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Scott Ventura >> Movie Commentary >> November 1999 >> Batman


Movie Commentary by Scott Ventura


Scott's Rating:
4 / 5
Times Seen:
Viewing Date:
November 1999
IMDB Name:
Batman (1989)
Tim Burton
action, drama
MPAA Rating:


Batman was quite the event when it came out. I remember the neighborhood theater, which usually cranked through a different movie every week, showing it for at least four straight weeks. I remember the enormous marketing campaign for Batman Returns better than I remember the movie. There were many changes for the third entry, Batman Forever, but it was more enjoyable than its predecessor by far. I don't recall ever hearing a kind word about Batman & Robin. I saw the first twenty minutes or so and found myself unable to stomach another second. As the one that started it all, Batman has a lot going for it. The sets are incredible, Jack Nicholson is superb, the score is flawless, and the action is excellent. Although I prefer Nicole Kidman's Chase Meridian to Kim Basinger's Vicki Vale, I think Michael Keaton is more convincing than Val Kilmer as Bruce Wayne.

Gotham City

Bob Kane created Batman as a troubled hero in a troubled city. Gotham City is crawling with small-time hoods, and it's hard to imagine a city with this kind of architecture not troubled like that. Anton Furst and Peter Young shared an Academy Award for Art Direction. Their Gotham is a gloomy blend of Gothic, Industrial, and Art Deco. The juxtaposition of architectural styles creates a rich backdrop for the proceedings. One of the mistakes made in Batman Forever was an excess of bright neon colors. Although neon lights can be used to evoke particular periods, I thought they went overboard. The Batcave is also a great set, largely by virtue of its simplicity. There was too much artifice in the Batman Forever cave, which had everything on moving platforms.


Prince's soundtrack album for Batman may have been a big seller, but I preferred the Danny Elfman score. I bought the CD and listened to it more than most of my collection. It's a delight for me to go back and pair the music once again with the action. The track titles are, of course, no substitute for watching the movie. Elfman's work here is absolutely riveting and an excellent match for Burton's visual style. His ability to weave the macabre and the joyful together is a perfect complement to The Joker's character.

DVD Comments

The DVD for Batman includes production notes and biographies for the director and most of the cast. The biographies are very brief and are followed by incomplete filmographies. The production notes are interesting, but contain some odd phrasings. The itemized description of the Batmobile, for instance, is part of the sentence that mentions that two were built. The feature list far exceeds what a model car for the movie would need, but the sentence structure implies that the models were so outfitted. There is also a list of recommended titles under the bizarre moniker "Film Flash".

The disc includes English and French audio along with English, French, and Spanish subtitles. The subtitles are in a wonderful typeface that is very easy on the eyes, unlike several discs I've looked at recently. I noticed an unfortunate mistranscription in the English subtitles: "untraceable" is replaced by "traceable", causing a reversal of the sentence's meaning. Since the score is such a good example of the art form, I would've enjoyed having an isolated audio track of it. Having Elfman's commentary on the score would be even better, but I suppose that's asking too much.

The disc's menus are reasonably well done with a few exceptions. The main menu doesn't include an item to start the movie at the beginning. Instead, the user must go to the "Jump to a Scene" menu and select "start movie". The scene selection menu shows nine unevenly-spaced chapter stops, even though the disc has thirty-one. This incongruity is made even more perplexing by having the first available item be chapter five. The "start movie" button is in a different style and is located at the bottom of the screen in line with "main menu" and "end credits". I definitely prefer hierarchical organizations to this layout.

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Copyright 1999-2001 by Scott Ventura. All rights reserved.