Opening July 20th, 2012, you may recognize that the The Dark Knight Rises is the last in Christopher Nolan’s trilogy of Batman films. Now almost a Hollywood tradition, I would like to underline a few attributes you may be overlooking. The first major out crop of super hero films began in the 1930’s. If you thought otherwise, do not feel bad (in most online articles) this is one way these movies are frequently described:
“Here’s a rundown of what the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Phase One – Avengers Assembled set will include… ”
After all with Marvel Entertainment calling The Avengers the conclusion of phase one of their recent spate of movies (not including the 20th Century Fox Films) it would be easy to assume the super hero film phenomenon was new. In fact it is not.
In the 1940’s, around the creative renaissance of the comic book; Hollywood thought it would test the box office might of moving these unusual heroes to the silver screen. Two Batman (with Robin) movies were created in that decade. One starred Lewis Wilson in 1943 and one starred Robert Lowery  as the character in 1949.
Lewis Wilson: Batman (1943)
Robert Lowery: Batman (1949)
In terms of the character’s mythos these familiar highlights were present, the characters: Vicki Vale, Commissioner Gordon, the Bat Cave with its grandfather clock secret entrance, and a skinny Alfred. Consistent with other super heroes’ films of that era, the characters were frequently costumed from in cloth and nylon costumes.
20 years later, Hollywood would make another attempt to sell the superhero Batman.
William Dozier’s 1966 “Batman the Movie” starred Adam West and Burt Ward as the caped crusaders.
Adam West and Burt Ward: Batman the Movie
Consistent with the characters mythos this series featured many of the character’s criminal enemies from the comic book yet the overall narrative strategy of the show was comedic and even campy. Yet the TV show was the mostly very influential. The villains who plagued Batman in the comic were presented in a style that would later describe as a “freak of the weak” presentation. This style would be repeated in most super hero TV shows from the Hulk (1978 to 1982) to Superman in Smallville (2001-2011).
Though the character appeared on film three times before, no one had attempted to tell his origin, (haven’t things changed in 30 years). Unlike the prior iterations this film returned the character to its dark roots. Mildly far more realistic than the previous work, it wasn’t until the series was handed to Joel Schumacher that the series resembled the campy TV hit of the sixties.
1989 Batman movie
- Tim Burton’s Batman proved that by hiring good actors and being inventive with this genre one could create Blockbuster entertainment that previously wasn’t popular.
It wasn’t until 2005’s “Batman Begins”, that Batman maintained the rouge gallery but, incidentally toned down the theatrical production to enable the most realistic treatment ever. Christopher Nolan reinterpreted everything to emphasize function over camp stylishness, and created an adventure character that you could (tongue-in-cheek) believe. President of Production Kevin Feige claimed:
“…Chris Nolan’s Batman is the greatest thing that happened because it bolstered everything ”
2012 The Dark Knight Rises
Nolan demonstrated that by encouraging Oscar nominated actor’s performances within sophisticated stories the genre could hint at a powerful and popular narratives.
So we know a studio reboot is planned yet what will we (the audience) get? It’s not too hard to assume many like me would love to see the character handled like he was in the Nolan trilogy. As much as the series can’t really be a realistic portrayal of the character, that’s how the series is always discussed. With a pinch of realistic vantage point, a dash of nonlinear story-telling, and the interjection of little sociological realism; adults can comfortably enjoy the films much like they might enjoy another fantasy or science fiction film.
Since many supported the series yet may have missed or more comic book like portrayal maybe further embracing the comic world would be a good idea. Websites like Newsarama.com claims the avengers is the greatest comic book move ever precisely because the film acts like a comic book.
“While our former all-time favorite “Batman Begins” got its position because it
“didn’t play like a comic book superhero movie”, it gets dethroned by “The
Avengers” because the latter plays EXACTLY like a comic book superhero movie !”
That being said when you look at the history of the character in this genre; it took four iterations of the character to specify the traumatic origin of the character. He would not have begun his war on crime dressed the way he does without the murder of his parents. Yeah we see the motivation of the character but we still know nothing about pathological manifestation in this presentation.
In the comic book, a great deal of attention is paid to how the attack on his family influenced Bruce Wayne’s psyche. He, his father and mother were assaulted and torn apart by one violent robbery. The comic book also goes to great pains to illustrate a response in regard to each family member.
Representing the adult male perspective like his father’s, characters have been written to take posts to resist urban tragedies like the one that impacted the Wayne’s. Batman and a cast of crime fighting vigilantes is described as Batman INC. Representing the adult female perspective like Bruce’s mother on that terrible night, characters like Batgirl, Batwoman, and the Huntress try to protect Gotham citizens from fates suffered by the Wayne’s. Representing the child’s perspective like Bruce’s on that night, many teens have played the role of Robin.
Time will only tell what way we will see this character promoted again or how or whether it will influence the genre. Until then we have can thank Nolan for an impressive end to a provocative series.
Please join us for a discussion Tuesday: 7/10/2012@7pmE/12UTC