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Batman of the Comics vs. Movie Batmen


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A good friend recently referred to me as "fountain of knowledge" regarding all things Batman.

 

He was far too generous, I assure you.

 

However, if I had to, I would probably describe myself as more of an extreme "fountain of opinions" when it comes to the most effective ways (at least for ME) to depict the characters of The Batman mythology (regardless of the medium). :lol:

 

Yes, I am knowledgeable about these characters from my nearly 40 years of reading (mostly) Batman comics, and being exposed to Batman-related merchandising, animations and films. Unfortunately, even I must admit that my "knowledge" can actually get in the way of enjoying interpretations of the character that stray from the classic comic book norm.

 

Case in point:

 

I have YET to actually enjoy a single live-action Batman film... LEAST of all the Chris Nolan ones. Now judging from how successful those films were, I know that many people reading this post will VEHEMENTLY disagree with me and my stated opinions. And that's okay. Despite how opinionated I am on this subject, I really don't want ANYONE to get the impression that I am disrespectful of their views if they differ from my own.

 

Having said that, please indulge my ridiculously nerdy rant.

 

As I said, I have NEVER liked ANY live-action movie portrayals of my favorite hero: The Batman. From the casting (by Director Tim Burton) of short, balding comedian Michael Keaton in 1989 as the lead…

 

… to the smart-alec portrayal by Val Kilmer and the shakey-headed, homo-erotic portrayal by George Clooney (both under the direction of Joel Schumacher)…

 

… and now to the horrendously grunting, un-skilled, un-graceful portrayal of Christain Bale (helmed by Chris Nolan)…

 

… the live action Batman films continue to miss the mark (as far as I am concerned) in presenting an ideal (or even accurate) representation of the mythology as seen in the comics.

 

With so many factors in these films that I object to, I will randomly pick TWO or THREE to begin this discussion with and we will go from there:

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THE BATMAN’S COSTUME

 

For me, I have always found something so pure, clean, and basic about The Batman (and Robin's) classic comic book costumes. The outfits have always beautifully reflected the gothic, swash-buckling heroism, vivid color and extreme circumstance of the comic book world of Gotham City.

 

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I must say, that from the VERY BEGINNING when The Batman films were announced, I always strongly objected to the notion that The Batman needed to wear any kind of protective armor to wage his war against Gotham's criminal element.

 

Now, I know that this idea was NOT introduced first in Tim Burton’s 1989 film. In fact, Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns (1986 comic book mini-series) depicted this idea a full 3 years before Burton's "Batman".

 

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But I believe that the character's overall movie look (with all that silly armor) suffered tremendously by becoming, less elegant, less gothic, less colorful, less sleek, overly lanky, overly sculpted, and far too high-tech. In some instances, the character has resembled a darn electric shaver gone wrong. Robo Cop in a Bat-cape.

 

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To me, the Batman character is so much more skilled, so much more elegant, so much more mysterious and spooky than to require something as basic and common and humanly-ordinary as protective armor. It is beneath him as a character. I'm always puzzled by the logic of (movie) Batman fans who suggest that the armor is really a NECESSITY (particularly in Nolan's Batman films), because it is (supposedly) more "realistic" for a non-superpowered man to protect himself out among gun-fire.

 

"Realistic"? Really? Well I think that there is NOTHING "realistic" about a man who dresses up as a BAT and hunts criminals from rooftops and back alleys. So I think we can put aside the "realistic" justification. After all, this is SUPPOSED to be a fantasy.

 

However, if “realism” is what you insist upon when examining the merits of this "armor-clad" Batman, well then… let’s proceed.

 

Alright...

 

Could someone please explain to me why is it that despite wearing this "protective" armor (in the movies) does The Batman have so many battle scars across his back chest, abdomen, and arms (as seen in Nolan's "The Dark Knight"). I mean, I KNOW why Bruce Wayne is so badly scarred in the comics (since for the most part, he wears NO ARMOR as The Batman). But why does the movie "protective" armor seem to FAIL to protect him so much?

 

At the opening scenes of Nolan's "The Dark Knight", The Batman's arm is mauled and injured by a an attack dog (who presumably bit through a "seam" in the armor). Ouch!

 

In "Batman Begins" The Scarecrow sets The Batman on fire and sends him tumbling out of a window, crying for Alfred to help him... only to have a LUCKY RAINFALL (!) douse the flames. So... am I to presume that this "high-tech" "protective" suit is not fire-resistant?

