It was the summer of 1989, and the first significant piece of Batman cinema since the 60’s Batman was to hit theaters. Tim Burton, the man, tasked with directing the Bat’s first cinematic experience had been working on the film since 1986 with countless revisions and years of development hell it was finally here.
If you got to experience Batman in 1989, you know that it was the summer of the Bat. Everywhere you turned people were Bat crazy. The film was a rousing success at the time the 5th most grossing movie in the world. It spawned countless sequels and is credited for inspiring the dark Superhero genre that has become popular.
So the story goes Jack Napier (Jack Nicholson) killed Bruce Wayne’s parents years ago in a mugging in crime alley gone wrong. Years later Bruce becomes Batman and is fighting crime in Gotham. Jack is now a low-level enforcer in the Mob working for Mob Boss Carl Grissom. Grissom knows Napier has been double crossing and screwing him over sets him up to take the fall while robbing Axis Chemicals. While Napier is robbing Axis Chemicals, the police surround the place tipped off by Carl Grissom a shootout fight occurs between the mobsters and the cops. While the fighting is going on, Batman arrives and starts taking out the Mob while the Cops are trying to stop Batman.
In an instant, everything changes high above the Toxic Waste Batman surprises Jack Napier who falls in a vat of Toxic Waste, Batman leaves, and Jack Napier is presumed dead. It is later revealed that Jack Napier survived, but due to the Toxic Waste his skin is bleach white, his hair green and lips turned ruby red and insane. Napier then becomes the Joker. Later he goes and kills Carl Grissom and becomes Mob Boss in Gotham.
At this time two reports Vicky Vale (Kim Basinger) and Alexander Knox are investigating the appearances of Batman when they go to Wayne Manor. Eventually, they meet Bruce Wayne (Michael Keaton) who takes a fancy with Ms. Vale while still investigating the Batman.
After taking over for Grisom, we see the Joker attack a rival in Gotham city hall where he downs a rival and sees Vicki Vale. The Joker becomes enamored with Vicki Vale while getting angry that Batman is getting more press and prestige. The Joker starts to terrorize Gotham city with his new chemical Smilex akin to Joker Toxin where the victims die while laughing and smiling.
“Remember put on a Happy Face”-Joker
Bruce Wayne/Batman is investigating Jack Napier when he gets a message from Vicki Vale about their date only problem Bruce Wayne doesn’t have a date with Vicki Vale. Next, we see Vicki Vale at the museum waiting for her date with Bruce Wayne when someone appears; it’s the Joker. The Joker comes busting in with his henchmen who kill everyone in the museum and destroy the art. We see Vicki throw water at the Joker and Batman busts through the roof and saves Vicki Vale.
One of the funniest scenes in the movie is when Batman asks how much she weighs and tells her to hold on to the grappling hook which propels her above while Batman fights the Jokers goons.
“You weigh a little more than 108”-Batman
Batman takes Vicki Vale to the Bat Cave where he gives her the info and the products tainted with Smilex. This pisses the Joker off who decides to go Bathunting. Bruce conflicted with his secret decides to tell Vale about him being Batman when the Joker decides to barge in “Kill” Bruce Wayne and leaves Vicki Vale who realizes Bruce survived the shooting.
“Have You Ever Danced by the Pale MoonLight”-Joker
The Joker decides to lure Gothamites to the City Hall with the lure of giving away money a trap to kill all of Gotham. Bruce Wayne remembers that the Joker said the same thing the man who killed his parents said and learns the Joker is Jack Napier. At the same time, Alfred takes Vicki Vale to the Batcave where she learns that Bruce Wayne is Batman.
“Where Does He Get Those WonderFul Toys”
Batman starts his assault on the Joker going after him at Axis Chemical Plant which he destroys but the Joker escapes in the Jokercopter. The Joker then goes to City Hall starts giving the money with the gas in the Balloons. Jokers plan was working, but Batman steals the Balloons from the Joker with the Batplane launching them into space and pissing off the Joker. Then while Batman is coming back around with the Batplane, the Joker shoots Batman down with the ridiculously long gun.
“Come On You Gruesome Son of a Bitch, Come to Me”-Joker
The Joker after shooting down the Batplane kidnaps Vicki Vale and takes her to the top of the Cathedral and lures Batman for a showdown. The Joker momentarily gains the upper hand and tries to escape via Helicopter, but Batman stops him.
“Here let me lend you a hand”-Joker
Batman attaches the Grappling Hook to the Gargoyle and Joker cannot escape. Eventually, the Joker falls to his death with the eerie laughing in the Background. Batman and Vale slip of the ledge but Batman saves the day by using the grappling hook to stop the fall.
