Tim Burton’s Batman gets so many things right about the character and the overall vibe of the comics. Unfortunately, he gets a few key things wrong that keep this very good movie from being a truly great Batman film.
Until this movie came out in 1989, most casual observers thought of Batman as the campy character Adam West portrayed in the 60s TV show. For a while, the comics embraced this persona and gave fans a similarly lighthearted version of the Caped Crusader, but over time they shied away. By the 70s and 80s, Batman had gone back to what he always should have been – a brooding, intense vigilante looking to clean up a corrupt and dirty city.
With the black rubber suit, the cool car and Michael Keaton’s snarling Batman voice, this film reeducated America on what Batman could be. I was eight years old when it came out and already in love with Batman from the comics, but this film set it over the edge for me. Danny Elfman’s amazing, sweeping score and the overall Gothic look of the film made an indelible impression on me and countless other eight-year-olds. The film’s success also spawned Batman: The Animated Series (which kept Elfman’s iconic theme song and the overall dark, Gothic tone of the film and stylized it with an awesome cartoony look), which is perhaps its greatest legacy.
Overall, Michael Keaton is a really interesting and solid choice for Bruce Wayne/Batman. Much like Luke Skywalker is a little short for a Storm Trooper, Keaton is a tad too short and physically small to be Batman, but the suit and the camera angles mostly disguise this fact. What I love is his intensity as the Dark Knight and the quirky, aloof way he plays Bruce Wayne. He’s not who I picture in my head when I close my eyes and think of Batman, but he made the role his own and found a way to make it work.