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Batman — From the comic to the chthonic

Wayne's World
By NICK JOHNSTON  |  July 20, 2012

BATMAN (1989)

Director: Tim Burton

Real World Events: Fall of the Wall; Reagan's VP the elder Bush becomes President; Seinfeld premieres.

Comic World Events: The grim and gritty esthetics of Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns take over. Jason Todd, the 2nd Robin in the comics, is killed off by popular request.

Gotham City Style: Set designer Adam Furst's city is Lang's Metropolis by way of Pee-wee's Big Adventure.

Under the Cowl: Michael Keaton, fresh from Burton's Beetlejuice and Mr. Mom, plays the Caped Crusader somewhere between those two.

Sidekick/Love Interest: Reporter Vicki Vale (Kim Basinger). Alfred (Michael Gough) informs her that the playboy she's dating is Batman. Good way to keep a secret identity--tell the press.

Bat-gadgets: A stylized Batmobile that looks great in the armored mode; a new Batwing; and a rubber Batsuit. About the latter, future Batman Christian Bale said, "it's hot, dark and sweaty, and it gives me a headache."

Bat-bad guys: Jack Nicholson as the Joker didn't joke around money-wise, passing on his usual fee and taking points on the gross and merchandising. He made a sum of money that can only be written on a cocktail napkin before being folded and passed. His grating performance makes you want to do a Roman Polanski number on his nose.

Bad/Bat line: "This town needs an enema!"

Cowl rating/Phoenix Crix Pix: Three cowls. "A triumph of style over substance."

Cowl rating/Nick's Pix: 2-1/2 cowls. The fantastic style is undermined by over-the-top performances and bad writing. Too campy to be serious, and too serious to be campy. It's a revolutionary moment in the creation of the Superhero movie as we know it, but it's almost completely a drag to watch.

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