 

Okay.

 

Let's go even further back: How about in 1992's "Batman Returns", where The Batman battled Catwoman on a rooftop, and she actually stabbed THROUGH his "protective" armor with her damned cat claws! Meow!!

 

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So, let's re-cap: The (movie) Batman's "protective" armor does NOT protect against a variety of slashing and stabbing weapons or even doggy fido's bite (as evidenced by the criss-cross of scars on Bruce Wayne's torso and arms). The armor is NOT flame-resistant (as evidenced by the scene in "Batman Begins"), and it does NOT protect against a cat dame and her friggin' press-on fingernails.

 

Wow! That's... some "protective" armor. Of course, let us NOT forget how badly it limits his speed, agility, and natural movements.

 

My view: The Batman DOES NOT NEED ARMOR! He does NOT need it anymore than James Bond, or Indiana Jones, or Detective John McClane (from the Die Hard movies), or Frank Martin (from the "Transporter" movies), or Daredevil have needed it in their respective films.

 

To those who insist that The Batman (whether in movies OR in comics) should wear armor because it is more "realistic": I suggest that by your logic, The Joker, The Riddler, Catwoman, Two Face, The Penguin... THEY all need armor too!! With hardened psychotics and criminals like them always being hunted by the Police or by rival criminals (all of them heavily-armed), shouldn't THEY have armor too, then?

 

Of course, the villains do NOT wear armor in Gotham City because, dramatically-speaking, it is silly and pointless for them to do so. In my view, it is equally pointless for The Batman.

 

Furthermore, The Batman wearing armor destroys so many of the potentially dramatic possibilities of the character. With our hero dressed only in tights and the heavy cape, he is essentially working WITHOUT a net. Therefore he’d better be VERY good at what he does… or he could end up dead. NECESSITY, then, is what makes him so skilled, so precise, so elegant. Despite this, he is occasionally injured very badly, staggering home to Wayne Manor just barely alive, requiring the medical services of his combat-medic trained butler Alfred to save his life.

 

Wearing the armor just makes him an ordinary Joe in a bat-suit who clumsily marches into gun-fire (like the laughably BAD opening scene of Tim Burton’s 1989 “Batman”). While dressed in protective armor, virtually anybody (with enough money and insantity) could be Batman. Nothing special there.

 

But without armor, only a supremely-trained, olympic-level athlete, and incomparable martial artist could pull it off. An extraordinary man. This is Bruce Wayne.

 

The extensive 12-year training (in the Far East) in all of the various Martial Arts disciplines, ninja stealth techniques (like shadow cloaking, and deception), mastery of throwing weapons, escape artistry, meditation and mastery of body… THESE are the true “weapons” that a spooky, gothic, night avenger like The Batman would utilize. Restrictive armor would actually hinder those skills (for the most part).

 

A thug facing off against (a properly-depicted version of) The Batman in a dark alley would never stand a chance… even without this silly movie armor. By the time the startled hood thinks to draw his weapon and fire, he would be emptying his clip at an empty shadow. The Dark Knight would then appear from behind the loser, (emerging from yet another shadow, or a wall of steam or whatever) to take him out quickly and efficiently.

 

I understand all about depicting things "realistically" in a modern Batman film. But as I see it, at some point you have to let the fact that this is a FANTASY ADVENTURE shine through. And the two concepts are NOT mutually-exclusive. It IS possible to depict a fantasy adventure within a very realistic setting. But as a writer (or filmmaker), you must first TRUST the audience to suspend disbelief enough to accept a man who wears a Bat-suit and leaps off of 40-story tall buildings to fight crime.

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The Batman has existed as a successful, powerful, and iconic comic book character for over 70 years, and yet no live-action filmmaker seems to be willing to TRUST that he will resonate well with audiences (as a fantasy-adventure character) un-changed from the original (comic book) source material. The creators of the Batman films are so out of touch with this character that they have NO CLUE how best to present him.

 

Right down to the simple, basic things like how best to have The Batman wear his cape, the filmmakers always get it wrong.

 

The Batman would NOT wear his cape thrown over his shoulders and with his chest puffed out (like, say, Superman).

 

Instead, The Batman would wear his cape in the tradition of vigilant CONSTABLES and night watchmen who patrol the rain-slick night streets of gothic European cities while wearing their cape CLOSED in front of them. Wearing the garment in this way allows for the hands to be concealed so that they can produce weaponry from the utility belt as a surprise.

