Tim Burton And Michael Keaton's 'Batman' Never Left Us
When Tim Burton’s Batman arrived in theaters in 1989, it was a big-ass deal, yielding action figures, soda tie-ins, some kind of confusing Bat-themed cryptocurrency, and a cereal that would have been part of a complete breakfast had the toast and orange not been tragically gunned down in Crime Alley.
It seems like 1989’s Batman has had a real resurgence in popularity lately, from the excitement over the news that Michael Keaton has returned to the role for the upcoming Flash movie, to LEGO Batmobiles and Batwings that cost $200 each, to this summer’s new comic series Batman ‘89, in which the original screenwriter, Sam Hamm, and artist Joe Quinones continue the story of the Burton-verse, without taking a left turn into Schumacher-ville.
But really, it’s not that surprising that we ended up here; there’s always been a ton of admiration for the Michael Keaton Batman, as evidenced by how frequently references to it have popped up in subsequent Bat-iterations. Most recently, the (theatrical) Justice League movie appropriated the original 1989 theme for Ben Affleck’s Caped Crusader, likely as a tribute to Burton film and, presumably, because Danny Elfman is just kind of lazy.
But even before that, other Batman projects have paid homage to Burton’s take in various respects. Obviously, Batman: The Animated Series took much of its look and retrofuturist neo-noir atmosphere from the movie, but even Christopher Nolan’s grittily brooding movies aren’t so dissimilar from Burton’s; as Screen Crush once argued, The Dark Knight is something of a stealth remake of Batman ‘89, borrowing much of its structure from Hamm’s script.
Even 2019’s Joker, which is about as far from the “horny gangster who falls in a vat of toxic chemicals” take on the character as you can get, managed to sneak a reference to Nicholson’s Joker; one of the paintings from the museum scene shows up in Arthur Fleck’s living room. So while it may be bubbling up in the public consciousness more right now, much of the love for the Batman movie that opened opposite Honey, I Shrunk the Kids never truly went away.
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Top Image: DC Comics