Thursday, December 11, 2008

Batman (1989) revisited

A certain song ("Another Man's Rhubarb" -Pop Will Eat Itself) reminded me of the 1989 Batman movie. Having not seen it for about 8 years I decided to take a look at the IMDB quotes page for the film. Many have compared and contrasted Joker from the 1989 film and the 2008 film, and the general consensus is that the 2008 Joker better captures the essence of the character.

I can easily agree that the whole Jack Napier backstory in the '89 film is a terrible departure from the origin-less Joker of the comics. Joker is a great character because he is more important as a metaphore than as a villain. Clearly, this is what the '08 film hammered in again and again. But where I feel that Joker fell short was living up to his name, and this is where the script for the '89 Batman film really shines. The '89 Joker has a real zest for life. He just wants to have the expense of others' lives. You get the feeling that Batman is like a stern parent to a hyperactive child. I love this Joker, because the Joker metaphore is there, but it's subtle. He is both portrayed as the antithesis of Batman and his equal without hitting the viewer on the head with the idea.

The real issue at hand, I feel, is not that the '89 Joker is a poor joker (ignoring the origin story), but that Jack Nicholson was a poor choice. The criticism suggests that we weren't watching Joker but Jack. Although I think he's an excellent fit for the character, I can see the critics' point. To those critics, I say: read the script and invision your choice of Joker, and maybe you too can enjoy my favorite Joker.