30 Years 30 Films - A Celebration Of The Greatest Movies Of Empire's Lifetime
Empire Australasia|September 2019
THE PAST THREE DECADES HAVE SEEN MANY MASTERPIECES, BIG AND SMALL, JOIN THE MOVIE PANTHEON. OVER THE NEXT 30 PAGES WE CELEBRATE OUR FAVOURITE FILM FROM EACH YEAR, WITH HELP FROM THE PEOPLE WHO MADE THEM
Nick De Semlyen, Ian Freer, Dan Jolin, Jeff Dawson, Ben Travis, Helen O'hara, Dan Jolin, John Nugent, Nick De Semlyen

1989 BATMAN

THE ONE THAT CHANGED THE BLOCKBUSTER BUSINESS

THE SUMMER OF 1989 saw madness erupt all over the globe, and it was all thanks to a nocturnal mammal. “It was crazy, weird and bizarre,” says Sam Hamm, co-writer of Tim Burton’s Batman and one of the people responsible for the ensuing Batmania. “There’s nothing you could do but disassociate from it. To be honest, I found it kind of scary. I was grateful when things calmed down a little bit.”

The project, a fresh big-screen spin on the 1930s-created Caped Crusader, had been in development throughout the ’70s and ’80s, nobody quite sure how to make it work. CBS considered shooting a film where Batman went into space. Bill Murray and Eddie Murphy were, at one point, suggested for Batman and Robin. Peter O’Toole was in talks to play the Penguin. Then a gawky, geeky director named Tim Burton took the mantle, and things finally started slotting into place. Hamm, drafted in to put Burton’s dark but whimsical vision on the page, had a good feeling from the off. “I truly thought that Batman was ready to erupt as a phenomenon,” he says. “For a couple of years before the picture came out, you could not go down Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles without seeing young hipsters wearing Batman gear. Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns had just started coming out as Tim and I got together. It was just this sort of presence in the air.”

Even so, there were hiccups. The casting of Michael Keaton drew the ire of furious fans, who had been promised a moody film, an antidote to the camp ’60s Batman — then told the actor who would be suiting up was Mr. Mom. “I admit, when I first heard the name Michael Keaton, I thought, ‘Really?!’” admits Hamm. “But when I thought about it for 15 minutes, I started to see it, because the deal is you don’t cast Batman — you cast Bruce Wayne.” The writing process was complicated by Warner Bros. executives insisting Robin be crowbarred into the script (“Tim and I spent a weekend at my house in San Francisco wearing out the carpet with our pacing, trying to figure it out,” Hamm recalls) before the notion was dropped for budgetary reasons. And the casting of the Joker, the movie’s Big Bad, turned into a headbanging protracted affair, with everyone from John Lithgow to Brad Dourif going for the role.

Early on in the process, Batman co-creator Bob Kane had sent Burton and Hamm a set of notes on their script: enclosed in the package was a photo of Jack Nicholson at the end of The Shining, his face and hair painted white and green by Kane. The comics legend’s vision would, in the end, be realized, with Nicholson secured after much negotiation. And as the cameras rolled, it quickly became apparent that he and Keaton were perfectly matched. “Nicholson plays it as if he’s a vaudevillian who has contempt for his audience, and just wants to amuse himself,” extolls Hamm. “But it’s Keaton’s weight that allows him to go off the way he does.”

Batman hit big. In fact, it hit huge, making $412 million globally (enormous money at the time) and spawning a Prince soundtrack and endless merchandise (including Batman breakfast food, making him the first superhero to get both a serial and a cereal). “There was Bat-shit everywhere,” its writer laughs. “I felt like Bruce Wayne that summer because I would look at it all and nod my head, but I couldn’t say, ‘That’s me! I’m Batman!’ One day I saw a house eight blocks from mine, whose owner had painted the façade black and had a Bat-signal on the garage. And I thought, ‘This has gone too far.’ A lot of our constituency was seriously cracked.”

The entire affair rocked Hollywood and set the scene for the superhero-movie domination to come. Burton’s philosophy, taking these characters seriously and delving into their psychologies, would be pushed further by Christopher Nolan, although The Dark Knight would sadly fail to feature henchmen with matching Joker-jackets. Warner Bros.’ blizzard of merch would be repeated, and intensified, with subsequent Bat-movies featuring numerous changes of costumes in order to justify extra action figures.

