Anyone who argues that Batman (1989) was anything other than a steaming turd is trying to rewrite history. It was actually a pretty shitty movie, and it was largely acknowledged to be trashy and campy on purpose:
Hollywood's obsession with Batman began thirty years ago on June 23, 1989 when Tim Burton, Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson showed doubters that The Dark Knight was worthy of the big screen. Batmanearned a massive $411.5 million globally, but faced a tough battle to the big screen that involved rejection from nearly every studio in Hollywood and its leading lady being re-cast at the last minute.
Batman has an origin story that begins in the most unassuming of places — with a twenty-something comic book geek attending college at Indiana University in Bloomington. In 1972, Michael Uslan landed on the radar of Sol Harrison, the vice president of DC Comics in New York, because the junior in college was teaching the world’s first-ever college accredited course on comic books.
“Sol said that what I was doing at Indiana was very innovative and good for the whole comic book industry," Uslan tells The Hollywood Reporter. “Sol and DC’s then President Carmine Infantino, flew me to New York and they offered me a job.” Uslan worked in New York in summers, and he was put on retainer while he was at Indiana.
At the time, DC Comics had been acquired by Warners Communications, a division of Warner Publishing. “The Warner Publishing brass, generally speaking, were not a bunch of happy campers that they owned a comic book company,” Uslan says. “They only saw value in Superman.”
In the following years, Uslan graduated from law school and cut his teeth in the film industry at United Artists. His time there prepared Uslan to make his dream of producing a dark and serious Batman movie a reality. His first stop: getting the film rights.
“The day came when I went back to Sol Harrison and said, 'Sol, I want to buy the rights to Batman,’” Uslan recalls. “Sol was genuinely apoplectic. He was very fond of me, which I greatly appreciated. He said 'Michael, Michael for God’s sake don't do this. I don't want to see you lose all your money. Don’t you understand that after Batman went off the air on TV the brand became as dead as a dodo? Nobody’s interested in Batman anymore’ I countered with, ‘But Sol, nobody’s ever done a dark, serious Batman feature film. This is almost going to be like almost a new form of entertainment!’”
There was nothing dark or serious about Batman because, for all intents and purposes, Tim Burton was and still is a terrible filmmaker. I mean, go back and watch this, and then watch the one with poor Danny DeVito as a human penguin, and then get back to me about how these films should have been taken seriously. You could have put Adam West in these films and no one would have said a word.
Michael Keaton is a great actor, but he was largely wasted in these films. They were not “serious” in any sense of the word. They were expensive, exploitative, and copied elements from other films, such as Die Hard. If anything, send Bruce Willis fifty bucks. And, come on. If Jack Nicholson’s obituary mentions his role as the Joker, then you know something’s wrong.