- Matt Linton
Summer of the Bat! - BATMAN (1989)
Hi, and welcome to Summer Movie Season! No, not this year, silly. That's canceled. Instead, I'd like to travel back to my first encounter with a summer blockbuster - Tim Burton's 1989 Batman, starring Michael Keaton, Kim Basinger, and Jack Nicholson. And, in a weird bit of personal serendipity, this summer, the summer of 2020, is also the summer where I'm consuming more Batman content than ever before. Over the next few weeks I'll be posting about the 1960s Batman series, Batman: The Animated Series, the Arkham video games, and some comics (including the Batman Manga from Jiro Kuwata). Before I get to that, though, let's start at the beginning.
It all started for me with the trailer. I was, of course, familiar with Batman prior to this. I'd already been reading comics for a few years, and I'd watched the 1966 TV series starring Adam West and Burt Ward when I was younger, but this was so obviously NOT THAT (although, more on that in a bit). Having previously been in the "Michael Keaton?!?! What?!?!" camp when it came to his casting as Bruce Wayne/Batman, in this trailer he looked amazing. And Jack Nicholson's Joker was, to me, as perfect a choice as you could make. In a film that's full of quotable lines, Nicholson's delivery of the "Wait'll they get a load of me." was instantly iconic.
This was also the film that introduced me to the wonderful world of tie-in merchandise. My first "nerd shirt" (now an essential staple of my wardrobe) was one of the thousands of styles of Batman shirts that were everywhere in 1989. This was also my introduction to hype for a film. I anxiously awaited the premiere of THE TRAILER (on, if memory serves, Entertainment Tonight, which is where you went to for all of your celebrity news if you lived in the Midwest prior to the spread of the internet). And this was also one of the few times, and certainly the first, that I went to a "sneak preview" screening on the Thursday night before the movie was released.
In a very real way, this was my first superhero movie. Sure, I was alive for the entirety of the Christopher Reeve Superman films, but I never saw them in theaters, and I was never really that into Superman. And, even played straight, there was always something inherently cheesy about Superman, in a way that Batman wasn't (or, so I thought). This was a REAL MOVIE ABOUT BATMAN IF HE WERE REAL.
On a side note, this was also the first time I got into Prince. Which is criminal, because while there's a certain amount of ridiculous joy in "Batdance," it, and the rest of the soundtrack, or more of a curiosity than a great Prince album. To be fair, though, only Prince could pull off...all...of this:
Okay, you know what? That is pretty awesome.