With all the backlash over Warner Bros. decision to cast Ben Affleck as the next Batman, I've seen quite a few people lamenting the fact that we can't just keep Christian Bale as Batman for the foreseeable future. I however am not among them. Christian Bale is not my Batman. Now before I go any further, I want to state that this is just my opinion and that there is no right or wrong Batman. When a character has been around for 75yrs and is STILL relevant, it's only through constant reinvention and reinterpretation. Therefore there is no one Batman. Batman is a campy, brightly colored clown. Batman is a dark brooding sadist. Batman is a modern Sherlock Holmes. Batman can be anything to anyone. So with that established let me reiterate, Christian Bale is not MY Batman, though he may be yours.
When I first saw a trailer for Batman Begins, I was psyched. It looked like they were finally going to do Batman right. All I kept hearing about the movie was how this movie was striving for realism and would be a sharp departure from the last Batman movie, the much maligned Batman and Robin. I couldn't wait to see it. And then I finally did. And I liked it...I thought. It was certainly better than Batman and Robin, hell, dried vomit is better than Batman and Robin. But there were things that kept nagging at me. One was the Batmobile. It was turned from a slick bat-themed sports car to an urban assault vehicle. I guess that made more sense, I mean why would he decorate his car to look like a bat in real life? The next thing was the suit. They turned it into a sort of armor made from different pieces and airbrushed black. I guess that made more sense. Why would he wear a rubber suit with a huge bat symbol on it in real life? They used a real city for Gotham because it looked more realistic than the stylized Gothic architectures that were obviously sound stages in Tim Burton's bat films. All of this made sense but I started to realize something. They made Batman look ridiculous. When you base everything on the real world and make it all hyper realistic and then you drop a guy in a batsuit, (and no matter how you try to rationalize it, it's still a batsuit) into that world, suddenly the idea that someone would dress up as a bat and fight crime becomes absurd. You can make Batman serious without having to explain a practical reason for all his gadgets. Look at the Animated Series, they never played Batman as a joke, but he still had a batmobile and a grey and blue batsuit with a big yellow emblem on it.
The Dark Knight was such an amazing movie that I became very pro Nolan for a while. Heath Ledgers Joker was just such a powerful performance that I forgot about the flaws in the Nolanverse. I didn't even mind the Joker wearing makeup instead of being permanently colored white. I didn't care that all that "The hero that Gotham needs/deserves" crap kind of made no sense, or that the two face arc (okay, the whole 3rd act) seemed unnecessary. I didn't even dawn on me for a while afterward that the batsuit in The Dark Knight looks even less like a proper batsuit and more like motorcycle gear. Much like with Begins, it took me a bit to admit to myself the flaws in the movie. Or ever worse, that *gasp* Heath Ledger may not have been the best Joker for ever , period. Heath Ledgers joker was amazing, I'll admit, but he wasn't very funny. I get that, again, a sick psychopath is more realistic than a Joker who cracks Jokes when he kills like Jack Nicholson. But if you go back and watch Jack Nicholsons Joker, you'll realize that he was just a psychotic and violent as Heath Ledgers, just....more over the top. Another thing that helps the idea of Batman not to seem so ludicrous is when his villains are even weirder than him.
The Dark Knight Rises is what really did it for me. I realized that the world that Nolan had painstakingly created just could not support a Batman. Batman has a sort of aerial vehicle that he calls "The Bat" and it's just ridiculous. Against the grim and gritty backdrop of real life Gotham, a flying hovercraft vehicle for Batman just seems absurd. They never call Selina Kyle Catwoman in the movie, and yet the have her flip up her goggles in such a fashion as to resemble her cat woman costume from the comics. It's just stupid. Either commit to Catwoman or dress her in a functional pants suit, don't do something in between. The best way that I can sum it up is that Batman in real life wouldn't work, that's why there isn't a real Batman. So if you try to simulate real life on the big screen but toss Batman into it, it just doesn't work.
Now I'm not saying that in order for Batman to work, he has to have a batplane, a batboat, Ace The Bathound, and fight the Joker on top of giant piano's. It's just that in most other medium, Batman exists in a world of Aliens, Meta Humans, Gods and Monsters. He's allowed to be a little eccentric. He's allowed to have a car that's bat themed whether it makes sense or not. He's allowed to dress up in a form fitting suit that doesn't look like plate-mail armor.
And that's just some of the problems I have with the Christian Bale Batman. I also don't like the heavy handed way he fights (and again, the armor is a factor). Batman wouldn't just stand and trade blows with Bane. He'd use flips, and pressure points, and other tactics to take him down. I know a lot has been said about Bales Batman voice, so I won't harp on it.
So by this point I'm sure you're wondering WHO is my Batman? Well honestly, as much as I love Michael Keatons Batman, I still haven't seen my perfect batman represented on the big screen....in live action anyway.
My Batman will always be Kevin Conroy the Batman from the Animated Series.
But as far as the movies are concerned, maybe Ben Affleck will be the one? And if he's not, he'll still be A Batman, and that's something most of us never get to be.