Batman is a 1989 American superhero film based on the DC Comics character of the same name, directed by Tim Burton. The film stars Michael Keaton in the title role, as well as Jack Nicholson, Kim Basinger, Robert Wuhl, Michael Gough, Pat Hingle, Billy Dee Williams, and Jack Palance. The film, in which Batman deals with the rise of a costumed criminal known as “The Joker”, is the first installment of Warner Bros.’ Batman film series.
After Burton was hired as director, Steve Englehart and Julie Hickson wrote film treatments before Sam Hamm wrote the first screenplay. Batman was not greenlit until after the success of Burton’s Beetlejuice (1988). Numerous A-list actors were considered for the role of Batman. Nicholson accepted the role of the Joker under strict conditions that dictated a high salary, a portion of the box office profits, and his shooting schedule.
Filming took place at Pinewood Studios from October 1988 to January 1989. The budget escalated from $30 million to $48 million, while the 1988 Writers Guild of America strike forced Hamm to drop out. Uncredited rewrites were performed by Warren Skaaren, Charles McKeown and Jonathan Gems. Batman was a critical and financial success, earning over $400 million in box office totals. The film received several Saturn Award nominations and a Golden Globe nomination, and won an Academy Award. It also inspired the Emmy Award-winning Batman: The Animated Series, paving the way for the DC Animated Universe, and has influenced Hollywood’s modern marketing and development techniques of the superhero film genre.
As a child, billionaire Bruce Wayne (Michael Keaton) sees his parents murdered and therefore vows to avenge their deaths in a lifelong battle against crime as the costumed vigilante Batman while concealing his secret identity behind his playboy image. By the time he begins his career as Gotham City’s protector, the city is controlled by crime boss Carl Grissom (Jack Palance), and his second in command, Jack Napier (Jack Nicholson), who has a sadistic sense of humor. Despite the efforts of newly-elected district attorney Harvey Dent (Billy Dee Williams) and police commissioner James Gordon (Pat Hingle), the police department remains corrupt. Reporter Alexander Knox (Robert Wuhl) and photo-journalist Vicki Vale (Kim Basinger) begin investigating the rumors of a shadowy crimefighter (Batman himself) terrorizing the city’s criminals by night.
Vicki and Knox attend a benefit at Wayne Manor, where Bruce is taken by Vicki’s charms, while Napier is sent to raid the Axis Chemicals factory. When the police receive a tip-off and arrive to arrest him, Napier realizes he has been tricked by his boss for his affair with Grissom’s mistress. In the midst of the resulting gunfight, Batman arrives and attacks Napier’s henchmen. Napier fires at Batman, who deflects the bullet off his steel gauntlet and strikes it into Napier’s face; whereupon Napier topples over a platform rail into a large vat of chemicals. Shortly thereafter, he emerges from an adjacent catch basin, his skin bleached white, his hair dyed green, and his lips dyed red. Following a botched attempt at plastic surgery, Napier is left with a permanent rictus grin, similar to the jester on a joker card; wherefore he renames himself “the Joker”, kills Grissom, and takes control of his organization.
Thereafter the Joker terrifies the city by chemically altering everyday hygiene products, causing those using a certain combination thereof to laugh to death and leaving them with a post-mortem grin resembling his own. Batman, attempting to track down the Joker, realizes that his quarry is the man who murdered his parents. Meanwhile, Bruce’s butler and confidante Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Gough) allows Vicki into the Batcave, where she and Bruce promise to organize their attachment to each other when the Joker is defeated.
When Batman destroys the factory the Joker used to make the poisons, the Joker retaliates by holding a parade through Gotham, luring its citizens onto the streets and intending to kill them with lethal gas. Batman foils his plan; but the Joker kidnaps Vicki and takes her to the top of a cathedral, where Batman fights the Joker to save Vicki, and both realize that each is responsible for the other’s transformations. As the Joker is about to escape in a helicopter flown by his henchmen, Batman shoots a grappling hook to the Joker’s leg, tying it to a stone gargoyle statue, and the Joker, who had been clinging onto the ladder from the helicopter and preventing it from moving, falls to his death when the statue breaks off and outweighs him. Later, Commissioner Gordon reveals the Bat-Signal along with a note from Batman read by Harvey Dent, promising to defend Gotham whenever crime strikes again.
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First Published: Mar 15, 2012 – Last Updated: May 29, 2013