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TDK: No "Sophomore Slump" This Time!
Author: Mark S.Reinhart
Thursday, July 3, 2008

© 2008 by Mark S. Reinhart and BATMAN-ON-FILM.COM

Obviously, all of us Batman fans are just about whipped into a total frenzy as we get ready to head out of June and into July -- we are mere weeks away from the premiere of THE DARK KNIGHT!

I had a thought about the film that I wanted to share with all of you BOF readers - I haven’t seen this thought expressed in any of the articles, columns, web postings, etc. that I have read about the film, so I’m going to throw it out for all of you to consider.

Up until now, the Warner Bros. BATMAN film franchise has been plagued by what I consider to be a “sophomore jinx” – and I think that with the release of TDK, that jinx is finally going to be broken.

Let me explain what I mean by a “sophomore jinx.” Before BATMAN BEGINS, the Warner BATMAN film franchise consisted of BATMAN (1989) and BATMAN RETURNS, both directed by Tim Burton, and BATMAN FOREVER (1995) and BATMAN AND ROBIN (1997), both directed by Joel Schumacher. Though Burton and Schumacher brought Batman to the screen in radically different manners, their basic approach to directing Batman films was surprisingly similar.

Both directors stayed relatively close to the time-honored traditions of the Batman character for their Batman directorial debuts. But emboldened by the success of these films, both directors unwisely chose to stray much too far from these traditions when making their sophomore efforts. Of course, both directors ended up in the same predicament when they tried to put their “personal” stamp on the Batman mythos -- they both had to face the fact that their second Batman film was a commercial disappointment compared their first.

In my opinion, the personal excesses of Burton and Schumacher wreaked total havoc on the film franchise, and not just in terms of financial concerns. Even worse, these excesses led to a total lack of continuity from one film to another.

For example, in making BATMAN RETURNS, Burton totally turned his back on many of the elements that made his BATMAN a huge success. Consider all of the characters from the Burton’s first that are simply gone by the opening of RETURNS...

Vicki Vale, Harvey Dent, Alexander Knox, and Mayor Borg.

Even more unsettling, Burton chose not to use any of the incredible outdoor Gotham City sets constructed for BATMAN -- he mandated that the studio construct all-new indoor Gotham sets for RETURNS. Even Wayne Manor was not the same from film to film! Consequently, there seemed to be almost no connection between Burton’s two Bat-Films I remember thinking the first time I saw RETURNS, “Well, Batman, Alfred, Gordon and the Batmobile are the same, but EVERYTHING else about Gotham has changed!” Simply put, Burton obviously never had any interest in making a faithful follow-up to BATMAN -- and his attempt to bend the franchise to his own personal sensibilities led the studio to look for a new director to helm their third Batman film.

Of course, this continuity problem only got worse when Schumacher took the Batman film franchise reins from Burton. Major elements from Burton’s Batman films were totally different from major elements in BATMAN FOREVER – we had a new Batman, a new Harvey Dent, a new Gotham City, a new Batcave, and a new Batmobile, to name a few. When FOREVER premiered, I said to myself, “Now only Alfred and Gordon are the same!”

Then there's BATMAN AND ROBIN -- God help us! Schumacher’s personal sensibilities led us to have to deal with a new Batman, Batmobile, Gotham City, as well as about a million pounds of pastel-colored sets and camp!

So in my opinion, the Warner Bros. BATMAN film franchise sophomore jinx can be 100 percent pinned on the personal excesses of Burton and Schumacher.

BATMAN BEGINS and THE DARK KNIGHT director Christopher Nolan has finally shaken us out of this nightmare. The thing that impresses me the absolute most about what I have seen of THE DARK KNIGHT is that it is truly a follow-up to BEGINS. The story so wonderfully begun in BEGINS will continue in TDK. Almost all of the major characters from Chris Nolan’s first Bat-Film will return in his second.

For the very first time, a Warner Bros. BATMAN film will truly mesh with its predecessor.

Thankfully, the studio has finally found a director for their Batman franchise that is committed to telling great Batman stories and not burdening us with his own agenda.

The BATMAN film franchise sophomore jinx is over – bring on July 18th!

THE DARK KNIGHT opens July 18, 2008!

Mark S. Reinhart is the author of THE BATMAN FILMOGRAPHY.

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