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BATMAN ON FILM, since June 1998!

Here you will find opinion pieces regarding BATMAN BEGINS and the BATMAN film franchise.

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Working With What You’ve Got
Sunday, May 15, 2005, by Kris Tapley

Long-time Batman fans like myself have indeed longed for the series to take a turn on the big screen that represents the haunted Dark Knight of the comics we know and love. True, the strictest of Batman loyalists will be quick to discredit Tim Burton’s vision of the world to be a farce and entirely unbecoming of the mythos, while there are those of us who still appreciate (in my case, love) the expressionistic qualities of Burton’s vision, a film that could be defined as a great “Elseworlds” tale of the Caped Crusader. And you’ll of course find no questioning across the board that Joel Schumacher gave an unbelievably skewed vision of the character if there ever was one.

However, it’s extremely interesting to note the drastic shift in Bruce Wayne’s sensibilities from “Batman Forever” to “Batman and Robin.” Val Kilmer’s take on the character was pretty spot on in a lot of ways, portraying a brooding, determined man with a definitive sense of direction. His Bruce Wayne needed work, but there we are. A dose of George Clooney’s playboy exuding Wayne mixed with a dash of Kilmer’s driven Batman would have left for a very good representation of the character over all. It’s unfocused aspects like this, however, that display how painfully off base and sideways Schumacher’s attempt at capturing Batman on screen truly was. But ultimately, that’s a point that’s been beaten into the ground.

With the latest incarnation, the biggest payoff for the fans is that Warner Bros. Is listening to them. Christian Bale was a long time fan favorite for the role of Batman/Bruce Wayne, and here we are with him in the lead. A fabulous choice and a genuine risk, given that Bale doesn’t exactly have a cash-grabbing name. Furthermore, and to come to the point, it seems with “Batman Begins,” David Goyer’s screenplay has done what Sam Hamm, Warren Skaaren, Lee and Janet Batchler, Daniel Waters, and most certainly, Akiva Goldsman and Howie Horwitz were not willing to do. It has taken the leads of great writers the likes of Frank Miller, Dennis O’Neil, and Jeph Loeb and transplanted their work for the cinema.

Yes, I have read Goyer’s screenplay for “Batman Begins,” and no, I won’t spoil it for anyone here. You wouldn’t want me to, trust me. As I said last May, it’s one of the finest screenplays I’ve come across, and being a screenwriter, I see many scripts every day. But what I truly love about the work is that Goyer takes elements from Miller’s “Year One” and O’Neil’s “Shaman” (from the Legends of the Dark Knight series) and blends them quite beautifully with his own manifestations, making for the first Batman film not to fear relying on the hard work that’s been put into the character for nearly 70 years. That’s something that truly has me excited for this series.

You see, Burton and Hamm’s take on the character was fine and dandy. It was largely a stylistic piece, borrowing quite heavily on Miller’s imagery from “The Dark Knight Returns,” right down to the talking heads and the broken pearls. But Goyer and the film’s producers have decided not to meddle with the characterization this time out, and that’s quite charming. And now we have the rumored casting of Lieve Schreiber, potentially for the role of Harvey Dent.

Let me say up front, I think it’s a fantastic choice and you (WB) should chase that possibility all the way. But a reader has noted that Schreiber resembles artist Tim Sale’s depiction of Harvey Dent. I thought that at first as well, and that’s when the gears started to turn for this piece. The new continuity for Batman following the 1985 crossover Crisis on Infinite Worlds and moving on into the 1990s left us with a very definitive timeline of events for the Dark Knight. With the heavy dose of Miller’s “Year One” found in “Batman Begins,” I’m left to wonder, is the next step really what I think it is? Goyer’s description of the trilogy a few weeks back really got me thinking, and now, with the notion that Schreiber is a dead ringer for Sale’s Dent, it’s beginning to look all too possible. Could the sequels to “Batman Begins” dig into Jeph Loeb’s “The Long Halloween” for inspiration??

If that’s the direction the films are going, I may just explode with excitement. Loeb’s “The Long Halloween” is one of the finest Batman stories committed to paper. Spanning the course of a year, the story deals largely with Batman’s conflict with organized crime in Gotham, but more importantly, it is the quintessential story for characterization where Harvey Dent is concerned. This is the tale that really shows you the bond James Gordon, Harvey Dent, and Batman had prior to the awful scarring of Dent at the hands of crime boss Salvatore Maroni while on trial. In Loeb’s story, Maroni, you’ll recall, had specific dealings with Carmine Falcone, portrayed in “Batman Begins” by Tom Wilkinson. You’ll also recall Goyer mentioned the second film would introduce the Joker and Harvey Dent, while the third film would be about Joker’s trial, during which he would scar Dent with the acid, turning him into Two-Face.

Now, first off, as I said, this is a very exciting way to go with the trilogy. The holy opening trilogy of Batman is, after all, “Year One,” “The Long Halloween,” and “Dark Victory” (which introduces Dick Grayson/Robin, also by Loeb). Taking elements of Loeb’s work for the second and/or third film would be a giant step in the right direction, just as utilizing Miller and O’Neil’s work was with the current script. The only notion I’m not keen on, as Goyer laid it out, is the Joker being the catalyst for Two-Face, rather than a crime boss the likes of Maroni. The Joker has a definite relationship with Dent in “The Long Halloween,” a relationship that, to my mind, wouldn’t be as dynamic should he be the catalyst for the new addition to Batman’s rogues gallery. And Two-Face’s obsession with justice, contrasting with Dent’s commitment to it, really plays well off of the idea that a crime boss was his initiate. That’s just my opinion as a writer, however. There is no doubt the angle could work from another direction, and given what I read from Goyer in “Batman Begins,” my trust does not waver in the slightest.

In any case, all signs seem to point to the films taking the route of “The Long Halloween,” if even in the smallest fashion, and as I’ve said, I’m quite psyched if that’s the case. But on a broad scale, it’s important to note that the studio, Goyer, the filmmakers -- they’re working with what they’ve got, and what they’ve got is years of proven material. Oh how I’d kill to be in on the thought process that goes into creating the rest of this trilogy. Batman has always been the most fascinating character in literature, to my mind. His is a mythos and a psyche that knows no equal. He is truly a writers’ dream, and the series is going back to film at the right time. It’s quite a ballsy move to re-imagine a franchise five years later, but it’s also a prime time to do so. First and foremost, Batman was the highest selling comics title in 2003 for the first time in a LONG time. But moreover, DC Comics is undergoing a great shift in mentality and tone, seen as largely as through the recent arcs such as “Identity Crisis,” leading to this Fall’s “Infinite Crisis,” and as small as through the company’s recently redesigned logo. They’re taking the right steps toward cinematically portraying their characters, and that’s commendable. The potential is truly there to kick Marvel’s tush all over the place. It only leaves the correct moves to be made.

It’s been exactly one year since I offered my first and only piece to Jett for his highly accomplished site, and my opinion hasn’t shifted. There are many reasons to believe in this franchise. I’ll look forward to the excitement of following the sequels’ developments as eagerly as I did throughout 2004. Good luck to all involved. One month to go!


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