Believe it or not, but I had never seen Tim Burton's Batman (1989) prior to Saturday 19 July 2008.

Generally regarded as the best of the "late 80's-early to late 90's" slew of Batflicks, I somehow managed to avoid it for all those years. Funny, especially since I have seen the other three. I saw Batman Returns (1992) on TV, rented Batman Forever (1995) and was treated to a viewing of Batman And Robin (1997) on the silver screen.

The circle is now complete, with a screening of Batman on a crappy PAL LaserDisc. Three weeks ago, I watched Batman Begins for the first time, on HD DVD.

I figured I had to at least give the movie with the original Joker (not counting the campy 60's version) a shot, before readying myself for The Dark Knight [in Belgian theaters due tomorrow].

In my Heath Ledger obituary, I mentioned Jack Nicholson and his numbered days as 'best incarnation of the Joker'. Yes, that was a strange exclamation : I judged Nicholson, without having seen his performance. Not very fair, I agree. But I had seen a lot of clips of the 1989 Joker, plus the The Simpsons parody.

Still, I'm quite convinced my claim will be proven correct. Jack Nicholson - one of my favourite actors - does a fine job, but I didn't really believe his Joker. He's funny, but hardly threatening. A bit disappointing. I never doubted Batman would survive this crazy clown.

Michael Keaton is a very good Batman. As good as Christian Bale : tormented, but civilised. Formal, but friendly. Keaton easily blows Kilmer and Clooney out of the water.

Director Tim Burton - one of my favourites since 1993's The Nightmare Before Christmas - has created a non-realistic, gothic Gotham. Beautiful, but not on a par with Batman Begins's Gotham.

Danny Elfman's score and Prince Roger Nelson's music are generally excellent. I bought Batdance on a 7" vinyl some years ago and it's still a terrific (if very 80's) song. Shame it's not heard in the movie.

In all, Batman is a good movie. It didn't completely win me over like some movies can or do, but you'll certainly have a blast watching it. Recommended.

Julian De Backer, 22 July 2008