In the end, we see Commissioner Gordon announcing the crime wave and the Jokers men are all captured and a letter from Batman which says if crime returns call him and reveal the Bat Signal…..
Development on Batman can go back to 80’s when two producers Benjamin Melniker and Michael E. Uslan purchased the rights to Batman from DC Comics. Interest in Batman had dwindled, and it seemed people didn’t want anything to do with Batman. The Duo pitched a darker series in tone. Unfortunately, people weren’t interested looking for a return to the campy Batman popular in the 60’s series. Unfortunately, with no buyers, the film was in developmental hell. Famous producers Jon Peters and Peter Guber joined the project Melniker, and Uslan became executive producers and announced a 15 million dollar budget eventually Warner Bros accepted the film this was Pre DC Comics at Warner Bros.
A new script was written by Tom Mankiewicz who based the Batman script on the series Strange Apparitions written by Steve Engelhart and art by Marshall Rogers, in fact, Marshall Rogers did the concept art for the Movie. At this time several directors were attached to direct including Ivan Reitman who wanted Bill Murray as Batman and Eddie Murphy as Robin (how awesome would that have been). Eventually, Tim Burton was hired as the Director in 1985.
“I was never a giant comic book fan, but I’ve always loved the image of Batman and the Joker. The reason I’ve never been a comic book fan — and I think it started when I was a child — is because I could never tell which box I was supposed to read. I don’t know if it was dyslexia or whatever, but that’s why I loved The Killing Joke because for the first time I could tell which one to read. It’s my favorite. It’s the first comic I’ve ever loved. And the success of those graphic novels made our ideas more acceptable.”-Tim Burton
Burton then hired Sam Hamm to do a new rewrite of the script. Warner Bros was hesitant to proceed with the script even with praise from Batman Co Creator Bob Kane. After the success of Beetlejuice, Warner Bros green lit the Batman movie.
Now there was controversy regarding the casting of Batman, several Hollywood heavyweights Tom Selleck, Mel Gibson, Willem Dafoe, Ray Liotta, Dennis Quaid, Charlie Sheen. Tim Burton’s picks before Michael Keaton was Pierce Brosnan or Ray Liotta both declined. Eventually, producer Jon Peters suggested Michael Keaton and the rest, as they say, is history… Well, it wasn’t without criticism many thought Keaton being known for comedies would mark a return to the campy Batman even Bob Kane creator of Batman was against the casting. Eventually, the outcry subsided, and Keaton continued the work.
The Joker was another part many in Hollywood vied for eventually, Jack Nicholson got the part but rumor that Robin Williams, Brad Dourif, David Bowie and Jon Lithgow all read for the part. Tim Burton wanted Brad Dourif, but the studio refused as they wanted a well-known actor to play the part. It’s been said Bob Kane and the producers wanted Jack Nicholson who took the part, but concessions during shooting had to be made based on his contract. Reportedly shoot delays got Nicholson 6 million base salary and due to Nicholson’s contract which gave him back end rights Nicholson made a reported $60-$90 Million Dollars.
Other casting notes Vicki Vale was supposed to be played by Sean Young who had to drop out due to a horse riding accident and Billy Dee Williams as Harvey Dent. Burton cast Billy Dee Williams with the intention of having Williams play Two Face in a sequel unfortunately never happened till now.
Filming took place at Pinewood Studios in England. During the filming, there was a Writer’s Guild of America strike which prevented Sam Hamm from working on rewrites. At the time Tim Burton said Filming Batman was “torture. The worst period of my life”-Tim Burton. Tim Burton also said “I liked parts of it, but the whole movie is mainly boring to me. It’s OK, but it was more of a cultural phenomenon than a great movie.”
Batman is famous for its soundtrack Burton hired Danny Elfman of Oingo Boingo fame to score the film who had never done a production of this scale. Elfman was not happy with the final mix. Producers wanted Prince, and Michael Jackson for the soundtrack Prince accepted, it was never told whether the producers approached Michael Jackson. Tim Burton was all right with the Prince songs but not happy with their place in the movie.
The Movie is ranked as one of the all time great Comic Book Movies. It is said that Batman was the inspiration for the greatest Batman series Batman the Animated Series which Warner Bros Animation produced after the success of the Movie. Bruce Timm has said, “our show would never have gotten made if it hadn’t been for that first Batman movie.” Batman spawned three sequels with Batman and Robin directed by Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher the remaining two. The Movies darker tone caused critics to question whether it was too dark but did not affect Box office receipts. Michael Keaton to disguise Batman from being found as Bruce Wayne did the Batman voice in a lower register which Christian Bale used in his Batman Series. The Series also started the one villain per movie as the Joker was not seen again until the Dark Knight Series.
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