Batman Retires

The first two films in Nolan’s Batman trilogy were bizarre, dark, and fun. We got to see some interesting villains, some fantastic set-design, some exciting fight sequences, some compelling storytelling, and some fascinating ideas.

Why would someone dress as a bat, and beat up street thugs? What kind of training would he need? What kind of equipment would he need? How could he do it?

These are all easily addressed in the films. And thanks to Nolan’s commitment to realism, the entire idea of Batman seems much more plausible, and in turn, much more compelling.

Sadly, by the time the third film rolled around, it seems the well ran dry for interesting villains, fantastic set-design, exciting fight sequences, compelling storytelling, and fascinating ideas. Because while the third film does maintain the realism, themes, and characters of its predecessors. It’s boring as hell. Continue reading

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Batman Resurges

Batman, as a concept, isn’t very realistic. But in 2005, Christopher Nolan tried to change that with Batman Begins. He gave the character a logical origin story, and even explained where all of his gear comes from. A man, trained in ninjutsu, inspired by the death of his parents, and with billions of dollars at his disposal, takes down criminals with a persona mirroring his greatest fear: Bats.

It’s a little ridiculous, granted. But it’s a nice attempt. And while the whole thing seems unlikely, it’s also plausible.

The first film had a bit of a sci-fi element, with the introduction of the Fear Gas, and some of Batman’s gear. I’m pretty sure memory cloth doesn’t actually exist. But nonetheless these elements didn’t seem too ridiculous, or too far outside the realm of possibility. Unlike the Burton series, with the magic automated homing Batarang.

Okay, now you're just fucking with us.

In fact, you know what this reminds me of? James Bond. Now, I’ll admit I haven’t seen every film, because… fuck that. But every film I saw always had the scene in the MI-6 headquarters, where Q introduces 007 to all his gadgets. These were always great scenes. He not only introduces all the gadgets and show what they do, but often explains how they work. Like the invisible car; it has a camera on one side, and the image is projected on the other. It’s pretty cool, even though we actually know that it wouldn’t work since people have tried that and it didn’t. But it’s still pretty cool.

Anyway, in the new Batman films, Morgan Freeman is basically Batman’s Q. And that’s the greatest thing about these films; The fact that even though the gadgets are a bit fantastic, they still feel real, or at least on the cutting-edge. And it’s all thanks to Morgan Freeman, as he gives James Bat his load out. Only instead of a BMW, he gets a tank.

The sci-fi elements in Batman Begins even carried over into the design of Gotham city. Specifically, the designs of the Narrows, the monorail, and Wayne Tower.

I touched on this last time.

They make me think of the classic German expressionist film, Metropolis. (Admittedly, I still have to see that film.) It gives a bit of a how-the-past-thought-the-future-would-look feel. But this film takes place in the present day (I think), and we don’t design buildings like that. Though I wish we did.

Nonetheless, as amazing as the designs are in Batman Begins. For the sequel, Christopher Nolan decided to scrap all of that. Wayne Tower is redesigned into a generic skyscraper, and the monorail is gone. And I think, because of this, the first film had a much better aesthetic. However, that doesn’t really matter, because the second film had a much better everything else. Continue reading

Batman Reboots

The biggest, and most interesting thing about Batman is that despite his ‘superhero’ label; he has no superpowers. He’s just a guy with a lot of gear, fighting criminals. Because of this, he is also one of the most iconic superheroes in history.

I’ve talked about his history before. How his properties have fluctuated in tone, between comic and cheesy, to dark and bitter, and how I approve of both. However, it seems Batman’s most popular portrayals have taken the latter tone over the former.

For some bizarre reason, people, particularly Batman’s most vocal fans, have this knee-jerk desire to insist that Batman be taken seriously. See, they’re forgetting that he’s a superhero, a fantasy character. His closest allies include an Amazon with magical powers, an invincible alien with super strength and x-ray vision, and a fighter pilot with a ring that can conjure any object he wants. His most prevalent enemies include a woman who’s half plant, a seven-hundred-year-old immortal, and a man who can only survive at sub-zero temperatures. Yes, this is a franchise that is begging to be taken seriously.

The first four Batman films did fluctuate in tone, but even the dark and ‘serious’ ones floated on the border near fantasy and absurdity. After all, we have Catwoman coming back from the dead, and the Joker managing to create a toxin that makes people laugh to death.

Anyone who tries to take Batman seriously is obviously fighting a losing battle. Or at least they were, until 2005, when the Batman film franchise was given a fresh coat of paint under the direction of legendary filmmaker, Christopher Nolan. But this time, things were different. This time, Nolan got the franchise to strive for realism… and oddly enough, it worked. Continue reading

Burton and Robin

Batman is an unusual character…literally.

He’s a superhero with no superpowers other than being a badass and rich, yet he is one the most popular…ever! Everyone knows who Batman is! He’s just as popular as Superman, Spider-man, or any of the X-men, yet power-wise, he doesn’t even compare. Honestly, put Batman up against Superman, and it’s almost guaranteed that Batman would end up as a red stain on a brick wall.

Part of the reason for this is because most of his success has come from outside the realm of comic books. It all started in 1966, with the Batman television series. You all remember this show, right? Adam West and Burt Ward star as Batman and Robin, two masked vigilantes who fight crazed lunatics in Gotham City. Not exactly high-minded.

The show was well known for its camp. Which I’m pretty sure means cheesiness and overall poor quality. The writing was ridiculous, formulaic and contrived; and that’s why so many people love it…yeah, I’m not sure either.

Eventually, the show was cancelled, but not before a motion picture came out of it with the same cast and the same campy style. I never saw it and I honestly have no desire to. But after the show, and motion picture, Batman’s popularity began to wane. It took 20 years before he rose to prominence again, when director Tim Burton showed the world a darker view of the Caped Crusader, in the 1989 film, simply titled, Batman. Continue reading