Batman (1989)

You don’t need me to tell you that comic book movies are a dime a dozen at the moment, but none of them look like Tim Burton’s Batman. Overwhelmingly physical in its environs and effects and visually uncomplicated; edited cleanly and held mostly in wide or mid-shots. This is pre-digital, pre-post production short cuts. It feels like a feat of cinematic architecture. Burton built a whole world here. His Gotham is a dark and grand germanic Metropolis which is also, yes, superbly goth and dressed up as a 40s noir. The sensibility of the material and the director line up wonderfully.

All the actors function as both characters and set-dressing, and any distance you feel is re-enforced by the emotional disconnect plaguing most of the characters. Danny Elfman’s boisterous score propels everything forward. His themes and Nicholson’s Joker, really, being the only two ingredients that let you have fun in this otherwise tortured and angsty underworld. They didn’t quite nail the Batman character (Keaton is still my favourite actor to play the role for what it’s worth) but they certainly nailed the tone.

A pretty incredible feat of production design and directorial handwriting, Batman might not get as much play in discussions of the comic book genre nowadays – its analogue foundations maybe dating it a bit too much – but it nevertheless continues to cast a shadow over its successors like a monolithic anvil. Year One, indeed.

Watched on blu-ray.

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