Tonight’s, millions of dollars will be raked in as The Dark Knight Rises looks to premiere nationwide in midnight releases. As the Caped Crusader’s cinematic saga looks to end with Christopher Nolan’s latest epic, DJBobbyTrends.com will take a look back at the highs and lows of Bruce Wayne and Batman on film.
The original film set the tone for the entire series and representation of the character. Remember, before 1989 the last public perception was the overly campy/satirical 1960′s television show. So when pre-production started for the feature film, what was expected was another comedy. There was even an idea of a film starring Saturday Night Live alums Bill Murray and Eddie Murphy as Batman and Robin. Warner Bros. was keen on taking the crusader back to his comic roots as a dark vigilante of sorts. Tim Burton (“Edward Scissorhands”) was enlisted to helm the director’s chair alongside Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson to play Batman and The Joker. What we were given was a dark and very serious film that may have thrown many off a bit. For followers of the comic book, it was a breath of fresh air. As for fans of the TV show, it was a hard pill to swallow. The film is an amazing account of the character. While it may have its flaws here and there (Vicki Vale getting into the Bat Cave and The Joker being responsible for the death of Bruce’s parents), it is by all means a great action movie. Not to mention, Jack Nicholson gives the most memorable performance of The Joker seen then… notice I said THEN.
Batman Returns (1992)
With Batman becoming a massive hit, the sequel was immediately greenlit. Writers began to dig into the arsenal of villians for the second go-around and tapped Danny DeVito and Michelle Pfeiffer to play The Penguin and Catwoman. While the first film was an easy cash cow, marketing wise, the same couldn’t be said for the sequel. Not that there wasn’t a market but the imagery of the film almost killed it. Director Tim Burton is known for his Gothic and dark imagery and, with more creative control, he really came out of his shell in the second film. Catwoman’s costume screamed S&M sex mistress, while The Penguin’s deformed physique frightened children across the country (including ME!). Things got so bad that McDonald’s had to pull their Happy Meal promotions amidst protests from angry parents. Batman Returns is a hard film to cope with. With time I grew to appreciate it because it’s definitely meant for an older audience. At the time it was released however I just didn’t understand it. It wasn’t fun, it was depressing and the hues was much darker this time around. This is a much more personal film for Burton as it’s seen with every frame. It makes it much more complex and kind separate itself from the previous film.
Batman Forever (1995)
With Burton no longer the director, but serving as a producer, Joel Schumacher now had the responsibility of turning Batman from a “freak show” into the highly touted superhero he was in 1989. Gone is the dark hues and first Batman Michael Keaton, who is now replaced with Val Kilmer. Batman Forever is an obvious kid friendly and lighter version of the caped crusader. Actually, in my opinion, I think that this film is actually an homage to the campier days of Batman. While it’s not over the top silly, it remains light-hearted while supplying loads of CGI and action. Jim Carrey’s portrayal of The Riddler is very fitting, while Tommy Lee Jones’ Two-Face (a very dark character) came across as goofy and a horrible mimic of Jack Nicholson’s The Joker. Val Kilmer’s Batman had the cool look under the cowl but just came off really stiff. It was as if Bruce Wayne had no soul but was a handsome robot fighting crime. Did I also mention that this film introduced Robin onto the big screen? Whatever the case, compared to its follow-up, this is actually bearable.
Batman & Robin (1997)
Batman & Robin exposed Hollywood and delivered a crushing blow to the legacy of the Caped Crusader. Whereas Batman Forever took a step back but still delivered an entertaining take on Batman, Batman & Robin went over the top with its silly trio of villains (Mr. Freeze, Poison Ivy and the first cinematic take on Bane), vehicles and gadgets, to the point that director Joel Schumacher admitted that Warner Bros. main goal was to sell toys. Everything was bad about the film, even Batman (played by George Clooney) managed to annoy audiences. In the end, Batman & Robin proved to be a failure and any chances of Batman appearing on screen again were put on hold.
Batman Begins and The Dark Knight (2005, 2008)
When it seemed as if Gotham would never be re-imagined, Christopher Nolan swooped in to resurrect the then-dead Batman franchise with 2005′s Batman Begins. This time Christian Bale donned the cowl and fought off The Scarecrow. This was better received for its more realistic take on the character as the imagery strayed afar from the comic book representation. This would become more noticeable in 2008 when the sequel The Dark Knight hit theaters. This would go on to become the second highest grossing movie and create a buzz never seen since the 1989 film. Heath Ledger’s more demented and disturbing portrayal of The Joker would go down as the greatest ever. As hard as it was for me to admit, while Jack is amazing, Heath’s Joker is great. Not only did his performance (which would go on to earn him a posthumous Oscar for Best Supporting Actor) propel the films hype, but his early death would cement his status as an icon and make the character very marketable. Much like the bat signals in ’89, there were Joker posters, shirts, costumes, toys everywhere. 20 years later, Batman and the characters in the universe are still very relevant, if not more so than before.
The Dark Knight Rises
Tonight, the Dark Knight will return to Gotham and save it from destruction for the very last time. But with talks of a Justice League film, will this really be the last time that we see Batman?