Monday, August 27, 2012

Why There Should Never Be Another Live Batman Movie

*Trigger Warning: nerd rant ahead*

I'm currently sitting on my bed, watching Batman & Robin. Which is terrible for multiple reasons.

The situation is terrible, because, well, I'm watching the worst Batman movie ever licensed. If nothing else, I retroactively loath Warner Bros for introducing Robin in Batman Forever and then introducing Batgirl in Batman & Robin. (I understand that he chose to be Batman "forever," but B&R was still and terrible name. It has no reference to the plot whatsoever.)

Ironically, though, this travesty just explained all of the modern franchises to me. Each of the seven Batman films made since 1989 represents a different version of the caped crusader:

"Iiiiin the middle of the ni-i-ight, I been walkin' in my ca-a-ape…"

Batman was the first ttempt to bring the Dark Knight back to his gritty roots, effectively, his late 1930s/early '40s origins, hence the gangster-era Chicago vibe in Gotham. Not kid-friendly, people die. Batman avenges. Not too bad. Now, I personally think Michael Keaton was a foppish Bruce Wayne and a pathetic Batman, and Jack Nicholson's Joker single-handedly ruined/muddied the Joker's origin story for an entire generation, but since the last theatrical Bat film had been in the Adam West 1960s universe, it was a step in the right direction.

Your second-favorite vinyl woman.

Batman Returns was more of the darker Batman that crept up in the '80s, mostly because it was only made in 1992 and every action movie made between 1981 and 1992 looked a lot like RoboCop. Classy, elegant, old-timey, and somehow a horrific future run by sniveling politicians and corrupt capitalists with too much free time. Basically, Bruce Wayne without the philanthropy. This movie also ruined Catwoman. If I had to describe it as a single instance of Batman, I'd actually call it "Tim Burton did so well last time, let him go crazy." More of the same, I just never liked what they were selling.

Batman Forever continued the same theme, playing up the odder stylistic quirks of its predecessors, with lots of overt nods to '90s culture. The heavy use of black light paint just upset me, but I think it was supposed to be Joel Schumacher's attempt at making gritty, smog-filled Burton look more like The Phantom of the Opera. (Ironically, this is exactly why Val Kilmer's daughter Mercedes says it's her favorite one of dad's movies: "Because it seems like it was secretly directed by Andrew Lloyd Webber." - Chuck Klosterman, Chuck Klosterman IV)

"I am Niki Minaj, I mack the dudes up, back the coups up."

Batman & Robin amusingly pushed this trend so far it came out the other side and ended up just being a giant homage to the campy '60s Batman Tim Burton worked so hard to distance himself from. Sure, Timmy loved his little quips, but this 'film'–for lack of a more accurate term–is a steaming pile of bad one-liners, ridiculous exposition, and god-awful CGI. Several reasons this movie was thematically steps backwards.

Batman Begins is, effectively, the live-action Batman: Year One. No one would really question this. Short of cutting out R'as al Ghul's supernatural elements, all the back story was accurate, and themes and characters true to form. Basically, a solid origin story, updating the franchise to match the modern comics incarnation.

The Dark Knight: The perfect Batman movie. It's everything amazing and timeless about Batman, a little sparse on detective elements, but solid. Not over-the-top with gadgets or Bruce's ability to plan. Improvement, yes, but no rehashing of histories or thoughts for the future; Batman exists, and so does his thematic foil: The Joker. (WITH mysterious past!) It's the timeless, "modern" Batman.

The Dark Knight Rises, though I love it, falls into the trap of every other Batman venture: at some point, you either have to reboot Bruce Wayne's life all over again, or age him out of the system. With movie history behind you, there's just too much to continue and not enough left to be episodic. Chris Nolan chose to close off his trilogy, in a way that made the universe smaller, but full and contained. This movie represents the death of a Batman universe, the pre-reboot crisis where Bruce probably dies or something for about four panels/months. As we speak, DC has rebooted its entire multiverse, generally ruining everything they've ever done in the process.

While a reboot is already in the works at WB, it's my hope that Nolan's films finally get a "Dark Knight Returns" or "Batman Beyond" live-action off the ground. Since the former is getting a double-dose animated treatment, my hope is for the latter, but odds are it'll be just another reboot to tie-in a Justice League movie.

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