Wednesday, August 1, 2012

On Batman and superhero movies - a nerdy post

As the title states, this post is about Batman, The Dark Knight Rises and my opinions of superhero movies. It will be a little nerdy. Consider yourself warned before proceeding.


I finally saw The Dark Knight Rises last Sunday night and it was everything I'd hoped for and more. It completely blew my mind and I'm calling it now: best movie of the year. It won't win a Best Picture Oscar, of course, because some maudlin underdog-overachievement movie will come out in the winter and tug at everyone's heartstrings and it will be hailed as the greatest cinematic masterpiece in the history of forever. And I'm sure it will be good; in my eyes, though, it won't be better than The Dark Knight Rises (TDKR).

After watching it, the Beau and I both said it wasn't better than The Dark Knight, but that's because it was a different movie than TDK and both were equally good in continuing the story of Batman and Gotham City. And as a trilogy - Batman Begins, The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises - Christopher Nolan's movies tell a fantastic story of Batman, his beginnings, his relationships both with people and his city, his motivations, his weaknesses and his fears, along with creating worthwhile villains and drawing from some of the most important parts of Batman comic canon.

And to me, that's what's important: going back to the source material and using it not just for characters but for stories and inspiration. Batman's story is also very dark, in many aspects: he's one of the only superheroes to wear all black; he was trained by the League of Shadows; he is called the Dark Knight; he fights against corruption and violence rather than flashy villains; and he's all kinds of brooding.

I think it's these reasons that make him appealing but also turn people off the movies. (I know enough people who did not like TDK and TDKR and I'm so confused as to why they'd feel this way.) The previous Batman movies (or cinematic atrocities as I like to think of them) were too campy to really capture Batman. Sure, Tim Burton's movies were dark but they were also comic; Batman may be from the comics but he's not comic. And the Joel Schumacher made these rave-club-on-ecstasy movies that were just awful (not to mention pairing Mr Freeze and Poison Ivy, which makes no sense - one kills living things [like, say, plants], while the other raises living things [like, say, plants]. Nonsensical.)

So Nolan's Batman movies are dark, as they should be. They also put more emphasis on real life, as if Batman could really exist. And while most of Batman's toys are improbable, the movies don't make them impossible. The same with the villains: Bane, Joker and Scarecrow could all be possible. As for Ra's Al-Ghul and the League of Shadows, well, that's appropriately shadowy but suggests that while a human is not immortal, the embodiment of a person as leader is.

Okay, so that's my take on the Batman movies. I've also been thinking a lot about the other superhero movies that are out there and how they stack up to Batman. I haven't seen The Avengers yet but I have seen the movies leading up to it - the excellent Iron Man and it's awful sequel; the good Captain America; the mediocre Thor; and the long-ago Incredible Hulk (the decent one, not the Ang Lee emo-fest) - and they all had one thing in common: they were bright and shiny and comic. And, to me, these flashy movies, with their improbable heroes and fantastical villains and convenient superpowers, are full of style but short on substance. The heroes are fairly one-dimensional because they only exist to have their respective superpowers and use said powers to defeat whatever supervillain happens to be hating on them that particular day. And it's always about blowing up the world or something, achieving some kind of major global dominance. In Batman, the villainy runs deeper but is more basic: revenge, greed, hate. No one wants to control the world and I like that.

I prefer Batman because the story has substance, has meaning, has depth. Tony Stark, Steve Rogers, Bruce Banner, Thor - these guys are fun but not very deep. And once the shine wears off, there's not much left. But Batman, he's never shiny; he just gets darker and darker. And I love it.

There's also the Spider-Man reboot out now and the upcoming Superman reboot. Hopefully these movies will give these heroes a little more heft and move away from Tobey Maguire's depressed Spider-Man and Brandon Routh's forgettable Superman. Give these characters the depth they deserve; after all, there are some great back stories to work with.

No comments: