This is the first time I’ve revisited this film since The Dark Knight came out and also the first time I’ve ever seen it in a theater. And I was also watching it prior to watching Birdman. In short, this was a very momentous viewing. I maintain that it holds up. It’s no Dark Knight, of course, but it’s far better than Rises and at least as good as Begins. Keaton is just really good in his role; he has an electricity to him that really pops when he lets it out. My favorite scene in the entire film is probably the Joker/Wayne confrontation in Vicki Vale’s apartment. Keaton doesn’t just hold his own opposite Nicholson in that scene; he actually overwhelms him. But Nicholson’s performance seems to be viewed in retrospect as just silly and campy. Well, there are certainly those elements, but it does seem to me to be a really, really wonderful performance. Say what you will, it’s at the very least entertaining, but it’s actually a real performance, not just a collection of tics. I love the scenes of Napier before he becomes the Joker; there’s some real depth to the character – and I’d forgotten that the film makes a strong point that Napier is already a psychopath when he makes his transition. This makes the extremity of his performance as the Joker make more sense, I think. And he definitely gets his laughs, though there are dark moments too. The meeting with the mob bosses is just one of the great comic scenes of all time and when Nicholson trots out his Jack Palance impression later in the movie, I nearly peed myself laughing. But the film is just really, really great, in my opinion. It’s really just great entertainment, but it also has some serious themes about identity and the characters of Bruce and Napier are both really sketched perfectly in the screenplay. And, oh, yes, Elfman’s music is better than anything in Nolan’s films. Just put a period on that. It’s rightfully a classic and is still a classic, even after Nolan’s trilogy. Highly recommended. 4 stars.
tl;dr – more fantastical Batman film still holds up after Nolan’s take on the character; a smart script, electrifying, intense performances, great music, great design. This one remains a masterpiece. 4 stars.