Since the announcement that Ben Affleck would be playing Batman in [Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice](movie:711870) , we've seen every sort of reaction, from anger and scornful hate to joy and quivering expectation. Personal feelings on the casting aside, just what sort of Batman might we see? Will he be a bruiser, a planner, a detective or a manipulator? All of these iterations of the character have appeared at one time or another. Batman first appeared in Detective Comics in 1939 and has been in a range of comics ever since and no two writers portray the character in exactly the same way.
So the real question is; which one will we see in Batman vs Superman and the following DCCU movies? First we'll look at the previous versions of the character in recent years, from films, comics and video games and then I'll suggest what I personally would like to see.
The most obvious is the most recent; BaleBat.
Yes, we all recognise the gravelly voice, the constant "where is she/he/it?" and the difficulties with dogs. I think we can all agree that Bale's Batman was definitely a bruiser, preferring to punch thugs and henchmen into the dirt with his fists than to take them out with gadgets. Not to say this doesn't have its advantages or that it's necessarily bad. Batman has, through most of his history, been someone who can take on huge groups of enemies and win. Not for nothing has he been referred to as one of the most dangerous martial artists in the world since the 1970s (perhaps earlier, I haven't read every comic) and it wouldn't be much of a movie if batman gotten beaten down by the mooks.
However, his most famous title "The World's Greatest Detective" is never mentioned and isn't really displayed. While it's true that he does track down villains (Scarecrow, Joker and eventually Bane), he usually does it by scaring low level enforcers or by using the technology available to him. We never see Nolanverse Batman squat down at a crime scene and work it all out with his brains and experience. Instead, he rushes home to the makeshift batcave and uses his handy mini gun and batcomputer to do all the work for him.
Apart from not acting like a detective at crime scenes, we never got to see Batman pull a classic line that showed he absolutely knew who a Superhero or villain was and had chosen to keep that a secret. With such a small cast and such a toned down, gritty theme, it's not surprising we never saw one of these but it is still a thing that was missing.
In his defence, we did get to see him creep around and use stealth to take out bad guys, though mostly in the first movie of the trilogy. In fact, some people think that Balebat peaked in Batman begins, as his voice was less ridiculous, his gadgets cooler and his tactics were more batlike.
Finally, planning. BaleBat never really had any plans, apart from becoming a symbol to inspire fear in the superstitious and cowardly criminals of Gotham. When going up against the Joker, he rarely thinks more than about five seconds ahead (see; driving the Tumbler into the path of the rocket, swerving so that he crashed in stead of just driving past the joker, allowing the Joker to dictate the terms of every fight they got into). Maybe I'm wrong, but the Batman I've read for years and years has had a plan for every eventuality, even for when his friends go bad.
So while I'm sure we all enjoyed the Dark Knight Trilogy very much, there are definitely a few things that could be improved by the newest version of Batman.
Next up; Batdouche.
For those that escaped the painful experience that was Frank Miller's All Star Batman and Robin, the series showed the beginning of Batman's career and the forming of the now legendary partnership in a very different way. While there were many differences, the biggest was clear; Batman was an obnoxious turd. While Batman is rarely a very sensitive fellow, he almost always stops short of just plain being someone who abuses and insults those around him.
Not only that, but he was somewhat... unorthodox in his training of Robin. After spiriting Dick Grayson away from the scene of his parent's murder, Batman decided the best way to make him tougher was to leave him in the batcave, pointed him in the direction of some weapons, mention loudly how many rats there were around the place and then tell him he wasn't getting any food. Yes, that's right, he told him it was rat meat or starvation. To say nothing of the time he punched him in the face. He wasn't mind controlled or anything, he was just an awful, awful guardian.
So, now I've covered some of the reasons that All Star shouldn't be used as source material, let's think of some of the reasons it could be. First, Batman makes sure that he chooses the playing field. When he meets with Green lantern, he does it in an abandoned building, the interior of which he has the boy wonder paint yellow. This is why in the preceding and following pictures Batman and Robin are both yellow. As any Lantern fan will know, Green Lantern has a long standing weakness to the colour and so he was left almost powerless before Batman and Robin.
Secondly, he enjoys being Batman. He laughs in glee when he's jumping from rooftop to rooftop and has a grin like a maniac when he puts his foot into some low life's face. Too often we see Batman as someone who hates what he's doing or at least takes no pleasure in it, as someone who pursues the crusade with only the passion of someone doing their duty. All Star's Batman, however, loved every second of his nightly life, however, and relished every opportunity to punish the criminals he held responsible for his parents murder.
I'd be the last person to suggest taking inspiration from All Star Batman and Robin but he scores over Bale for having so much fun (only ever dropping into "MY PARENTS ARE DEAD!" mode once) and for his use of his greatest weapon; prep time.
And now, the Batman with the most Screen time to date.
Yes, it's true. If you count all the games together and compare it to, say, Batman the Animated Series, then Arkhamverse Batman comes out on top.
This entry does, of course, seem a little out of place. When talking about methods of story telling, video games are mostly left out in the cold. And, while I see that there are a lot of differences, I think that we should look at this Batman as well as he has some very good points.
First off, ArkhamBat has a huge edge on both the previously mentioned Bats in one of his most iconic areas; gadgets. In the Arkham games, players get to play with a huge variety of gadgets, from electric fists to freeze grenades and remote controlled batarangs to explosive gel. In a video games, there's of course a lot more time and space to discover and learn the ins and outs of gadgets so we should expect him to have more. But the best gadget we got in the Nolanverse was a set of spikes he could fire from his arms that were used once. I'm not asking to be told in a film exactly how a gadget works, just given the gist and allowed to see it a couple of times.
Secondly, ArkhamBat is the World's Greatest Detective. Sure, he relies on high tech aides like the appropriately named detective vision but he spends time at crime scenes examining the minutiae and reconstructing precisely what happened to who and how. The most recent instalment of the series added the ability to rewind and fast forward what had happened as the crimes were committed so that the player could spot vital details. That's the sort of stuff I like to see.
While video games as a medium have some strengths, they require a very different type of writing and can easily miss the mark. One of the weaknesses of this series in particular was that Batman was a complete doormat. Throughout the first and second games, Batman was prepared to dance to someone else's tune and fulfil the requests of villains like the Hugo Strange and the Joker to protect innocents. A more Batmanesque response might have been to try and rescue the hostages rather than rely on known killers to safeguard them. The reason for this weakness is quite obvious of course. Rocksteady studios (the studio responsible for most of the Arkham Games) needed the plot to move forward but couldn't really give the players much freedom to act in case they didn't act like Batman. I see the logic but Batman still came off as extremely passive throughout the whole series.
One last pro for ArkhamBat is that he was a true predator in the night. During the parts of the game called Predator Challenges, Batman would be stuck in a room with a group of armed henchmen. The game allowed for all sorts of different methods of terrifying them, separating them and knocking them out one by one. I mean, who wouldn't want to see a classic inverted takedown in live action?
All of the things I'm going to say here have already been mentioned, but I'd like to clear it out anyway.
- 1. More detective working using his brains and not a computer
- 2. Planning, particularly contingency plans for allies
- 3. Lines showing him to be the smartest guy in the room
- 4. Clear enjoyment of persecuting his crusade against crime
- 5. Gadgets that are used in a more offhand way, rather than being introduced
- Picking off a group of enemies one by one
Are my ideas reasonable? Sensible? Possible? Probable? Let me know in the comments.
If my summary of recent Batmen is helpful, you're welcome.