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Batman is a 1989 superhero film based on the fictional DC Comics character Batman. Tim Burton directed the film, which stars Michael Keaton as Batman, as well as Jack Nicholson, Kim Basinger and Robert Wuhl. The film is the first installment of Warner Brothers' Batman film series, and tells the story of Bruce Wayne romancing with Vicki Vale (played by Basinger). He also deals with the rise of a powerful villain known as "The Joker" (Nicholson).
Michael Uslan and Benjamin Melniker acquired the Batman film rights from DC Comics in 1979, and hired Tom Mankiewicz to write. Producers Jon Peters and Peter Guber joined the production. Before Burton was hired as director, Steve Englehart and Julie Hickson contributed with story treatments. The role of Batman was considered for numerous A-list actors, while Nicholson accepted the role of the Joker under various strict circumstances that dictated a high salary, box office profits and his shooting schedule.
Filming took place at Pinewood Studios from October 1988 to January 1989, where production designer Anton Furst designed Gotham City with clashing architectural styles to make it the bleakest metropolis imaginable. The budget escalated from $30 million to $48 million, while the 1988 Writers Guild of America strike forced writer Sam Hamm to leave the set, leaving Warren Skaaren, Charles McKeown and Jonathan Gems to do uncredited rewrites, including the deletion of the character Dick Grayson.
Batman was a critical and financial success. It was the highest grossing film based on a DC comic book, until it was surpassed by 2008's The Dark Knight. Batman received numerous nominations at the 62nd Academy Awards, 47th Golden Globe Awards and The Saturn Awards. The film inspired Batman: The Animated Series and a series of films. In 1992, producers Uslan and Melniker filed a breach of contract lawsuit as they did not earn any of the film's box office gross.
With a 200 year anniversary parade approaching, Gotham City is in the grip of crime boss Carl Grissom. Despite the best efforts of newly-elected district attorney Harvey Dent and police commissioner James Gordon, the police department remains corrupted. Reporter Alexander Knox and photo-journalist Vicki Vale begin investigating the truth behind the rumors of a shadowy vigilante figure dressed as a bat, who has been terrifying criminals throughout the city.
Vale and Knox attend a benefit at the mansion of billionaire Bruce Wayne, who is taken by Vicki's charms. That same night, Grissom's second in command, Jack Napier, attempts to raid a chemical factory. When the police arrive, Napier realizes he's been set-up by his boss, angered by his affair with Grissom's mistress. In the midst of the shoot-out, Batman arrives and Napier falls into a vat of toxic waste.
He survives, his body deformed by chemical scarring that leaves his skin white and hair green, with a ricocheted bullet wound leaving his face frozen in a permanent smile. He becomes "The Joker".
After killing Grissom, The Joker takes over his empire and holds the city at his mercy by chemically altering everyday hygiene products so that those using a certain combination of products die. Batman, who is revealed (to the audience) to be Bruce Wayne's alter ego, attempts to track down The Joker, who has become romantically interested in Vicki. It is alluded to that Napier, as a young criminal, killed Bruce's parents.
The Joker holds a parade through Gotham, luring its citizens on to its streets by dispensing money, intending to kill them with a lethal gas. Batman foils his plan, but The Joker kidnaps Vicki and takes her to the top of Gotham Cathedral. After a fight with Batman, The Joker falls to his death from the belfry. When police officers surround the Joker's body, they hear a sound of laughing. It turns out to be a laughing sound machine in his pocket. At the film's end, Commissioner Gordon unveils the Bat-Signal along with a note from Batman, promising to defend Gotham whenever crime strikes again.
In the late 1970s, Batman's popularity was waning. CBS was interested in producing a Batman in Outer Space film. Michael Uslan, a former comic book writer and Benjamin Melniker purchased the film rights of Batman from DC Comics in April 1979. It was Uslan's wish "to make the definitive, dark, serious version of Batman, the way Bob Kane and Bill Finger had envisioned him in 1939. A creature of the night; stalking criminals in the shadows." Richard Maibaum was approached to write a script with Guy Hamilton to direct, but the two turned down the offer. Uslan was unsuccessful with pitching the project to various movie studios due to creative differences, and because the prevailing conception of the character was the campy 1960s TV series. Columbia Pictures and United Artists turned down the offer.
