I love Batman. I have since I was a kid. You know what got me hooked? Adam West. I remember watching the ’66 TV series re-runs on a local station with my grandpa. At the time I took it all as fairly serious. I was a kid, I had no idea there was so much tongue-n-cheek stuff going on right before my eyes! The reality was that was Batman, in costume, and he drove a real Batmobile, that he parked in a hidden bat cave! Sure some of the costumes and sets were antiquated, but the colorful, fun, and cliffhanger-an-episode approach was perfect for kids even decades later.
The 1989 Batman by Tim Burton, I can also say proudly that I’m able to quote almost verbatim. It was a darker, more twisted take to be sure, but the upgraded tech (including the greatest Batmobile ever conceived) made Gotham seem all the more dangerous. Go back and watch, that movie goes in some really creepy places that could easily unnerve younger viewers. Likewise, and to a greater extent was Batman Returns which famously upped the “Burton-y” aspects of the characters and led to a gross, disturbing vision even more perverse than it’s predecessor.
The Schumacher films are what they are. No need to rehash any long diatribes for them of all the terrible issues with each film. Yes, he gave the Batsuit nipples. Yes, Arnold’s dialogue was basically a series of groan-inducing puns. Moving on.
The Nolan trilogy really grounded the characters and world with Batman Begins, and even with some big plot holes The Dark Knight has a tone and performances that just draw audiences in, and rightfully so. The Dark Knight Rises, at least in my view, reached too far and came up short in several places as a result. For me the conclusion of Nolan’s universe might be the greatest Bruce Wayne story ever told, but definitely not the best Batman story committed to film.
So here we are, about a year away from Batman’s next big screen incarnation in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. You no doubt have seen the latest teaser trailer, and for the record I’m rooting for Ben Affleck to prove detractors wrong. Daredevil wasn’t a great film, but Affleck wasn’t the main issue. I can clearly see why Affleck fits the bill of Bruce Wayne – a billionaire playboy – but I am curious to see how he pulls-off the weathered, weary version of the World’s Greatest Detective.
We’ve seen multiple origin stories, so I applaud Zack Snyder and Warner Bros. for even trying to give us a different take on the character rather than recycle the same scenario every decade or so. That said, like many I worry about trying to setup way too much back story in a single film with this approach, and how to handle the overall tone with these two very different superheroes. I think Man of Steel got some things right and others wrong. It wasn’t perfect, though I did appreciate some of the modernization, but my hope for a true sequel complete with a more earnest, positive Superman brightly leading the American way looks all but dashed.
We all know Bats won’t kill Supes. We all know they’ll side together and go about kicking villainous ass in future films. To borrow a phrase from The Dark Knight – “Why so serious?” I get that DC is taking a more grounded, grittier (ugh) approach to these characters, but it’s still escapism. I want to see a high-flying Superman save a kid from a burning building. I want to see crazy Batman tech fully on display with Batmobiles, Batwings, Bat Shark Repellent and more. I want to see Clark call Batman “Bruce” while in costume, and I want Bruce to tell Clark he’s miscalculated where Bruce didn’t. The two play well off each other if done correctly, and could do so on the big screen without all of the dark, moody visuals and depressing overtones.
We’ll have to wait and see what happens. Right now Suicide Squad has me more than a bit concerned, and Leto-Joker, while provocative, still makes me a bit nervous about the approach to a larger DC cinematic universe. I hope it’s great, but if it isn’t it won’t be too long before DC dusts Batman off for another comeback that could be better than ever. It’s like Alfred always says – “Why do we fall? So that we can learn how to pick ourselves up.” Here’s hoping for another great take on a long-loved hero!
(With fingers-crossed just in case).