Old vs. New: Batman vs. Batman Begins
Part 1 of a series of articles comparing the modern Batman films to the original films.
We all love Batman. Well most people do. I certainly do. And what better than to write a series of articles discussing all the live action Batman films?
Today, I'm going to be doing Part 1 of a series called Old vs. New: where I will be comparing the new Batman films to the old Batman films. Right now, I will be comparing Tim Burton's original Batman film to Christopher Nolan's first film of his particular trilogy, Batman Begins.
And keep in mind, this is all my opinion. I'm not a Nolan fanboy who is going to gone on and on about how I think Christopher Nolan's Batman destroys Tim Burton's Batman or vice versa. I'm going to be making an article discussing the pros and cons of each film and which I think is better.
If you were alive in the 1980's, you're old enough to remember all the hype surrounding this film back in the summer of 1989. Everywhere, people were talking about nothing but Batman. The hype was so big at the time, that the phenomenon came to be known as "Batmania!"
When the film finally came out, it was a huge critical and financial commercial success, earning over $400 million in box office totals. It was the fifth-highest-grossing film in history at the time of its release and received several Saturn Award nominations, a Golden Globe nomination and won an Academy Award.
When I first saw this film on VHS as a 10-year-old kid back in 2005, I hated it. I saw this film all the way through for the first time in the summer of 2005, which was right after I saw Batman Begins in theaters. This was just not Batman to me.
Of course, I was just a dumb 10-year-old kid then who was allergic to old movies with outdated special effects and terrible action scenes. I just happened to like the new shiny thing. I was wondering why Batman did not have a Cookie Monster voice and why Batman got his ass kicked by one of Joker's thugs.
But as I got older, there were real legit reasons why I disliked this adaption of Batman. I didn't like the fact that Michael Keaton's Batman killed criminals. I didn't like the fact that Tim Burton gave the Joker an origin story and made him the killer of Bruce Wayne's parents. I thought Jack Nicholson's Joker paled in comparison to Heath Ledger's Joker. But in the last couple of years, I've had a real change of heart when it comes to Tim Burton's Batman and all the old Batman films in general and I have been able to reanalyze them from a non-biased point of view without comparing them to Christopher Nolan's Batman. And after recently watching this film again, I was surprised how much more I enjoyed it, especially compared to the recent Batman films of late.
Michael Keaton's Batman:
Michael Keaton plays Bruce Wayne/Batman and might I say from my current point of view that his Batman was awesome! I use to strongly dislike his take on the Caped Crusader for superficial reasons, but over the years I've come to love his Batman. As Bruce Wayne, he was good too even if it was different from the comics and the Bruce Wayne that is usually portrayed in all Batman media. He is definitely my favorite live-action Batman thus far.
He had the coolest costume, best gadgets, and even some of his action scenes were pretty cool. Sure his Batman never talked much and Michael Keaton wasn't the most fit guy in the world to play Batman, but that is what I liked about his portrayal of the character. You weren't supposed to get the feeling that this guy could get up at night and drive around in a big car with a Batman costume on. He also had the perfect demeanor to pull off the aura and mystique that Batman is supposed to have.
Michael Keaton's Batmobile:
And ahh...the Batmobile that Michael Keaton drove in this movie. Nice looking thing here. Though it's not my favorite Batmobile of the films (that would be Val Kilmer's Batmobile in Batman Forever), but it's still a cool thing to drive and much better than Christian Bale's Tumbler tank thing. It just looks a little too much like a Hot Wheels car to me.
And what can I say about Tim Burton's Gotham? This is what Gotham should be! THIS IS GOTHAM to me! It's just so cool and beautiful to look at the same time!
Christopher Nolan's Gotham was okay in Batman Begins, but it definitely can't compare to Tim Burton's Gotham in these films.
Jack Nicholson's Joker:
You ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight?
- Jack Nicholson's Joker
There really isn't much to say about Jack Nicholson's Joker. His portrayal of the character is simply amazing on every level. Combine that with Michael Keaton's Batman and you have as strong a protagonist-antagonist combination as you'll ever find in any other film. He based his portrayal off of the character on the Golden Age of Batman comics and remained true to that. Granted, Jack was a little over the top, but he was definitely entertaining.
The only negative thing I'd have to say about his performance is the scene where he is dancing with his henchmen to Prince music (ugh...Prince really?) on the streets of Gotham at the parade.
Batman was so successful, that over $750 million worth of merchandise of the film was sold. Thanks to the success of the 1989 film, Warner Bros. Animation prompted to create the acclaimed Batman: The Animated Series, as a result beginning the long-running DC animated universe and helped establish the modern day superhero film genre. Series co-creator Bruce Timm stated the television show's Art Deco design was inspired from the film and that it would never have been made if it weren't for Batman.
Alright! I have given my thoughts on Batman, now it's time to discuss the first film in a series of films that tried to be Batman and...yeah...just weren't.
Batman Begins (2005):
Aaahh...Batman Begins. I first saw this film with a good friend of mine from school when it came out back in June 2005, and I freaking loved it. Though I fell asleep through a good 30 minutes of it, but like I said earlier, I was a dumb 10-year-old kid back then. And like Tim Burton's Batman, I've had a real change of heart about Batman Begins too.