Most of all, it proved that even the mustiest comic-book could be transformed, with the right filmmaker behind the wheel, into a four-quadrant blockbuster event. “Audiences now get to see in widescreen and color and surround sound the most extravagant action sequences that you could have imagined when you were a child paging through a 15-cent comic book,” Hamm says. “Batman happened to come along and demonstrate that there was an appetite for that kind of material. And so now that’s the world we’re living in.” NICK DE SEMLYEN

1990 GOOD FELLAS

THE ONE THAT MADE US ALL WANT TO BE GANGSTERS

THE SCRIPT

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM EMPIRE AUSTRALASIAView All

Out Of The Cage

From the ashes of Suicide Squad has risen something fresh, bold and exciting: birds of prey. Inside the first-ever female-ensemble superhero film

9 mins read
Empire Australasia
January 2020

The Master Of Suspense

With a string of dazzling, high-concept thrillers, bong joon ho has drawn comparisons to hitchcock. But his films also have a strong social message, and his latest, parasite, is no exception

10 mins read
Empire Australasia
January 2020

Wonder Woman Swings Into The '80s

Director Patty Jenkins on setting Diana Prince loose in the era of excess

3 mins read
Empire Australasia
January 2020

The Many Parts Of Martin Lawrence

As the comedian makes a bigscreen comeback, he talks us through his greatest roles

4 mins read
Empire Australasia
January 2020

HIS NUMBER'S UP

AFTER 14 YEARS, THE LONGEST TENURE OF ANY BOND, DANIEL CRAIG IS ABOUT TO HANG UP HIS MARTINI GLASS AND WALTHER PPK. EMPIRE TRACKS 007 ACROSS THE GLOBE, FROM LONDON TO JAMAICA AND NEW YORK, TO BRING YOU THE ULTIMATE INTEL ON NO TIME TO DIE. AND HIS EMOTIONAL FAREWELL...

10+ mins read
Empire Australasia
January 2020

THE FALL GUYS

In 2011, Zack Stentz and Ashley Edward Miller were the hottest new screenwriting team in Hollywood. Then they disappeared. Eight years later, they tell EMPIRE their cautionary tale; revealing the tough reality of a writer's life Hollywood

10+ mins read
Empire Australasia
January 2020

Buddy Hell

The last blockbuster to be released in the 1980s, Tango & Cash seemed like a no-brainer: a buddy-cop team-up for two of Hollywood’s biggest stars. But it didn’t take long for the wheels to spectacularly come off

10+ mins read
Empire Australasia
January 2020

BLAZING a TRAIL

Queen & Slim IS A ROAD MOVIE, A TENDER ROMANCE AND AN UNFLINCHING LOOK AT WHAT IT MEANS TO BE BLACK IN 21ST CENTURY AMERICA. EMPIRE ASSEMBLES ITS WRITER, DIRECTOR AND TWO STARS FOR A FRANK, FREEWHEELING CONVERSATION ABOUT WHY IT NEEDED TO BE MADE

10+ mins read
Empire Australasia
January 2020

BATTLE PLANS

HOW SAM MENDES AND TEAM TURNED WORLD WAR I DRAMA 1917INTO A REAL-TIME, ONE-TAKE WONDER

10+ mins read
Empire Australasia
January 2020

An Oscar-winning director. The world's biggest pop star. A classic West End musical. Judi Dench with a tail. The biggest gamble of the year

Ever since the trailer dropped the world has been mesmerized by Cats. We journey deep inside the maddest, milkiest film of 2019

10 mins read
Empire Australasia
January 2020
RELATED STORIES

METALLICA IN THE BLACK

THIRTY YEARS AFTER FAMOUSLY FRACTURING THE WORLD OF METAL (AND HEAVY ROCK IN GENERAL), METALLICA’S SELF-TITLED 1991 MASTERPIECE — AKA THE BLACK ALBUM — IS GETTING THE DELUXE REISSUE TREATMENT. IN THIS EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW, JAMES HETFIELD AND KIRK HAMMETT PULL BACK THE VEIL ON THE ALBUM THAT BECAME “THE MASTER KEY TO EVERYTHING”

10+ mins read
Guitar World
November 2021

Owning Your Niche Market

Expanding and Growing Your Business During Uncertain Times

6 mins read
Home Business Magazine
Summer 2021

Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio

THE VINTAGE COOL OF GUITARIST JIMMY JAMES

2 mins read
Guitar World
June 2021

A year of COVID

MY OH MY, HOW THINGS HAVE CHANGED

6 mins read
The BOSS Magazine
April 2021

Remembering Leslie West

THE BIG MAN WHOSE BIG GUITAR SOUND HELPED LAUNCH HEAVY METAL

5 mins read
Guitar World
April 2021

E. PAUL ZEHR

BRAIN SCIENTIST, AUTHOR, SUPERHERO ENTHUSIAST

6 mins read
Muse Science Magazine for Kids
January 2021

Dominic Savo

Whether it is sport or acting, Dominic Savo puts his heart and mind to it with full attention. He possesses that quiet smile that makes you want to know more about him. Well, we try to do our best to present him here in underwear and all. Don’t forget to read the interview. ; -)

2 mins read
Apollo Male Models
Winter 2020 Dan Decker

2020's Most Common Passwords Are Laughably Insecure

Chances are that if a password is easy for you to remember, a hacker can easily crack it. And despite years (and years) of tech companies warning consumers to use hard-to-crack passwords, plus two-factor authentication, people are still using laughably insecure codes.

1 min read
PC Magazine
December 2020

BATTERED BEN IS WASTING AWAY!

Loses 65 lbs. in few weeks!

1 min read
National Enquirer
November 09, 2020

CLASSICAL ROCK / POP JAZZ- RECORD REVIEWS

Editor's Pick

10+ mins read
Stereophile
September 2020