If it's crap ... We'll tell you
This movie means a lot to me. Batman is actually the movie that got me interested in film, way back in 2003. It's the first movie where upon watching it my jaw dropped and I had to find out who had directed it. Upon watching it again now and setting aside nostalgia, I really can't say that it's as great as I once though. Or, for that matter, that it's even a good movie at all.
The story introduces Bruce Wayne (Michael Keaton) and his alter ego Batman as he tries to stop the Joker (Jack Nicholson) from causing chaos in Gotham City. Along the way he becomes entranced by photographer Vicki Vale (Kim Basinger) who also meets the eye of Joker. The two battle through the city as it celebrates its 200th anniversary.
Now, there are two major problems I have with the film and one of them is the way they use the title character, Batman. Batman gets very little screen time with most of the film focusing on Bruce Wayne, and that's not just normal for a Batman story but its essential. This movie tries to find a balance between the psychological side of Batman and the fact that the reputation of Batman has been altered through time to focus much more on his rogue's gallery. The problem with this is that we see Joker way more than we should or need to and it takes away from Batman being the title character. The worst offense though is the fact that Batman is on an all-out killing spree throughout this movie. He's just knocking off thugs left and right, despite the fact that one of the most important things about Batman as a character is that he does not kill. Okay, so maybe they decided to come up with their own Batman for the movie? Well that's fine I guess, but I really don't like what they did. He comes off as cold-hearted and apathetic. He's out for revenge rather than vengeance, and that just doesn't work for me.
Joker is done better, although they do the same thing with him that they do with Batman. You only see him in his "makeup" very little while most of the time it's just Jack Nicholson's mug on screen. They found a way to keep both character's faces uncovered for as much of the runtime as possible, something that was obviously in their contracts and something that many people have since done when it comes to masks in films. It's a very annoying practice, especially when you want to see the character you came to see instead of the actor portraying him. Nicholson does a good job with what he's given though and I do like their version of Joker. He's much more laid back than most but he's still obviously psychotic and crazy. It just feels a little forced and I don't feel like we needed the backstory so much.
But that brings me to the main problem of the film: The story. There are two things going on in this story, first of which is Jack Napier (Joker's name before becoming Joker in the film). The story is pretty much about him and Batman almost feels like a side note at times. The movie doesn't seem to care about the deep psychological side of Batman as much as it acts like it does and it doesn't spend a whole lot of time on it. Also there is a twist to the story that is completely made up for the film that makes Bruce's entire reason for becoming Batman moot by the end of the film.
Second, and most idiotic, is the fact that this is essentially a love triangle story. Wayne and Napier are both after Vicki Vale which gets immensely tiresome. I have no idea why they thought having them both fighting over the same woman was a good idea for a story. In fact, they even specifically point out at the beginning of the film how stupid it is to fight over a girl the way they end up doing. It doesn't make any sense and it really takes away from the twist I mentioned earlier. And it's a twist I don't even like to begin with so to see it actually ruin itself makes it even more aggravating.
I know I could have never said this when the film came out, but if you really want a good Batman origin story you should stick with Batman Begins. Or even the animated series did the psychological take on Bruce Wayne much better, and had more time to do it being a television series.