I want to do something different for The Dark Knight Rises, so let’s get the summary out of the way now: 8 years after The Dark Knight, Batman is retired, Catwoman is never called that in the movie, Bane wants to destroy Gotham, he breaks the Bat, Alfred pulls a “Giles leaves Buffy in season 6” and I still hate it, we see society turning on the rich as envisioned by the rich, surprise it was Talia all along, Batman dies, but not really, Bruce and Selina are happy, and Mr. Joseph Gordon-Levitt may become the new Batman. Or maybe Robin. It has obvious elements of Knightfall (Bane breaking Batman’s back) and No Man’s Land (Gotham is separated from the rest of the United States), but also some nods to Kingdom Come (Bruce’s body being in horrible shape after years of crime fighting, and the line “So that’s what that feels like”). We good? We good.
So what makes a good Batman movie, exactly? I’ve rewatched and reviewed all the live-action solo Batman movies (some of you are raising your hands, I’ll get to that); beyond The Dark Knight Rises it’s Batman Vee Superman Colon Dawn of Justice, Justice League, a cameo in Suicide Squad, a “cameo” in Shazam, and a bunch of animated movies. So let’s focus on the live-action appearances, while keeping the animated movies I reviewed 2 weeks ago in mind. What makes a successful Batman movie? What works and what doesn’t?
Starting with the most obvious, a dark tone is key. Batman is the Dark Knight, not the guy who fights the bad guy during daylight (despite the climax of this movie happening during the day). We love to see Bruce Wayne conflicted. Moody. Unhappy. He can have a girlfriend, but it never ends well. Can Batman continue to be Batman if he’s happy? Most media suggests not.
Related, we also like to see Batman alone. Having a sidekick is good for the comics, but we want something grittier, and a young ward wearing bright colors doesn’t work with that. There’s always Gordon, but he’s not on the same level as Batman; more an ally in the cops than a fellow superhero. And if the ally is too heroic and loved (even if the adaptation decides to do away with that for some reason), the tonal clash has to be handled carefully, otherwise you get “WHY DID YOU SAY THAT NAME?!”
So, that’s it? A dark, grim, tragic, solo Batman movie. Nothing colorful, nothing campy, nothing silly; a Batman movie like that would never work and the mainstream wouldn’t enjoy it. Well… about that… See you all tomorrow for something lighter.
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