I’m baaaackkk! It’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve had a blog up because I’ve been away on vacation in Orlando, Florida, then I headed down to Ocean City, Maryland for a few days. Now that the vacations are done, it’s time to start back on the blogs!
The Dark Knight Rises, the third and final installment of the Christopher Nolan Batman series, is causing such a stir nationwide. But don’t worry; no spoilers will be in this blog. What I want to do is take a look at all the different Batman serial films and theatrical movies and see the evolution of this masked superhero.
Before I start going through all the different movies, I was rummaging through the Internet to do a little research for my blog, when I came across the five things you didn’t know about Batman, the orphaned, crime solving detective. So, I will pass on these five things to the Cosmos Philly readers. ☺ Number one, Batman’s alter ego’s name (Bruce Wayne) comes from two historical freedom fighters, Robert the Bruce, also known as King Bruce I of Scotland (remember Bravehart?). He led the Scots against the British in the Wars of Scottish Independence; And Anthony “Mad Anthony” Wayne, a hero of the American Revolutionary War (my Dad’s favorite). Second, Batman was inspired by Leonardo da Vinci, different movies, and masked men. A radio show character, The Shadow, inspired Batman’s cloak, double identity, and sleuthing abilities. The Mask of Zorro inspired Batman’s wealthy alter ego, and the 1930 film, The Bat Whispers, inspired the costume and bat identity. The inspiration for Batman’s wings came from a da Vinci sketch for the “ornothopter” flying device. The creators of Batman accredited Batman’s science-based sleuthing characteristics to popular sleuths Doc Savage and Sherlock Holmes. Third, Batman’s secret identity is not really so much of a secret. A total of 11 characters know that Batman and Bruce Wayne are the same person. Number four is that Batman is perpetually 34 years old. He spent time in his teens at Cambridge and the Sorbonne, and in his 20s began at the FBI. That job led him to Korea, Japan and China for martial arts training and also received some lessons in stealth from ninjas. Through the decades, he wore many hats. He sold war bonds in the ‘40s, taught criminology courses in the ‘50s and entered the space race fighting aliens in the ‘60s. In the ‘70s he returned to his dark comic-book roots and the ‘80s we saw him with anger and vigilantism. He broke his spine in the ‘90s making him wheelchair bound, but of course, he made a full recovery. The fifth thing is that Batman and Robin were essentially more than just a crime fighting duo…if you catch my drift. I’ll leave it at that.
In 1943, the world was introduced to Batman on screen in the first filmed appearance of the superhero. Actor Lewis Wilson played Batman in the fifteen chapter serial film released by Columbia Pictures. Next, Batman and Robin was released in 1949 and Robert Lowery played Batman in another fifteen chapter serial film. The first full length theatrical adaption of the DC Comics character came in 1966 with the movie simply entitled, Batman. Adam West played the superhero in this movie – Pow! Wham! It was also a weekly TV serial.
In the 1970s, Batman’s popularity was depleting and the writers wanted to make a darker and more serious version of Batman just like the original 1939 comic book had intended him to be. He was supposed to be “a creature of the night, stalking criminals in the shadows.” The next big movie came in 1989 also titled Batman. Tim Burton, who was the director of movies such as Edward Scissorhands, Sleepy Hollow, Planet of the Apes, directed this movie. Michael Keaton starred as Batman and Jack Nicholson took the roll as the Joker. Casting Keaton as Batman attracted some controversy because he was typecast as a comedic actor and no one believed he was able to play a serious roll. This movie did amazing, grossing $400 million and left a legacy over the modern perception of the superhero film genre.
Batman Returns came to theaters in 1992, again with Keaton as the lead, and also featuring Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman and Danny DeVito as the Penguin. The film received mostly positive reviews, but many people didn’t appreciate the violence and sexual innuendos that were unsuitable for children. McDonald’s actually shut down their Happy-Meal tie-in for Batman Returns.
Although Batman Returns was a financial success, Warner Brothers felt they should have made more money. So, they changed the direction of the series to be more mainstream. The next movie, Batman Forever (1995), was directed by Joel Schumacher. Michael Keaton didn’t like the direction of the film, so he chose not to partake in the film. Instead, Val Kilmer put on the cape this time. Also, Chris O’Donnell played Robin, Jim Carrey portrayed the Riddler (wonder why?) and Tommy Lee Jones starred as Two-Face. The movie grossed $350 million and received three Academy Award Nominations.
The fourth and final installment was Batman and Robin (1997) that starred George Clooney as Batman, Arnold Schwerzenegger as Mr. Freeze, Chris O’Donnell reprising his role as Robin, Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy and Alicia Silverstone as Batgirl. The film was criticized for its “toyetic and campy” approach and for the homosexual innuendos Schumacher wrote into the film. Although it was financially successful, it was the least commercially successful live-action Batman film ever. It won a bunch of Razzies and is considered the worst superhero films of all time.
Next is the Christopher Nolan trilogy. Batman Begins (2005) is a darker and more realistic tone with humanity and realism being the basis of the film. Christian Bale stars as Batman, Liam Neeson as Ra’s al Ghal, and Cillian Murphy as the Scarecrow. Katie Holmes played Bruce Wayne’s love interest, Rachel Dawes. There was also a new Batmobile and Batsuit introduced. It grossed $372 million worldwide.
The Dark Knight (2008) again starred Bale as Batman, Heath Ledger as the Joker, and Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent and Two Face. I remember I went to see this midnight premier of this movie, and it was so worth it. In January of ’08, after filming finished, Ledger died of a sleeping pill overdose. The marketing campaign for this movie was originally focused on the Joker, but after he died, they refocused it on something else. It won two Academy Awards and it grossed $1 billion, making it the 12th highest grossing film of all time.
And last is The Dark Knight Rises, in theaters now. This movie once again features Bale as Batman, and many other big name actors playing different characters. Christopher Nolan chose not to make it 3-D (thank you!) and decided to focus on improving the image quality and scale using the IMAX format. Much success is supposed to come from this movie, and I can’t wait to see it!!