Updated: May 1, 2020
I love Batman. God damn do I love Batman. But the Batman movies suck.
I remember being a little kid and having zero problems so fondly. Much of those years were spent wrapped up in the ongoing drama of Dragon Ball Z and the prequel trilogy of Star Wars since I was never really into sports of any kind and I was even pretty bad at video games. I’d like to sidebar for a moment before we start to state that I know the prequels suck, but we were like 6 and that’s what we liked at the time. Also, I’m just saying stuff—those movies may have come out a few years later, but you get the point. It was a weird time, but a happy one.
Anyway, my parents were police officers and worked late hours so I’d typically spend the day at my cousin's house down the street, and there I’d begin my daily consumption of pop culture. I discovered (and then cerebrally downloaded) so many fun and exciting new concepts and tons of new information during those years. Huge expansive fandoms like Pokemon, DBZ, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Godzilla, Final Fantasy, and even movies; comedies with Adam Sandler and Chris Farley and cult classics like Dirty Work with Norm Macdonald, and Jurassic Park which sparked my lifelong obsession with dinosaurs. Once a week, my daad would get off early and treat me to dinner at a fine little dining establishment called Coco’s Restaurant & Bakery and I’d just talk nonsense for the entire time about all these cool new things I’d watched that he didn’t really care about (but he pretended to!). Those were fun times, and I still carry most of those memories with me to this day. But, looking back over my youth, and even now today, one character always seems to be more prominent than others. I was in love with the mystery and the attitude that surrounded the Dark Knight. Obsessed with the charisma of The Caped Crusader. Basically, I really, heavily fucked with Batman.
First, I wanna explain how I fell in love with Batman, as I remember it vividly and I love getting the chance to tell this one: I remember thinking superheroes weren’t really that cool throughout my early childhood, as most were the same thing in different colored spandex. I didn’t really get it. My cousins had loved X-Men and Spider-Man because of the animated series that aired during the ‘90s, and don’t get me wrong I knew all the characters and liked it just fine, but they just didn’t translate to me as all of those other things did. That is until one evening I went to Coco’s with my dad and we spotted a kid get knocked off his bike by some guys who were tryna rob him, and then they proceeded to kick the living shit out of him while he was on the ground. My dad pulled his massive Suburban SUV to the side of the road so fast I couldn’t even register we’d stopped moving, he then looked at me and said very sternly: “Stay here”. It was like a movie, and I was obsessed with movies. My dad drew a large metal stick (later I learned this was called a Night Stick) from the back of the car and pointed it at the dudes. He shouted something at them (I really can’t remember what it was but I imagine it involved the word “fuckers” so I probably didn’t understand) and then chased them through a mobile home complex that the entire event was taking place in front of. I guess they hopped a wall or something and when he returned, he helped the man up, talked to him for a bit until some cops arrived, and then got back in the car and very cheerfully said, “Anyway!”
Batman has given us some of the most memorable and psychotic villains of all time in his 80+ years and done battle using some of the most advanced technology ever dreamt up in a storyboard room, but still, I think my dad chasing those guys with a nightstick is the coolest shit I’ve ever seen. He explained to me on the drive home that if you see someone in danger, and you know you can help, you sort of have an obligation to help. It was a very sweet moment, very reminiscent of Uncle Ben and I’m sure Cats in the Cradle was probably playing in the background for added effect, but as cheesy as it was, it really struck a chord in me. Especially when he closed his sentence about being a hero with, “ya know, like Batman.” Sometimes I wonder if he had said Superman instead, would I be a different person? Instantly I was obsessed. Suddenly I had all the Batman toys and merchandise there was (thanks Mom) and whenever my cousin and I played our imaginative-borderline-cosplay-live-action-RPG, “Whoever You Wanna Be” I wanted to be Batman. He’d become a symbol to me. Even when I wasn’t necessarily “into” Batman, he remained prominent on my clothes, my walls, my toy chest, everything. It became a symbol to me for doing the right thing. A true hero. Someone who sees past the darkness of the world and shines light and positivity and always lends a helping hand to the weak!! Standing up for the downtrodden!! I wanted to be a REAL HERO like Batman, like my dad.
