h1

The obligatory Batman column

July 10th, 2008

I like comic books. I like movies. So when I respond to the frequent question “excited for the new Batman movie?” with a negative, people are a bit surprised.

Sure, I’ll see “The Dark Knight.” I’ll probably enjoy it. Early reviews have been stellar. It’s tracking at a 100 percent fresh on rottentomatoes.com (although that number will come down, I suspect it will remain in the 90s, or at least around “Batman Begins” 84 percent).

But I’m not looking forward to it. The marketing has been in full swing for over a year.

I haven’t seen Heath Ledger’s Joker, but from the photos, trailers and critical praise, I feel like whatever I see on screen will only connect the dots. Plus, the movie clocks in at over two and a half hours. It looks dark, serious, depressing (not to mention the morbid notion that this is Ledger’s last full role).

The idea of sitting through “The Dark Knight” seems more like a school assignment than a summer movie. It’s something I feel obliged to do, something that doesn’t seem terribly fun and something that will ultimately make me less happy when I leave the theater than when I entered.

This looks to be the most faithful Batman adaptation to date, but the reason I’m not excited for this is pretty much the same reason I rarely buy Batman comics: at his core, Batman is a dark, serious, lonely character, driven by vengeance. At their best, Batman comics are intense and exciting, but ultimately depressing — not only does he lose his parents, he also loses his best friend, Harvey Dent, a storyline which may or may not be included in “The Dark Knight.”

Batman makes the alcoholic, womanizing Iron Man seem like Ferris Bueller.

Batman is not a “fun” comic book character, but in terms of sequels, he’s Hollywood’s most successful. If you include Adam West’s “Batman: The Movie,” “The Dark Knight” marks the seventh time Bruce Wayne has been on screen. Superman comes next, with five. With “The Dark Knight” Joker will have been on screen as many times as Spider-Man.

“Fun” Batman movies haven’t worked either. “Batman: The Movie” was campy and silly, as much of a chore to sit through. Jim Carrey’s scenery-chewing Riddler saved “Batman Forever” from a nonsensical plot and one-dimensional Two Face. Allegedly director Joel Schumacher apologized “Batman and Robin” on its DVD commentary (I don’t care to watch it to verify, and neither should you).

“Batman Begins” got it closest, although I felt Scarecrow and Ra’s Al Ghul were shoehorned into the plot in order to sell more action figures. But that movie was long, serious and dark. Sure, I enjoyed it, but had way more fun that summer at “The Wedding Crashers.”

It’s pretty much like that in the comics too. The best Batman comics are serious stories, ruminations on justice vs. law (“The Dark Knight Returns”), or a murder mystery riff on “The Godfather” (“The Long Halloween”).

“Silly” Batman comics are usually met with disdain. The comic “All Star Batman and Robin: The Boy Wonder” is, in fairness, a financial success (probably due more to Jim Lee’s artwork thank Frank Miller’s nonsensical story). I understand that a book like that is so over the top — he’s not Batman, he’s “The Goddamn Batman” — that it’s not so much an insult to the readers (as some would argue) than it is a superhero parody. One blogger named “Protoclown” on i-mocerky.com wrote reading this comic is like “watching a really fascinating train wreck.”

A fake Michael Bay “Dark Knight” script made the rounds on the Internet a couple days ago. Whoever really wrote that should take over “All Star…” when Miller leaves. It’s funny, but it’s not Batman. Here are a couple excerpts:

“We pan to a beautiful woman. A platinum blonde with a huge rack. She is the hottest woman in the world, but she wears glasses because she is also the smartest woman in the world.”

Or:

“The Batmobile is gunning down the highway at over 200 miles per hour, weaving through traffic. Every time BATMAN is about to crash into a civilian, the camera enters ultra slow motion and we see him barely squeeze by, frame by frame. This happens 17 times.”

And, my favorite:

“JOKER unleashes an all-out barrage of missiles, like the biggest f***ing missiles you will ever see. BATMAN shoots his own back, and they all collide into each other in the middle of the highway releasing a violent explosion, and then an explosion within that explosion. Afterward: one last explosion, this time in slow motion, with tanks flying out of it.”

Yeah, chances of seeing that in “The Dark Knight”? Slim to none. It’s funny to read, but if they made that into a comic it wouldn’t work for Batman.

Batman is a dark, serious character. These new movies respect that. I can enjoy a dark, serious movie, but it’s hard to get excited for one.

Staff writer Josh Eiserike can be reached at 703-878-8072 or jeiserike@potomacnews.com.

One comment to “The obligatory Batman column”

  1. “Batman is not a ‘fun’ comic book character…”

    http://www.boingboing.net/images/SmartBombStudios-justice.jpg