A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Batman is the 1989 movie starring Micheal Keaton as "the Caped Crusader"; this was the first reintroduction to the darker, more "noir" Batman instead of the campier 1960s Batman that was the most well-known version. Kids watching this movie will see the murder of parents before their own kids, disfigurement, a quill pen jabbed in a man's throat and another man electrocuted to death, along with numerous shoot-outs, wild chases, and vigilantism portrayed in a favorable light. Expect some profanity, including "bitch" and "s--t"; cigarette and cigar smoking; and champagne drinking -- a woman acts drunk before an implied one-night stand with Bruce Wayne. The Joker makes sexual advances toward Vicki Vale. Prostitutes walk up and down a bustling and crime-filled city street; one of them accosts a young boy.
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What's the story?
After witnessing his parents' murder by a criminal as a child, millionaire Bruce Wayne (Michael Keaton) grows up to track and apprehend criminals in the guise of Batman. When crime lord Grissom decides to dispose of a troublesome henchman, Jack Napier (Jack Nicholson), by sending him on a fool's errand to a chemical factory, Napier battles Batman and winds up falling into a vat of toxic chemicals. Napier lives, but the fixed grin he has acquired as a result of the chemicals leads him to call himself the Joker. The Joker kills Grissom and then sets his sights on courting Vicki Vale (Kim Basinger), a photographer currently dating Wayne. The rest of the movie rotates around the Joker's plan to poison the city's cosmetics supply and his abduction of Vicki.
Is it any good?
Keaton's casting as the muscular Bruce Wayne remains one of the most wrongheaded decisions in movie history; the talented supporting cast can't overcome the stiff dialogue. And while director Tim Burton is skilled at depicting the whimsical, the demented, even the nightmarish, if this movie is any indication, he has little talent for creating "normal" people or telling a logical story. BATMAN does have its virtues: eye-catching production design and Nicholson's joyfully hammy turn as the Joker. Nicholson holds viewers' attention during the movie's first quarter, before the Batman/Joker conflict kicks in.
Keaton, however, sleepwalks through his performance as the Caped Crusader. Though the armor-covered Batman is nearly always in motion, Bruce Wayne barely puts out any emotional energy. (To his credit, he did improve a bit in the superior -- but darker -- sequel Batman Returns.) Here, it's up to Nicholson to steal the show by quipping, shrieking with laughter, and boogying down to several catchy Prince tunes.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about vigilantism. When Batman decides to punish or kill criminals himself instead of handing them over to the police, is he doing the right thing? Why, or why not?
For younger kids, you might discuss whether Batman acts like a good guy when he dangles people over city streets or kills criminals. Older kids might be interested in discussing real-life instances of vigilantism and contrasting it with what happens in the movie.
This version of Batman was released at a time when the most popular conception of Batman was from the campy 1960s TV show. How is this version of Batman similar to and different from the other versions from TV, movies, and comic books?
How are these versions of the Joker, Alfred, and Vicki Vale similar to and different from other characterizations past and present?
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