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  • Writer's pictureGarrett Brodey

My Thoughts On The Batman Films (1989-1997)



I've been a fan of Batman ever since I was little. I watched all the cartoons, especially Batman: The Animated Series… that show is a banger. I collected all the action figures. And most importantly, I watched all the films. From Adam West to George Clooney, I loved them all. When I was a kid, I didn't care about the quality, I just loved seeing my favorite superhero on the big screen. I watched them all with my older brother because he loved Batman too. The older I got, the more I realized some of those films aren't very good.


I want to specifically discuss four Batman films:


Batman (1989)

Batman Returns (1992)

Batman Forever (1995)

Batman & Robin (1997)


I watched them the most growing up and I have a lot of thoughts on them.



Batman (1989)

The film that started it all. The first Batman film to showcase the dark and gritty nature of the character and world of Gotham. Up until then, Batman was mostly known for its campiness. I love Adam West but I prefer the darker tone.



A young Tim Burton and a crew of passionate filmmakers spent years trying to make this film. When they finally completed it, Batman became one of the most successful films of all time. They made the character of Batman relevant and created a type of superhero film that inspired dozens of films in the years to come. It's truly inspiring.


Tim Burton is one of my favorite filmmakers. I love his style. In this film, he didn't showcase his style that much and focused more on developing the characters and the world. His simple approach is genius. I think this film is beautifully directed. It's technically well made and still holds up to this day. The production design and special effects are really impressive.



Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne / Batman is fantastic. He is my favorite Batman. It's so funny because when he was cast, people were angry and shocked. Like Heath Ledger when he was announced as the Joker, people judged too quickly and were severely proven wrong. I love Batman's look and the simplicity of Keaton's performance. He brings the right amount of darkness and emotions to the character. I can go on but I'll just say this, he's the best Batman.



Jack Nicholson as The Joker is one of the best casting choices of all time. He was born to play the role and goddamn did he kill it. I think he steals the show. His portrayal is iconic for a reason. I love the look of the character. I love his fucking laugh. I love his chaotic nature. Nicholson took the role seriously and brought so much respect to comic book movies. He should've been nominated for an Oscar for his performance, I'm dead serious.


I love all the side characters as well. Kim Basinger as Vicki Vale. Michael Gough as Alfred. Robert Wuhl as Knox. Pat Hingle as Gordon. All great performances and additions to this film!


I like the simple story. It's pretty straight forward and it works. I love the choice of Joker being the one who killed Batman's parents. I think it's very interesting and that whole sequence is heartbreaking. The filmmakers took a long time to find the right story and I think they succeeded in the end.


However, I think my favorite aspect of this film is the score by Danny Elfman. I'll say with full confidence that Elfman's score is the best music in any Batman film. Every. Single. Track. Is. Amazing. Each scene is elevated by the score. The score adds atmosphere, tension, thrills, emotion… I can't give the score enough praise. It's by far Danny Elfman's best work and it's one of my favorite scores of all time.


The final shot is the greatest shot from any Batman film.



My brother loves this film and calls it one of his favorite films of all time. I agree with him. It's one of my favorites as well.


10/10



Batman Returns (1992)

Everything Batman (1989) succeeds in, Batman Returns does it better. Don't get me wrong, I love Batman (1989) but this film is my favorite of the two.


After the huge success of Batman (1989), Warner Bros gave Tim Burton more money and full creative control for the sequel, and boy did he take advantage. Batman Returns is definitely a Tim Burton film. His style oozes in every frame and I love every second of it. I think this is one of his best films. I love that this film exists. It's easily one of the most unique superhero films of all time.


Like Batman (1989), this film has amazing production design, special effects, and cinematography. I think the technical achievements surpass the original film. This film's story is more complex than the original film but I like that.



Michael Keaton returns as Bruce Wayne / Batman and he continues to be the best Batman. The darkness of the character is brought out more as the city of Gotham crumbles to the crime and corruption. It feels like Batman and Bruce Wayne is drowning with the citizens rather than saving them. He does help in the end but he's more broken than ever. Another fantastic performance from Keaton and this might just be my favorite Batman in any film.



