Movies

Opinion: It’s Been Hard to Embrace Another Batman

I’ll be the first to admit this, and it will come as zero surprise to my colleagues here: I’m not the biggest fan of the comic book movie craze. To put it as simply as possible, there just isn’t enough there for me. All I see are a bunch of explosions, some cringe-inducing attempts at witty dialogue, and these  “universes” featuring beings with “superpowers” that I can’t seem to care about. I also acknowledge as a Harry Potter fanatic that this comes off as highly contradictory. I get that. I guess that a.) I started my life as a “Potterhead” via the books a longgggggg time ago and b.) That world puts an emphasis on consisting of normal people with normal feelings who happen to have extraordinary abilities, as opposed to extraordinary beings…and a couple rich guys I guess? I don’t know, but you get it.

The line in the sand for my abstention from comic book movies ends at Batman, or should I say for the purposes of this blog, Batman-focused movies. Like most blue-blooded males, I’ve always been a big fan of Gotham’s brooding hero. There was just enough real world villainy mixed with a sort of pseudo-science-con-steam punk evil that in my formative years I couldn’t help but love the ::Cillian Murphy voice:: Bat Man.

It started with the cartoon obviously. To this day I’ll say the old Batman and Batman Beyond cartoon that aired on the WB andddd Cartoon Network(?) were always fire. Episode after episode they delivered just enough kid-appropriate action to have me wanting more.

Then came the late 80’s to mid-90’s run of Batman movies. Everyone has a different opinion of which were great, which were good, which sucked, etc. But unless you have a giant dump in your pants, they were all entertaining. Keaton, Kilmer, and Clooney all did a great job in their own, odd way. Schumacher and Burton created a strange noir-dream land mix of a Gotham that fit the mood of all four films. They were jussst kid friendly enough so that my Dad could show them to me in full and either it wasn’t anything i hadn’t seen before or what I shouldn’t have seen went right over my head. They were great

Then 2005 came along. And it changed everything. I wouldn’t call Christian Bale “relatively unknown at the time”. They wouldn’t be true or fair. I think “often forgotten about” would be more accurate. It probably didn’t help his case that the highlights of his resume so far were playing a suave serial killer in “American Psycho” and starving himself almost to death to play an insomniac in “The Machinist”. So ya, while he had been insanely impressive to that point his performances weren’t widely talked about in unhushed tones. Think the quiet book clubs of soccer moms when 50 Shades came out. That type of thing.

But Bale was the perfect Batman. From beginning to end of “Batman Begins” we see every side of Bruce Wayne: conflicted, vengeful, lustful, brooding, violent, and sometimes a bit snarky. Bale looked the part, talked the part, and quite frankly acted the shit out of the part. He could have done a scene with a sink and we would have lauded the sink’s performance. It was that good.

We know the story after that. The legend that is “The Dark Knight”, which served as both Heath Leger’s coming out party as well as his tragic “what if?” swan song. But Bale was back as well, as a Bruce Wayne torn between the life he wanted and the life he knew he needed to live. How he could play the role so well that people could see themselves in a billionaire-playboy-recluse-super hero I don’t know. But he did.

“The Dark Knight Rises” ended the Bale trilogy in 2012 (I’m old). Like Leger before him Tom Hardy announced himself as a real one, playing the physically and intellectually dominant villain Bane. But it was still the Christian Bale show. At every turn in both his “professional” and personal life there was a trapdoor for Bruce Wayne to fall in. And he either did or almost did fall in it every time. But as Alfred Pennyworth once said, we only fall to get back up again. Christian Bale got back up again for three movies over seven years that grossed about $2.5b and resulted in numerous Academy Awards nominations (mahalo, Heath). It was an almost unparalleled three film run aside from the YA-based movie series that we’d seen/were seeing in that time. The super hero movies of course came later, but they are almost more of a genre unto themselves than a couple of different “series”.

Then 2016 came.  As I said and you know, the comic book movies were tearing up box offices. DC and Marvel were printing money. ADHD medication companies profits were probably at an all-time high. I guess it was decided it was time. Time to dust off the Dark Knight. Time to bring back one of the world’s most beloved characters. Time for that inner conflict, turmoil, and pain to bring some sort of catharsis the the masses all over again. They even brought in my guy Affleck, who was in the midst of a late-career resurgence with “The Town”, “Argo”, and “Gone Girl”. I couldn’t bear to go see it. It didn’t feel right. It was going to be a letdown (I’ve been told it kind of was). There just wasn’t enough there.

Now it’s Late Q3 of 2020 (and as I’ve discussed, Q2 of quarantine) and we have a new Batman trailer. A SUPER DARK Batman trailer. Think of “The Crow” but Batman. And this time we have Robert Pattinson dawning the cape. Now, it’d be easy to hate him for being in Twilight. I’d kind of respect you if you did. But he was also briefly in the HP movies (we stan) and has churned out some spectacular mature performances such as the lead role in “Good Times”, a Saffdie Brothers creation(watch it). Reading the name and watching the trailer I was…intrigued. There’s some other parts there too. Andy Serkis, a little weird British guy who played Smeagol, as Alfred. Paul Dano, who has had a 15+ year career of being excellent playing kind of a weird fuck, as the Riddler, who indeed is a weird fuck. Colin Farrell, one of my “if he’s in it I’ll see it” guys, will play the Penguin under a shit ton of prosthesis. I’ve already mentioned to Red I’m not hyped on seeing Zoe Kravitz as Catwoman. It’s not that I’m not a Kravitz fan. I almost wrote a whole blog pissed about the fact that they cancelled High Fidelity. But this seems like the studio trying to sell a few more tickets by casting the current hotness. Overall however, a very solid supporting cast.

It all comes down to Pattinson though. And for the life of me I can’t find a reason to hate on this choice or to throw any of my usual pessimistic predictions for his portrayal out there. He can obviously brood with the best of them. Ask any Twilight memer, let alone fan. “Good Times” showed he can evoke desperation and frustration with the best of them. The action scenes or any scene he has to do anything physical will be interesting. So far the Triwizard Tournament is all I have to go on there. He did well I guess? So here I am, without a reason to hate on the Pattinson choice.

So I guess, for just 2.5 hours (probably something like that) maybe it’s time to let go. Maybe it’s time to move on from Christian Bale and the impossibly high bar he set. He played Batman perfectly. But maybe that doesn’t mean someone else can’t play him differently? Maybe the greatness of Bale’s Batman will allow us to see the subtleties in Pattinson’s. Maybe the bleak, eroded Gotham the trailer seems to imply is going to suit the new Dark Knight perfectly and allow him to thrive like a basketball player in a perfect offense. I think I can actually say “I hope so”.

 

-Joey B.

 

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