Four Color Comments: 25 Years Later, And Tim Burton’s Batman Still Sucks



At the risk of being extremely unpopular, let me set the record straight, I did not like Tim Burton’s Batman. I know I just put a target on my back, but I just have to say it. I can already hear some of you screaming for me to turn in my Geek Membership card.

This year not only marks the 75th anniversary of Batman, but also the 25th anniversary of the Batman film, and it’s such a flawed film.

This isn’t some new revelation. People who’ve known me for years know I don’t like the film at all. I’m not saying this to be a “hater” or trying to be cool because it is the 25th anniversary.

I truly think this is one of the worst adaptations of Batman on film, and don’t understand the hype behind it.

Yes, it pretty much was the only superhero film at the time, but that doesn’t make it good.

When the film was first announced, I’ll admit I got caught up in the hype. Batman on the big screen! I couldn’t wait. And then the massive marketing campaign that surrounded it. You could walk 2 feet without seeing a bat symbol.

The casting sounded great. Yes, I was a little worried about Michael “Mr Mom” Keaton playing Batman, but I reserved judgement. And on top of it, Jack Nicholson as the Joker. Wow. Just wow!

So, the summer of 1989, I go into the theater, excited as a true comic fanboy. But as I walked out of the theater, I couldn’t believe the time and money I wasted on this piece of crap.

First off, this isn’t a film about Batman. Batman is the secondary character. The Joker is the main character, why even bother calling it Batman in the first place. But, on this point I’m nitpicking.

So let’s get to the major problems with the movie:

You have Vicki Vale who’s a photographer, that just came back from a war zone. And in the film, every 2 minutes she’s screaming at something. Really? I found hard to swallow this fact. Nevermind it was just plain annoying. Vale starts out strong and then just becomes the helpless female. Just pathetic.

Why does Batman actually dress like a bat? Why doesn’t he just pick up some guns and shoot people? This is never explained in the movie. It’s makes no sense at all. And there’s the line by the Joker “You ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight”. The Joker says this to Bruce and it means something to Bruce. But the audience has to wait another 30 mins before we understand the significance. Just poor writing. This is something that should have been explained in the beginning not at the middle of the film.

Now I’m not a Tim Burton hater. There are several of Burton’s film I love, but his Batman sucked. Burton is an artist and you don’t get an artist to direct an action film. Burton’s vision was just way too out there. You couldn’t tell what time period the film takes place in. It looks like the 50’s, but there’s modern technology? So didn’t work for me.

I remember reading that Burton was using The Killing Joke and The Dark Knight Returns as an inspiration. Really? Did we read the same books, because if we did, the film would have been a lot more darker. Burton did make Gotham dark, but too damn dark. Not emotionally, but the look. Heavy on the blacks and low lighting. It was depressing. Even the comics never made it that bad. It’s supposed to be more Gothic.

And then we have a Batman who kills. Seriously on this?  The Batmobile has machine guns. There is one scene where he drives into the factory where the Joker is supposed to be. The car gets surrounded by henchmen, and the car drops 2 bombs and then drives off. Pretty much killing everyone inside the damn building. And then when he’s flying the Batwing, he’s using machine guns there on the henchmen again. This isn’t Batman. He doesn’t use guns. (Yes, I know in Batman’s first couple of appearances he used a gun, but he really hasn’t since.)

Finally, Burton has the brilliant idea to kill off the Joker. Are you serious? You just killed off any chance of having the Joker as a returning villain. Not a smart move in my book. There have been several times in the comics where it seems like the Joker died, but the body was never found. Here we see Joker’s dead body. Just a stupid move.

But for all the flaws of this film, a friend reminded me of the one good things to come out of this train wreck. Without Burton’s Batman we never would have gotten the awesome cartoon Batman: The Animated Series, by Bruce Timm and Paul Dini.

And a special thanks to Christopher Nolan for correcting this mess and taking the bad taste out of my mouth.

Hopefully Zach Synder won’t screw it up, but I don’t have my hopes up at all.

BTW – I’m more than willing to debate this on the Fanboy Factor Podcast with anyone that’s up for it.

Brian Isaacs - Executive Editor / Publisher

About Brian Isaacs - Executive Editor / Publisher

An avid comic collector/reader for over 40 years and self-proclaimed professor of comicology, Brian original started up the site Pendragon's Post to share his voice. Well that voice has been shared, and evolved into The Fanboy Factor. Brian is an advocate for remembering comic roots, and that we don't forget what was created in the past, and encourage everyone to read it as well. When not swimming in geek culture, he can be seen corrupting..introducing his young son to comics, much to his wife's chagrin.