BOF's "Batman in 2016" Retrospective, Part 1 AUTHOR: Bill "Jett" Ramey (Follow @BATMANONFILM)
December 21, 2016
Boy, what a year it’s been for our, um, boy Batman!
So, let’s look bat – err – back at Batman in 2016 in film, comics, TV, and games.
PART 1: BATMAN ON FILM
Well, at least you can say 2016 was one of the busiest Batman on film years ever!
In live-action, Batman (portrayed by Ben Affleck) starred in one movie and cameoed in another -- BATMAN v SUPERMAN and SUICIDE SQUAD respectively.
The super-hyped and highly-anticipated BATMAN v SUPERMAN started with a big bang by setting box office records opening weekend…and then fizzled out with a whimper.
Dogged by terrible reviews and poor word of mouth amongst the movie-going audience, and a split fan base, BvS fell short of the expected $1 billion worldwide box office take significantly; taking in $855 million globally. Yes, that’s A LOT of money, but that – along with the bad reviews and “meh” audience reaction – is not what Warner Bros. wanted or expected.
Furthermore, it led to Warner Bros. making SIGNIFICANT changes to the DCEU going forward. They created "DC FILMS" under Geoff Johns and Jon Berg, made Ben Affleck and executive producer on JUSTICE LEAGUE (though he basically had producer powers), and revamped the entire future DCEU lineup.
On a positive note, Ben Affleck’s Batman was one of the highlights of the film. Sure, many fans (*raises hand*) had issues with director Zack Snyder making Batman a killer, but overall, most folks dug Affleck’s Batman and want to see more of him (*cough* solo Batfleck Batflick *cough*). And we will get to in next year’s JUSTICE LEAGUE – which is basically a Batman film with DC Comics superheroes in supporting roles. Maybe a better title would’ve been BATMAN AND HIS SUPER FRIENDS? So…ANYWAY…
Ben Affleck as Batman in BATMAN v SUPERMAN
What a lot of people are really excited for (including yours truly) is Ben Affleck’s solo Batman film endeavor, THE BATMAN. Mr. Affleck recently confirmed that THE BATMAN begins filming early next year and will likely be released July of 2018. Ben Affleck also “announced” this year (via a video clip on Twitter) that Deathstroke will be one of the film’s villains and will be played by Joe Manganiello. Stay tuned!
BATMAN v SUPERMAN wasn’t Ben Affleck’s only cinematic outing as Batman in 2016, as he had a pretty big cameo – as both Batman and Bruce Wayne – in August’s SUICIDE SQUAD.
While not a “Batman Movie” per se, SUICIDE SQUAD certainly must be considered a BEU (“Batman Extended Universe”) film. Why? Because not only is Batman and Bruce Wayne in SS (and was spotlighted in the film’s publicity), it featured these Batman characters: Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Deadshot (Will Smith), Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), and of course, The Joker (Jared Leto).
Though SUICIDE SQUAD suffered from poor reviews just as BATMAN v SUPERMAN (for the record, I gave SSa good review and like it more than BvS upon my first viewing), it exceeded box office expectations – and certainly made us want to see more of Ben Affleck’s Batman.
(FULL DISCLOSURE: I was invited by Warner Bros. to the press junkets for both BvS and SS in Los Angeles and New York respectively, and did attend.)
On the animated film front, three Batman films were released this year on home video (and for two of them, briefly in theaters) for our viewing pleasure: BAD BLOOD (February), THE KILLING JOKE (August) and RETURN OF THE CAPED CRUSADERS (October).
BATMAN: BAD BLOOD was another installment of DC's animated universe continuity, and featured Batwoman, Nightwing, Robin, Batman and other Batman Family characters.
THE KILLING JOKE – considered one of the best Batman graphic novels of all-time (I’m not a fan and think it’s overrated) – has long been at the top of Batman fan’s wish list for an animated movie adaptation.
Well sometimes (just like with BvS), you get what you ask for.
Though I personally gave it a positive review (because, admittedly, I went in figuring I’d hate it), it’s FAR from the quality of other straight-up Batman animated adaptations like YEAR ONE (which is OK) and THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS (which was awesome). And while the one night theatrical screenings were a success, fans, overall, didn’t seem to care much for it based on reaction.
The likely reason for the fan rejection was the Batgirl “backstory” which was added to the movie. The reason given for its inclusion was to add more Barbara Gordon to the movie; but, it was really done so it could have a 70 minute-ish runtime.
Gotta say that the animated THE KILLING JOKE film isn’t one of Batman on film’s best moments.
But what was a great moment in Batman on film history – live-action or animated – was BATMAN: RETURN OF THE CAPED CRUSADERS!
Though it had a few issues (What was the deal with dissing THE DARK KNIGHT RISES and the "dark" incarnations of Batman?!), RETURN OF THE CAPED CRUSADERS just may be the best of Batman on film in 2016.
Seeing (or rather hearing) Adam West, Burt Ward, and Julie Newmar reprise their roles of Batman, Robin, and Catwoman, respectively, was an absolute joy! I for one can’t wait for the sequel in which not only will Mr. West and Mr. Ward reprise their roles as The Dynamic Duo, but the great William Shatner will be voicing Havey Dent/Two Face!
And THAT was about it for the cinematic Batman in 2016. Though it won’t be a 2016 release, I’d be remiss in reminding you all that a MAJOR theatrical Batman that will hit theaters early next year was highly promoted here in 2016: THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE!
I’m not going to lie to y’all, OK? I am as excited for THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE as I am Ben Affleck’s THE BATMAN!
One last note: Warner Bros. announced that yet another BEU film and revealed it's on the fast-track: GOTHAM CITY SIRENS. Margot Robbie will return as Harley Quinn and team-up with Catwoman and Poison Ivy. SUICIDE SQUAD's helmer, David Ayer, will direct.
And folks don't want to believe the DCEU is turning into the BEU?
Oh yeah, lest I forget, another film in the "Batman Unlimited" series -- MECHS VS. MUTANTS -- was released in 2016 as well.
Yes, I know this series is based on an action figure line and is aimed at kids, but these BATMAN UNLIMITED movies have been pretty good. If you've got young kids, this film and series are great conduits into the world of Batman.
So with that said, it was indeed a busy year for Batman on film in 2016, and here’s to a successful Batman on film in 2017 and beyond! CLICK HERE to go on to part 2! - Bill "Jett" Ramey