Necessary Evil: Super-Villains of DC Comics

Director Tim Burton effectively echoes the visual style of the original Bob Kane comics while conjuring up a nightmarish world of his own.

Director Tim Burton effectively echoes the visual style of the original Bob Kane comics while conjuring up a nightmarish world of his own.

 

Going back to the source elements of the cartoon figure, who made his debut in 1939 for Detective (now DC) Comics, the Jon Peters-Peter Guber production [from a story by Sam Hamm] will appeal to purists who prefer their heroes as straight as Clint Eastwood.

 

In a striking departure from his usual amiable comic-style, Michael Keaton captures the haunted intensity of the character, and seems particularly lonely and obsessive without Robin around to share his exploits.

 

The gorgeous Kim Basinger takes the sidekick’s place, in a determined bow to heterosexuality which nonetheless leaves Batman something less than enthusiastic.

 

It comes as no surprise that Jack Nicholson steals every scene in a sizable role as the hideoulsy disfigured Joker. Nicholson embellishes fascinatingly baroque designs with his twisted features, lavish verbal pirouettes and inspired excursions into the outer limits of psychosis. It’s a masterpiece of sinister comic acting.

 

What keeps the film arresting is the visual stylization. It was a shrewd choice for Burton to emulate the jarring angles and creepy lighting of film noir.

 

1989: Best Art Direction

Batman

Production

Guber-Peters/Warner. Director Tim Burton; Producer Jon Peters, Peter Guber; Screenplay Sam Hamm, Warren Skaaren; Camera Roger Pratt; Editor Ray Lovejoy; Music Danny Elfman; Art Director Anton Furst

Crew

(Color) Available on VHS, DVD. Extract of a review from 1989. Running time: 126 MIN.

With

Michael Keaton
Jack Nicholson
Kim Basinger
Robert Wuhl
Pat Hingle
Billy Dee Williams

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