In Tim Burton’s Batman, the climax comes to a head when Jack Nicholson’s Joker has Michael Keaton’s Batman and Kim Basinger’s Girl That Batman Wanted To Sleep With In That Movie dangling from the side of a cathedral. They got there when Batman attempted to kill the Joker by punching him off the building. So, if anyone still has any argument about whether or not the 1989 Batman was a murderer, they should know that if Batman was trying really hard to maintain some sort of moral code, he wouldn’t exact his revenges by pummeling a man towards the edge of a rooftop.
Batman punches the Joker, who topples off the side of the cathedral. When Batman and Vicki Vale, buddy cops, simultaneously look off the side of the building to make sure that the Joker is spread out in the streets, the Joker grabs their hands and pulls them down too. Game, set, match, world’s greatest detective.
The Joker’s plans in this movie are numerous. At first he’s tricked into raiding Axis Chemicals by his boss, who he later comes back to dance around and shoot. He goes on to murder all of his old boss’s buddies. He then made Axis Chemicals, still in use after numerous chemical spills and a massive shoot out, his headquarters, and poisons cosmetics. Then, he goes to an art museum to dance and get Vicki Vale to take photographs of him. Lastly, he shows up at Vicki’s apartment, shoots Bruce Wayne, and then tries to throw a parade where he dances, and plans to explode poison balloons above Gotham’s citizens.
When all of this fails, he shoots down the Batwing with a single bullet, and then takes Vicki Vale to the top of a cathedral to dance with her, waiting for a helicopter to come down and rescue him from all these things going poorly. Unlucky for him, Batman begins punching him in the mouth and we end up at our present situation: the Joker standing above Batman and Vicki Vale as they dangle from a flimsy stone precipice.
And then he exacts the plan that makes Jack Nicholson’s Joker the greatest Joker in the history of Jokers.
He offers Vicki Vale his hand. “Here, I’ll lend ya’ a hand,” he says. Vicki and the Joker seem to have a decent relationship, considering they just shared an extended dance sequence, so she takes it. But surprise! It’s a fake hand. She nearly falls to her death but Batman manages to catch her.
“Lend ya’ a hand!” the Joker laughs. It can’t be his actual hand, because we see way too much of that for us to believe the sudden plot twist that the Joker is actually an amputee.
Where did he get that fake hand? He certainly didn’t have it when he and Vicki were dancing, because it would’ve came off. And he didn’t have it when he managed to grab Batman and Vicki’s wrists to drag them down. So, in the time between pulling down the two, and tricking Vicki Vale into tugging on it, he attached a fake hand to his real one, all in order to pull an “Aha!” moment on her, and maybe kill her in the process if he’s fortunate.
This means that he just had a fake hand on him this whole time, hoping that he’d find himself in a position to use it. Batman has some ludicrous gadgets in Batman. He has a light above the passenger’s seat of the Batmobile that he can turn on whenever he notices someone staring at him. He has a metal contraption on his wrist that he can extend whenever he needs to hit a flying ninja in the balls.
And, not a gadget, but still a weird tendency: he hangs upside down like a bat while he sleeps. Or maybe he just climbs up on that rack in the early morning, hoping that the girl he just laid will wake up and be impressed by his calf strength and focus. You’d think that he does this ritual because Batman needs practice for his long periods of hanging upside down while fighting crime, but that never happens. Tim Burton’s Batman is not one of stealth, and he never means to be. At one point in the film, he finds that the road is blocked, so he leaves the Batmobile to go running down the fucking street in public. He has an armored shield that covers the Batmobile whenever he needs to clumsily escape from it, but he wouldn’t have even had to install it if, at one moment in his early career, he hadn’t admitted to himself “I am really quite inept at all of this, Alfred.”
The Joker has a flower that squirts acid and, better than all of the Bat(?)-themed gadgets that I just listed, a hand that he keeps in a pocket somewhere, hoping to find the right opportunity to say “Fuckin’ finally.” and use it. People make a huge deal about what the true character of the Joker is and how certain adaptations don’t do him justice, but Jack Nicholson’s Joker is either A) so insane or B) such a well-prepared criminal mastermind or C) both, that he keeps a plastic hand around, so that when people are holding on for their dear life on the side of a roof, he can pretend to help them up, only for them have one last emotion (the feeling of betrayal), before they fall to their death.
The Joker ends up dying an excruciatingly drawn out death when Batman attaches a cable to both the Joker’s foot and a stone gargoyle, while the Joker is trying to climb a ladder to reach his escape copter. The film barely even cuts back to Batman as the Joker tries his best to hold on before plummeting to the asphalt, hundreds of feet below.
Looking back on it, I wish they had at least inserted a shot of Batman smirking during all of this and ironically saying “Lend you a hand?” Still filmmaking negligence and ineptitude aside, the addition of a fake, trick hand is what makes Jack Nicholson’s Joker the best one.
This is the first in a series of seven articles about the Batman movies.