 

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Besides which, wearing the cape closed gives the character a far more gothic and stately silhouette outline. A tall figure, outfitted in that way, and standing motionless in a steam-filled alley is creepy and un-nerving.

 

But a guy wearing a high-tech, overly sculpted body-suit of armor with a cape flipped back over his shoulders, and speaking in a painfully forced growl just looks... well… silly.

 

The (movie) Batman is always shown with his cape flipped back over his shoulders so as to show off that butt-ugly sculpted suit (even though logically he would have it closed in from of him).

 

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At least Michael Keaton wore his cape correctly for a couple of scenes in ’89 and ‘92! But I guess these days you simply CANNOT cover up a multi-million dollar movie bat-suit with a cape… even if that IS the best way to depict the character.

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THE BATMAN’S METHOD OF OPERATION

 

I think that screenwriters and filmmakers who depict the Batman as overly high-tech while he is out on the streets (wearing Kevlar armor, using digital laser-guided weapons, driving a darn Sherman Tank, etc.) completely miss the point about how this character really functions as a dual crime fighter: In effect, he is an ominous (no-tech) warrior on the streets / and a high-tech detective in the cave of operations.

 

Out on the street, The Batman is more about his (no-tech) “gimmick” of being spooky and gothic… an apparition… a shadowy night avenger who may or may not be human and keeps a VERY low-profile. He’s the “urban legend” hero who most Gothamites have never gotten a look at, and wonder if he even truly exists. Only a few know better. He’s the guy who takes out street vermin with supreme efficiency and no mercy. Much more “Dracula” than “James Bond”. "Warrior Batman".

 

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At The Batman's secret cave of operations, that is where you will find all of the latest (high-tech) “toys”… employed by our hero always for the sake of investigations, forensics, ballistics, and detective work. This is "High-tech Batman".

 

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CHARACTER PORTRAYAL / SCENE STAGING

 

The movie Batman has entire (silly-looking) scenes where he is chatting it up with Commissioner Gordon on a rooftop (or whatever), instead of just being the MINIMALIST character that he SHOULD be.

 

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Ideally, The Batman hardly speaks at all. And when he does, speak, it should be a grim 2 or 3 words. That’s it. He is supposed to be a creepy specter (kinda like Michael Myers in “Halloween”). The more silent he is, the creepier… the more un-nerving he becomes. But in the movies he just talks way too darn much, and he comes off as just a goofy dude wearing a silly get-up.

 

The "Dark Knight" featured what is probably the most horrendously laughable scene (in terms of staging) from ANY of the previous Batman films. The Joker's interrogation:

 

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For me, the really sad part about this particular scene is that if it had been staged and directed by someone who truly understood these characters, it could have been FAR more interesting and dramatic, while at the same time being much more cinematically "realistic", and not nearly as silly looking / laughable as it was.

 

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Allow me to illustrate:

 

In the FIRST PLACE, (as a filmmaker) I would NEVER have allowed a shadowy “urban legend” like The Batman to appear in a such a publicly populated, well-lit place (complete with surveillance cameras) like Gotham Police Station. It dampens his “mystique” considerably, and (again) just makes him a guy in a funny suit.

 

Instead, I would limit The Batman’s headquarters appearances to Jim Gordon’s late night office (for brief clandestine meets), and even then, ONLY in shadowed parts of the space.

 

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Of course, a ghost-like disappearance by The Batman (through an open window) when The Commissioner looks away for a moment caps off the scene... leaving him visibly un-nerved.

 

 

 

In the SECOND PLACE, why have Commissioner Gordon interrogate The Joker in the darkened interrogation room (sparsely lit with a desk lamp)...

 

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... and then have him turn ON the main lights as he leaves the room, (revealing The Batman standing in a bright, neon-lit room)??

 

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I would think that the REVERSE of this lighting cue would be so much more effective to service The Batman character, no?

 

Just imagine this: Gordon interrogates un-cooperative Joker in a bright, neon-lit room, while several cops watch from behind viewing glass. The cops (and the audience) see that the whole room is EMPTY except for Gordon and the shackled maniac. Gordon gets up and leaves, and turns OFF the room’s main lights (leaving only an overhanging spot light directly above the Interrogation table.

 

Gordon joins the cops on the other side of the viewing glass, and tells them to go back to their desks, because the un-cooperative psycho needs to “stew” for a while. Gordon remains and stares at The Joker through the glass, as he reaches for a smoking pipe and tobacco. Even though it is one-way mirrored glass, the maniac (somehow) stares directly back at Gordon (whom he presumably cannot see) and waves at him ominously.