I was also incredibly lame as a kid and that is definitely NOT what Batman is about.
Altogether, the Batman film franchise (including the 2 animated movies released in theaters) has earned over 4.9 billion dollars at box offices globally. He is a household name and has the most worldwide fans of any other Superhero, even narrowly beating out Marvel’s Spider-Man. He has been featured in AT LEAST 68 full-length features, starred in 10 award-winning video games(one of which receiving the VGX Game of the Year Award) and has spawned numerous television series and spin-offs. Batman, and his alter-ego Bruce Wayne, are here to stay regardless of whether his movies are complete crap or not (Which they are. Most of them, that is.) And why is that? Simple. Batman is fucking real. You see, as I got older and smoked some weed and became a little more aware of the world we live in (all the meanwhile reading hundreds of Batman comics) I realized Batman isn’t a hero because he’s pure of heart, gifted and now responsible (he literally has zero actual superpowers), or protecting his loved ones. He’s a hero in spite of all those things. Realistically, Bruce Wayne has no family and billions of dollars and can just peace the fuck outta Gotham and never have a stressful day again in his life. That is, of course, if he could close his eyes without watching a robber gun his parents down in an alley. This is real life, and shit sucks. He is human above all other things and carries a lot of darkness with him. His battle against the dark corners of society isn’t fueled by justice, or responsibility, but by rage and regret. The Batman story is not for the faint of heart. A ton of terrible, horrible, very fucked up things happen. Batman has failed in saving the lives of MANY people that he has loved, and has been left with several emotional scars since the death of his parents. For instance, the Joker (the most iconic villain ever created) shoots and paralyzes Barbara Gordon aka Batgirl just for fun, murders Batman’s infamous right-hand man Robin, and later even cuts the faces off his victims and wears them like they’re high fashion. Batman is Batman not because of a radioactive spider bite or because he has extraterrestrial powers and fell to Earth from the stars. Batman is Batman because he has PTSD from all the terrible shit that has happened to him and can’t do anything else to cope with it.
Which brings me to my point in all this… I love Batman. God damn, do I love Batman. But… he is always portrayed so terribly in his films. With the exception of MAYBE parts of Batman Begins and the Dark Knight (YUP, leaving out that dumpster fire The Dark Knight Rises) I don’t really think anyone has gotten Batman down to a science yet on the silver screen. Yeah, yeah, they don't suck I was being dramatic. But still, think about it. We’re not even going to address the cartoony, lame, cringe-fest movies that George Clooney and Val Kilmer starred in, but even Michael Keaton sucked as Bruce Wayne and people (including me) actually liked those movies. Yeah sure, he did great as a billionaire playboy with a cool suit, but they didn’t cast him as Tony Stark. They cast him as Bruce Wayne. I liked Christian Bale, but god damn that fake growl-voice thing he did when the cowl came on really chapped my ass. I almost couldn’t take the Batman scenes seriously. This man has watched everyone he’s ever loved die, is in multiple near-death situations in the highest stakes he’s ever been involved with, but never once forgets to add a low rumble to his voice when he talks. Ridiculous. You know what? I take that back I didn’t like Christian Bale. Thank God Liam Neeson, Cillian Murphy, Aaron Eckhart and Heath Ledger (not Tom Hardy) really brought the attitude and grittiness of their characters to life. Them and Christopher Nolan being the genius that Christopher Nolan is really helped those two films shine. Let me make something clear, I’m not attacking these movies as a whole, mostly just their portrayal of Batman, Bruce Wayne, or both. I think Jim Carrey, Danny De Vito, and Uma Thurman did GREAT bringing their batty super villains to life, but their movies sucked. What is it about the Wayne formula that screenwriters just aren’t able to adapt?
