jack nicholson tribute: BATMAN (1989)

Jack Napier, The Joker in Batman (1989)
Let’s face it, the most obvious representation of Jack Nicholson‘s signature look (arched eyebrows, giant villainous grin, etc.) is as The Joker in 1989’s Batman. Playing the man who would become Batman’s arch nemesis, Jack channels his seriously crazy side to deliver a performance that, by all intents and purposes, is either the hammiest and most over-the-top one yet, or so crazy it just works. Based on his winning combination of hilariously cheesy zingers and iconic cackle, I’m tempted to go with the latter.

Sure, he’s joined in the film by a gang of mediocre performances (Michael Keaton is the snooziest Batman yet and Kim Basinger is just phoning it in as his love interest), but there’s no denying this theatrical work of art. As Gotham’s one true bad boy, Jack helped kick-start what would later become a train-wreck of a series (and then later yet, a brilliant resuscitation). Tim Burton‘s entirely original vision for this flick gives Nicholson’s performance a huge boost as well.

The movie itself has incredible visuals (as per usual for Burton). The costuming, makeup, and art direction (for which it won the Oscar) are stunning, even now, and Danny Elfman‘s score is rousing and is still commonly attached to most new incarnations of the Batman character. What’s more is that Batman introduced us to mainstay beloved regulars Pat Hingle and Michael Gough as Commissioner Gordon and Alfred, respectively, who would stick with the series through its less than stellar years in the late 1990s.

Jack’s Performance: B+
The Film: B

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