 

Something suddenly grabs The Joker from the room’s darkness and sends him hurling face-first into the viewing glass, spider-webbing it. Gordon watches calmly from behind the glass just as he lights the tobacco in his pipe with a match. He smirks, turns, and walks away.

 

CUT TO:

 

Back in the interrogation room, the hanging overhead light swings wildly back and forth like a pendulum after the Joker’s flying body hit it. The dazed and confused maniac tries to adjust his eyes to a darkened room that is intermittently lit and shadowed. He catches a glimpse of a large silhouetted bat-like figure standing over him before a steel-tipped boot slams into his jaw. The Joker spits blood and attempts to giggle nervously as he crawls away from his powerful attacker.

 

A hushed voice like shattered glass hisses at The Joker.

 

THE BATMAN: “Rachel Dawes and Harvey Dent... where are they?”

 

A pair of leather gloved hands lift the psycho roughly to his feet forcing him to stare at twin reflections of his own garishly disfigured face in the blank eye lenses of The Batman’s cowl. The clown’s only response is to chuckle and shrug mockingly.

 

The Joker gasps loudly and crumples to his knees as all the air is drawn from his lungs from a brutal fist that plows deep into his solarplexus. The voice from the dark sillhouette calmly and grimly insists.

 

THE BATMAN: Tell me where they are... now.

 

Between gasps of air, the cowering madman coughs up bile and chuckles as he manages to stutter a response.

 

THE JOKER: I... I'll be glad to tell you what you wanna know, Batsy. Hee... heeh.... you’ll NEVER get there... get there in time to save them both anyway. (cough, hack) Besides… it’ll be so much damn FUN just to see you try.” (Cackling laughter)…

 

CUT TO:

 

The Batman and Gordon speed away from Police HQ and head off in separate directions to save Rachel and Harvey...

 

 

 

I think you get my point. Instead of something like this, we got a scene depicting an out-of-control, shouting, lunatic Batman (completely out of character), bellowing "Where are they!!!!!!" like a broken record.

 

It was actually painful to watch.

 

 

 

 

By the way, while we’re on the topic of “talking”, may I ask a question: What the HECK is up with Christian Bale’s Batman voice?! Sheesh!! Someone should explain to him (and the rest of the Batman film makers) that putting on that stupid, forced, gravelly voice as Batman does NOT do the character any favors!

 

Someone once suggested to me that the voice is designed to throw people off and avoid connections to Bruce Wayne.

 

Um, no.

 

Again, (from where I sit) this is clearly an example of poor understanding of this character.

 

It’s like this: The air-headed, arrogant, womanizing billionaire that is Bruce Wayne is the real disguise... NOT The Batman . The Batman is the true personality. Therefore, the “put on” / disguised voice (jovial, higher-pitched, chuckling, arrogant) should be Bruce Wayne’s!

 

This is what Kevin Conroy instinctively understood and did so masterfully in the animated TV series and films.

 

The Batman, on the other hand, speaks (minimally) from the truth and sincerity that is his OBSESSION. There should be NO conscious effort to disguise himself vocally as The Batman, because THAT is who he truly is!

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I was re-reading one of my back-issues recently (Batman #655, Grant Morrison and Andy Kubert, Sept 2006), and i came across a powerful scene that really demonstrates what I'm talking about: As Alfred helps Bruce Wayne dress for a charity function, the butler actually had to coach his master on coming up with an artificial speaking voice that was appropriate for him… different from The Batman’s! The Dark Knight’s natural speaking voice kept creeping through, and Alfred kept having to coach him on what Bruce Wayne should sound like! Priceless!!

 

Here are some of the panels:

 

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I welcome everyone’s thoughts!

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Hey I got a thought ,GO #$## YOURSELF.

 

Bravo bravo ,yeah to the OP the films are not going to get everything right they are going to change so they can film better but then aging you are stupid #$## anways.

 

 

 

Its a shame you guys cannot be adult and intelligent enough to express your disagreement with my viewpoint without resorting to name-calling.

 

Classy guys. Very classy. I suppose that is to be expected from individuals with a very limited intelligence.

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You have some very good points but what can you do? Hollywood can make 100 Batman movies and they still probably will not get it right . I guess you'll just have to enjoy the comics or some of the animated stuff they come close to getting almost right.

