I could never really get into comic books in my youth.
I definitely tried. I loved the characters and stories, but ingesting the short stories only once per month greatly tested my patience. Like with how I do most of my TV viewing now, I’d need to wait till there were plenty of back issues then binge…and it would need to be a story-line I was into.
Those story-lines were rare and almost exclusively Batman. The darker the better. When I read “The Killing Joke“, my eyes were opened to the idea of a grittier world for these heroes. This was something I could really get into. Still, by and large that particular means of taking in these stories escaped me.
Little did I now, around that time Tim Burton got his hands on a live action Batman film.
30 years ago today, I found the way I needed to ingest these stories.
“Where does he get those wonderful toys?” The Joker’s envy over Bruce’s gadgets was what I would imagine other filmmakers felt about the cast and script that Burton had to play with on this film.
Michael Keaton is still the greatest all around Bruce Wayne/Batman. Argue otherwise, and I may fight you. He carved out this character (both sides of it) leaning on nothing in film history…at least this genre, as there was nothing to draw from. He created the blueprint for all others to follow, and in 30 years it’s yet to be improved upon.
Then, there’s Jack. “Winged freak terrorizes? Wait till they get a load of me.” It certainly was something to behold. Nicholson’s Joker had some of the all time great one-liners, which would’ve been wasted on most other actors.
A villain who made you love & hate him while attempting to poison a large number of Gotham civilians (remember “Smylex”)? Not many could pull that off.
Thankfully, The Joker’s tale is built in mystery. This has left the door open to more opportunities for others to have their own very unique take. Only one has measured up since.
A moment that stood out to me well after leaving the theater back in 1989, was when we first meet Batman doing what he does. He grabs a thief who was hiding on a Gotham rooftop, and dangles him over the edge:
Here, we learn this Batman knows how to play this game, without only violence:
“I want you to do me a favor. I want you to tell all your friends about me.”
“What are you?!”