Danny Devito as the Penguin is a phenomenal casting choice. He is so goddamn good as Burton's fucked up version of the Penguin. The Penguin was my favorite Batman villain growing up so this film was easily a favorite just because of that. I love the introduction of the film and his character. It's tragic like Bruce Wayne's past. I love the design of the character. I love his fucked up plan. Everything about this character works for me and I cannot give it enough praise.



Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman is one of the best aspects of this film. She is a scene stealer. Her suit is amazing. She adds so much depth and emotion to the character and the film. I love her relationship with Bruce Wayne / Batman. They have perfect chemistry. She is by far the most interesting character in the film. She will always be the best Catwoman in my opinion.


Michael Gough as Alfred and Pat Hingle as Gordon return and they are great per usual. Christopher Walken as Max Shreck is a fantastic addition. I love his portrayal as a piece of shit corrupt businessman who will do anything to succeed in his dastardly plan.


Danny Elfman's score is once again perfect. I do prefer the score for Batman (1989) but this film's score is right up there. The new tracks are wonderful additions. The score elevates this film into a whole other level.


When I was around 6 or 7 years old, I remember renting this on VHS from a local video store. My brother rented the original 1989 film. My mom had no idea that this film was not appropriate for my age. We got home and we watched both in the same room. He had the big TV and I was on the floor using our little TV with a VCR attached to it. I was at the halfway point of the film when my mom realized that I was way too young to be watching it. So she turned it off. I was upset and wasn't able to finish it until I was a bit older. That is one of my favorite memories. My brother and I talk about it all the time.


Overall, this is easily one of the best Batman films, comic book films, and films in general. It's one of my favorite films of all time.


10/10





So, you thought Batman (1989) was dark, this film is way more fucked up… and I love it! I love that Burton goes for it and I think he succeeds in spades. He took a risk that paid off… but that came with a price. A very unfortunate price. This film wasn't that appropriate for kids. Teenagers could watch it, but kids, not so much. McDonalds was pissed because they promoted this film with happy meals toys. Parents screamed bloody murder at Warner Bros because the film wasn't appropriate for their annoying brats… even though it was fucking rated PG-13. Not everything needs to be about the children, especially a PG-13, dark, Tim Burton Batman film. Unfortunately, Warner Bros took the Karens' screams seriously and made huge changes to the Batman series… and it was a disaster.


Batman Returns made a lot of money… but not as much as Batman (1989). Warner Bros used that as an excuse to go in a different direction. Burton wanted to make Batman 3, which would've been called Batman Continues, but Warner Bros made it loud and clear that they didn't want him to direct any more Batman films. Burton took the not subtle hint and left the project. Keaton followed along when he realized the direction the next film would be heading. What we got next, in my opinion, is the worst Batman film.




Batman Forever (1995)

Tim Burton is out. Michael Keaton is out. The dark tone and atmosphere is out. Warner Bros and toy companies took over. The follow up to Batman Returns is one of the biggest downgrades in cinematic history. The goofy, safe, over the top, colorful Batman Forever took Batman in the dark ages for over a decade.


Before I rip this film to shreds, I do need to mention that as a kid, I loved this film. I rewatched it frequently on VHS. I loved the character of Two-Face so I was stoked to see him in live action. He would become my ultimate favorite Batman villain. It makes sense I loved it as a kid because this film was made for fucking children so they will buy toys.


Batman (1989) and Batman Returns showcased a dark and gritty Batman in a fascinating gothic world. It was the first we saw Batman like that, since at that point, Batman was mostly known for being more comedic and kid friendly. I love Adam West’s Batman. It’s a product of its time. However, it’s unfortunate that we finally got a dark and gritty Batman, just for Warner Bros to turn him back into a fucking joke in the 3rd film.


I just want to say, I don’t blame Joel Schumacher for the failures in this film or Batman & Robin. He was just doing what Warners Bros wanted. I think these films are fairly directed. He didn’t deserve all the hate he received over the years.


I can’t stand the over the top tone and campiness in this film. Every single character in this film is a cartoon character that spouts awful one liners. They amped the campiness up to an 11 and never lets up. At the same time, this film wants the audience to care about Bruce Wayne with his PTSD and Dick Grayson with the death of his family. I can’t take it seriously when this film is basically a bad live action cartoon. What’s even worse is this film is just fucking boring. For all the wackiness and colors, it’s so boring.


