Movie review: Batman (1989)

Batman I as remembered him in films starts with Tim Burton’s dark depiction in 1989. I decided to revisit the Tim Burton/Joel Schumacher series of films and found myself knee-deep in the late ’80s: action movie plots, the depiction of women, relations between the sexes, and Prince.

Batman is in stark contrast to the pop depiction of Batman in the 1960’s TV show. Here Michael Keaton plays a somewhat brooding and troubled character. While I like Keaton, I don’t feel that he quite pulled it off. His character felt wooden and two-dimensional.

As an action movie, Batman has the 1980s written all over it. There lacks any real strategy to the action. The emphasis is on car collisions and explosions, for no particular reason, just because car collisions and explosions are hallmarks of a 1980s action movie.

Vicky Vale, the heroine and Batman’s love interest, depicts 1980s ideas of what a woman should be. Just coming off of the feminist movement in the 1970s, woman in the 1980s (at least middle class women) were going to work to have a career. Kim Basinger portrays a woman from the 1980s: strong, career-minded, but also a damsel in distress to be saved by a strong man in her life.

The relations between Vicky and Bruce Wayne reflect the relations between men and women in the 1980s. After sleeping together on the first date (ah, the liberated woman of the 1980s), the two fall in love yet are thwarted by Bruce…his inability to open up and let Vicky in. A classic exchange between the sexes of that decade. To her cries that he won’t let her in, he offhandedly points out that she is in. (And technically he is correct. She is standing in his Batcave with him out of costume. )

But then, sorry, honey, I have to go to work. And Vicky is left alone…but quickly is out on the streets herself, taking photographs. (She is a working girl, after all.)

The soundtrack was composed and performed by Prince, who reigned in the 1980s music scene. Other famous faces from that time period graced the screen: Jack Nicholson, Jack Parlance, Billie Dee Williams.

Batman is definitely a film for 1980s nostalgia.


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