5 Reasons Why Batman ’89 is Better Than The Dark Knight
An argument could be made that The Dark Knight, from director Christopher Nolan, is the greatest comic book movie of all-time. The writing, direction and editing was phenomenal. The performances, especially from Christian Bale, Gary Oldman and Michael Caine were exceptional. Heath Ledger even won an Academy Award for his portrayal of The Joker. The Dark Knight was, for all intents and purposes, the perfect comic book movie. Except. What if one were to argue that The Dark Knight wasn’t even the best Batman film? What if that honor was reserved for Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman film entitled, simply, Batman?
5) Gotham City
In Tim Burton’s Batman, Gotham City was almost a character unto itself. It was gothic and theatrical and breathtaking. Anton Furst, the production designer, truly created a fantasy world that actually needs a man to dress up like a bat to fight another man dressed up as a clown. When one thinks of Gotham City, they think of gargoyles and back alleys. They don’t think of, well, Metropolis. Compare that with Christopher Nolan’s Gotham City. In The Dark Knight, Gotham City is basically Chicago. There are no distinguishable characteristics. Nothing stands out. Nothing feels special or gothic. It just seems like an ordinary big city. It does not look like Gotham City.
4) “Comic” VS “Realism”
This has been one of the biggest (only) criticisms of The Dark Knight Trilogy: it’s been deemed “too realistic.” Now, that’s exactly what Christopher Nolan’s intentions were when he conceived the films. He wanted his world of Batman to be as close to ours as possible, and he did a great job of it. The only problem is, at his core, Batman is not a realistic character. There never has been and never will be a man rich/brave/stupid/crazy enough to use his vast fortunes to build an underground cave, dress up like a bat and fight crime.
Maybe Elon Musk could. Actually, he probably would. But besides Elon Musk, nobody would be rich/brave/stupid/crazy enough to use his vast fortunes to build an underground cave, dress up like a bat and fight crime. Batman is a comic book character and he belongs in a comic book world. That’s exactly the world that Tim Burton created in Batman ’89. He wasn’t trying to be “realistic.” He was trying to tell an honest yet fictional story about a world that needed a Batman to fight a Joker. It was bright and colorful at some points, dark and shadowy at others. People survived fatal accidents, defied the laws of physics, gravity and everything got wrapped up perfectly at the end of 2 hours.
3) Michael Keaton as Batman
Look, we have no problem admitting that Christian Bale was the picture-perfect portrayal of Bruce Wayne. Bale made audiences care about Bruce Wayne more than any other actor before or after him. Batman was cool and all, but it was Bruce Wayne and his journey, that audiences were invested in. That being said, his Batman left a lot to be desired. From the design of the costume, to the cowl, to (gasp!) that voice, Christian Bale’s Batman was most certainly not the definitive version of Batman. Michael Keaton was.
He was everything that Batman needed to be. Keaton’s Batman was strong, silent and stoic. He was the shadows. He was the night. His costume was perfect. Though it wasn’t the black and grey version that comic readers were used to, his costume was what a Batman costume on film needed to look like. The Batman logo became the one of the most successful marketing images of all time thanks to the ’89 Batman film and its costume. The cowl had ears that were the perfect length. His cape draped over him like a shroud of darkness. While Michael Keaton’s Bruce Wayne was passable, his Batman was perfect. End of story.
2) Jack Nicholson as The Joker
Heath Ledger deserved every single accolade he got for his performance in The Dark Knight. Nobody thought that the guy from 10 Things I Hate About You could pull off The Joker. He did that and so much more. The dude acted and, whether he passed away or not, Ledger deserved the Oscar. But was his character really The Joker that we all knew and loved? Sure, he had the makeup and the outfit and the laugh. But was he The Joker? If Ledger lost the makeup, gained a hood and called himself Anarchy, he would’ve been the exact same character and it would have made sense. The Joker is evil and chaotic, but he’s also playful. That’s what makes him so scary. And that is why Jack Nicholson edges out Ledger as the Clown Prince of Crime. Nicholson’s Joker was scary and funny. He was a killer, but he was also a prankster. Nicholson’s Joker actually, ya know, joked. He was mean and boisterous and deadly. And as great as Ledger was, his Joker just could not compare.
1) Its Impact
The Dark Knight was a fantastic film. It not only reignited a love and passion for Batman; it showed that comic book movies could be treated, and viewed, as art. But did it change the landscape of not only movies, but comic books too? When Batman ’89 came out, there had not been a comic book movie film like it before. Superman was the first, but Batman was the most important. It started what would become known as “Bat-Mania” and it swept the country. Batman was, for all intents and purposes, the first “event” film. It paved the way for every. single. film. that would come after it. Every other comic book movie that came after Batman ’89 would simply not exist, at least to the degree that they have, if it weren’t for Tim Burton’s classic.
And if that’s not enough to convince you that Batman ’89 is better than The Dark Knight, we don’t know what will and we only have one thing to ask: do you ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight?