Thursday, January 26, 2023

Isn't Any Time a Good Time for a Batman Rewatch? Part 2

Click for Part 1


Batman Begins 2005

I put the idea of a realistic Batman series of films in the same bucket as I put the idea of Batman being "the most realistic" superhero. The sheer amount of improbable things for Bruce to turn himself into Batman is far less likely than powers originating from a magic ring or an alien metabolism. Similarly, streamlining Batman so he learns everything from the League of Shadows (instead of multiple sources) and gets all his gadgets from a genius in all areas of science and engineering that just happens to be on the outs at the Wayne company (instead of making them himself) isn't any easier to swallow than the classic version.

Having said that, once he finishes his "realistic" beginning, we get some of the best live action Batman ever done. The often mocked Bat-voice is much more subtle at the start. It only ramps up to laughable when he gets over emotional.

The end of his training had some issues:
Bruce Wayne- "I refuse to kill this prisoner and violate my creed against killing, because I will not be a killer."
Also Bruce Wayne- *Sets fire to and blows up the building leading to multiple ninja corpses flying around in flames.*
So close.

Maybe this isn't being wiser, but coming from being the father of a daughter for nineteen years. I get that father-son relationships are an important theme of these films. (Heck, Bruce had four surrogate fathers.) However, shouldn't his mother be just as important? Martha has a whopping TWO lines: asking Bruce what's wrong when they leave the theater, and a scream when she dies. She's basically window dressing.

Bruce's surrogates are amazing, though. We get a fantastic arc for Gordon, the streak of great Alfreds continues, and Morgan Freeman is always awesome. The dual take down of Rutger Haur  along with Lucius was a sight to behold. That's one of those great Business Bruce moments I mentioned earlier.

Its a shame they used both Scarecrow and Ra's Al Ghul for this story. Either one could have driven the plot. Murphy and Neeson were both fantastic and I would have been happier with more of both of them. Honestly, I would have been thrilled with Neeson as the real Ducard, separate from this film's Grand Scheme.

"I won't kill you but I don't have to save you," is THE MOST Hollywood line ever put into a superhero movie. At first glance, it sounds cool and badass, but with a tiny amount of reflection it comes off as cliché and a huge violation of the core of everything the character stands for, and that he's trying to teach the person he says it to throughout the whole film.

The Dark Knight:2008

The Bat-voice is now silly whenever it is used. Sequel creep will get you every time.

Lucius Fox has gone full "Q" by this point in the trilogy. Even with a lab behind him. Again, having ALL of Batman's science and technology coming from one other guy is not more realistic than if Batman is that one guy. 

Props to the film makers for recreating the Blues Brothers "There's a lot of space in this mall," scene when they were clearly filming in Chicago.

The Joker is fantastic again here, but why? Many a meme has been written showing Joker laughs at and flaunts having a plan, when every single thing he does requires huge amounts of planning. The key, like all good Jokers, is that what he says has nothing to do with his real reasoning or beliefs. Ledger's Joker is outstanding because the only thing in the world that is real to him is annoying the hell out of Batman. Nothing else really exists for him. He'll lie, plan, perform far reaching efforts, work diligently to drive others to commit unspeakable acts and pretend he didn't only to drive Bats nuts.

The biggest problem with the film is by having a comic book accurate Joker, capable of comic book accurate over the top schemes, the "realistic" Batman is outclassed. Yes, the boat thing doesn't go the way Joker wants. In fact from the introduction of Batman's unethical but effective non-lethal surveillance system up to when he catches the Joker has got to be one of the most "Batman" ideas of planning and execution in any live action adaptation.  

However, the Joker drives Harvey Dent, the one who could have been a true hero to Gotham to the dark side and aims him at Gordon's family, being several steps ahead of Batman most of the way. That leads to Batman doing what Joker promised in his interrogation scene, breaking his one rule. Batman kills Dent. (On the positive side, based on the next film, we learn that led to what it should, he stopped being Batman.)

Much like Martha Wayne, Barbara Gordon (the daughter) is erased from having any importance, even though she is one of the key Bat-family members in the comics and multiple TV series. Instead the focus is on Jim's son, who only exists because Frank Miller made a mistake in Year One. 

The Dark Knight Rises 

Bruce Wayne's unfailing ability to always pick the wrong time to trust...or not trust... a woman will always be hilarious.

Once more Bane, Catwoman and Talia all have comic book level preparation, skills and behind the scenes organization. (In this context, Bane's voice works.) Realistic Batman once more doesn't stand a chance.

Its a shame they felt the need to focus on standard, three act, "realism." Combining Knightfall, Dark Knight Returns and No Man's Land to create an epic if overfilled finale robbed us of an increased number of good Batman films in this franchise. Even if it only gave us one more film to focus solely on Scarecrow as the villain, it would have been worth it.

Considering  everyone else's costumes/ outfits had practical applications, and even the Joker was wearing make up and naturally scarred instead of having a unprecedented chemical transformation, it's very cool that Anne Hathaway's costume, though it has no in story reason to be, is totally based on Julie Newmar's. 

Like Newmar's version, Catwoman has no qualms about shooting and killing people. Because Bruce ceased to really be "Batman" when he killed Harvey, and only redons the suit to save the city from utter destruction, his ending up with her is allowable.

One (of many) things these films did well is feature James Gordon and trace his story as he rises through the Gotham Police force. Blake is a fantastic character as well. He's a legacy to both Bruce, and Gordon (starting as an honest Gotham Policeman). Its a shame they didn't do anything else with him as well. We could have gotten multiple "Batman Beyond" type stories with Blake, using Bruce's helpers as his mentors.

These were really well made and entertaining films. They're a look at a "realistic" and finite Batman story with a beginning middle and end. Unlike some franchises which will cause me to rant endlessly, they correctly gave the main character a happy ending after doing that. 

We just saw Justice League again in Colorado. Therefore, I didn't feel the need to revisit it.

The Batman 2022

I talked far too much about this one when it came out last year. 
Here's a couple of new minor bits I noticed.

Having the colors drained out except for red was an odd choice for the Caped Crusader, but it worked. It gave the movie kind of Tim Sale feel. It is a Year Two story, but Batman is much more competent in combat and detecting than in the Earth One comicThe script takes a lot from that story, but fortunately not those parts. 

The Batman / Gordon Friendship as they both grow and develop in Gotham is nicely done. Gordon is much more part of his group of replacement fathers in the Nolan films. Sometimes the comics take that route, sometimes its more like this "only friend" version.

When I finished these films. I watched Aquaman which I still think is the best DC film. (Now tied with Black Adam. I did this rewatch a while ago.That thing is awesome. WOOO!

I thought about other films, but instead did go into the Batman the Animated Series rewatch. Anabelle started about the same time after getting through Brave and BoldSince she watched a mess of the amazing lighter hearted show with me over break, I started in on the older series directly.

We were watching at completely different times, and rates. Plus, she was watching them in broadcast order on streaming, and I was watching them in production order on disc.

However, on the exact same night, a week after the tragic passing of Kevin Conroy, we both reached "Beware the Grey Ghost" (The team up of Kevin Conroy's Batman with his inspiration from an old TV show played by Adam West.)

Then we cried (like we did when we watched it together shortly after Adam West passed), she on her way to dance, and me on the elliptical. 

We also timed finished the first season on her winter break to share bathe-ing in the awesomeness that is Mask of the Phantasm, and cried together there too, with Rosa.

The best comic book stories are always good Batman stories.
Although Batman stories are traditionally tragedies, the best ones are about how tragedy can be handled and that can still make you feel good.

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