My answer is: time. We sadly just don’t have enough time to go over everything fucked up that’s happened to Bruce Wayne over the last 80 years, so unless you’re super into DC Comics, it’s hard to really communicate just how dark, depressed, angry, and monotonous Batman and even his alter-ego are meant to be portrayed, and I feel like a lot of compensations are made to his character because of this. Where Superman and Spider-Man remind themselves and others that everything is going to be okay, Batman expects the absolute worst to happen at all times and stays bleak even when facing victory. Sure, you could argue that the films could be set before a lot of those terrible events happened, but even witnessing the death of his parents changed the man he was forever. This may sound silly but I think the one thing to really get it right on the screen is the ‘90s animated series
starring Kevin Conroy as the voice of Batman. Even as Bruce Wayne, he remains calm, collected, and mysterious: prepared for anything and everything. And he remains that way even when battling some of the nastiest supervillains ever created! A lot of actors think they’ve been cast as James Bond when they get put in the role of Bruce Wayne, and that simply isn’t so. I really don’t want to sound like I’m not giving Christian Bale his fair credit here, he did really great as Bruce Wayne at times. But damn did his Batman suck. Why the hell would Batman ever care if you can hear his voice? He sounds like every other white guy over the age of 30. They’re not tryna listen to your voice, they’re scared of the 6 foot Human/Bat hybrid walking towards them with a grappling hook?? It’s not like he has a lisp or something noticeable going on?? I need to stop bringing this topic up, I am probably being a little dramatic (but seriously fuck the low voice thing).
You might be thinking, “Why does he care so much? What is the point of this?” Well, I guess there isn’t one and I probably do care too much. I don’t like hating on things, I have high hopes for Robert Pattinson’s take on the role in 2021 with The Batman, but it’s just so hard for me not to scrutinize every choice made with Batman because of what he’s represented throughout my life. I’ve even already done my fair share of bitching about Batman having a collar in the new movie, and that doesn’t even really matter (but kinda does ok).
Maybe I’m wrong, and Batman doesn’t need to prove anything to anyone, and maybe everything can mean different things to different people and it’s not my place to tell anyone what is considered “good” and what is not. Maybe a role is MORE than just an actor's very poor choice to use a really childish low growl when they’re speaking? Maybe Michael Keaton was allowed to have that much fun as Bruce Wayne?? Hell, I would’ve. After 80 years, maybe I—a 27-year-old, single, overweight gig photographer who lives at home again—am not the definitive voice on what Batman or Bruce Wayne are meant to mean to people. Hell, all our parents grew up with Batman being a goofy vigilante who fought sharks and was played by the late great Adam West. Who am I to say that isn’t Batman? Maybe, just maybe, Batman can symbolize the heroes in the world putting themselves on the line for others because they know what’s right, like my dad, and maybe Batman can also symbolize the collapsing mental health of modern-day society caused by traumatic events like I want him to. And maybe Batman can symbolize whatever the hell the filmmaker wants him to symbolize because well, It’s their movie.
I know there are more important issues in the world okay? But I’m not talking about any of that stuff in this article so shut up. We as humans have the ability to create meaning and symbols out of absolutely nothing and use them to apply lessons to our life, and that is amazing. It’s important to find solace in things and put importance in them, even things as trivial as Batman if it makes you happy. It helps you focus on your goals, and become a better person because you’ve utilized something you enjoy and it acts as a reminder to you. Maybe that's what people see in Jesus...
Jokes aside, I have spent so much time bitching at my friends about what Batman is or isn’t allowed to be about, but who am I to say you can’t see Batman as a symbol for humanity? Have I been so blind all this time?? Does my opinion truly mean a thing? Am I just a troll?? No, the Batman movies are pretty bad. But who cares what I think?? The iconic hero has been here long since before I was born and he will remain long after I’m gone. But I am going to stay fighting, one day at a time, across multiple social media platforms for JUSTICE for Batman. Because I know I’m right and I’m stubborn. Because there’s a global pandemic and I have nothing better to do. Because he's the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now, and they’ll hunt him. Because he can take it. Because he's not a hero. He's a silent guardian, a watchful protector, a Dark Knight.
Nah, fuck that I’m right: The Dark Knight Rises sucked and Tom Hardy is over-rated.