Iron Man? Spider-Man? Superman? Batman? Captain America? Flash? Green Lantern? Arguing about which superhero is the best is a pointless and vain endeavor. In the end the Bat will always save the day – not without a few bruises or wounds, sometimes taking a beat down too, with justice being served, yet at a price. He will fall to his knees, but only to get up stronger. He knows what pain and fear are and at the same time it’s perfectly human to experience these.
As much as Robert Downey Jr. is a phenomenal Tony Stark (or is it Tony Stark playing RDJ in everyday life?), Christian Bale’s Batman belongs to the same Category of Awesome. The Dark Knight trilogy is more coherent and solid as a package than Iron Man franchise. To be fair RDJ is always the focal point of the latter and he’s the main reason for me watching the movies. On the contrary, Christopher Nolan’s films build the Batman’s realm and the interpersonal relations from the foundation. We learn the character’s motives, we can also see what drives Bruce Wayne to do what he does. Some of his actions may or may be not justified, but we are able to somewhat understand where the choices he makes are coming from.
The reboot of the adventures of the legendary superhero mostly goes for a serious tone and realism instead of a sort of flamboyancy which became ubiquitous in recent super-productions – add enormous robots, add large monsters, add mutants, add aliens, add pretty Hollywood stars to say one-liners in the follow-up of an explosion – enjoy profits.
The blackness surrounding the Dark Knight is obviously reminiscent of Batman: The Animated Series. One of the most essential animated shows of the 90s – or much more likely – ever, is not your usual cartoon for kids with a happy ending, the villain learning its lesson and everyone living happily ever after. The unforgettable opening sequence already sets the atmosphere of anxiety and leaves us uneasy. The main hero is in the shadows just like the mobsters he fights with. He’s not a knight in a shining armor, he tends to resort to trickery and a certain degree of violence, both necessary to ultimately defeat the opponent. Noir animation enhances the aura of mystery and gloom. Action generally takes place at the dusk and during the night. Some episodes can really mess with your mind as the nightmares Bruce has due to being poisoned one way or another are pretty psychedelic and somewhat creepy.
Many villains get their backstories presented so we can determine that they often are tragic characters – with few exceptions, it’s the circumstances they were thrown in which make them turn bad, they’re not wicked by birth. Pain and sorrow are the causes of their evilness. In plenty of recent superhero movies bad guys don’t get to have any depth. In particular the first Iron Man movie suffered from this problem (by the way, although I seem to be putting these films in negative light I genuinely like them). Whatever-his-name Tony Stark’s second-in-command played by Jeff Bridges taking the malevolent route just isn’t a believable scenario to me.
Before writing this post I specifically re-watched all Batman movies and honestly, the previous Batman feature film series, directed by Tim Burton and then by Joel Schumacher, is hard to describe. By ‘hard to describe’ I mean it falls short of Nolan’s trilogy. Burton-directed ‘Batman’ and ‘Batman Returns’ are definitely satisfactory, though you can sense the director’s quirkiness all over them. Michael Keaton in the lead role seems quite shallow. On the plus side, I enjoyed the villains of the first two films. Jack Nicholson is a total nut-job as Joker (same as his counterpart in the animated series), deadly dangerous but in a sense hilarious. Heath Ledger’s Joker is an insane psychopath, without a pinch of humor to his persona. Michelle Pfeiffer is a ravishing and foxy Catwoman, and Danny DeVito is a grotesque, but intriguing Penguin. Set and character designs are also strong selling points of this series.
Change of directors for the latter two movies marked a catastrophic direction the Batman was heading. Batman Forever (this title sounds like a disaster, doesn’t it) and Batman & Robin are dreadful. Especially the final installment of the series, calls for lynching everyone responsible for this atrocity. George Clooney is not Batman. Abed from Community makes a better Batman. I’m confident enough to think that even I would be better as a Batman than him. Arnold Schwarzenegger in the Mr. Freeze costume was the usual Arnold, making punchlines throughout the movie. I don’t hate the governor for that as I consider him a comedic actor whatever he acts in. ‘What killed the dinosaurs? The Ice Age!’ It’s priceless. Uma Thurman’s Poison Ivy is probably the only decent element in this mess, but she’s in no position to save the movie.
Batman & Robin buried the superhero until 2005’s Batman Begins. Nolan’s series became a huge success and renewed interest in Batman’s universe and its inhabitants. I’m excited about the upcoming TV series, ‘Gotham’. The story which will focus on the pre-caped superhero time sounds like a hit to me. I think Benjamin McKenzie as young James Gordon will do a good job. The intensity about his acting is something that should do justice to the righteous man who will later become the ally of Batman. I’m kind of worried about Jada Pinkett-Smith character, and at the same time I expect a lot from the younger actors. The series is supposed to premiere in fall this year on Fox.
‘Batman v Superman’ is another upcoming super production. But it is going to have Ben Affleck as Batman. Let’s leave it at that…
Batman and his world belongs to a treasure chest without bottom, money and idea-wise. There will always be people exploring different themes related to this creation and at the same time there will be folks fascinated by this hero. Everyone needs one, and because the world is not just black and white it’s much easier to relate to someone who is ‘gray’. There are some standards regarding different concepts and things but true perfection does not exist and same rules go for superheroes. When it comes to very character of Batman he is as realistic as it gets. Frankly, I like to believe that there is someone out there like that – a vigilante acting behind the scenes so that the world is a better place.