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You have some very good points but what can you do? Hollywood can make 100 Batman movies and they still probably will not get it right . I guess you'll just have to enjoy the comics or some of the animated stuff they come close to getting almost right.

 

True.

 

But don't get me wrong: I derive an IMMENSE amount of pleasure from the animated Batman offerings that come from Bruce Timm, Paul Dini, and Andrea Romano. They REALLY get the character, and they are producing some outstanding stuff.. even to this day.

 

My all-time favorite Batman film in still Batman: Under The Red Hood (2010).

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The new Batman movie by Bruce Timm and company should be really good. I think I have all of the DC animated movies they're really good. The Batman inspired movies are always top shelf.

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I agree with most everything you say. I have criticized the Nolan films for awhile and I just get the usual hate names. "you are a marvel fan" "you aren't smart enough to understand Nolan and his brilliance". I don't think they are horrible films, but I think they don't deserve the praise they get.

 

Several things that have bothered me from the Nolan films. Is Gordon driving the Batmobile, Batman refusing to kill bad guys because he wants to not be like them, yet he has lethal force weapons on his Batmobile. The VOICE.

 

I really wish they would focus more on Batman being a detective. I like your thoughts

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I could not read the whole thing but I think you are going a bit over board with what you think the batman films should be.The problem is that there some things that work in the comics that do not work in film(ie the costume look will be hard to do ,you need a very physical looking actor and the blue and grey look will look to silly on film.) .Also I read there is alot of stuff that has influenced the films form the comics.Like the example you give for the Rooftop scene in the dark knight .That is actually influenced by the Long Halloween which had few pages were batman and Gordan and Dent talk on a rooftop.

 

 

But at the end of the day they are making a moive and having a different take on the Character because if they didn't and making the films like the comics then the films would be very boring and unappealing to me because if I want to see the comic batman I read the comic batman,if I want to see Nolan's Batman I would see Nolans Batman or Burtons Batman.

 

 

All in all I just not worry about it ,because it will not changed that batman in the comics.I wish that fanboys stop complain and enjoy the movies as they are(I did hate batman and Robin but that because I thought that movie was overblown and was too rushed into theaters.)

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Hey I got a thought ,GO #$## YOURSELF.

Has this guy been banned yet? I hate him.

 

I agree with a lot of your points Lord, but I strongly disliked Under the Red Hood. I felt it tried TOO hard to be "dark" and came off cheap, as well as the terrible Judd Winick dialogue. Winick has a very base understanding of the characters which can be seen all throughout the film. Each characterization was pretty weak with only single moments and setpieces to highlight them, i.e. Joker wanting to blow up with Batman and Hood near the end, the flashback of Todd at the end, and the best part of the movie being Black Mask, HIS voice and dialogue was a treat. My favorite Batman film is Mask of the Phantasm, a masterpiece. Batman's portrayal is perfect as well as Joker's, and the film had a beautiful blend of action, heart, romance, and heroism. Also, it's soundtrack is just spectacular, almost incomparable to other Batman films. To each their own amigo, liked your thoughts.

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I liked the Batman Year One movie it felt like a pilot episode for a good made for TV Batman series. I love to watch the beginnings of great characters.

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I just recently rewatched the Burton films on Blu-ray ,and damn I forgot how awesome they were. After rewatching them I definitely think they are better than the Nolan movies.

 

Sure they may have had their inaccuracies here and there, but they still felt more like Batman to me. I grew up on the 90's animated series and that has always been my favorite take on Batman, so the Burton movies which helped inspire that series are definitely my favorite.

 

I didn't really care for Under the Red Hood or Year one, but I love Mask of the Phantasm. Mask of The Phantasm is sill the best animated Batman movie IMO.

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I just recently rewatched the Burton films on Blu-ray ,and damn I forgot how awesome they were. After rewatching them I definitely think they are better than the Nolan movies.

 

Sure they may have had their inaccuracies here and there, but they still felt more like Batman to me. I grew up on the 90's animated series and that has always been my favorite take on Batman, so the Burton movies which helped inspire that series are definitely my favorite.

 

I didn't really care for Under the Red Hood or Year one, but I love Mask of the Phantasm. Mask of The Phantasm is sill the best animated Batman movie IMO.

 

I disagree,I think the burton films were sometimes burton films especially Batman Returns.I still can not live with the Joker killing Batman parents.I love both film series but both had their own take on Batman(and I do not have any problem with it).

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