Yerington: My love for 1989’s ‘Batman’ is undying

Tim Burton’s "Batman" turns 30 years old this week, and I still see it as love at first sight.

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Yerington: My love for 1989’s ‘Batman’ is undying

Austin J. Yerington, Columnist

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“He gave us a signal,” Gotham Police Commissioner Jim Gordon declares. Gordon  then pulls a level for a massive spotlight; it lightens up the dark sky with the silhouette of a bat. The gothic image of the flying mammal is one of those images so identifiable there are few who would see it and not know its meaning.

The music builds and the crowd of people all look up at the gothic beacon. The film soon ends showing the caped crusader himself, looking into the night sky. Roll credits. This scene still gives me chills as I picture it.

Tim Burton’s Batman turned 30 this month. The classic superhero film follows the rise and fall of Batman’s first nemesis, the Joker. But to a boy in Muscatine, the film wasn’t just any two-hour heroic adventure; the film was my film. The film wasn’t just a cool film, it was the cool film. With car chases, black-leather armor, and ninja fighting goons, it had everything an 8-year-old would have ever wanted in a superhero movie. The film has a relationship history with the Yerington clan, almost like a rite of passage.

When I was a child, I viewed the VHS of Batman more times than Toy Story, The Iron Giant, and The Mask combined.

The film brought my family together unlike anything else I saw as a child.  My siblings and I recited lines before they were said, my father did the iconic dad laugh at Jack Nicolson’s “Never rub another man’s rhubarb.” The film brought together my family as if it were an event such as Thanksgiving or a birthday but with the amazing bonus that it could happen more than just once a year.

With most scenes of the film burned into my mind, it seems my mind even finds the cardboard VHS sleeve to be important enough to retain. Solid black, with the massive bat logo right in the middle. It has no names, no actors, not even the film’s. The cover speaks volumes with just one black and gold image. But if you flipped it, you not only saw Batman with news reporter Vicki Vale, oh no. To the right was a boxed image of the white face, green hair, wide smiling Nicolson as the Joker. This part of the film was as important to my family as any aspect of normal life: The Joker was scary.

Everyone who has come in contact with the film has felt that twinge of fear from Nicolson’s part. All who watched the film will remember the basement-surgery scene. The cotton-wrapped Jack Napier screams for a mirror. Then after seeing his newly bleached white face, laughs maniacally, as he slowly walks up the stairs into the city.

I still hold this film as one of the best adaptations of comic heroes to have ever been made. But its creations was something unique — it may never happen again. It was simply lightning in a bottle. With a director in his prime, an incredible score, and two amazing leads, the film smashes all the boxes for what makes an amazing film.

These aspects made the film a treasured pieces of cinema to a small house in a town along the Mississippi River. Even now, after I and my siblings have long grown up and moved out of our childhood home, the iconic draw of the orchestra at the start of the film brings my family together. The film still causes us to grow goose bumps once they hear Micheal Keaton whisper, “I’m Batman.”