Books & Film Culture

Make Batman stop

I have several problems with Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies and I’m just going to clear my head of them.

1) Nolan’s work is 100% cerebral testosterone. He and Guy Ritchie are cast from the same cloth, with the key exception that Nolan is actually a visionary, a superior director, and doesn’t irritate. More on this later.

2) The black & gray palette with punches of high-contrast white gets old.

3) The self-important seriousness tires…it’s Batman, for Pete’s sake. Even Frank Miller understood this in his grim but indisputably comic-y Dark Knight magnum opi (opuses?). Alan Moore also understood this. Nolan substitutes austere grandiloquence for dark poetry. He sees the Conrad in Batman, which is great if you’re a lit major, but fails to see (or just doesn’t care about) the far darker Kierkegaard themes inherent in the material, i.e., dread.

4) I’m still just not buying the magnificent Christian Bale as a seminal Bruce Wayne. That gravelly thing he does with his voice lacks any silk, any menace. It’s Bale being too controlled, too much pebble in the throat, not enough motor oil.

5) Could there be more guys in these movies? More guys being guy-like? It’s that testosterone thing. Nolan flirted with the macho chick in Memento and his remake of Insomnia. He made tiny Ellen Page seem like a little kick-butt dream spitfire in Inception. It was even amusing that the most feminine presence in The Prestige was, um, Hugh Jackman. But if you’re not going to temper Batman’s monotonous darkness with a logical feminine foil like a teenage boy wonder, then Batman’s just a guy flick.

6) Military fetishism. Batman Begins was a terrific piece of storytelling until that moment when we are introduced to the new Batmobile (a tank, void of all style or class), followed shortly by Batman’s casual assault on pursuing police cars, cars so incredibly mauled that one wonders if the cops inside were killed. At that moment, I realized that Nolan doesn’t care about Batman as a character. He just wanted to push Batman into the fist-pump realm of blowing shit up real good…including human beings.

7) The trailer for the new movie includes several seconds of coppers in SWAT-like uniforms, with infrared headgear and kick-ass power gun rifle thingies. Really? This is what Batman has come to?

8) Speaking of the new movie, Bane has never been a terribly interesting foil for Batman. That’s all I have to say about Bane. In the trailer, I spotted the Scarecrow, Bane, Two-Face, and Anne Hathaway as Catwoman. Plus Mork from Mork & Mindy, apparently still finding work. I guess the time-worn formula of overloading movies with multiple villains because you don’t have enough ideas to sustain one of them persists to the present. Sad, that.

I’ll pass. In fact, I’ll go read some stories by Jim Aparo, or tales illustrated by Gene Colan. Remember when Batman was more of a detective than a one-man war machine psycho? Thanks to Nolan, the answer is probably — of course not.

One Comment

  1. Interesting analysis. In general I like the new movies. They come a little closer to the version of batman I liked. It seems we can pick any older version and compare him to what happens in the movies as if they aren’t part of the batman oeuvre at all. Aren’t the movies yet another version of him? Detective, comic book hero, thug… I always loved him as a mentally damaged near psychopath. In most of the films his masked self is nowhere near a dark, shadowy side of his normal daylight world persona.

    Oh. And kook what happened to wolverine. Travesty. A good friend of mine who is a 3D modeler has a huge issue with this. Wolverine was his absolute favorite. And to make himself feel better he did what he thought was right. He photoshopped wolverines claws onto a particularly deranged shot of Jack Nicholson from the shining. That is who he sees the wolverine as.

    In the end… Which do we like? He’s an interesting character in that respect. We have a choice. A choice that shows our own reflections in the ever spinning batman funhouse mirror.

    Oh and BTW… I am a military fetishist and I love the tumbler for it’s lack of “aesthetics”‘.

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