Why Casual Audiences Don’t Get Batman
Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice is less than a year away from release. When it was first announced that Ben Affleck would don the cowl, the Internet went into a rage. But the tone soon changed upon the release of the official trailer. What fans were expecting to be a total disaster actually turned out to be what might be the best representation of Batman to date. Non-comic book readers, going off big screen depictions alone, can’t possibly understand the true depth and richness of the Caped Crusader. Causal fans aren’t necessarily known for being avid comic book readers so it’s not surprising that so many people think that Christian Bale was the definitive Batman. Casual fans often have a difficult time figuring out how Batman could possibly hold his own against opponents more powerful than he is; Superman, for example. Here’s a breakdown of why Christian Bale may not be the most accurate depiction of Batman and why Batman can and does hold his own against the likes of Superman:
First let’s explore the films:
Batman and Batman Returns:
The closest movie version of Batman we’ve seen to the comics is Tim Burton’s original Batman (1989). While some people may have enjoyed Val Kilmer and George Clooney’s portrayals, it can be said with a good deal of confidence that neither were very true to the character or the source material. Burton’s Batman movies received a bit of criticism for being too dark but as avid comic book readers know, there is no such thing as too dark when it comes to the Dark Knight.
What really made these two movies stick out were Michael Keaton’s portrayal of Bruce Wayne and Jack Nicholson’s portrayal of the Joker. While Heath Ledger’s Joker was an amazing feat in acting, Nolan’s version of the Joker wasn’t exactly source and was a complete re-imagining of the Batman universe
Val Kilmer did a decent job of Bruce Wayne but unfortunately, the movie didn’t deliver what can be considered a true Batman. After the criticisms received about the darkness of the first two films, Warner Brothers decided to take a lighter, more family friendly approach to the franchise. The problem is that the movie sacrificed plot and depth of character for commercial appeal. Though Batman Forever was considered a box office success, it falls flat when comparing it to its predecessors.
Batman and Robin:
Arguably one of the worst movies ever made and considered by many to be an insult to the Batman mythos. George Clooney’s portrayal of the Dark Knight is by far the worst version to hit the big screen. In fact, Clooney even went on to apologize to fans for his performance saying: “I think since Batman and Robin that I’ve been disinvited from Comic-Con for 20 years. I see the comment sections on all you guys. I just met Adam West there [referring to behind the NYCC main stage] and I apologized to him. Sorry about the nipples on the suit. Freeze, freeze, I apologize for that.”
Even director Joel Schumacher apologized for the film.
Needless to say, Batman and Robin was not only a terrible adaptation of Batman, but a terrible movie in general.
Dark Knight Trilogy:
Overall, this trilogy was a cinematic masterpiece. Nolan is a genius filmmaker and Bale is a brilliant actor. But as good as these films are, they aren’t necessarily true to the source material. Casual fans consider Nolan’s films to be the quintessential Batman movies and Bale, the definitive Batman. But for die-hard fans that read the comics, Nolan’s movies are a far cry from the definitive Batman that comic book fans know and love. Nolan’s Batman was a non-cannon, closed universe with a definitive beginning and end. The Dark Knight trilogy was Nolan’s interpretation of a real-life Batman and what it would be like if he existed in today’s political climate. Though the trilogy wasn’t perfect, it is considered by most people to be the three best Batman films to date. However, true comic book fans mostly agree that Nolan’s Batman films, as great as they may be, are not the most accurate depiction of the character.
The comic book version of Batman has far more depth and is far more interesting than has thus far been seen in the movies. Here are some examples of why casual fans might be missing out by not being familiar with the source material:
It’s true that the comic book Batman has had far more time to progress and evolve than the movie versions have but the films have only touched the surface of the complexities of his character. Part of what makes Batman such a successful crime fighter is his team. It could be argued that without his network of friends Batman would be lost. Characters such as Barbra Gordon/Batgirl/Oracle, Luscious Fox, Dick Greyson/Nightwing, Robin and of course, Alfred are the real backbone of Batman’s organization.
Thus far we’ve seen no serious attempt to do Robin or Batgirl any real justice onscreen and we’ve yet to see Oracle at all. The Dark Knight trilogy did a decent job at showcasing Luscious Fox’s contribution to the network but it would be nice to see the entire team work together in future movies.
Working with other Superheroes:
Everybody knows that Batman is a tactical genius. But his tactical skills are best displayed when he’s heading up operations on Justice League missions or when he is forced to bring down an ally. Nothing showcases this ability to outsmart his opponent like the Tower of Babel storyline. In this comic, Batman devices a contingency plan that exposes the weaknesses of every member of the Justice League so that they are able to be defeated if need be. Batman is without question the brain behind the Justice League; he’s the strategic force behind many of the team’s successes and is often considered the team leader. Movie fans are accustomed to seeing Batman mostly work alone or at least not with superheroes on par with or more powerful than himself. It’s interesting to see Batman teamed up with different superheroes; we get to see different parts of his character emerge that don’t necessarily make it onto the big screen.
Batman is a brilliant problem solver; after-all he is known as the world’s greatest detective. His problem solving skills put Sherlock Holmes to shame. More important than his physical strength and his gadgets is his sharp mind and his ability to put together a crime scene better than any cop out there. Though they’ve touched on it, so far no movie has truly captured the depth of his detective skills. See Grant Morrison’s material for some perfect examples of how great the world’s greatest detective really is. To date, the best showcase of Batman’s detective skills, outside of the comic book medium, is the Arkham Trilogy video games where his problem solving skills really get to shine. For examples that truly show Batman’s detective skills check out the following comics:
· The Long Halloween
· Dark Victory
· Heart of Hush
· Batman & The Monster Men
· Dead Reckoning
His Emotional Side:
Despite the misconceptions, Batman isn’t all doom and gloom. He has a soft spot for the underdog and can be an excellent role model. Underneath the darkness, Bruce Wayne does have a caring side that we’ve pretty much never seen on the big screen. From the time he took Carrie Kelley under his wing to the time he cried after reading a letter from his dead father, there are more than a few moments in the comics that show Bruce’s softer side
So far we’ve yet to see a true comic book adaptation of Batman on the big screen. Those that aren’t familiar with the source material can’t truly understand the depth of the character and what he’s really capable of. There are many layers to this character that haven’t yet explored on the big screen and so many untold stories that have shaped and molded Batman though all the years. As it stands now, the upcoming Batman Vs. Superman movie appears likely to be the most accurate depiction of Batman that we’ve seen thus far. Fingers crossed.
- Written By Jonathan Osterman