From the moment I first saw SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE
back in 1978 (Yes, in the theater opening weekend!), I wanted my favorite comic book character – Batman – to get the same cinematic treatment as The Man of Steel. Thankfully, a guy by the name of Michael Uslan wanted the same thing as me, but he had the means and the passion to get it done.
The culmination of Mr. Uslan’s efforts, of course, was the Tim Burton-directed BATMAN which hit theaters 25 years ago on June 23, 1989.
In honor of BATMAN’s silver anniversary, here’s my B89 story…
When I first found out that a big budget live-action Batman movie was in the works, I was ecstatic; though my joy was short lived. In late 1987/1988 I was in college. I used to go to my local mall’s bookstore and read comics and movie news magazines off the rack.
That's right youngsters, there was no "internet" back then, and certainly, no "Batman on Film" for me to get my Bat-Movie news.
So it was during one of these weekly trips that I discovered in the pages of COMICS SCENE magazine (or was it STARLOG?) that Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson had been cast as Batman and The Joker respectively for a film titled BATMAN which would be released Summer 1989.
Michael Keaton was playing Batman? Michael Keaton?! Ugh! My initial excitement for this movie was brief. If Michael Keaton – the star of comedies such as NIGHT SHIFT, MR. MOM, and GUNG HO – was playing Batman, this movie just HAD to be a remake of the 60s TV series. Look, I was a MK fan even back then - NIGHT SHIFT is one of my favorite movies of all time ("We'll call ourselves 'Love Brokers!'"). But, I'd waited all these years for a "real" Batman movie and it looked as if Hollywood was going to make fun of my beloved Batman yet again.
Flash forward a year or so. I’m back at the same mall bookstore and going through STARLOG magazine (or was it COMICS SCENE?). This time, a publicity picture of Keaton as Batman in front of the Batmobile was included in the mag. This didn’t look like the Adam West Batman. I didn't see any blue and gray tights - just a dude in all-black body armor. No, this was a very cool-looking Batman - something I'd never seen before. Maybe this was not going to be a big screen remake of the 60s TV series afterall.
Michael Keaton as Batman with the Batmobile.
This pictured totally changed my perception of B89!
Shortly after seeing this publicity pic, the first trailer for the film was released. I was totally wrong about this film; it was actually going to be a “dark and serious” adaptation of Batman! My reservations about this movie vanished. I was now totally pumped for BATMAN and I too got caught it in the onslaught of “Batmania” that hit the world in 1989. If you weren't around to witness it back then, you missed out because it was organic and very awesome.
I got to the theater in the early afternoon on June 23, 1989 for the 7PM showing of BATMAN. There were no "special midnight screenings" back then; on opening day, a film wouldn’t begin its run until the evening on the day of release. It must have been around 3PM – four hours or so before the film’s very first screening – when I got to the theater only to find that I wasn't the first fan to arrive as a HUGE line had already formed! So I stood in line – proudly sporting a black T-shirt with the classic Batman logo – and waited to get my tickets because I was NOT going to miss that very first screening of BATMAN in my hometown!
I have a confession to make: I spoiled BATMAN for myself. How? I read the damn novelization before I saw the movie! To this day, I regret it. Perhaps that’s why I despise spoilers so much.
Though my idiotic reading of the novelization ruined the film’s plot for me, it didn’t take anything away from me when it came to actually seeing – literally – up on the big screen. The opening segment with Batman scaring the total you-know-what out of the two muggers is still one of my favorite “Batman on Film Moments” to this day.
Over the course of the Summer of 1989, I must have seen BATMAN at least 15 times…maybe more. I had just graduated college a month prior to its release and wasn't going to start my football coaching job until late July. Hell, I was 23 years old, loved Batman, and had nothing else to do! Once it was released on home video – originally on VHS (I went through 3 cassetts!), then DVD, and finally Blu-ray – I’ve viewed it countless times over the last 25 years. I don’t think there’s a film I’ve seen more than B89.
Is BATMAN my favorite Batman film? No, that would be BATMAN BEGINS. Is it the best installment of Batman on film? No, that title belongs to THE DARK KNIGHT. However, I believe it’s still the most important of all the Batman movies; and arguably, the most important film comic book movie period. Also, B89 means a lot to me personally. It ended something in my life that I am very ashamed of: Hiding being a Batman fan. Since that Summer of '89, I've worn my Batman fandom like a badge of honor. I've run a Batman website for over 16 years now for crissakes! Speaking of which, it's pretty safe to assume that if without this film, there never would've been a BOF.
So, happy 25th anniversary BATMAN ’89 and to everyone involved – both in front of and behind the camera – who gave it to us. That’s my B89 story, what’s yours? Tell me in the comments section below!