"The Dark Knight Trilogy" Was NOT "Too Real," AND...
it DID "Respect the Comics!" (Part 3 of 3)

Author: Rick Shew (Follow @SHEWRICK)
February 16, 2015

EDITOR'S NOTE: If you missed Parts 1 & 2, click HERE and HERE, respectively, to read them.

Part of the “too real” criticism ultimately ties into the last common complaint: Nolan’s films basically ignored the source material/Batman comic books. To that I say, Hogwash!

In fact, I would argue that Nolan paid more respect to the source material than any filmmaker before him; certainly more than Tim Burton ever did (yes, I do love BATMAN ’89, of course).

I would like to approach this segment with a basic bullet point of all the main characters in the Trilogy. Here she goes…

 Bruce Wayne/Batman - The common complaint is that Batman would NEVER retire! OK, really? Comic books live forever, with an array of writers at the helm. This is a movie – well, 3 movies/one story – and is meant to have a beginning, middle and an end. Since these films are grounded in…cough, cough…”reality,” it was only natural that Bruce had a small window to save his beloved city.

 Alfred - How can you even complain about Michael Cain’s Alfred? My god; if you find anything wrong with his performance or his character, please seek psychiatric help. Alfred was the soul of the entire Trilogy!

 Jim Gordon - Gary Oldman is a chameleon. I mean, the guy can play anything. And man, oh, man, he brought it home in these films. Also, it appears that the comic book hating Chris Nolan made Oldman’s Gordon look an awful like certain comic book incarnations of Gotham’s Police Commissioner

 Lucius Fox - Straight out of BATMAN #307 (1979). Morgan Freeman was responsible for some of the Trilogy’s much needed comic relief! “Too expensive for the Army?” asks Bruce. “I don't think they tried to market it to the billionaire, spelunking, base-jumping crowd,” Lucius quips. (On a side note, I would like Morgan Freeman to narrate my funeral when I pass on to the promised land!)

 Ra’s Al Ghul - In the comic world, he is described as…

“An international criminal mastermind whose ultimate goal is a world in perfect balance. He believes that the best way to achieve this balance is to eliminate most of humanity.”

And that’s exactly what Nolan and Liam Neeson gave us via an amazing character and performance! How on earth do “fanboys” complain about this incarnation of this incredibly electrifying villain? Yes, there was no Lazarus Pit and no, he was not physically immortal. But in THE DARK KNIGHT RISES, there is plenty of chatter regarding “a pit” and someone shows up in Bruce Wayne’s dream to taunt him in this chilling scene: “I told you I was immortal,” taunts the dream Ghul. “I watched you die” says Bruce. “Oh, there are many forms of immortality,” the telling reply. And where was Bruce was when this scene took place? You are correct…in “The Pit”. Now, are we are getting somewhere?

 The Scarecrow - Cillian Murphy’s psychotic Dr. Jonathan Crane (Scarecrow) was lifted straight from THE LONG HALLOWEEN. In fact, I see quite a bit of that comic in various parts of BATMAN BEGINS.

Other than Murphy’s Scarecrow not donning a full-blown scarecrow costume as if he stepped out of THE WIZARD OF OZ, this character is straight from the comics. Honestly, it would have been pretty silly if he had the full costume; the mask was all he needed.

When he douses Batman with his poison in the apartment complex and then sends The Bat into a psychotic frenzy- all the while taunting him with evil, antagonist, fear mongering jabs- and then sets Batman on fire…wow…I get chills just thinking about it! How can you be a fan of Scarecrow in the comics, and not absolutely love that scene?!

 Harvey Dent/Two Face - I can’t say enough amazing things about Aaron Eckhart’s portrayal of Harvey Dent. It is stunning – absolutely stunning. His transformation to “Two Face” is one of the most riveting things that I have ever seen in a movie theater. Yes, his life span as “Two Face” was short lived, but it worked in the context of the film. His alter ego destroyed everything that Harvey Dent stood for in just a matter of days. He was, as stated by The Joker, anarchy.

 Bane - Tom Hardy’s performance should be studied in film acting schools all over America. In film acting, it is all about the eyes – other than his menacing body, that is all Hardy had to work with. (Revisit the scene where he tells Bruce in the prison that he is going to “torture his soul”. Watch his eyes!).

In the comics, Bane is an escaped convict from an island prison in South America and a super-villain/assassin. Bane has abnormal physical strength as a result of having had undergone experiments involving a derivative of the drug Venom. He became known as "The Man Who Broke the Bat." He also happens to be 9 feet tall. Yes, Nolan had to take some liberties with this character to make him somewhat “realistic ”- but what was really missing? A pro wrestling mask? Venom shooting through his veins? Come on! The mask was villainous and perfect. And there was “Venom” attached to his mask. Maybe it didn’t give him strength, per se, but it was a tremendous help in maintaining his strength by masking his chronic pain. I thought Bane was perfectly portrayed; and the fact that Nolan gave us the iconic back breaking moment is all I needed anyway.

 Selina Kyle/Catwoman - Introduced in 1940 “The Cat” was a cat burglar that had a love/hate relationship with Batman. OK, I have no idea how fanboys complain about Ann Hathaway’s sexy, seductive, kick-ass portrayal. Why? Because she wasn’t carrying a whip? Ugh. Well, she liked guns too much – sorry. I love every second Hathaway is on screen. I don’t have a preference of her wearing the Cat costume or not. She chews up the screen in every scene she is in. Particularly when she is dancing with Bruce, and when she ambushes Daggett demanding a clean slate. “Cat got your tongue?” Awesome.

