Chances are most of us have seen the 1989 Batman movie at least once. But what if you'd only ever heard the soundtrack album by Prince? What would you think the plot of the movie was? Basically, it's the story of Batman's nemesis Partyman, and his ultimate weapon: the Lemon Crush.
Major spoilers for Prince's Batman soundtrack ahead...
So Prince takes a few liberties with the Caped Crusader. There's no mention of Batman being Bruce Wayne, or his parents dying in Crime Alley, thus leading to Batman's vow to fight crime. Instead, Batman has psychic powers — he can see the future, "and it will be." Not only that, but he can see all your future crimes, sort of like one of those telepathic clairvoyants in Minority Report, and find you guilty for things you haven't even done yet.
It makes total sense — regular bats are blind but navigate by sonar, but this Batman navigates by future-vision.
At the start of the film, Batman has already launched his one-man war on pre-crime, going after "pretty ponies," aka young future criminals. He's haunted by his flashes of a future apocalypse — "I've seen the future, and boy it's rough" — and he is desperate to avert this nightmare scenario.
Yellow Smiley and Lemon Crush
At the start of the movie, Lemon Crush is known as Yellow Smiley — a powerful hallucinogen that allows you to see variables that are not yet in play. This is dazzling to an ordinary person, but to a psychic like Batman, it has the potential to create insanity and possibly even death. Batman notes that Yellow Smiley "offers me X" — which is the ultimate variable, the key factor in the future equation that Batman is always trying to avoid solving for. If he solves for X, then the terrible future is doomed to arrive.
Batman is captured by the Pretty Ponies and offered a choice between drinking some Yellow Smiley, or six razor-blades. He chooses six razor blades and suffers horrible disfigurement in his throat, leading to his trademark gravel-road Batman-voice. But Batman hasn't actually escaped from the threat of solving for X — as we'll see later, Yellow Smiley is distilled into a more potent form, Lemon Crush, and then Partyman puts it into the Gotham water supply. But we're getting ahead of ourselves.
Who is Partyman?
It's a bold move to get rid of the Joker, Batman's traditional arch-nemesis, and replace him with a guy who just wants to dance a lot. But you have to admit it works. Batman dresses as a giant bat, whereas Partyman dresses as a giant party.
Partyman is dancing at — what else? — a party, with two hot girls, when he falls afoul of Batman and his precog abilities. Batman realizes that Partyman is destined to become the greatest criminal that Gotham has ever seen — and his nonstop partying is already helping to overthrow the underclass. Systematically.
Partyman challenges Batman, who's still in horrible pain from drinking six razor blades, and asks by what right Batman judges people for crimes they haven't committed yet. If Batman can prove to Partyman that he should be held accountable for his future misdeeds, Partyman will willingly go to the electric chair. (Also, if Batman doesn't really love Partyman, the same thing. Electric chair.)
The paradox of all this, of course, is that Batman causes the terrible fate he had witnessed — by attacking Partyman and trying to put him in the electric chair, Batman turns Partyman into the arch-villain whose creation Batman was trying to avoid. This is the ultimate tragedy of Batman: sometimes the terrible futures he sees are the ones that he, himself, winds up creating.
In any case, Partyman is unleashed, made stronger and more unstoppable by the power of electricity. Proclaiming himself "the new King in town," Partyman vows to rock not only the party, but the entire house as well. The entire nation, in fact, will be reduced to anarchy, with no place for rules or regulations. He will rock the whole world, North, East and South. (But not West. It's too late for the West already.)
This is the terrible world-rocking future Batman foresaw all along.
At this point, Batman has no choice but to go into outer space.
Well, duh. Batman believes that if he can fly to the constellation of Orion, he will be able to reach faster-than-light velocities in his Bat-starship and arrive back in Gotham City before he left, thus giving him a chance to change history and avert the creation of Partyman. (Plus one of the main stars in Orion is actually Betelgeuse — possibly Tim Burton crossover?)
"Orion's heart is bright enough to shine on both of us," Batman promises Vicki, his sweetheart, before he leaves her behind on Earth. "That's where I want to be."
Unfortunately, Batman's spaceship fails to generate the proper warp field, and he winds up crashing into the Moon instead, crashlanding into the Sea of Tranquility. There, his oxygen is quickly running out (hence the metaphorical "drowning") and he can only watch helplessly via Bat-telescope as, back in Gotham, Partyman finds every single muffin and puts butter on it. Causing countless people to die of cholesterol overload.
