The Bat-mania is surely present a lot around these days. So, regardless if you’ve already seen Matt Reeves newest movie The Batman or not, we decided to write this article to take a look back at the movie that started it all — Tim Burton’s Batman, a superhero classic that had its premiere almost 33 years ago.
Although not the first superhero film ever (Superman came out 11 years earlier, and that’s only if we exclude Batman: The Movie starring Adam West which came out in 1966), Burton’s Batman can easily be called the father of modern superhero films and today, even next to Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy, is one of the most impressive adaptations of this famous character.
“You ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight?”
Still, the making of this movie was anything but fairytale. Although the rights to the Batman film were bought back in 1979, the film went through a very thorny production process, starting with the creation of a screenplay that was constantly hampered by some external problems, although the original screenplay written by Sam Hamm was approved by Batman creator Bob Kane, who was pleased with the dark style with which Batman was presented.
But problems arose when, due to piracy, Hamm’s screenplay ended up in many comic book stores across America, and Warner Bros. was not ready to officially start the project until 1988, when Tim Burton was hired as director after the success of his film Beetlejuice, which is reportedly set to get a sequel soon.
Although many A-class actors competed for the role of Batman, the choice fell on Michael Keaton, who collaborated with Burton on Beetlejuice. Keaton’s choice was accompanied by controversy because Keaton was then known only for his comic roles. Reportedly, the WB received about 50,000 protesting letters from fans because Keaton was picked to play the title role. The role of the Joker was also very challenging for the casting because Jack Nicholson agreed to the role only after a series of strict conditions he set, including a very high fee, an additional percentage of earnings at the box office, and even demanded that he he decides on the recording schedule himself.
Filming began in October 1988, but even then the problems were not over. Although filming was supposed to be done entirely in Los Angeles, too much media attention drove the film crew to England. At that time there was a big strike of the screenwriters’ association, which is why certain changes were made to the script during the filming, and the highlight was the arrival of the police on the set because two film tapes were stolen, which contained about 20 minutes of footage. The entire production was done in strict secrecy, and the first trailer for the film came out on Christmas 1988, which further raised interest in the film.
The film was released in theaters on June 23, 1989, on the 50th anniversary since the Batman character was first conceived. The film experienced megalomaniacal success at the time. It grossed $40 million in its first weekend of release, and was the first film to raise more than $100 million in ten days. The film eventually grossed $411 million on a $48 million budget, although the original budget was set at $30 million. With that earnings, Batman was then the fifth most successful film in history!
The film was highly praised by both audiences and critics. The performances of Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson as Batman and the Joker are still a subject of praise today, and some still consider them the best film incarnations of their characters despite Christian Bale and Heath Ledger who fantastically played the duo in Nolan’s film The Dark Knight, which is according to IMDb, the third best film of all time.
The success of the film marked the birth of the Dark Knight on the big screen, the sequel Batman Returns was also a great success, but the next sequels Batman Forever didn’t live up to the name of Batman, and the fourth installement, Batman & Robin, disgraced Batman’s name and the original franchise was discontinued. But then, in 2005, Christoper Nolan began a trilogy that today is reputed to be one of the best movie trilogies ever.
The path of Michael Keaton’s Batman continued last year in the Batman ’89 comic book, which is the continuation of Burton’s films. Michael Keaton will also reprise the role in the upcoming movies The Flash and Batgirl, which are set to be released in November and December this year, respectively.
The Caped Crusader will continue his path on the big screen today with the release of The Batman – a first film of a pre-planned trilogy directed by Matt Reeves and starring Robert Pattinson. While Pattinson’s casting garnered controversy and disapproval among the audience when it was first announced, just remember that Keaton suffered the same thing before embodying one of Caped Crusader’s most striking incarnations, and looking at the reviews, it seems like history is repeating itself.