Batman (1989) – Tim Burton (Dir.), Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson, Kim Basinger

Did every poster in the 80s look like someone crapped on a VHS jacket?

And so it begins. The Bat-a-thon is here, it’s slew of mismatched, hodge-podged insanity bleeding across my television, through my brain and then out onto my keyboard. We began, just five intrepid explorers of Gotham city, only to emerge changed. Granted, this is only the first and decidedly tame encounter, but it’s only downhill from here. Well, until Nolan enters the fray. The watching crew was set: Huntsberger “The Wit”, Kevin “The Giggle”, Meg “The I-Don’t-Really-Give-Much-of-a-Shit”, Ryan “The Dragon” and Mooney “The Me”. Armed to the teeth with a DVD player, one and a half bottles of terrible Trader Joe’s wine and a jug of craft beer that remained unopened, we took the plunge together. And oh what a plunge it was (said the plumber to the toilet). To those of you who followed, I live tweeted as fast as my fingers could move.

What do we have here? I’m sure the world was ecstatic when they discovered that Tim “Goth White Kid Wet Dream” Burton was taking on the dreariest of DC super heroes. And I will say this, for all of its weirdness and Burton-esque crap (not that much, surprisingly), it’s a pretty decent movie. There are certainly caveats to that statement, but when placed next to the shit-buckets we’ll be watching down the line, this is conspicuously not-egregious. We’ve got Batman’s best villain played with gusto by Jack Nicholson. Did I say ‘gusto’? I meant “Bat-shit whiskey-fuelled insanity that ends up with a weekend inside of your mom”. We have Kim “The Legs” Bassinger. We have Danny Elfman’s absolutely iconic score. We even have Billy Dee “Not Just an Initial But His Actual Fucking Middle Name” Williams being smoother than a silk martini. On the other hand, it’s the 80s. Dear god it’s the 80s. I was agonizingly reminded of this fact when the name ‘Prince’ appeared as a musical collaborator. *facepalm*. I was amazed by the fact that the art direction didn’t commit suicide until the Joker showed up around the forty minute mark. Burton really kept his shit in line. Well done there.

I imagine that this is what St. Peter looks like. Afraid of clowns? Too fucking bad, wimp. No heaven for you!

So…what is hilariously wrong with this movie? Well, first we have the Bat himself. Michael Keaton is a man known for usually extremely subtle, ironic performances, usually on stage. He’s a respected actor. And, other than haunting my every childhood second with his ‘What the fuck was that?’ performance in Beetlejuice, he seems like a totally reasonable guy. You know what isn’t intimidating? Reason. When he first says “I’m Batman” you think he’s about to follow it up with “And I’m an alcoholic.” And then the dude he’s about to beat the crap out of welcomes him to the support group, they sit down and discuss his movement on his fearless moral inventory. SERIOUSLY. Keaton is just sort of nonchalant. Also, every time he shows up extremely awkwardly, he lifts his pleather wings high, usually with a campy little flick, looking more as though he’s presenting himself for mating rather than about to kick some Joker ass. Even with his final one-liner before he mercilessly murders the Joker (um…okay…) he just sort of mumbles. Like it’s something he needs to add to his Whole Foods shopping list later.

But this movie ain’t about the Bat. Nope. In fact, he’s missing for about half the run time. No, this movie is about making Jack Nicholson look like he’s trying to swallow three penises at once after emerging from the wrong side of a five-year-old face-painting death-match. Honestly, I don’t think they even gave the man a script. They just let the cameras roll and good old Johnny just went for it. He hoots like an owl…for no reason. He flounces about, giggling to himself. Perhaps he was having a stroke and nobody realized. Anything is possible. One thing is for certain, however, this is the best performance of a dude high on something just meandering about a film after David Carradine’s genre-defining role in The Serpent’s EggAs Huntsberger reminded us, people did a lot of cocaine in the 80s.

This displeases the Bat Man.

