Christian Bale's turn as The Dark Knight came to an end three years ago, and now the time has come for someone else to take up the mantel... and no it's not Joseph Gordon-Levitt. When Ben Affleck was first announced as the new Caped Crusader people weren't really sure how to feel, but the first trailers for Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice seem to be showing a Batman that is much closer to the comic version than Bale's take was. This has sparked some backlash against the Nolanverse Batman, once hailed as the best cinematic take on the character, as fans are starting to look back on it with a more critical eye. We're now noticing all the irregularities and changes made to the character and the performance that either didn't make sense or just made him less like the classic Batman we all know and love. But was Christian Bale's Batman really all that bad? Surely he had some good points, right? Let's have a look.
1. His determination
One aspect of Batman that I think Bale really captured was the unbridled commitment and determination to overcome all odds. When this guy wants to achieve a goal he will achieve it, no matter how much he's beaten down. Ra's Al Ghul burns down his house, Batman defeats him. The Joker kills his childhood sweetheart, Batman defeats him. Bane breaks his back, takes all his stuff and puts him in a deep hole halfway around the world, Batman still defeats him. Well that's a weak argument, of course Batman always beats the bad guy in the end. But what I'm really talking about here is Bale's acting. You can see the confidence, drive and unflinching attitude just in his face. Well I can anyway.
2. His relationship with Alfred
This is one of the more endearing aspects of the trilogy in my opinion. You really get a sense of the bond that Alfred and Bruce share and just how much Alfred cares for him. Moreover, most of the conversational scenes between the two are quite charming. Some of Al's philosophical speeches do drag a little and are used mostly for exposition in the third instalment but what I enjoy most are all the smaller moments between the two: the jokey moments where they're sharing a quiet laugh and just being people as opposed to two headstrong men fighting a secret war for social and political justice. What makes this relationship so special both in the comics and the films is the fact that Alfred is pretty much the only person that Bruce feels truly relaxed and at home with, and I think this is displayed in The Dark Knight Trilogy.
3. His humour
A common complaint people have about the Nolan series is that Batman spends all his time moping and lacks a sense of humour. To those people I say this: did we watch the same films? I mean sure, Bruce Wayne is very serious and has a lot of hang ups, that's just part of his character, but Bat-Bale never showed a complete lack of humour. He makes dry quips all the time, sometimes to maintain a facade, other times just making witty banter with his butler. He even has the occasional little chuckle. Humour is a coping mechanism we all use, and while Bruce Wayne may be very good at suppressing his funny bone he is not totally incapable of cracking a funny every now and again.
4. His flaws
Yes I do see the irony here. The thing Bale-bashing Batman purists always hate most about the Nolanverse is Batman's pertained lack of "intelligence". OK, so this iteration of Bruce Wayne is not the amazing super-genius comic book fans are used to. He (for the most part) doesn't design or build his own tech, it all comes from Wayne Enterprises. But does this make him a lesser character? I feel like by limiting Batman's scientific knowledge they were trying to make him more vulnerable and believable. I mean let's face it, no real life person could be an expert in all the fields that Batman from the comics is supposedly an expert in, and the fact that he seeks help from friends like Lucius Fox makes him seem human. He's more like James Bond in these movies; an expert at using all his fancy gadgets without knowing too much about how they actually work.
1. His moral grey areas
I'm not gonna lie, this is something that frustrates me quite a bit. In the Nolanverse, Bruce Wayne adopts the "no-killing" rule that he has in the comics and most other versions. And boy does he preach about it. For the most part he sticks to this rule pretty stringently, but note how I said "for the most part". Remember the climax of Batman Begins? When Batman suddenly decided that not saving Ra's Al Ghul wouldn't count as killing him? That's some iffy logic if you ask me, and not the kind of thing Batman from the comics would do. Then there's the time he killed Harvey Dent (probably unavoidable under the circumstances) and the time he killed Miranda Tate aka Talia Al Ghul (I'm sure that could have been avoided). I know the Tim Burton Batman killed bad guys quite frequently, but that was fine because those films never established him as having any strict moral code. Here, it's is a defining aspect of his character and personality, so when he breaks his rule out of the blue it comes across as sloppy writing.
2. His look
When it comes right down to it this is a matter of personal taste, but there are certain aspects of Bale's bat-suit that just don't sit right with me. The designers must have thought it looked great, the director must have though it looked great and from a technical/practical standpoint it probably was great. That cowl though, it just looks weird. The ears curving inward, the fact that it's moulded so tightly around his mouth. I don't know, perhaps Bale just doesn't have the right look for it. The problem is that so much of Batman's character lies in his appearance, and if you don't get that spot on it can be a real drawback. The costume is as iconic as the man himself and unfortunately I don't think Nolan's crack team of wardrobe guys got it quite right. Despite this however, it's not god-awful.
3. His romantic chemistry
The fault here lies mainly with the writers, as the actors will have a hard time displaying romantic chemistry between their characters if there's virtually none in the script. Bruce and Rachel's bond was believable enough, they'd known each other since childhood and aside from Alfred she was the only remaining attachment to Bruce's lost youth, but introduce two new love interests in the third film and Bruce gets involved with both of them despite making no real connection. You could make the argument that Miranda/Talia was intentionally leading him on and Bruce was too emotionally desperate to turn down the offer, but that would be pretty out of character. You could also make the argument that Bruce and Selina's budding romance started out as just a crush, developing further in the time between Bruce's supposed death and Alfred spotting the two in Florence, but it would have been more satisfying to see some definite spark between them beforehand and not just one spur-of-the-moment kiss. The chemistry between these two should light the whole scene on fire, but it doesn't.
4. His voice
I know this is cliche, but it still has to be addressed. The voice used by Batman to hide his identity started out tolerable in Begins, but gradually became more and more silly in Dark Knight, before reaching positively ridiculous levels in Dark Knight Rises. Bale has stated that the reason he put on a silly voice was because he felt silly in the suit and that was the only way he could act through it. Some would say fair enough, but I'm tempted to say that just shows a lack of ability. Michael Keaton must have felt silly in the bat-suit too (he couldn't even turn his head without turning his whole torso) but he could still take it seriously enough to deliver a convincing and badass performance without doing some stupid, gravelly voice. Why couldn't Bale do the same? It's unfair to place all the blame on the actor though, as Mr. Nolan was listening the whole time and yet apparently chose to keep his mouth shut.
So that's my two cents on Christian Bale as Batman. He has his upsides, he has his downsides, but despite all that he's still the movie Batman I grew up with. Guess I'll always have a soft spot for him. Will Ben Affleck be better? We'll just have to see.