BATMAN ON FILM, since June 1998!


Author: Alex Winck
Sunday, May 13, 2007

Sounds like a perfect title for an article in a site meant for fanboys to voice their opinions on the Batman movies, huh? If you dig murder threats, that is. So, before you nice people hire the snipers, ninjas, etc., let me elaborate on it.

Of course, one of the main reasons why movies based on comic books end up sucking is because the studios didnīt listen to the fans. Batman fanboys kept telling WB ďBatman is a DARK, GRITTY and COMPLEX character!Ē and the studio still went on and made the two-hour toy commercial that was BATMAN & ROBIN. The superhero movies that get the most praise from fans, such as SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE, X2, SPIDER-MAN 2 and of course BATMAN BEGINS are equally appreciated by critics and average moviegoers. Fans care deeply about these characters and know what has made them resist the test of time and remain popular and relevant.

So, all this seems to point out you canít go wrong with a superhero movie if you just give the fans what they ask for, right?


Unfortunately, just as fans are the greatest defenders of the integrity of a comic book character, they can also be pretty hard to make understand a simple fact: THE MOVIE IS NOT THE COMIC BOOK. Itís impossible, for ten million reasons, to simply take monthly comic books that have been published for decades, that have had a number of different writers and artists with different takes, that reflected themes and tendencies of those particular times, and just put them panel by panel, word by word on the screen. Even if you pick a particular favorite issue of graphic novel or whatever that could, in theory, be replicated closely, youíll still piss off a number of fans for whom thatís not the particular story or take that deserved to make it to the screen. Plus, as a filmmaker brings this character to the screen, just as any red-blooded comic book writer or artist will have their own take and interpretation of the mythos and will want to add to the legend, so will film writers/directors. Part of the reason why these characters have lasted so much is exactly that theyíre flexible enough for you to constantly find new angles on them and still retain their essence.

Most of all, it wonít work as an adaptation if it doesnít work as a movie. As much as it follows cues from the comic books, it has to work as a story with a beginning, middle and end (and maybe a couple loose ends or a cliffhanger for a sequel) thatís going to be told within the two hours or so that the movie will last. It has to feel as a whole.

This brings me to the most recent comic book movie installment playing in theaters: SPIDER-MAN 3, a movie I found enjoyable, that I donít think deserves the somewhat extreme backlash itís getting from some fanboys Ė which brings us to another typical fanboyish attitude, no middle grounds or gray areas, if it doesnít rock, it sucks. Yet, it definitely didnít measure up to the excellent SPIDER-MAN 2. And itís not because it had less elements from the comic books, it actually has a lot of them. One of the biggest criticisms on the movie is that it was overstuffed with too many characters. Which brings me to Venom.

Fans who followed news and articles on the Spider-Man movies know that director Sam Raimi never liked Venom. I myself canít blame the guy on that, I donít get his huge popularity either, to me heís more a cool image than anything else. Nonetheless, the character is very popular and has a lot of fans. Itís also well-known that Avi Arad pushed Raimi to include Venom in the third movie, for no other reason than to satisfy fanboys who love Venom. The director had a storyline already planned that didnít include the character, but he decided to compromise and include the character to please his fans. Not having any attachment to Eddie Brock as the built, older guy from 616 continuity, I didnít mind the casting of Topher Grace and I actually got the idea that he was the darker version of Peter, what he could have become without Aunt May and Uncle Benís example to guide him, etc. Once the guy becomes Venom, though, I canít think of a less interesting, more dull villain on the big screen. Could the character have been more interesting if he was brought to the screen by a director who was a fan? Maybe, who knows, but the fact is, you can tell Raimi doesnít care about the villain. At the end of the day, his appearance feels forced and doesíīt satisfy either Venom fans or those who, like me, donít care much about him to begin with.

So hereīs the thing, ignoring the fanís will has caused a lot of damage to movies based on comic books, but to throw things the filmmaker isnít passionate about or that donít fit the movie storyline just because thereís a fan request for them can be equally a problem.

Letīs say Nolan couldnít care less about some popular Batman villain, like, say, Bane (Iím speaking HYPOTHETICALLY, okay, I have no idea how Mr. Nolan feels about the character!). But thereís a fanboy clamor out there to include Bane in a Batman movie. Nolan has a great storyline in mind, but one in which Bane doesnít fit. Then WB goes to him and say, ďMr. Nolan, the fans are asking that you include Bane, it doesnít matter if you (HYPOTHETICALLY) couldnít care less about him or he doesnít fit your storyline, the fans want Bane, put Bane in the movieĒ. The result, very likely, would be like Venom in SM3: a throwaway character that feels like he was pushed into the movie as a marketing thing, not a true creative decision Ė then again, hardly anything could be worse than the quasi-mute mongoloid from BATMAN & ROBIN, but stillÖ

So, if you overall feel that Nolan is doing a great job with the Batman franchise Ė and most fans seem to believe so Ė you have to deal with the fact that he may not share all the same fanboy fetishes and obsessions regarding the world of the character as you do. And you have to accept that his job is not to just put the comic book pages on the screen. Itís to translate them into something that respects the core elements of the Batman mythos but at the same time feels like a movie.

Nobody can please everyone, and those who try end up pleasing no one.

Alex Winck, AKA "Ultimatefan," hails from Florianůpolis, Brazil. He's a journalist and advertiser and writes the scripts and articles for Sesinho, the most popular educational comic book in Brazil. It has one million copies distributed for free in schools and with an estimated readership of four million.

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