 The Joker - Psycho. Anarchist. Murderer. Clown. Chaos. What else can you say about Heath Ledger’s Joker? I know that in some comic book incarnations The Joker has a definitive origin story. And I know that currently on the Fox TV series (produced by Warner Bros. Televison), they are introducing “The Joker” long before he becomes the Clown Prince of Crime.

What I loved about Nolan’s Joker, though, is that the he just is. “Nothing. No matches on prints, DNA, dental. Clothing is custom, no labels. Nothing in his pockets but knives and lint. No name, no other aliases,” states Gordon. This is why this Joker was so menacing - he didn’t care about the outcome. He didn’t care if he lived or died. He didn’t care if you lived for died. All he wanted was to be “an agent of chaos” in the short time that he walked the Earth.

Some fanboys complain that he didn’t laugh enough or have enough gadgets. Gadgets?! His evil ways were his gadgets and he only laughed right before chaos. That is why, unlike any Joker I have ever seen, the laugh really meant something. He laughs right before he butchers his hostage, he laughs right before he throws Rachel out of a fifty-four story window, and he laughs right before Batman takes him into custody. It gives me chills to think about Ledger’s performance. It also taught me a very valuable lesson regarding a director’s choice of casting: Never, ever underestimate one’s potential.

 John Blake/”Robin” - The very moment that Officer Blake shows up at Wayne Manor and tells Bruce his heart-breaking story about also being an orphan and having to wear the symbolic mask (“It is the same look that I taught myself”), I knew that Joseph Gordon Levitt was this version of Batman’s Robin (it didn’t hurt that he looked like Robin, either). But in the Nolan universe, there is no way a teenager could run around fighting bad guys with Bale’s Batman. However, Nolan – being the class act that he is – wanted to give all of us Batman geeks a little wink. Yes, even in his universe, Robin was very real. The aforementioned scene is one of the finest moments in the Trilogy, in my opinion. And did you notice his father was killed over a gambling debt? Does Jason Todd, come to mind? And read the Batman comic "Nine Lives” and tell me if you don’t see what is going on here. Nolan combined several elements of various Robins in the comics to give us his “Robin” – the man that would take over for Bruce as The Batman when his time was up. That final scene in THE DARK KNIGHT RISES is pure perfection.

"The Dark Knight Trilogy Ultimate Trailer"

I am a forty-year-old man. I have been a fan of The Batman since the ripe age of five. I grew up on the TV show, the comics and later, the movies. I can debate the most avid Batman fan on the planet on any and everything Caped Crusader, and I will either come out the winner, or at the very least, a noble opponent.

When I think about all of my favorite Batman moments in life (and there are dozens), nothing compares to my first viewing of BATMAN BEGINS. I sat in awe as I watched The Batman crouch for the first time, on screen (“Storms coming”), and in the moment that you really see the Batman and Gordon’s relationship development, and, most importantly, the moment I truly felt Bruce Wayne’s purpose in life (“…but as a symbol…I can be…incorruptible”). When Batman leaps off the rooftop at the very end and responds to Gordon’s statement, “I never thanked you,” I teared up! What an amazing response: “And you’ll never have to.”

In closing, allow me to say, that yes, I am excited to see what Zack Snyder and Ben Affleck do with Batman on film in the new DC Cinematic Universe. I think it will be fun to have a Batman that can live amongst aliens, a nine-foot Bane, a physically immortal Ra’s, etc., but Nolan’s films will always hold a special place in my heart. “The Dark Knight Trilogy” is a masterpiece. He made it so by taking inspiration from comic books and giving us the most realistic, honest and soulful Gotham City a fan of thirty-five years could ask for.

A few weeks ago my three-year-old daughter took a nasty fall, and, while I was comforting her, I looked into her beautiful, teary eyes, and without thinking I asked her, “Why do we fall?” Thank you, Chris. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.- Rick Shew, Lifelong Batman Fan

Rick Shew is a lifelong Batman fanatic.

His love for Batman traces back to the ripe age of 5 when he became obsessed with the 1960’s TV show and later a diehard Batman bomic book reader (THE KILLING JOKE remains his all time favorite).

As an actor, Rick has appeared in numerous films, local & national commercials and over a dozen theatrical productions. However, his favorite gig of all time was playing Superman, alongside Batman, Batgirl, The Green Lantern & Wonder Woman in the "DC Comics Live" show at Six Flags San Antonio, TX.

Although Rick attended The University of North Texas, he is a diehard Texas Longhorns football fan. He is a HUGE fan of THE Dallas Cowboys as well (#DezCaughtIt).

Other likes include cooking, reading and hosting his left leaning political page LeftShewPolitics.

Rick resides in Dallas with his 3 beautiful women (his wife and their 2 daughters), his kitty cat and his dog, Cooper.

Even though Rick has a full-time job with a hospitality/software company based out of San Francisco, he also helped conceptualize a bar in Dallas (where he also sits as a financial investor), NICKEL AND RYE. So, when in Dallas, please come have a bite and a drink!

Follow Rick on Twitter @SHEWRICK.

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