Inspired by the return of Batmania thanks to the unbelievable success of The Dark Knight, I decided to take a look back at Tim Burton’s Batman. As I became more appreciative of Batman’s real history and clouded by the ruination of the original movie franchise with each sequel, I had started to distance myself from the Batman film series. My sensibilities had also matured to the point where despite still liking a good popcorn flick, I’ve also come to enjoy more dramatic fare. The nail in the coffin was the release of Batman Begins, which solidified for me the type of Batman I wanted to see now. Thus, the old Batman and I drifted apart.
For some reason, I hadn’t thought of Batman in the same hallowed nostalgic ground reserved for movies like the original Star Wars trilogy, the Indiana Jones films, and the Back to the Future trilogy, among others. Films that all had the benefit of appealing to me at a more influential age. As time goes by, memories or appreciation of a film are no longer just of the cinematic art itself, but also of that time of your life and how the movie inspired it. Like seeing Return of the Jedi at the old Tenplex on Route 4 in Paramus and then running right into the Toys R’ Us next door to get an action figure. Or how much better Huey Lewis and the News’ “Power of Love” sounds to you now that you envision Michael J. Fox in a DeLorean whenever you hear it.
It could be that Batman came out in the last year of the 1980s and thus encroached on a time where wide-eyed prepubescent innocence evolved into a more distracted, hormonal adolescence. Where high school sports, good times with friends and girls became the key trigger for nostalgia. Or that the series so quickly soiled its legacy with inferior sequels. But our distance kept it out of that aspect of my memory. And I realize now unfairly so. I renewed our acquaintance recently and can now embrace it as a classic for my generation, and a classic of the 80s.
The nostalgia was really always there, I had simply forgotten about it. I remember the summer the film came out the Bat-Symbol was everywhere. You couldn’t escape the merchandising. My family vacationed in Key West that Summer, a location wrought with tacky t-shirt shops, almost all with Bat-symbol shirts for sale. Prince’s “Batdance,” an awful song with mostly dialogue clips from the movie, was on the radio more than it should have been. It was one of my first tastes of the type of hype we now see regularly with summer movies. But in this case, the realization of the film matched the hype that preceded it.