Desperately, Batman talks to Vicki via the radio in the Bat-starship, telling jokes about his small penis as a way of distracting attention from the fact that he's about to suffocate to death on the Moon. Batman is distraught that he's keeping Vicki waiting, and meanwhile in Gotham, the sounds of terror are all you hear thanks to Partyman's rampage.
I sort of picture this part of the movie as being like the middle part of The Dark Knight Rises, where Bane has seized total control over Gotham, and Batman is locked in a M.C. Escher prison with a broken back and some unlicensed chiropractors who moonlight as motivational speakers. Except that instead of having CNN in his cell, Batman is just stuck watching the chaos in Gotham using the telescope in his Bat-starship.
At last, just as the oxygen is running out, Batman manages to repair his spaceship enough to escape the Moon's gravity well and comes crashing back to Gotham.
"Another power to see"
Batman confronts Partyman, who asks Batman to join him. Partyman says that he's perfected the formula for Yellow Smiley, and in fact now he can offer Batman "another power to see," or the ability to see "another world." Instead of solving for X and bringing on the apocalypse, if Batman takes the new, improved Yellow Smiley, now renamed Lemon Crush, he will be able to see ALL the variables.
Batman refuses, because that much information would overwhelm anyone's brain. It's at this point that Partyman explains to Batman that his root problem is trust issues — he doesn't trust anyone, and that's why he assumes that his terrible visions of the future are bound to come true. Also, nothing can take the place of Batman and Partyman, "kicking it tight." Which is not a sex reference at all. It's not that type of party, Partyman helpfully explains.
But Batman steadfastly refuses to try Lemon Crush — only to see Partyman put it into the Gotham water supply. Soon it's raining Lemon Crush, and Batman is "burning from all the crush." He feels the kiss of the Lemon Crush, and his ability to resist is completely sapped. It goes right through him. He feels like the victim, and can't stop himself from thinking about it.
All it takes is a little bitty, and he becomes "the wildest in the city."
The Awesome Power of the Batdance
At this point, Batman is completely out of control. The overdose of Lemon Crush has had the opposite effect than he'd expected — instead of being overwhelmed with future variables, or solving for X, he's actually completely living in the moment.
He is no longer able to recognize any future benefit from present restraint. He used to believe that good things come to those who wait, but now he believes that the only good is the present moment, and the future is illusion. He's become the ultimate nihilist, saying things like, "to hell with the reasons why."
Batman's razor-scarred throat twitches with the conviction that nothing has any meaning and causality itself is a cruel illusion. He's willing to be whatever people have dreamed of, as the discordant synth peals herald his descent into scandal and ruin. This is Batman's darkest hour.
It's at this point that Batman is saved by his sidekick Ducky, who puts the seven-inch into the computer — activating some emergency Bat-protocols and snapping Batman out of it. These protocols include a message reminding Batman to "keep busting." (Why haven't we heard about Ducky before this? Presumably he's embroiled in a subplot that gets fleshed out more in the actual movie.)
Batman hears a strange echo chamber of voices, announcing that this town needs an enema and stuff, as he struggles to stay focused entering Partyman's lair for the final confrontation. But Partyman is ready for Batman, and he — I'm just guessing here — sprays Lemon Crush in an aerial form into the chamber where Batman has broken in.
At last, Batman is able to overcome the effects of Lemon Crush by doing the Batdance, which is actually a highly sophisticated form of tai-chi and qi gong that Batman learned in Tibet from some mystics, which allows him to purify his body. Batman decides that he does, indeed, want to bust that body. Not only that, but he wants to bust that body right.
Batman repeats back to Partyman the question that Partyman asked on their first meeting, about whether you can hold someone responsible for crimes they haven't commited yet. Is a man considered guilty for what goes on in his mind, after all?
And in fact, at this point, Partyman has actually committed all the crimes that Batman had originally predicted, so Batman was right all along. "I tried to avoid all this, but I can't." The movie ends with Batman doing what he should have done in the first place — busting that body, which is a highly specialized combat technique akin to ju-jitsu. At last, the power of Partyman is broken, and Batman and Ducky go off to search for Vicki, who's still waiting.
So does anybody have a copy of this version of the movie on DVD? It's the weekend!