As a kid I remember watching the live action Batman (1989) and being very entertained. It is probably because, as a kid, there wasn’t much for me to think about or understand in the film.
Style over substance
Batman displays a highly stylized (for 1989), almost cartoonish version of Batman, with very weak characters and plot. Michael Keaton does fine, as a rather bored Bruce Wayne, with some pretty funny one-liners. His portrayal of The Batman, however, is a bland, kind of lame superhero. But you know, even a lame Batman is cool. I think it is that suit.
Much of that is the fault of the writing/direction. Burton seems to spend so much time getting some iconic shots of Batman, the Batmobile driving fast, the Batwing flying and posed in the moon, that he doesn’t develop the characters at all. They don’t seem to have much common sense (making the audience not even root for them) and are generally very flat.
Aside from a couple Bruce Wayne quips, the only part that really entertained in this film was the psychotic, goofy portrayal of Joker by Jack Nicholson….sometimes. Joker gets kind of annoying, though, when he’s dancing to late 80s music with his thugs, who look totally out of place with the big boombox and lame moves.
Plotwise, for most of the movie the Joker doesn’t seem to have much of a plan. He really just wanders aimlessly, randomly killing or sparing people, with not much purpose. Batman doesn’t seem to have much urgency either, there was a scene where he basically flies in circles in the Batwing for no reason. Much of the movie seems disjointed, and I think this was the sacrifice that Burton made in getting the right “look”.
The right look is even better when you have solid depth to the characters and a great story. Having seen how good Batman films can be in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, this one really disappoints.
Batman (1989) runs 126 minutes and is rated a [soft] PG-13. I give it 5 ramheads out of 10.