After the catastrophe that was “Batman and Robin,” Warner Bros. worked hard to find a way to reintroduce their beloved cash cow. At one point, there was a Batman/Superman film in the works starring Colin Farrell as the Caped Crusader and Jude Law as the Man of Steel.
“Batman Begins” (2005)
In 2005, director Christopher Nolan had only made three feature-length films, one of which being the extremely low-budget “Following.” Who knew he would set the benchmark for comic book filmmaking?
As common knowledge as it is today, Nolan had the daring idea to bring comics into the real world (or at least as close as possible). This would be the opposite approach of the cartoonish “Batman and Robin” and, overall, very different from just about every other comic book adaptation up to that point. There is still a certain level of suspension of disbelief required, but audiences didn’t have to deal with anything THAT ridiculous.
Christian Bale, somewhat similar to Nolan, was little-known to most Americans. At best, he was “that guy from ‘American Psycho.'” His performance is interesting because he does well with separating the two very different sides of Bruce Wayne. He plays Wayne the billionaire as a bit of a jerk, filled with arrogance. When he’s not in the public eye, though, Bruce Wayne’s true character is revealed.
Unlike, say Spider-man, Batman’s origins were fairly unknown to the general audience, so the unfolding of Bruce’s past endeared the character even more and allowed us to get the full picture. Honestly, the only real complaint I have with this film are the poorly executed action scenes. There are some days I might even prefer it to Nolan’s 2008 sequel.
With a nearly impeccable cast, compelling origin story and bold direction, “Batman Begins” pulls off a miraculous resurrection for the Batman franchise.
Best line: “People need dramatic examples to shake them out of apathy and I can’t do that as Bruce Wayne. As a man, I’m flesh and blood. I can be ignored, I can be destroyed, but as a symbol, as a symbol I can be incorruptible. I can be everlasting.”
“The Dark Knight” (2008)
Sequels almost always disappoint. With the exception of a small handful of other comic sequels, “The Dark Knight” is pretty much the only one to break the mold.
The same cast from “Batman Begins” improves marginally by replacing Katie Holmes with Maggie Gyllenhaal. Adding onto this stellar group are Aaron Eckhart as District Attorney Harvey Dent and Heath Ledger as the Joker.
“The Dark Knight” was an evolutionary step in the comic book genre. Mixing iconic villains like the Joker with a classic gangster vibe produced a cultural phenomenon that broke box office records like they were nothing. It also established Christopher Nolan as one of the best working directors in the business.
Heath Ledger won a posthumous Oscar for his portrayal of the Joker, becoming only the second person to do so. His death had a hand in both the box office take and cementing the film in history.
Tonight’s midnight premiere will tell whether Christopher Nolan can pull off another miracle for this Goliath of a franchise. Have you got your tickets for “The Dark Knight Rises?”
Happy (midnight) viewing.