Rating: 3 Stars
The following review contains spoilers.
When career criminal Jack Napier has a run-in with a mysterious vigilante known as “The Bat-Man” he ends up getting knocked into a vat of dangerous chemicals. He emerges a changed man, with dyed white skin and green hair, his face frozen and twisted into a terrible grin. A newspaper headline about “The Bat” terrorizing the city gives him an idea: the citizens of Gotham are a superstitious and cowardly lot, and by adopting a larger-than-life persona of his own—The Joker—he can take over the whole town.
“Wait ‘til they get a load of me.”
This is The Joker’s movie. He has all the best scenes, all the best lines, Jack Nicholson gives the best performance, and he’s the focus of the story from pretty much beginning to end. Even Prince is apparently writing The Joker original songs he can blare from a boombox as he rampages through Gotham’s premier art gallery/restaurant. He has a TV commercial, a line of cosmetics, giant parade balloons, and a flower that squirts acid. He has a gun powerful enough to bring down the Batwing with one shot, and all his guys wear jackets with patches of his face sewn onto the front.
“We were made for each other. Beauty and the Beast! Of course, if anyone else calls you ‘Beast’ I’ll rip their lungs out.”
“You wouldn’t hit a guy with glasses on, would you?”
The production design for Gotham is fantastic.
This is definitely not Batman’s movie. He’s just lame and ineffective. He has a bat-shaped stealth fighter jet, points all its weaponry at The Joker, somehow fails to hit him or even knock him down, and then is completely disabled by The Joker’s crazy-long handheld super-pistol. He always shows up too late, arriving at the Flugelheim after The Joker’s already poisoned everyone and defaced the art (and then he grabs Vicki Vale and just runs away, not even trying to apprehend The Joker), and even in the first scene attacking the muggers several minutes after they’d finished mugging the family.
Bruce Wayne isn’t a charming playboy mask that Batman wears to throw off suspicion, but instead a very, very suspicious and twitchy recluse who collects swords. He’s apparently so starved for human contact that after one successful sleepover date with Vicki Vale he’s ready to reveal his secret to her, and, when he fails to do so, Alfred takes the decision out of his hands and just up and lets her into the Batcave. What’s more, Vale is not the least bit surprised to learn her one-night stand is actually Batman, because even after spending a single night with the guy she finds the idea of him putting on a bat costume and dangling muggers off rooftops completely within his character.
Batman also kills a bunch of people, from detonating a few grenades in a room full of henchmen to throwing another of The Joker’s thugs off the cathedral. His motivation for confronting The Joker at the end of the movie is not to save Gotham or even to save Vicki Vale but because he wants to straight-up kill The Joker as revenge for a young Jack Napier murdering Bruce Wayne’s parents. And he doesn’t change his mind at the last minute and decide justice is more important than revenge or anything like that: no, he totally succeeds in murdering The Joker. Is this a Batman story or a Death Wish sequel?
Also, it’s so obvious in Batman’s every appearance that he can’t move his head or neck at all that it’s amazing they didn’t stop and redesign the costume after the very first scene was filmed. He just looks silly.