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Batman movies

As I already commented in a previous article, I consider the Batman movies to be some of the weakest portrayals of a comic.

With this I don't mean that the movies are bad per se (even though "Batman forever" and "Batman and Robin" really are rather subpar movies). What I mean is that they fail to represent the spirit of the comics.

In the comics Batman is a master of stealth and hand-to-hand fighting. He uses advanced devices, but more often than not to aid in his stealthy sneaking and defeating opponents with as minimal fighting as possible. One of his main weapons is psychology: He will often lower his enemies' defences by scaring them, using the darkness of the night and his sneaking abilities to give a sense of uncertainty and fear to his opponents. His opponents, especially if they are just petty criminals (eg. henchmen of a criminal boss) will get really confused and panicked when confronted with something they can't even clearly see or know where he is.

Whenever possible Batman will avoid frontal open attacks, especially against enemies with fireguns, for obvious reasons. Usually he will try to knock out or otherwise incapacitate his adversaries as quickly and safely as possible. If, however, he is confronted with someone in a hand-to-hand combat, he is well capable of doing so with skill and efficiency.

Batman's costume is designed for freedom of movement and stealth. While it is not bullet-proof (except for his cape, as demonstrated in some comics), it usually doesn't need to because Batman will use stealth, not frontal attacks to defeat his enemies.

The modern Batman movies (except for the short fanfilm "Batman: Dead End") just can't seem to be able to grasp this concept, but instead try to make some "corrections" to the comics.

Having difficulties at aiming?
The biggest problem in the movies is Batman's costume. For whatever inexplicable reason they decided to dump the concept of Batman's costume in the comics (which I described above) and instead fit Batman inside a bullet-proof body-armor which makes his movements slow and clumsy and, worst of all, doesn't even allow him to turn his head! How is Batman supposed to fight his enemies hand-to-hand when he can't even turn his head?

So the sneaky gymnastic strong Batman of the comics has been converted into a robotic soldier in the movies, completely destroying the whole spirit of the comics.

Guess who can't turn his head?
Batman's costume is so bulky and clumsy, and especially the neckpiece not allowing him to turn his head, that it really looks ridiculous in the movies, and bothers at least me a lot. The very ending of the "Batman Begins" movie is a good example of this: Batman can't even turn his head to look back at the police in the very end of the movie, and it looks clumsy and ridiculous. Even if the whole rest of the costume would have been kind of ok like it was, why did they have to make the neckpiece so stiff that he can't turn his head? Is it really so difficult to make it more flexible? And even if it was, why couldn't they simply have left it out and add it with CGI?

When I first heard that "Batman Begins" would be a complete reboot of the Batman movie series, I was hopeful that they would fix this problem (because it had appeared in all the previous movies too), but I got completely disappointed. Just fixing this neckpiece problem would have made the movie 10 times better, and I would have more or less forgiven the other problems with Batman's costume, but no. The one single major problem in the whole earlier movie series did not get fixed, for whatever unfathomable reason I cannot comprehend.

If this is not bulky, I don't know what is. He probably has a peripheral vision of 20 degrees.
In the comics it is rather typical to have a panel where Batman is leaving the scene and he turns his head to say some last words, and the image is very dramatic and has great ambient. This kind of image is impossible in the movies.

Many people have the opinion that "Batman Begins" is so far the most faithful filmatization of Batman. I only agree 30% with this opinion.

The first third of the movie which deals with Bruce Wayne's past is rather good. It has good ambience and feeling, and it more or less succeeds in introducing the viewer to the inner world of Batman as a person. However, I still feel that, while this story started quite well, the movie still somehow fails to deliver the feeling in its full capacity. In other words, although it was a very good try, at the end it still felt a bit hollow. It felt like the story went 90% through, but then lacked that last 10% which would have made it complete. I can't really say what is it that missed from this backstory and its conclusion, but somehow it just felt that it didn't go all the way.

