Alright alright! Let’s talk movie Batman! With Dawn of Justice being released this year, we were introduced to Batfleck, who will also be starring in the upcoming Justice League movie. However, that is a topic for another post; for this one I would like to talk about Batbale, directed by Christopher Nolan, known as the Nolan trilogy.
First up, let’s address a prominent criticism of Batbale, which was his Batvoice. I suppose people were so used to the previous movie Batman’s (shudder!) who simply threatened criminals with their normal, shareholder-addressing, billionaire voice. I am 100% okay with the voice, especially when you consider that the theme of the first movie, Batman Begins (the second best movie in the trilogy, after The Dark Knight of course) was fear, and how Batman was a conceived as a symbol of fear to the criminal underworld. It makes sense then that he would use a guttural, barely human voice, I always thought that a voice modulator would make more sense, but I suppose for commercial reasons, they didn’t want to fully disguise Christian Bale’s voice.
Next, let’s address the ‘realism’ aspect of the Nolan-verse. This verse specifically avoids mention of even the existence of other superheroes and tries to ground Batman’s technology in as much realism as possible with the unreleased military research prospect, and lots of technology exposition (although some of it is obviously sci-fi stuff such as the bullet reconstruction and city-wide cellphone sonar in The Dark Knight, plus the fusion reactor in The Dark Knight Rises). Further, while the League of Shadows was the main villain in both the first and third movie, the mysticism aspect of the Lazarus Pits was completely removed from the story. Personally, I actually did not mind the ‘realism focus’ of the trilogy, as I felt that it worked better for the live-action big screen and it worked well with Nolan’s vision and directing style.
Christopher Nolan’s high technical competence as a director really shone through in the trilogy, all three films were very competently directed, although I do have a quibble with his direction of the hand-to-hand combat scenes, which were really not his forte and relied on the standard Hollywood quick cuts and paled in comparison to for example, the warehouse scene in Dawn of Justice. However, I should note that Nolan is capable of directing good action scenes, such as Joseph Gordon Levitt’s hallway fight in Inception. Not to say the action scenes were bad per se, I think Nolan does those action scenes with less hand-to-hand combat very well; such as the opening scenes of the The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises, the vehicle chases in all three movies, and the Hong Kong skyscraper scene in The Dark Knight. If there was one bad action scene though, it was definitely the fight between the cops and thugs in The Dark Knight Rises, I mean, that was just bad.
As a physical specimen, Christian Bale I believe captured the ‘realistic Batman’ persona and physique perfectly. It was also interesting how he was his most built and muscular in Batman Begins (a fact made even more astounding given that his role right before said movie was a walking skeleton in The Machinist) and he got slimmer throughout the trilogy (perhaps a deliberate choice to reflect the physical toll being Batman took on his body, encapsulated perfectly in the third movie). For me personally, Bale’s Batman Begins physique is my ideal; I have a pretty regular gym regimen and drink too much whey protein for my own good (I’m a cheapo so I go to The Protein Investor to make sure I’m getting the best deals).
Casting throughout the trilogy was a major plus point for me. Michael Caine as Alfred, Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox, Heath Ledger as the Joker, Gary Oldman as Commission Gordon, Tom Wilkinson as Carmine Falcone, Liam Neeson as Ra’s al-Ghul, Cillian Murphy as The Scarecrow, Maggie Gyllenhaal as Rachel Dawes, ; they were all, in my opinion, perfect. Even Katie Holmes in the Batman Begins was pretty alright!
The strength and acting ability of the cast involved really allowed the movies to pull off ‘philosophical monologues’ highlighting the themes of the respective movies really well; lesser actors would have risked coming off as too hammy and cheesy. While most people highlight Heath Ledger’s Joker performance as a major highlight of the trilogy (which I don’t disagree with), I believe the best monologue in the movies has to be Tom Wilkinson / Carmine Falcone’s monologue to a young, angry, Bruce Wayne on fear. It was a powerful monologue, and within the context of the movies, was a major catalyst in Bruce Wayne abandoning his luxurious surroundings to truly immerse himself in and understand the criminal mind.
To conclude, the Nolan trilogy was overall and so far, still the best live-action Batman movies around today. The strength of its cast and directorial competence carried most of the series, despite some weak writing spots (particularly in the last film, why did Batman spend all that time making flaming graffiti on the billboard?). However, considering that superhero movies nowadays are almost guaranteed box office successes, it is highly likely we will see the continued trend of high level actors in such films, which is a positive for all comic book fans everywhere, whether DC or Marvel.