the call. He turned the part down because he pictured the TV version with the tights. “I didn’t realize they were going to make the coolest movie ever!” he told On the Box in 2012. So, who took the gig in his stead? Nobody, of course. At least not in the end. The character was in the shooting script, however, as alter ego Dick Grayson. It was only a cameo, as a member of a family acrobatic troupe during the parade scene, and would have been the kind of sequel lead-in we’re more used to today (Billy Dee Williams’ minor appearance as pre-Two Face Harvey Dent was also a similar set up). Even storyboards for the scene were drawn and later animated for a DVD bonus feature, seen below.
5. Roger Ebert Gave Batman a Worse Review Than Batman Forever
Not every critics loved Tim Burton’s Batman, but surely nobody liked it less than the Schumacher movies, right? If you go just by thumbs up and thumbs down, Roger Ebert disliked everything (live-action) before Christopher Nolan took over, but when you look at his star rankings, there’s one installment that rises above the others: Batman Forever, which received 2½ stars rather than just 2. Of course, thumbs and stars are a bad way of gauging a critic’s overall reception of movies. Ebert was impressed enough with the visuals of the first movie that he admitted to recommending it in person to people on the look alone in spite of his thumb’s direction on the Siskel & Ebert show. He had somewhat similar things to say about Batman Returns, which he admitted isn’t bad just “misguided,” and then with Batman Forever he noted that he couldn’t recommend it but he enjoyed it more than Burton’s sequel. In his review, he made it seem like the extra half star was because it was more appropriate for kids. Comparatively, Gene Siskel gave thumbs up to the first three movies before finally agreeing with Ebert on Batman & Robin.
6. Fans Took to the Internet to Complain About the Ending
During the summer of 1989, the world wide web was still just an idea, but while there were no movie websites around just yet (though IMDb was springing up in a nascent form) there was an Internet already filled with fanboys. And they were opinionated from the get-go. Some of them might have even been part of the premature complaints about director and cast discussed above. On the other end, though, they were also already posting amateur reviews and, more presciently, tearing apart parts of movies in spoiler-filled discussions. Some of the comments I’ve been able to find from Usenet newsgroups of the time question the authenticity of what The Joker’s fall does to his body, suggest ways that the character could be back in spite of his fate at the end of the first movie, wonder how Bruce Wayne was able to build his Batcave on his own and argue about the technology behind the Batmobile.
7. Fans Took to the Barbershop to Shave the Batman Logo Into Their Hair
Batman was so huge 25 years ago that Warner Bros. was able to let the media pick up the best of the marketing for free. Reporters continually referred to the season as “Batman Summer” and regularly ran stories on fans of the superhero and the movie, before during and after release. One of the most memorable parts of Batmania, as the craze was also coined, is the hairdos. Every local paper and national magazine and nightly news show (go to 6:36 in the video below) had a piece about people shaving the Batman symbol into the backs of their heads – or, for the less brave and less wealthy, merely a spray dye job in the same shape. Of course, the studio not only got lucky with the media but with those fans themselves, as the symbol was also the movie’s logo and therefore an advertisement in itself. I can’t recall anything comparable with any movie in the two and a half decades since. Maybe we’re too wary of movies like this to participate in the hype so visibly and publicly, and maybe fanboy culture has grown enough that it’s not big news for mainstream media to pay attention to things like special grooming or cosplay, etc. But the idea that many were doing stuff like this before even seeing the movie isn’t quite as ridiculous today as it was then all we do now is contribute to the buzz machine prior to release.
8. Sequel Plot and Character Casting Rumors Popped Up Immediately
It’s easy to forget that before all the movie sites came about there were a lot of magazines doing the same sort of thing, including spreading rumors about plots and casting for releases that were far from production let alone release. It’s not surprising that Warner Bros. wanted to get going on a sequel right away following the buzz on Batman, not just the enormous success it proved to be. Scripts were in the works early on, and the studio hoped for shooting to begin less than a year from the original’s opening, but that didn’t happen for various reasons including Burton’s hesitancy to come back and his script demands once he did. In the meantime, leaks of actual and discussed ideas could easily find their way out to journalists, and before 1989 was even through there were claims that Danny DeVito would be the Penguin, Cher was in talks for Catwoman and Robin Williams – who’d been a possibility for The Joker, was now up for The Riddler – a role he’d be attached to even beyond the release of Batman Returns, according to a rumor put out in “The Film Journal” in 1993. I’m not sure what publications are represented in the following video, which is said to be part of a September 1989 video called Batmania: From Comics to Screen.
9. Theater Owners Were Pissed About the Batman VHS Release
It’s not so ridiculous that movie theater owners were upset in the fall of 1989 when Warner Bros. planned its home video release of Batman as early as November 15th – little over four and a half months since it hit the big screen. Reportedly it was the first time a movie had such a quick turnaround to VHS, and back then most movies, not just blockbuster hits like Batman, continued to play strong in theaters, mostly second-run houses, after that much time. The ridiculous part is that the complaints continued over the next two decades. We don’t hear too much about shrinking windows today, but as recent as a few years ago we were still seeing protests about not just DVD release dates (and they were a big deal five years ago when home video sales began to drop) but day-and-date plans. Hollywood had really conquered the theaters 25 years ago, but they at least made it seem like the theater owners had a chance for a long time. As for what was ridiculous back then, the way Batmania was still strong enough in November 1989 that the media was still giving it this kind of attention/advertising for its home video cassettes:
10. Batman’s Success Helped the Career of Michael Moore
There are no concrete facts that confirm Warner Bros. only picked up Michael Moore’s debut feature film, Roger & Me, because they made so much money off Batman, but that’s sort of an accepted circumstance after all these years. The studio paid $3m for the documentary, which was unheard of at the time, and in 2005 Moore apparently made the claim that they could easily afford the deal – which included rent money for some of the film’s laid-off subjects – thanks to the superhero movie success. Before that, in his 1995 book “Spike, Mike, Slackers & Dykes,” indie film guru John Pierson says, in a conversation with Kevin Smith, that because of Batman the studio “had money to spare – ‘the dabbling fund.’” Moore also went on “The Tonight Show” in early 1990 and mentioned his idea for a combined Batman and Roger & Me sequel where the Caped Crusader “would come to save Flint, dangle Roger Smith from a tower, and everyone would go back to work to build Batmobiles.” I wish so badly that the episode was online to watch and share. Due to the way Moore broke out with that movie and went on to inspire and influence the eventual new wave of nonfiction cinema, you could say Batman’s success helped the whole field of documentary, as well. And some have.