With the wildly anticipated Ben Affleck helmed #TheBatman set to release sometime in 2018 — alongside the myriad of origin stories coming our way for each Justice League member — the DC Extended Universe might finally take the well-needed step out of the middling mediocrity that it's been paddling in thus far (skip to the comments for the angry people telling me I'm wrong).
The Batman in particular is exciting for a number of reasons, not least because it finally puts DC's most iconic hero at the forefront of the #DCEU. Alongside his buddy Superman, #Batman has long been the flagship hero of DC. The comic book titan even took its name from their wildly successful series Detective Comics, the title which first introduced the caped crusader to the world way back in the late 1930s.
Even now Batman's popularity reigns. He's transcended #comicbooks to become the face of the superhero genre, his stamp upon movies, books, video games, the DC Animated Universe and more merchandise than you can shake a Batarang at. There's even been studies and entire textbooks dedicated to exploring the psyche of the caped crusader, his influence resonating beyond just the popular sphere and into academia.
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But for the vastness of his influence, it's not unfair to say that there hasn't quite been a movie which has fully captured the full sphere of what it means to be Batman — especially when it comes to the contemporary offerings.
The Darkest Knight
Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy was a pinnacle move in laying the groundwork for the superhero movie to become the worldwide phenomenon it has today, and The Dark Knight still stands as one of the best entries in the genre to date. Christian Bale's turn as Batman gave us what is commonly accepted to be the "essence" of Batman — one side is Bruce Wayne, faux-playboy, whilst the other truer side of Bruce is the dark and tormented Batman.
This is not an incorrect interpretation of Batman. It runs contrary to earlier, more "camp" versions of the character we saw in the '90s movies and in the Batman TV show of the '60s, but that's just contemporary cinema for you. Nobody wants to see Batman and Robin using Shark Repellent Spray anymore (which really is a tragedy in itself).
The dark and brooding Nolan Batman shares a great many similarities with the DCEU version brought to us by Affleck and Zack Snyder. It wouldn't be a stretch to say they're two versions of the same interpretation of Batman. But this version of Batman is not the only one.
Two Sides Of The Same Coin
The great and terrible thing about comic book superheroes — especially one as old and steeped in history as Batman is — is that there are many many different versions of the character written under the same banner. These character types change depending on the socio-political contexts of the time, and who happens to be writing them.
In different periods we've had the super dark and brooding Batman, we've had a Batman who kills, a camp Batman, a Batman who has manly bonding time with Superman and cried over tentacle sex, and a Batman who spanks female villains to teach them a lesson. And then of course you have DC's multiverse model, which opens up a whole other can of bats.
The point is, there's lots of different way to tell Batman's story. And one thing that has long been missing from the movie Batman — Batman & Robin aside, because let's just not talk about that — is the Batfamily. They are very important in the comics, because they are the support network which keeps Batman grounded. They open up a very important part of Batman's character, which is his deep understanding of humanity.
The Man Within The Bat
This nuanced side of him isn't limited to early Batman stories, its a common theme running through most of his recent history. The current DC Rebirth run also features the more sensitive side of Batman. Batman Issue 6 features a scene between Batman and newbie superhero Gotham Girl (Claire Clover), who has just witnessed the death of her brother and fellow superhero, Gotham (Henry Clover Jr.).
Gotham Girl shaves her head and begins talking to her dead brother as she sets about her vigilantism. Batman recognizes that her erratic behavior is indicative of her grieving process, and he steps in to talk to her. He reveals his identity of Bruce Wayne to her, tells her the story of when he lost his own parents, and he holds her whilst she cries.
It's a side of Batman we don't see all that often — especially in the movies — but it's an important one. It's the humanity in him that stops him from becoming a killer, it's what pits him against Superman in the now-popular Injustice spin-off comic, because he knows where to draw the line between right and wrong, and he never compromises on that.
In fact, this is a pretty important contrast to make, and it's one of the reasons that he and Superman sometimes clash in the comics (see The Dark Knight Returns).
The Real Batman v Superman
Batman is an undeniable badass, but he's also human. This is what separates him from heroes like Superman. Superman loves humanity, he wants to protect it. Batman, on the other hand, he understands it, though he may not actually like it all that much.
Batman knows what it's like to be the victim. He's an effective hero because of his trauma, because he understands the pain of others. And this is a side of him which we haven't really seen so far in the DCEU. As the League forms around him as the shared universe moves forward, he will have to learn to work with others, and trust in them too.
This doesn't mean we want to see Batman sitting around talking about his feelings all day though, heck no. We want to see Batman punching bad guys, we want to see him clashing with the other Justice League heroes as he starts banding the merry bunch together.
But it would be nice to see a little more more of a nuanced version of the character in the DCEU — it would certainly make up for some of the critical failings of the franchise so far. Show that he has this capacity, and he becomes more than an angry rich dude in a costume punching bad guys, he becomes the Batman.
One definition of the superhero is that of a hero who combines the God-like abilities of the Greco-Roman heroes of myth with the human flaws of Judeo-Christian heroes. The DCEU's Batman has the potential to really nail this contrast, if the filmmakers are able to get to grips with the humanity of the Batman. And failing that, at the end of the day, it's probably going to be better than Batman v Superman was (and back to the angry comments we go).
Which is your favorite Batman movie? Sound off in the comments, and check out the trailer for Batman's next outing — The LEGO Batman Movie — below!