After looking at Big Blue Boy Scout Superman last week, it seems only fitting to talk about someone a bit grittier.
And they don’t get more hardcore than The Dark Knight himself, Batman.
Batman’s first big screen adventure came in 1966 and featured Adam West and Burt Ward as the Dynamic Duo. Because the movie was based on the TV show, the majority of the cast reprised their roles; the camp feel and dialogue also carried over. The plot revolved around the major players of Batman’s rogue gallery turning the world’s leaders into dust and kidnapping them.
It took another 23 years before Beetlejuice duo Tim Burton and Michael Keaton brought Batman back to the big screen in 1989, with Jack Nicholson in tow as Clown Prince of Crime, The Joker.
Despite portraying The Joker as the murderer of Bruce Wayne’s parents, audiences were captivated by the Caped Crusader. Its sequel, Batman Returns, followed three years later.
Batman Returns carried on much in the same vein as its predecessor, featuring Danny DeVito as the excellently made-up Penguin and Michelle Pfeiffer as leather-clad object of affection for pubescent boys the world over, Catwoman.
Although a success, Returns didn’t make as much money as Warner Bros. had hoped and the studio decided to make threequel Batman Forever more family friendly, causing both Burton and Keaton to jump ship.
Joel Schumacher soon made himself at home in the director’s chair and Val Kilmer donned the batsuit. Rubber-faced funny man Jim Carrey poured himself into bright-green spandex to take The Riddler for a spin, while Chris O’Donnell signed on as Batman’s teenage sidekick, Robin. Warner Bros’ gamble paid off and the film was one of the highest grossing of 1995, but making Batman family friendly was about to go catastrophic.
Having used up all of Batman’s plausible bad guys it was decided that Poison Ivy, Mr. Freeze and the relatively-new Bane would do battle against George Clooney’s Batman. Joel Schumacher frequently told actors they were shooting a cartoon and Chris O’Donnell likened the process to making a toy commercial.
Giving the batsuit nipples and having Batman protect a Gotham City that made Las Vegas look subtle killed the franchise, leaving Batman on the scrapheap alongside his chum Superman.
Despite repeated attempts by Joel Schumacher to resurrect the series, Warner Bros. eventually turned to British director Christopher Nolan for the reboot. Taking his inspiration from Batman: Year One, Batman Begins would rewrite the origin of Batman, now Christian Bale, and pit him against relatively-unknown foes Scarecrow and Ra’s Al Ghul, played by Irish actors Cillian Murphy and Liam Neeson. Instead of Robin, Batman was backed by butler Alfred and the yet-to-be-commissioner Jim Gordon, played by British greats Michael Caine and Gary Oldman.
Audiences fell in love with this darker, deeper Batman. A roaring success, it was soon to spawn one of the greatest movies ever made.
The Dark Knight came in 2008 and delivered on Batman Begins’ tease of bringing The Joker back into the mix. Brought to life by Heath Ledger, the new Joker was a psychopathic anarchist who made all previous onscreen Jokers look like clowns. Nolan had finally given audiences the Batman film they always wanted and the nemesis Batman deserved. With viewers repeatedly going back for more, The Dark Knight was a money-making machine, pulling in over $1 billion at the box office.
Threequel The Dark Knight Rises is due for release later this year and, like all Christopher Nolan movies, the plot is a closely-guarded secret. Thankfully we were treated to an awesome trailer that gave us some clues as to how things with pan out for Batman.
With a realistic, albeit nihilistic, Bane on the prowl, things can’t be too rosy. Bringing back the majority of the cast from the first two films and adding Tom Hardy as Bane and Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle/Catwoman, The Dark Knight Rises promises to be the best Batman film ever.
This post is by Kurt Brookes. You should totes go follow him on Twitter @Discuss_Cinema
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