One of my first articles for DC World, in fact probably THE first, was to write about the first time I watched Superman: The Movie. In fact, it was the article I sent to Paul when he was touting for new people to write for the site. Thankfully, I am still doing a bit now.
Anyway, I digress.
This article will not be a review of the movie, although I will obviously give my thoughts on it, it is purely about the first time I saw it.
And so, as we are in the 80th year of Batman, my favourite of all DC Superheroes I might add, I thought it may be appropriate to write a little article about my first experience of watching this. Now, despite my allegiance to Batman, I have, and always will say that Superman: The Movie is the greatest superhero flick of all time and one that all others aspire to be.
As opposed to Superman, this was the first superhero movie that I saw on the big screen and is something I will never forget.
1989 was a big year for me, I left school in the June at 15 (sixth form at Grammar school did not appeal to me in any way whatsoever – school the best days of your life? Not for me) and I had been given a job at a local medical manufacturing business. In fact, I started working there before I “officially” left school.
Back to topic, I have no idea what movie I may have been watching at this time, but I do remember my first glimpse of the Batman movie in trailers that showed before whichever movie I had gone to see. I was blown away,
Batman was my favourite superhero yet my only sight of him on any screen was through the wonderfully camp and colourful series of the 1960’s. To see the man himself, Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne / Batman was great. I’d seen him in Beetlejuice a year earlier, a movie that I still really enjoy where Keaton is magnificent.
Also, Tim Burton, director of Beetlejuice (a visually wonderful movie) now taking on Batman, it could only mean great things. The beautiful Kim Basinger was a star of the movie, another win for me. And then, Jack Nicholson as Joker.
Ok, so I have to say I was a little surprised that his name was attached to this role, despite the fact that I have always thought of him as a fine actor. But seeing him on screen and in full make up as Joker, I started to become more and more confident that he would be great. The line “Where does he get those wonderful toys?” pretty much won me over. There was also how it was going to look, pure Burton. For a 2 and a half minute trailer it really grabbed me, more so than many others had done, or do so now. Oh, and what a cool looking Batmobile.
Skip to August 1989, I was now 16 and working full-time. Earning my own money which in turn, meant I could do whatever I liked to, and I had become an avid cinema-goer, something I was thoroughly enjoying. However, nothing could compare to the excitement of the Batman movie release day. I know it was a Friday, the 11th I believe. Work was a drag, mainly because I knew what I was about to experience, but as soon as 3pm came (was always an early finish on a Friday), it was straight home, washed, changed and then meeting friends who were also coming along for the ride.
The local cinema at the time was great, a classic look and feel to it, and a world away from the Vue cinema that I frequent today. A nice little ticket booth, confectionary stand and those little tickets that those of a certain age will remember. My friends and I joined the queue; it was very busy and the queue went halfway down the staircase up to the foyer. Great to see that so many people were there on opening night at a little cinema in Lancaster.
We arrived at the ticket booth, bought our tickets and then a little bit of confectionery; the quiet kind of course so there was minimal disruption. Then it was through the door and off to find the best seats we could to enjoy the movie. This was in the days of sitting where you liked rather than being given seat numbers as in todays’ cinemas. Anyway, we found a suitable spot and we were ready.
Soon after it was lights down and the (red velvet) curtain was pulled back, magic was about to happen. Ok, so not straight away because we had to sit through the usual number of adverts and trailers. But then…
For two hours I did not move, I was transfixed, this was Batman on the big screen!!
I loved it so much, Keaton was a perfect Bruce Wayne and a brilliant Batman. He plays the role with such emotion, the unlikely hero. He shows a great range between the two characters, pulling off every aspect of the role/s with consummate ease. A huge part of the reason that this movie is so popular.
Jack Nicholson, how I love his Joker. Yes, he hams it up and has some of the best lines, probably all the best lines but he lights up the screen each time he appears.
Another star who lights up the screen is Kim Basinger as Vicki Vale. A crush of mine since her appearance in the non-official Bond movie, Never Say Never Again. Wonderful actress.
Throw in Jack Palance, Robert Wuhl, Pat Hingle, Billy Dee Williams and the wonderful Michael Gough as Alfred and you have a stellar cast.
I was impressed with how the movie looked, Anton Furst (who picked up a well-deserved Oscar) giving us a wonderfully Gothic Gotham City. Just go back and take a look, the detail that he went in to was quite astounding. I don’t think I’ve seen many movies do it since, this is on a par with the set designs shown in Bond movies such as You Only Live Twice (the volcano lair) and The Spy Who Loved Me (the Liparus supertanker).
Anyway, just over 2 hours later and I was on my way out of the cinema, absolutely buzzing with what I had just witnessed. My friends and I didn’t rush out of the foyer, taking photos (on a Polaroid camera I might add – didn’t you just love those?) of us next to a cardboard standee that was situated in the corner. Unfortunately, these photos are long gone or I’d have posted them here. On the way home we were quoting some of our favourite lines, in particular those by Joker – “Love that Joker!” as well as the ultimate line from the opening scenes, “I’m Batman”. My favourite line? “Where does he get those wonderful toys?” – It just makes me chuckle every time I watch the movie.
I arrive back home, my mum is in and I go on to tell her all about it, like an excited little boy. I don’t care though, 16 (then) or (now) 45 I still have that same excitement when I watch/read or just see something that I love, and that is testament to the content that is being put out there, from my first memories of DC watching Superman: The Movie to the wonder of Batman 1989 and on to the joys of seeing Aquaman on the big screen, DC Comics have played, not only a big part of my life growing up but on my adult life as well and long may it continue to do so.
And so, that is my memory of watching Batman on the big screen, a huge reason on why I love this character as much as I do. Now, I would love to read any memories that you may have on first watching this movie and I hope you feel the urge to either leave a comment below or even get in touch via the social media pages. I, the whole team in fact, look forward to hearing from you.
On a final note, and something that MUST be adhered to at all times…
‘NEVER RUB ANOTHER MAN’S RHUBARB!’