Make Mine Batman!
By Bert Ehrmann
July 3, 2009
It's difficult for anyone born after the fact to realize just how HUGE the original Batman (1989) movie was. To be sure there have been movies after that have earned more money but I don't think that any other film since has come close to the hype and excitement that followed the lead up to the release of Batman – and then again months later again for the release of the film on VHS.
Back in 1989 I was 14 years old and remember desperately wanting to see Batman. Leading up to the release of the film, I recall Batman movie trailers, TV commercials, magazines, special comics, toys, etc., etc., etc. Batman was inescapable and because of my situation of being at that odd age of being too young to have a job (and therefore constantly broke) nor old enough to have a driver's license I didn't think that I'd ever get to see the movie.
That's why on the Saturday afternoon the day after release I was surprised to find myself being whisked from the mall to the largest theater in town when my friend's step-mom suddenly appeared with tickets in hand to the very next showing of Batman. "Does anyone want to go see Batman?" She asked. No one refused.
Others I asked about their own Batman experience related that they remember standing in line in the hot Sun waiting for show time. We didn't have that problem as we arrived at the showing a few minutes AFTER the movie had started only to find ourselves faced with a completely packed theater. And when I say "packed" I mean PACKED. We were all separated by flashlight wielding ushers and had to take whatever lone seats were available scattered throughout the theater.
It didn't matter that I was about to see Batman next to a bunch of strangers – I was about to see a movie that would shatter every expectation people had about summer movies to that point.
The colossal success of Batman cannot be underestimated. The movie earned an adjusted $431 million at the box office and until the release of The Dark Knight in 2008 (aka Batman Part 6) it was the second most successful superhero film of all time behind the original Spider-Man (2002). And that's not counting money spent on the ubiquitous black and yellow Batman logo shirts that were everywhere in '89 or the VHS tape released just in time for Christmas that same year. I clearly remember that every video shop, convenience story and grocery in town had the tape in stock the winter of ‘89. One friend told me that he was so excited about the release of the movie on VHS that he ordered two copies – "just in case."
Our family got our tape Christmas day and I must have watched it four or five times in a row that afternoon.
Others I talked to about their Batman experiences remember things like reenacting fight scenes from the movie with their friends ("One of the fondest memories I have of the film was the backwards punch Batman does in the film where the guy is sneaking up to him and he hits him without turning around. I actually tried this on a friend and almost broke his nose"), to the discovery of Tim Burton as a favorite director and all the memorabilia surrounding the movie.
I remember that during my freshman year of high school Travis Meyer, now local DJ and then school classmate, made me act out the scene everyday after lunch with him where Batman slams the baddie up against the wall to be asked, "Who are you?" I'll let you decide who got to play whom.
Batman Returns and a long running animated series would follow in 1992. But sadly, after that it was downhill from there for the Batman franchise until Christopher Nolan would resuscitate the character with Batman Begins (2005) and ultimately The Dark Knight that would go onto become one of the top grossing films of all time.
Regardless of what would come, I'd have to say that from the standpoint of pure enjoyment my favorite superhero film is, was and always will be Batman.