He Hates (?): Batman (1989)

For our next episode we are already delivering something a little different—a superhero movie Nathan enjoys, or at least he remembers enjoying. In this episode Anatole and Nathan revisit Tim Burton’s Batman.

There is a lot of hubbub in recent years regarding Batman and his screen portrayals. Whether it’s the palpable nature of Christopher Nolan’s trilogy, or the new incarnation provided by Ben Affleck and Zack Snyder, Batman remains a cultural touchstone for better or for worse.

Batman closely resembles other genre franchises such as James Bond or Doctor Who. Fans have an era and an actor they hold dear, proclaiming a period of the character as theirs. These figures come packaged with a sense of ownership and expectation. In part, this is a blessing for those who helm the franchise. A fervent and anticipatory audience awaits the next entry, guaranteeing some return on investment, if only out of sheer curiosity.

Batman (1989)

Batman (1989)

Yet this intense connection to a property can act as a curse of arrested development. Any deviation from expected tropes and traditions runs the risk of vitriolic backlash. We live in an era where fans no longer write letters to save their fiction, but instead tweet en masse to condemn its caretakers for violating their personal ideal of the hero.

1989’s Batman lives between these poles. Tens of thousands of fans wrote letters expressing dismay at the casting choice of then-comedic actor Michael Keaton. The public knew Keaton from farcical affairs such as 1982’s Night Shift, and many devotees of the bat could not fathom him inhabiting the role of the Dark Knight. Ultimately, the eponymous film (and Keaton) proved worthy. The film was a massive blockbuster, and still serves as a benchmark for superhero movies.

The legacy of 1989’s Batman informs this episode’s discussion. Both hosts reflect on their nostalgia for the film, but also adopt a sharp critical eye to cut through any possible distortion of memory. For this installment, he doesn’t hate it going in, but will that change? Listen, find out, and feel free to comment below!