★★ / ★★★★
Jack Napier (Jack Nicholson), right-hand man of Carl Grissom (Jack Palance), a powerful but aging gangster in Gotham City, was ordered to acquire money from a safe hidden inside Axis Chemical. Jack was unaware that the assignment was actually a trap meant for him because Grissom found out about the affair between his girl, Alicia (Jerry Hall), and Jack. While Gotham police handled the henchmen, Batman (Michael Keaton) managed to corner Jack. However, just when Napier was about to be apprehended, he fell into a giant cauldron of green chemical which discolored his body. “Batman,” directed by Tim Burton, had an excellent grip when it came to its art direction but everything else left much to be desired. The majority of the action sequences held no special excitement for me yet I found myself admiring the background. For instance, when the cops and criminals chased each other around the factory, I noticed how the steam rose from their sources, how the green liquid poured out of their containers, and how grimy the floors looked. I imagined how it must’ve been like to be there since the inside of the factory looked as repulsive as a sewer that had been placed above ground. However, the way a film looks rarely saves a picture and this was no exception. Based on the screenplay by Sam Hamm and Warren Skaaren, we weren’t given much information about Batman’s motivations and, perhaps more importantly, who Bruce Wayne was as a humanitarian, a friend, and a lover. Keaton was quite good in looking solemn and he showed that he was very capable of instilling depth into his character when the material seldom touched upon the story of the man behind the mask. Unfortunately, the writing seemed more interested in what was constantly in front of the protagonist which happened to be a girl. Bruce’s love interest was Vicki Vale (Kim Basinger), a photojournalist whose most recent work was published on Time Magazine, but she might as well have been any other girl taken off the streets. From the way her character was introduced, I expected her to be smart and plucky, someone who experienced the world outside of Gotham. Instead, she easily turned into a damsel-in-distress, an object terrorized by The Joker, rescued by Batman, and romanced by Bruce Wayne. More painfully, it seemed as though she never learned from her mistakes which made the experience of watching her, as beautiful as Basinger was, tedious and almost unbearable. Moreover, I wished that two potentially interesting characters were given more to do: Harvey Dent (Billy Dee Williams), an agent against the war on crime in the city, and Alexander Knox (Robert Wuhl), a reporter for the Gotham Globe. Since their appearances were aimless, they could have not been in the film at all and it would not have made much of a difference in the dynamics of the story. “Batman” was stolen by Nicholson’s performance as The Joker, more amusing than truly menacing. I almost felt bad for him that he had to overact in order to hide the thinness of the material. Meanwhile, I looked at Batman not out of intrigue in terms of what made him tick but curiosity if it was scorching hot underneath all that leather.