The once beautiful gothic Gotham city of the previous films has been transformed into a neon drenched, over the top, laser tag arena of a city. This film is like a giant neon coloring book. Even the fucking Batmobile has fucking neon all over it. Why?! Batman is supposed to be able to hide in the shadows, so that choice makes no sense. The Batmobile looks fucking awful. This film just looks awful in general.


The script is just awful. I don’t like the story. Bruce’s story doesn’t add anything new to the character. Dick Grayson’s story is essentially the same as Bruce’s. Two-Face… we’ll get to him soon. The Riddler’s plan is stupid. The dialogue is so cheesy, it’s cringe worthy. Nothing feels organic. The story doesn’t flow naturally.


Danny Elfman didn’t return, so he was replaced, and the score in this film is so awful. The new theme is so bad. Instead of elevating the film, the score ruins a lot of the scenes for me because it’s so overbearing. Even when I was a kid, I didn’t like the score. What a fucking downgrade.



By far, my biggest issue with this film is the character of Two-Face. Two-Face is my favorite Batman villain, and this film completely misses the character. Tommy Lee Jones as a serious Two-Face would’ve been so damn good because he’s a fantastic dramatic actor. Instead, it was decided that he should be over the top and basically the Joker. He laughs like a maniac, drops awful one liners, and acts just as goofy/crazy as Jim Carrey. That’s not Two-Face. I don’t like the makeup or the costume designs. He doesn’t even stick to his doubled sided mentality with his coin. In one scene, he keeps flipping his coin over and over to get the bad side so he can kill Bruce Wayne. Even at the end, Batman has to remind Two-Face to flip his coin because he’s supposed to be two minded. That’s not how his character is supposed to be. What I really don’t get is why they thought having him act like a goofball next to Jim fucking Carrey would make sense. If he played it seriously, then there would’ve been a better balance between the villains. Every decision made for this character was wrong and I can’t stand it. Two-Face in this film is the worst villain in any Batman film. If you want a better version of the character, just watch Batman: The Animated Series.



Like Joel Schumacher, I don’t blame Jim Carrey for his portrayal of the Riddler. He was just doing what he was hired to do, be himself. I love Jim Carrey’s comedic style. I think he’s hilarious. He’s even hilarious in this. Does he fit the character of the Riddler? No, not at all. I don’t like the over the top comedic Riddler, just like I don’t like the over the top comedic Two-Face. Paul Dano’s take on the Riddler is definitely more of what I prefer. Also, his Riddler, one piece, pajama costume is fucking awful.



Val Kilmer as Bruce Wayne / Batman is one of the only choices in this film that I like. Replacing Michael Keaton is an impossible task but going with Kilmer was genius. I think he’s excellent in this film. I’d even say he’s the most underrated Bruce Wayne / Batman. Unfortunately, he’s in the worst Batman film. Also, his Batman costume isn’t bad… besides the bat nipples.


Chris O’Donnell as Dick Grayson/ Robin is pretty good. He’s one of the highlights of the film. But I do have some issues. For one, when he loses his family. Commissioner Gordon drops him off at Bruce’s house stating he has nowhere else to go and that social services doesn’t know what to do with him. That’s confusing because the film is implying that Dick is a teenager but he’s clearly not. He looks like a 35 year old man. What the fuck? The script does such a lazy job with getting Dick Grayson to Bruce Wayne and soon enough becoming Robin. I also don’t like the choice of having Two-Face kill his family so he can get “revenge”. It feels so forced.


Nicole Kidman is in this for some reason and she’s fine I guess. She does a decent job but her character is so boring. All she wants to do is fuck Batman in the first half of the film, then she falls in love with Bruce. That’s it. Compared to Vicki Vale and Selina Kyle / Catwoman, she’s easily the weakest of the three. It’s not Kidman’s fault.


This film might as well be a reboot but it’s not. It’s a continuation because Michael Gough and Pat Hingle return as Alfred and Commissioner Gordon. This film also references Batman Returns. It’s so confusing because Burton’s films are nothing like Forever and Batman & Robin.