In the second third, where Bruce Wayne starts building the character of Batman (by buying and developing all his costume and gadgets), the movie starts rapidly going downhill. The climatic backstory of Bruce Wayne's past suddenly changes to an orgy of technology and technobabble which has only little to do with the Batman in the comics (especially with regard to his suit). It's like one movie had ended and a new, different movie, had started. This new movie has all the exact same problems as all the previous Batman movies. Batman is made into a bulky robotic soldier, very unlike the Batman in the comics. (Yes, Batman in the comics does have all kinds of devices and gadgets, but this movie concentrated way too much on Batman's costume.)

The last third of the movie is just ridiculous. It's full of plotholes and physical inaccuracies and bad scripting and bad acting and bad everything. It was a really anticlimatic end to a movie which started quite well. I actually liked this last third of the movie less than the two first Batman movies (from 1989 and 1992).

Whatever people may think of it, personally I think that the fan-made (although they had pro-quality resources at their disposal) short movie "Batman: Dead End" is by far the closest adaptation of the Batman (and Joker) in the comics. Batman was a human, not a tank in a body-armor. Batman could really fight hand-to-hand, he could really move, he could get wounded. The movie also somehow succeeds in capturing the anger and resentment which Batman feels.

Also Joker was portrayed in this movie better than in any other movie so far. While some improvements might still be possible, it was nevertheless by far the closest to the Joker in the comics. Jack Nicholson is a good actor, especially when acting insane characters, but somehow his representation of Joker felt like a bad imitation, not the true Joker from the comics. Andrew Koenig in "Batman: Dead End" gets a whole lot closer in both his looks and his acting.

Another great depiction of the Joker is the one by Paul Molnar in the fanfilm "Patient J". I recommend watching that one too. (Quite ironically the Batman in this movie also clearly cannot turn his head, but fortunately he doesn't appear but for just a very small part.)

Update: It seems that they finally developed a suit for Batman for the new upcoming movie where he can turn his head! Even though the suit is still a body armor, I'll completely forgive that if the neckpiece works nicely and they use it effectively. I'm really expecting to see this movie. I'm also looking forward to see the Joker in the new movie. (IMO Jack Nicholson is a great actor, and I really love his performances in many movies, eg. The Shining, and he did a good acting performance in the Batman movie, but he just doesn't look like the Joker, and that kind of spoiled it, I'm sorry.)

Update 2: (Minor spoilers of The Dark Knight follow.)

When I started watching The Dark Knight at the movie theatre, I was a bit disappointed with The Joker at first. He was certainly not The Joker from the comics. His facial coloring was just make-up (completely intended to look so), rather than being his "natural" skin and hair color (resulting from an accident of falling into a chemical waste vat, which is the canonical explanation in the comics). He did not have an abnormally wide grin (from said accident), but totally normal facial features, with just a (deliberately) poor make-up resembling a grin. No deadly practical jokes, no mad laughing. He was just a pure psychopath, without the jester.

However, after ruminating about it for a while I realized that I was simply being prejudiced. Ok, so this was not the exact same Joker from the comics (at least his origin and physical characteristics were certainly not). However, a movie can still be great even if it's just an adaptation, with its own interpretations, rather than a faithful copy. So I decided to give it a chance.

When I forgot about the comics and tossed my expectations aside, the Joker in this movie is actually superb on its own right. Maybe he was not a jester, but as a psychopath he was terrific (and terrifying).

As for Batman's costume, and especially the neckpiece, there was just a stunningly marveous lampshade hanging and reference to the very exact problem I have been complaining in this page. In my opinion they could have just silently changed the costume design from the very beginning without explanation, but they decided to keep the continuity with the previous movie and explicitly change the costume in-story. That's ok.

I didn't even notice too much how the new neckpiece worked. But thinking about it, that only means that it worked perfectly: If I didn't notice, it means that his movements were now much more natural and fluent, without any noticeable clumsiness from a stiff neckpiece which would have bothered my eye. I did notice a few scenes where he eg. looked up and down without problems, and it was excellent.

This movie also concentrated more on story and character development, and less on technological orgy and technobabble, compared to the previous movie. There were also far fewer plotholes and ridiculous physics (although your mileage may vary, of course).

Overall this is the best (feature-length) Batman movie I have seen. Maybe not completely what I expected from a good adaptation of the comics, but very good on its own right. Especially once you get over the idea that The Joker is not the one from the comics (not exactly, at least).

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