Tim Burton's 1989 Batman might be my favorite superhero film. Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson devour the screen with their comic book intensity, while Danny Elfman's triumphant score blares. Anton Furst's Academy Award-winning set design blends modern day architecture with 1920s German Expressionism. The mobsters all dress and act like they're straight out of a 1940s noir movie, and at multiple points, the Prince soundtrack forces Nicholson to dance. It's wonderful.
And it's also got the best array of gadgets ever seen in a Batman film.
Not because any of these gadgets are especially useful, mind you. To anyone else but an insane billionaire that dresses like a bat, they'd probably seem like embarrassing wastes of time. But, they perfectly fit with Burton's take on Batman, as he saw the Dark Knight not as wealthy ninja wish-fulfillment, but as an erratic psychopath who hated clowns and looooooved blonde women.
So, in honor of the 30th anniversary of one of the greatest blockbusters of all time, let's revisit the most bizarre selections from Batman's box of "wonderful toys..."
Batman (1989) - Descent Into Mystery **HD 720p**
The Bat Light
Not to be confused with the classic Bat Symbol, the "Bat Light" is what Michael Keaton installed in the Batmobile when passengers were getting a little too nosy. He could flick it on and hurt their eyes when they started noticing that his jaw line looked remarkably like Bruce Wayne's.
Of course, this brings up the question of why Batman would install a passenger's seat in the Batmobile in the first place. Maybe to drive Alfred around when the septuagenarian butler gets a little cabin fever from being stuck in the mansion all day?
As we'll see, a common theme with these tools is that their uses are absurdly specific. Creating a "bat light" implies that Batman planned to not only drive people around on the regular, but also drive people that he doesn't know that don't know his true identity. Which, by the way, is everyone in the world that isn't Alfred. So he built it just in case his social life got a bit healthier.
Batman (1989) Cathedral fight scene-Batman vs Joker thugs (and big strongman)
The Bat Groin Crusher
As you can see from his fighting skills, Michael Keaton's Batman doesn't seem to have been trained by the League of Shadows. His moves look fairly self taught, which means that, at some point, he convinced himself that the best way to take down a villain flying at him was to build a wrist gauntlet attachment that he'd use to crush the bad guy's groin and then never bring out again.
It's both practical and impractical. If you don't want to fight a ninja that's zooming through the air at you in hand-to-hand combat, there's a good bet that sending his testicles into his spine will shut him down pretty quick. However, it sometimes seems less Batman and more Dwight Schrute to think, "I'm about to face Gotham's evil. I must design the ultimate weapons that I need," and then immediately develop anti-groin technology.
Batman 1989: Fight Scene
The Bat Abs
Six years before Batman's suit got nipples, he had anatomically correct rubber abs. And, I get it. It gives criminals the idea that underneath those rubber abs are Batman's real abs that somehow fit directly into those ab slots. It's not so much for protection as much as it is just to flaunt the fact that Batman has a historic, supernatural six-pack under all that latex armor.
The Bat Roost
On their first "date," Vicki Vale eats dinner at Wayne Manor with Bruce, they chitchat and hear some delightful stories from Alfred about Bruce's childhood, and then they get it on. In the morning, Vicki wakes up to find Bruce hanging upside down from what I assume she can only think is some kind of sex swing. She knew he was rich and weird, but not THAT kind of rich and weird.
Aside from all that, having Batman hang upside down like a bat is bizarre because it implies that Batman has taken on actual bat characteristics. And if you've never read or watched a Batman anything, just know that "acting like a bat" isn't one of his usual traits. He wasn't bitten by a radioactive bat. Aside from his penchant for sitting in the dark and designing all of his stuff to look like bats, he's not a literal "Bat man."
The Bat roost implies that he sort of is, or at least is trying to method act the part. And there's no way that he sleeps well in that thing. That's why all of his gadgets are so ludicrous. He's designing them after multiple nights where he gets no sleep because he insists on hanging from a pull-up bar until 6 a.m.
Batman vs Joker Final Fight | Batman (1989) Movie Clip
BONUS: The Joker's Fake Hand
The Joker also has a few gadgets, but most of them I understand: The lapel flower that shoots acid is classic, and the big gun that he uses to take down the Batwing follows his trend of doing normal crime things with a cartoonish twist. But at one point, he uses a fake hand to trick Vicki Vale into almost falling to her death. And that one's a little more questionable.
He at least used the electrified hand buzzer to kill an enemy crime boss. But the fake hand is only useful if his enemy is hanging off a cliff or ledge and relying on him for help. There's a very slim chance of this ever happening in his entire life, but he's ready for it and has carried a fake hand around for the entire movie just in case it takes place.
That's beautiful. Happy 30th Anniversary, Batman. I love you dearly.