Holy hype! “Batman,” the year’s most eagerly anticipated film (and accompanying Prince soundtrack) has finally arrived. This Caped Crusader, played by Michael Keaton (“Beetlejuice,” “Mr. Mom”), is a far cry from the zany, late-1960s TV version. Directed by Tim Burton (“Pee Wee’s Big Adventure,” Beetlejuice”) and starring living legend Jack Nicholson as the Joker and Kim Basinger (“My Stepmother Is an Alien”) as Batman’s love interest, this is the dark story of two men battling their own demons.
Despite oodles of prerelease flak from Batman diehards, Keaton does a credible job as the DC Comics hero. Meanwhile, Ms. Basinger, who seems lovelier with each successive role, lights up the screen as Vicki Vale. However, the picture really belongs to Nicholson, who has called the Joker his favorite characterization. “Batman” is without question an exciting, and for the most part fulfilling, adventure that is likely to tickle and thrill fanatics and casual moviegoers alike. But Prince’s songs aren’t always used to their best effectiveness. Fortunately, the picture’s sinister atmosphere, menacing score (by Danny Elfman), sharp humor and Nicholson’s sensational over-the-top performance carry what is arguably the summer’s most engaging blockbuster.
It’s too bad Prince’s musical contribution isn’t more prominently featured, because his soundtrack is a bona-fide winner. His involvement in the project was a natural since the hero’s eccentric, enigmatic nature and the story’s good versus evil theme personifies Prince and his recent material — “Lovesexy” (representing good) and unreleased “Black” (representing evil) LPs. This funk-opera ― which features the Bruce Wayne, Batman, Joker and Vicki Vale characters (as interpreted by Prince) — is nearly entirely composed, arranged, produced and performed by the Purple Crusader. The package’s overall sound can best be described as a cross-pollination of the performer’s post-Revolution efforts, yet it houses some of his most accessible compositions since 1984’s “Purple Rain.” In what was hailed as “an extraordinary burst of creative energy,” the irrepressible Prince took just two weeks to write all the material.
Of the disc’s seven upbeat numbers and two ballads, the Joker-themed funk-rock tunes “Electric Chair” and “Partyman” both excel. But the real treasures are Bruce Wayne’s breathtaking “Vicki Waiting” and Vicki Vale’s hypnotic “Lemon Crush,” which is one of Prince’s all-time most infectious grooves. All of these songs beg for extended 12-inch versions. The salacious “Scandalous,” in which Prince coos and screams in his patented falsetto, is also a highlight. The single, “Batdance,” a fusion of funk and movie dialogue, is also included.
While the film satisfies, the “Batman” soundtrack surpasses expectations by providing a vehicle that is certain to charm Prince’s core following, reclaim the fans he’s alienated since “Purple Rain” and convert a legion of Batman fanatics. Monster sales are a given in what may be the greatest film and music marriage ever conceived.