Batman, Ace of…What Exactly?

So, yesterday before the Avengers I saw an extended preview for Batman: The Dark Knight Rises, and I have to say I found the whole thing underwhelming. I just have no interest in seeing the film, and thinking about it and discussing it with my friends I think I understand why.

Now, it could be that I’ve simply seen too much Batman. In my lifetime he’s had about 5 animated TV series based around him solely, plus been part of 4-5 others. There have also been 7 movies made, not counting this upcoming one. Add to that countless comics, and I would have every reason to be totally burnt out on him and not care in the least if another Batman anything was coming down the pipe. (Kinda how I feel about Spiderman, but that’s another rant…)

But you know what? I actually love the character, and am not tired of him at all.

What I am tired of is producers who have no idea how to handle the character, and who think that instead of using seventy-plus years worth of comic stories they can somehow come up with something better themselves and “improve” on him.

I also think some of the confusion comes from exactly who and what Batman is.

Batman is really two characters: a pulp action hero, and the world’s greatest detective.

For most writers in Batman’s history, the “world’s greatest detective” title has basically been used as an excuse to explain how he finds the badguys really quick so he can beat them up. Most of the writers who have written Batman haven’t been that smart, so they’ve compensated by focussed on the Pulp Action Hero side of Batman, and let the smart stuff be more implied than shown.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with this approach, as I said, he is two characters in one, but as a result all too often the Detective side of Batman has tended to be neglected in favor of “the Goddamn Batman” side. In fact, I think that’s one of my biggest problems with the current Batman trilogy- it’s really the story of a generic pulp hero character who wears a bat mask, not the story of a great thinker. He’s a thug, whose villains tend to run circles around him and whose solutions are all brute force.

I think this can be best seen in the current trailer, which is all about a guy who we can’t understand in a mask (“Batmffnn I whifffl kerhfl yuuuu”.) who is an ever bigger thug than Nolan’s Batman blowing stuff up and being a bigger thug. Until Batman breaks out his hardcore gear that he stole from Tony Stark and proceeds to out-thug him.

Whoopie!

It was talking to a friend of mine that made me realize what was really wrong with Batman as they’ve been handling him in the movies. He pointed out that actually a Batman movie should have more in common with the latest Sherlock Holmes movie (Game of Shadows) or even the recent Sherlock BBC TV series (which is five flavors of awesome dipped in chocolate) than it should a big movie with lots of explosions.

Batman should be about him working his way through a maze of clues and twists until he finds the truth, and then a) outthinks the badguy and b) beats the shit out of him. He should have more in common with Downey’s version of Holmes (thinking his way through fights) and L from Death Note, than he should Iron Man or a Mexican Wrestler.

His greatest weapon his is brain.

Too bad he almost never gets to use it.

That would be a Batman movie I’d really pay to see.

Rob