The upcoming “The Dark Knight Rises” has many movie lovers in hysterics. They can’t seem to stop oohing and aahing over the trailer and singing the praises of the most recent Batman franchise. Amidst all this ruckus, I have to bring some sanity back here.
I’m a rabid Batman fan. Have been for most of my life. I’ve done my duty and run through an obscene number of DC comics and have read all the famous (and not so famous) story arcs in the Bat universe. So you can say that I “get” Batman. I know what he’s all about. Sure, it’s unrealistic in so many ways but it’s an awesome fantasy. A normal human being able to achieve the things he does. It just gives you a high.
But Batman movies? Not so much. I always found that they pretty much suck big time. I respect the character of Batman too much to see him mutilated. Which is why I hate the recent Batman series by Christopher Nolan. What surprises me is that everyone raves about them as if they’re the awesomest movies ever made. Sure, they’re probably better in comparison to the Joel Schumacher version, but that doesn’t make them good. In fact, I find them awful. And here’s why:
Batman’s Appearance – The “Helmet”
I hate Batman’s appearance in Christopher Nolan’s universe. There are so many things wrong with him that I don’t know where to start. He’s not menacing enough. He just looks like a funny guy in a suit. The suit itself is a horrible wreck, looking like a clumsy piece of armor rather than something flexible that can be moved easily in. And before the fans start shouting “It has to be realistic!”, let me assure you that Batman as a concept isn’t very realistic at all. But more on the “realism” aspect later.
He’s not scary. At all. Just look at his “mask”:
That’s a helmet! He doesn’t look in the least bit scary. His mouth and lips are “squeezed” into a gap, making it bunched up. No wonder Bale talks with his lips parted so often! Next up – the eyes. Why, oh WHY can’t Batman movies make the eyes white like they are the comics? Dammit, this guy actually has makeup on his face around his eyes. MAKEUP! It makes me want to cry when I see what Nolan has done to my favorite comic book hero.
For reference, here is how Batman’s cowl should look like:
See the difference? Now that is scary. THAT is a sight I wouldn’t want to see at night swooping down at me. The guy in the first picture? Some loony clown on drugs wearing a costume. Pchaah!
Crappy Armor – Horrible Cape
I don’t even know where to start. I mean look at that suit. It’s a bunch of disjointed pieces fitted together haphazardly. It’s not uniform or elegant. It just looks shoddy. There we go again with that whole “realistic” mantra that Nolan loves to try and inject into this character. Please Nolan huh? Go make movies of Superman or something and leave this guy alone – please.
Batman’s cape has always been part of his effect. And yet it does nothing for him in the movie. It doesn’t even merge in color with the main suit! It’s a deeper shade of black that ruins the “solid” effect of night that is Batman. It breaks the illusion that this is one gigantic bat – almost supernatural. Instead, it tells us that this is just a costume worn by a guy for unknown reasons – since it’s clearly not scary. Here’s a nice shot of the real Batman style:
Let up with the voice huh?
We all know that Bruce Wayne disguises his voice as Batman to make it scary as well as to keep his identity secret. Works great in the Batman animated series, so why can’t Nolan give us a real crackling voice huh? In various media, Batman’s voice has been compared to “stepping on broken bottles”. In some comics, Batman literally uses his voice as a weapon to scare criminals into submission whenever he can.
And once again, Nolan turns Batman’s voice into a joke. You can barely understand squat of what he’s saying. It’s obvious that his voice is fake and put on. And coming from that squished out mouth of his, it just makes you want to puke. Someone needs to tell Nolan’s Batman to shut the fuck up.
Ok – I get it. You were trying to compensate for the “blue lighted” batmobile in the Joel Schumacher movies. But come on! That’s not a batmobile – that’s a tank! Where’s the “bat” in it? It’s not stylish, it’s not elegant. It doesn’t make a statement. And remember that Batman is all about style. That’s why we really like him so much. More about that in the “realism” section.
Gotham city is an integral part of Batman. It provides the setting, the atmosphere and sets the mood of the comics. It’s even called Gotham city for a reason. Because it’s gothic. Nolan’s Gotham is a ghastly departure from what Gotham should be. Where are the soaring cathedrals? Where are the gargoyles? Where is all the goth? He’s just gone and turned Batman’s city into Chicago! What the hell was he thinking?
Here’s is Nolan’s Gotham – aka Chicago:
And this is the “real” Gotham:
Poor Fighting Style and Posture
Everyone knows that Batman is one of the greatest martial artists of the DC universe. He’s the master of hundreds of fighting styles. He’s agile, knows his reach with mathematical precision and conserves the minimum amount of energy and movement while fighting.
And yet, Nolan’s Batman fights like a thug. There’s the scene in a pub which I cringed while watching. He’s like a boxer, even taking up a stance to fit. He looks ridiculous:
Notice by the way, how his cape is of a darker color than the suit. It doesn’t mesh. It breaks the continuity and looks just like just another piece of cloth. Not a part of him. It just looks funny. Here’s how it should look:
Notice how the cape drapes, how it “merges” into the cowl. Also see how Batman covers up his eyes. It makes him look scary instead of just a guy in a suit. Remember how cool Ironman’s mask looks when his eyes light up? Why the hell can’t we have the same thing for the bat?
Fake “Realism” in Nolan’s Movies
I’ve saved the worst for last. Nolan and many of his fans excuse all the above mistakes by saying that this is a “realistic” take on Batman and Gotham. I call bullshit on that claim. Because even as depicted, Batman is horribly unrealistic. You want realistic, get rid of the cape. It hinders you, can get caught on stuff, and you can trip over it. The marginal utility of being able to slow your descent and hide some stuff in it is heavily outweighed by the disadvantages. Even Nightwing has remarked that a cape cramps one’s style too much.
But yet we keep it. We have to keep it. Why? Because it’s about image. Because it makes Batman what he is. It’s about style. It’s about maintaining the atmosphere. Even Nolan can’t get rid of the cape without destroying Batman. Moral of the story – this is a comic book. Style and atmosphere trump realism. And I’m just scraping the surface here. Superman is in Batman’s universe as well! Talk about aliens and unrealistic in the same breath?
Spare me the junk realism please. Give me something that for once stays true to the comics. Two great movies I’ve seen that replicate the mood and the style of their respective comics perfectly are “Watchmen” and “Sin City”.
Can we please have a Batman version of “Sin City” for those of us who appreciate what Batman is really about? We’ll gladly leave the Christopher Nolan’s fans at the altar alone.