Uslan, already disappointed, wrote a script titled Return of the Batman to "give people in Hollywood some idea of just what the hell I was talking about! It really was about ten years before The Dark Knight Returns. It was that dark approach to it."In November 1979 Jon Peters and Peter Guber joined the project. Melniker and Uslan were promised 40% of Peters and Guber's box office profits, and felt it was best to pattern the film's development similar to Superman (1978). The project was publicly announced in late 1981 to be budgeted at $15 million with still no movie studio involved. Uslan and Melniker lost contact with Peters and Guber. Peters and Guber got Batman accepted at Warner Bros. without telling Uslan and Melniker.
Tom Mankiewicz completed a script titled The Batman in June 1983, focusing on Batman and Dick Grayson's origins with The Joker and Rupert Thorne as villains, and Silver St. Cloud as the romantic interest. Mankiewicz took high inspiration from Batman: Strange Apparitions (ISBN 1-56389-500-5), written by Steve Englehart. The Batman was then announced in late 1983 for a mid-1985 release date on a budget of $20 million. Uslan wanted an unknown actor for Batman, William Holden for James Gordon and David Niven as Alfred Pennyworth. A number of filmmakers were attached to Mankiewicz script, including Ivan Reitman and Joe Dante. Nine rewrites were performed by nine different writers. Most of them were based on the comic book Strange Apparitions. However it was Mankiewicz' script that was still being used to guide the project.
After the success of Pee-wee's Big Adventure (1985), Tim Burton was hired as director in 1986. Uslan claimed, "I only let Tim see the original year of the Bob Kane/Bill Finger run, up until the time that Robin was introduced. I showed him the Steve Englehart/Marshall Rogers and the Neal Adams/Denny O'Neil stories. My biggest fear was that somehow Tim would get hold of the campiest Batman comics and then where would we be?" Burton hired Julie Hickson to write a new 30-page story treatment, feeling Mankiewicz' script was campy, stating "they didn't acknowledge any of the freakish nature of it". The success of The Dark Knight Returns and The Killing Joke prompted Warner Bros. to give the film a darker tone for the storyline. Although Burton was never a comic book fan, he was most impressed with The Killing Joke.
The studio then enlisted the aid of Steve Englehart to write a new story treatment in March 1986. Englehart offered to write an entirely new screenplay, but he was denied permission by the studio. Englehart claims, "Between the original comics and the treatments, about 70 percent of what ended up on screen originated with me."Englehart's first treatment included the same characters present in Mankiewicz' script, but had a different storyline. Warner Bros. was impressed, but Englehart had mixed emotions with his work. When writing the second treatment (finishing in May 1986), Englehart deleted the Penguin and Dick Grayson.
Burton approached Sam Hamm, a comic book fan to write the screenplay, and Hamm decided not to use an origin story, feeling that flashbacks would be more suitable and that "unlocking the mystery becomes part of the story". He reasoned, "You totally destroy your credibility if you show the literal process by which Bruce Wayne becomes Batman."Hamm replaced Silver St. Cloud with Vicki Vale and Rupert Thorne with his own creation, Carl Grissom. Englehart believed "the powers that be decided Silver and Thorne were no longer well-enough known, so the names were changed". Hamm completed his script in October 1986, which also featured a bitter rivalry between Bruce Wayne and Alexander Knox over Vicki Vale.
However Warner Bros. was less willing to move forward on development, despite their enthusiasm for Hamm's script, which Bob Kane greeted with positive feedback. Hamm's script then became largely bootlegged at various comic book stores across America. Batman was finally given the greenlight after the surprising success of Burton's Beetlejuice (1988). When comic book fans found out about Burton directing the film and Keaton starring in the lead role, controversy arose over the tone and direction the film was going in. Hamm claimed, "They hear Tim Burton's name and they think of Pee-wee's Big Adventure. They hear Keaton's name and they think of any number of Michael Keaton comedies."To combat negative reports on the film's production, Batman's co-creator Bob Kane was hired as creative consultant. He approved of the cast, production design and the script.