So the film starts off with Bruce Wayne as a child as he falls down into a dry well and is attacked by a swarm of bats, subsequently developing a phobia of the creatures. While watching an opera with his parents, Thomas and Martha Wayne, Bruce becomes frightened by the performers masquerading as bats and asks to leave. Outside, mugger Joe Chill murders Bruce's parents in front of him. Orphaned, Bruce is raised by the family butler, Alfred Pennyworth.
Fourteen years later, Chill is freed in exchange for testifying against Gotham City mafia boss Carmine Falcone. Bruce intends to murder Chill, but one of Falcone's assassins does so first. Bruce's childhood friend, assistant district attorney Rachel Dawes, berates him for attempting to undermine the justice system, saying that his father would be ashamed. Bruce confronts Falcone, who tells him that real power comes from being feared. Bruce decides to travel the world and learn how to confront injustice.
While serving a prison sentence for theft in Bhutan, he meets Henri Duchard, who trains him as a member of the League of Shadows, led by Ra's al Ghul. After completing his training and purging his fears, Bruce learns that the League intends to destroy Gotham, believing it to be corrupt and beyond saving. Bruce rejects the League's cause and burns down their temple during his escape. Ra's is killed by falling debris, while Bruce saves the unconscious Ducard.
Bruce returns to Gotham intent on fighting crime. Inspired by his childhood fear, he takes up the vigilante identity of "the Batman."
And I really like all this, because it's the first time we saw an in-depth origin of Bruce Wayne and how he became Batman on the big screen.
Christian Bale's Batman:
Christian Bale did an excellent job as Bruce Wayne, but when it comes to his performance as Batman, I'm little more mixed on him.
Don't get me wrong, Bale does an excellent job of portraying the smart detective that Batman is supposed to be and shows all the cool ninja tactics that we all know and love. But oh my goodness, that Cookie Monster voice! When you're watching his Batman, you get the feeling he is trying so hard to be intimidating, but he just ends up making you laugh in the end instead. Every time I hear that voice in these movies, it totally takes me out of the realm of seriousness. It's like, is Christian Bale trying to play Batman or is he trying to play the Incredible Hulk?
When Michael Keaton played Batman, he didn't try to pull off any kind of special voice to make himself seem spooky. He just naturally was.
Christian Bale's Batmobile:
And let's talk about this what is supposed to be a "Batmobile."
This thing is not a Batmobile. Nothing about it screams Batman. Yeah, when I first saw Batman Begins, I thought this thing was cool and I liked how big it was and how Batman could shoot cars and cause damage in the city of Gotham with this thing. I admit it was kind of unique. But, it's still not a Batmobile. And this is where I think Christopher Nolan took his "realism" aspect a little too far.
Like I said earlier, Christopher Nolan's Gotham was okay in this film. But it doesn't really scream GOTHAM to me. But this Gotham is nowhere near as boring and bland looking as the one in the sequels.
Gary Oldman's Commissioner Gordon:
One of the great things about Nolan's Batman films though is Gary Oldman's performance as Commissioner Gordon. He absolutely nailed the character for me (way more so than Pat Hingle). He played a way bigger role in these movies as well which made him a way better character than Pat Hingle's Commissioner Gordon.
Michael Caine's Alfred Pennyworth:
Michael Caine did an excellent job playing the trusted butler to Bruce's parents, who continues his loyal service to their son after their deaths as his closest confidant. Plus, he seemed much less of a goofball than Michael Gough's Alfred.
Liam Neeson's Ra's al Ghul:
With Liam Neeson being one of my favorite actors, you can bet I loved his performance as Ra's al Ghul in this film. I really liked seeing him train Bruce Wayne to fight and him trying to destroy Gotham at the end with his henchmen. It shocked me in the end when he turned out to be the villain in the end instead of Bruce's mentor.
Batman Begins was a great film for it's time and was the Batman film we all craved for after the movie that was Batman & Robin. But some parts of the movie don't hold up well and as a Batman film, it might leave you bored out of your mind. And as the hype died down and Christopher Nolan's Batman Trilogy concluded, many people (including me) got off the cool-aid and started to realize that Christopher Nolan's take on the Caped Crusader wasn't all it was cracked up to be. I feel like Batman Begins was the Batman film we all wanted, but not the one we deserved.
And let's face it, I think any Batman adaption that came out in 2005 would have gotten a good reception as long as it didn't include bat-nipples or the Bat-Credit Card. Even if it starred Ashton Kutcher.
So the winner goes to Batman. Sorry to my 10-year-old self and to Nolan fans who may be reading this, but this was the better Batman film. This was the real deal. While I still like Batman Begins, it's legacy for me has faded over the years and I can't ignore some of the negative impact Christopher Nolan has had on cinema in the last decade. It's thanks to Batman Begins that we have all the endless amount of comic book movies that are indistinguishable from the next that come out today.
Batman's legacy is greater. Before Batman came out, most people didn't know anything about Batman in the comics at the time and Adam West represented Batman to the general public. Most people thought he was supposed to be campy and didn't know he was actually a dark superhero. It also paved the way for darker comic book films and proved they could be successful as a genre. Without Batman, you wouldn't have all the great comic book series that came out later like the X-Men series, Spider-Man series or the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Plus, Batman is a much more visually satisfying and entertaining film. It has the Joker. And I prefer a Batman that doesn't have a Cookie Monster voice.