As a whole, Burton did an amazing thing. Say what you will about Prince appearing out of nowhere and Nicholson vibrating violently (I think this is what the natives call… “Dance” or “The Nicholson Shuffle”). He resurrected the Dark Knight from the clammy, hammy paws of the sixties, reinvigorating the franchise with some much needed macabre. Is it there yet? Fuck no. I mean…where the hell did the Joker suddenly find all of this carnival-themed murder weaponry? Did he pull it out of his ass? Now, I’m sure far weirder things have taken the amazing journey to the center of Johnny Boy’s rectum, but it was stretching the realm of belief a little bit. Also, we had far too many random back-flippy dudes who are easily overcome by the their severe weakness “A Bat-Foot in the Face”. But you know what? Before Batman Begins entered our fanboy lives and showed us the light, this was the fucking pinnacle of Bat-cinema. It also inspired the 90s cartoon Batman: The Animated Series. You should all watch all of it immediately. You’ll want to rub the DVDs all over your private parts. It isn’t sexual. It’s about marking territory. You’ll understand this if you have roommates. That’s why I urinate on all of their beds once a day. It’s all part of my plan for total-house domination.

A goofy movie, yes. Also, Lando Calrissian is conspicuously not drinking Colt 45. But a bad movie? I don’t think so. We had to do something to offer an outlet to Nicholson’s insatiable id before he exploded into a Dante’s Inferno of pure masochistic apocalypse. It’s like a pressure valve or human sacrifice. If you don’t give him something insane to do once every decade, like playing with a dildo in The Departed or chasing Olive Oyl with an axe, the whole of existence will collapse into Nine Levels of Nicholson, each one based on a different drug. Don’t get stuck on the Viagra level. Come to think of it…we haven’t had him do anything nutballs in a while. Perhaps the pressure is building… MY GOD. 2012. The Mayans were right!

“Hey guys…I’m a billionaire. I have a fucking cell phone. Can’t we just use that?”

Well, in lieu of the oncoming Nicholocalypse, here are some of the highlights from the Twitter-fest last night:

“Starring Helena Bonham Carter as commissioner Gordon” ~ Kevin #batathon

“Billy Dee Williams is not allowed to not wear a cape.” ~ Huntsberger #batathon

Do you think Nicholson takes viagra before acting? I imagine his entire body is a massive boner.

“Where is Bruce Wayne?” “I could tell you but I turn into a snowman at midnight.”

Batman doesn’t wear fucking glasses. Why? BECAUSE HE’S BATMAN. #batathon

Sorry, those are his ‘TV watching glasses’. #batathon

“I can’t think of a good pun to go with this hanging situation. Oh! Wait!…nope, still drawing a blank.” ~ Batman before Schumacher.

The Joker, making children terrified of split pea soup for the entirety of the 90s. #batathon

“Dude, if I could poop in a vault, I’d poop in a vault every day of my life.” ~ Huntsberger. #batathon

“Hey Mr. Elfman, we need more significant music. Yeah, just slap the accordion with a ham. That should work.” #batathon

Burton: “I want a mime. but make sure he’s fat. NO QUESTIONS.”#batathon

“I feel a lot of the Joker’s danger is lost when you realize he’s really into collage.” #batathon

The bat mobile…ribbed for her pleasure. #batathon

Batman, like dogs, can’t look up apparently. #batathon

Nicholson is mugging so hard you could drink some fucking hot chocolate out of that mutherfucker. #batathon

Wait…why does Batman have listerine? In the bat cave? WHAT?#batathon

“I have something to tell you. I’m Beetlejuice. Wait. The other one. Let me try that again.” ~Keaton and Burton never collaborated again.

Do all villains come equipped with a boom box in the late 80s?#batathon

I didn’t know Batman was a scrapbooker. I’m really sad the new movies haven’t focused on this as much. #batathon


“This is when it poops the bomb. Watch. It’ll do it.” ~ Ryan.#batathon

And then Ferris Bueller shows up and ruins the ENTIRE parade.#batathon

How do we call the Bat? By this incredibly inefficient method.#batathon

So, until next time kiddies, when we tackle deformed Danny Devito, cat-lady Michelle Pfeiffer and crazy Chris Walken. I mean, regular Chris Walken. Same fucking thing. Tune in later this week for the next installment of the Bat-a-thon with Batman Returns. 

  1. “If you don’t give him something insane to do once every decade, like playing with a dildo in The Departed or chasing Olive Oyl with an axe, the whole of existence will collapse into Nine Levels of Nicholson…”


    I fucking love it. All of it.

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