BATMAN ON FILM, 'The Dark Knight Fansite!' Est. 1998.


Been There, Done That....But Not Very Well!
Sunday, June 24, 2007
Mark S. Reinhart

Copyright © 2007 by Mark S. Reinhart

I just read Alex Winck’s column “Clothes Make the (Bat) Man,” and Mr. Winck’s observations helped me to get a few thoughts of my own together regarding the way Batman and The Joker are going to be portrayed in THE DARK KNIGHT. To be honest, I’ve had some nagging doubts about the way these iconic characters are being approached by Nolan and company this time around. I’ve been reading Mr. Winck’s opinions stating that we’ve seen “comicky” versions of Batman and the Joker in a few live-action films already, and Nolan and company should be applauded for taking drastically different approaches to the characters than these previous films. Simply put, I’m just not sure I buy this argument – let me tell you why I feel this way.

Well, let me tell you a few other things first. I am just an enthusiastic (rabid might be a better word!) Batman FAN -- I am under no delusion that anything I could ever say on this subject would have even the most infinitely small effect on the making of THE DARK KNIGHT. Also, let me say that I very much enjoyed BATMAN BEGINS, and I am confident that I will enjoy THE DARK KNIGHT as much as I did BEGINS. BUT….(long pause for effect!), based on conversations I have had with a number of other longtime Batman fans, I still think it needs to be said that there are many Batfans (myself included) who continue to long for a more “comicky” big screen version of the character than Nolan has given us.

Now that I’ve stated my wish to see a more “comicky” big screen Batman, please don’t hit me with Mr. Winck’s argument that “we’ve been there, done that” Don’t tell me that Adam West’s Batman was as good as a “comicky” screen version of the character could ever be. The phrase “been there, done that” doesn’t hold up if you don’t do whatever it is you were supposed to be doing well in the first place. I want a screen Batman that captures the comic book look of great artists like Bob Kane, Neal Adams, Jim Aparo, Marshall Rogers, Frank Miller, Brian Bolland and Alex Ross – are you really going to try to tell me that Adam West’s slightly chubby, smiling, short-eared Batman is as close as the movies can get to this look?

And how about The Joker? Are you going to try to tell me that Cesar Romero with his makeup-covered moustache, or Jack Nicholson with his pudgy face and self-absorbed wiseguy smirk, are as close as the movies can get to giving us a taut, terrifying Joker like the one found in classic graphic novels like THE KILLING JOKE?

No, these above screen portrayals do not come anywhere near to matching Batman and The Joker’s finest moments on the comics page – we haven’t “been there, done that,” not by a long shot. These iconic characters could have been translated from comics to film verbatim, and they would not have lost any of their power or realism.

In fact, in my opinion, they very well could have been MORE realistic than they are shaping up to be in Nolan’s universe. For example, the heavily-armored Bat costume of Nolan’s films makes no sense in real life – a real person could never move with agility and speed in such a costume. But a real person COULD move with agility and speed in a lighter-weight Bat costume like the ones shown on the comics page. (So far, THE DARK KNIGHT‘s new Batman costume is the thing about the film that has disappointed me the most – after hearing rumors that the armored look might be toned down this time around, I was sorry to learn that the armored look was changed almost not at all.)

Not having seen too much of Heath Ledger’s Joker, I can’t really comment on how I think his version of the character will stack up to classic Joker comic stories. However, I personally was under whelmed by the “IBELIEVEINHARVEYDENTTOO” publicity stunt – the image of Ledger’s lipstick-smeared, unsmiling face struck me as being far more bland than provocative.

O.K., ENOUGH THE DARK KNIGHT! I realize the film is a LONG way off, and there is so much we don’t know about it yet that some of my opinions are bound to be way off base. And as I said before, I plan on enjoying the film when it is released. (In fact, I’ll bet you my local multiplex cinema will know me by name after a week or two into THE DARK KNIGHT‘s theatrical run!) That said, however, I feel I have to stand up and say with all due respect to Mr. Winck, that I do not feel it is fair to characterize us Batfans who would like to see a more “comicky” big screen Batman as out-of-touch fans who want to return to the goofy days of Adam West and Cesar Romero. We just want to see Batman and Joker on the big screen in a manner that is not TOO far removed from their comic book counterparts. In other words, Mr. Nolan, I’d like my cinematic Batman with a little less armor and my cinematic Joker with a little less lipstick, please – but if armored and lipsticky is all you’ve got, I’ll take them!

Mark S. Reinhart is the author of THE BATMAN FILMOGRAPHY.
Mark's "Overlooked Bat-Treasures" column can be found
"infrequently" -- as he says -- on BATMAN-ON-FILM.COM.

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