Readers who have been reading may have noticed that I like podcasts. The problem with podcasts is that I can only listen to them when I'm doing something that doesn't require verbal concentration, like cleaning, which I don't do very often. But over the holidays I did a lot of driving, and we listened to a lot of Filmsack, including the one about Batman (1989). So we watched it.
Does everyone remember this? The first Tim Burton Batman, the first with Michael Keaton. The one that was supposed to be so dark and serious, not like the old TV show? Since we've now seen Danny Devito as Penguin in Batman Returns, not to mention the Nolan Dark Knight movies, that seems unlikely. In fact at the time since Tim Burton wasn't exactly unknown, it was reasonable to expect something pretty goofy. I remember thinking at the time, Michael Keaton, what the heck? And I hadn't seen Beetlejuice.
Watching it again, we were surprised by how not-goofy this movie is. The art direction is dark and gloomy and the violence gets right in your face. Michael Keaton actually makes a pretty good Batman, although the costume does most of the acting. I swear the collar of the cowl had a push-up bra effect, giving Keaton a squarer jaw.
As Bruce Wayne, however, I just couldn't get behind him. Too neurotic, not suave enough.
But what about the Joker? Was Jack Nicholson as the Joker silly or scary? It's hard to remember now, but before Heath Ledger, Nicholson was the Batman villain. I've seen so many Nicholson-as-Joker tattoos - almost as many as Nicholson-doing-"Here's-Johnny". His gleeful malice is so over the top, it just sweeps you away. And I think it sweeps the movie over to the silly side - maybe that's where Burton threw in the hat on the dark and gritty, and decided to just go goofy.
The choice of Michael Keaton seemed weird, but after Val Kilmer (who I like, damn it) and George Clooney were chosen, he fits right in. But the actor who plays Alfred, Michael Gough, is now my favorite Alfred next to TV's Alan Napier (sorry, Michael Caine).