It’s so unfortunate we never got to see Burton’s Batman 3. I could only imagine what that would’ve been like. Warner Bros wanted a giant toy commercial and they got what they wanted. I can’t stand this film and I never want to watch it again.


2/10



Batman & Robin (1997)

It’s very interesting how we started with Batman (1989) and ended on this film. One of the main reasons Batman (1989) was made was to showcase a dark and gritty Batman film. Tim Burton created two phenomenal Batman films with a dark and gothic atmosphere. Then somehow we managed to go back to a dumb and campy Batman with terrible one liners and over the top story lines. If you like this and Batman Forever, then good for you. I’m not judging anyone who likes these types of Batman films, but I simply do not.



Before I go into my problems, I do want to state what I like about this film. Michael Gough as Alfred. He’s the heart and soul of these Batman films. I really like his storyline in the film. It has emotional depth that this film desperately needs. Gough is my favorite Alfred. Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy steals the show. Yes, her dialogue is awful, but I can tell she had a blast making this film. She is really good and I wish she was in a better film. Alicia Silverstone as Barbara / Batgirl is also a good addition. Like Kilmer and Thurman, I wish she was in a better film.




This is easily one of the stupidest films I’ve ever seen. Batman Forever is over the top and cringey but it’s also boring. This film dials the campiness up to an 11 and goes full throttle the entire runtime. The dialogue is worse, the storyline is more ridiculous, and the characters are bigger cartoon characters than ever before… but I can’t deny that this film is very entertaining. I’m in complete shock with how fucking dumb this film is. It’s a prime example of “so bad it's good”.


Val Kilmer is the most underrated Bruce Wayne / Batman in my opinion. Like Thurman, I wish he was in a better film. He did not return for this film so George Clooney was cast as Bruce Wayne / Batman. Now, I don’t understand why he is so bad in this film. He’s a terrific actor but he is so one note as both Bruce Wayne and Batman. It’s clear as day that he didn’t give a single shit when making this. He’s easily the worst Bruce Wayne / Batman and it’s not even close.


Chris O’Donnell as Dick Grayson / Robin is a highlight of Batman Forever, but in this film, he is a whiny little bitch, but that’s not his fault. Batman treats him like a child, despite them working together for a few years now. I don’t get why he’s more protective in this film than he was when Robin was first introduced in Batman Forever. Robin constantly bitches throughout the entire runtime but I think it makes sense since he’s treated so poorly by Batman. It makes no sense to go in this kind of direction. It’s just bad.



Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze… Now I’m mixed on this. I don’t think he’s terrible but I still think he was severely miscast. He does exactly what he was hired to do. I love his costume and makeup. However, his awful one liners just ruin it for me. I like his motivation to find a cure for his sick wife, which this film took from the amazing Batman: The Animated Series, but that’s not enough to justify the awful characterization. If this film was made by Tim Burton and was serious, I would’ve cast Patrick Stewart. Just imagine how good that would’ve been.


I always forget Bane is in this film and… it’s just awful. I’m happy Tom Hardy gave the character justice in The Dark Knight Rises (2012).


The script is shit. The dialogue is nothing but awful one liners. Besides Alfred’s storyline, there is zero character development. I can’t believe Warner Bros approved the script. The direction is fine I guess. The bright neon colors make a return and the production design is even crazier than Batman Forever. The music from Forever remains the same and once again I think it’s fucking terrible. I can’t stand the main theme. This film is way too fucking long. It’s ridiculously long.


I don’t know what else to say. This film was clearly made only to sell toys to children. Hell, I even had some of the toys when I was growing up. It's a shame that we went from Batman (1989) and Batman Returns to this. I wish Warner Bros would let Burton finish his vision. I can only imagine what we would’ve got. In the end, if it wasn’t for this film and Batman Forever, we never would’ve gotten Christopher Nolan’s Batman films.


3/10



I love Batman. He will always be my favorite superhero. I watched these four films when I was a child and it’s interesting watching them now as an adult. I wish Warner Bros made better decisions but in the end, we got what they made and that’s it. Two fantastic films and two awful films. It was fun to watch them all again in order and I would recommend trying it out sometime.



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