The Legacy of Joel Schumacher

Like many “nerds” of a certain age, I took my turn at the zinger cannons to lob disrespect and vitriol toward the talents of Joel Schumacher. A longtime director, Schumacher nevertheless became the focus of “fan rage” unlike any that had been seen up to that point.

A little background for the youngsters is in order. After the divisive Batman Returns came and went, fans in some circles weren’t as certain of their love for Tim Burton anymore. It had a lot of what they had liked in 1989 with the first Batman, but for some it had a bit too much Pee Wee’s Big Adventure about it. It also cemented the template of “two villains per movie” that has had a mixed track record of success.

Sure, some would be quick to point out that Batman Returns has a fairly strong rating from both audiences and critics on Rotten Tomatoes, the great arbiter site of opinion. We don’t have to get into the weeds about that, except to say that I lived through the reception at the time and while it wasn’t awful it wasn’t nearly as universally adored as its predecessor.

Again, Rotten Tomatoes “tells a different story,” if you want to read it that way. Again, having “been there,” it seems to be a bit of historical revisionism.

It doesn’t matter. The “consensus” at the time was that the series needed a new director. And we all know that a “consensus” is all that you need in order to make a plan.

In stepped veteran director Joel Schumacher.

joel schumacher the lost boys behind the scenes | kesseljunkie.com
On the set of The Lost Boys.

The Blockbuster Franchise

I’m not going to debate the merits of his two Batman entries, Batman Forever and Batman & Robin. They are what they are. Suffice it to say that I am a huge Batman fan, and that should give you a little context.

Schumacher went for something that didn’t work for a lot of people. Note that there wasn’t a big-screen Batman film for nearly a decade after his last. It was considered that he had “killed” the franchise. Only Superman had a fourth installment that paused a franchise so dramatically. (Superman still holds the record, with 19 years between fourth movie and reboot.)

What fascinates me is that Joel Schumacher was actually a good director, but it isn’t the first thing that people said about him for a long time. The first thing tended to be about Batman.

He had 35 directing credits! His long and storied career spanned everything from music videos to giant blockbusters to streaming shows. He managed to adapt through times of giant technological filmmaking shifts. Read about it all on his IMDb page.

You could even argue he was a great director, delivering the type of genre-shifting movie like The Lost Boys, which was a teen-friendly vampire flick that still managed to make vampires scary. He brought insight to movies like A Time to Kill and Phone Booth, or Falling Down. He had an eye for talent as evidenced by the cast of the cult classic D.C. Cab.

The Poison Pills

The point of me eulogizing him a bit is that as I grew older and attained some more perspective, I started to feel this weird regret about what had been done to his legacy in certain circles.

Thanks to the geeks gaining great volume in the era of the Internet, which was poised for its big breakthrough right around the time Batman & Robin was released, he became known as “the guy who wrecked Batman.”

There was no escape. His name was practically a curse.

A Batman animated series episode had a joke at his expense as well. It was a very “meta” moment.

He got lampooned on Robot Chicken, a stop-motion animation comedy show that aired nearly a decade after the fact, wherein he was declared “history’s greatest monster” and attacked during a nerd riot. (It was pretty funny, actually.)

He felt the need to “apologize” for Batman & Robin two decades after the fact. Let that sink in, if you will. Twenty years had passed.

Again, I freely admit that I gleefully took part in the mocking of him and the movie at the time. For the record, I still hate Batman & Robin. (Batman Forever isn’t too great, either.) It doesn’t work for me at all. It seems not to work for many.

The True Legacy

But Joel Schumacher created a lot of good works as well. His only “unforgivable” sin was creating something that fans didn’t like. He didn’t deserve to have it hung around his neck like an albatross.

He didn’t deserve to have nearly every headline at the time of his passing mention his Batman movies only. His legacy became those Batman movies, which was a job anyone would have been nuts to turn down.

Maybe there’s a lesson there that the mob is predisposed to focus on your missteps, and not your successes. Maybe it’s that waiting for those moments it can latch onto dysfunctionally, to drag you down however it can. Maybe it’s that people take their entertainment way too seriously.

Maybe I’m a romantic at heart. Maybe I’m just all too aware that no one has a perfect record. What matters is that they tried, and when they failed they picked themselves up and kept moving.

Either way, I will spend my time remembering the good stuff that Mr. Schumacher did. It’s how we’re supposed to honor the dead, for one day we all will be.

Batman + Sweat = Batsweat

This post is inspired by a conversation with none other than @TheInsaneRobin. He insisted that my recent post about Sybok from Star Trek preventing Thanos’ mass murdering impulses in Avengers: Infinity War was the nerdiest I’ve ever written, so I want to try to pick up that vibe again.

I mean, I’d offer that my analysis of how Darth Vader’s murder of Admiral Ozzel lost the entire war for the Galactic Empire in the Star Wars saga ranks highly up there, too. You could also probably pick almost anything at random that I’ve ever written about Star Wars, if you wanted to try to construct a psychological profile of what it’s like to live inside my head.

Homer J. Simpson, the J stands for Jay so Homer Simpson who has the middle initial J in Homer J. Simpson is named Homer Jay Simpson shortened to Homer J. Simpson.
Live shot of the author’s creative thought processes.

We were discussing the different physical effects of Batman’s suit on him as he wore it.

It’s a richer topic than you’d think, due to all the variations on the suite we’ve gotten onscreen over time. Technically we should even consider the one that appeared in the 1940s Columbia Batman serials even though, as much as I might respect that Johnny Duncan was technically the first on-screen Batman, no one really cares about that era.

I’m not going to turn this into one of my lengthy series, though. This will be one post because I think that there are some baseline “physiological costs” that apply across all the costumes. It’s really the level of the effects that are influenced by the materials used in its construction.

Overheating and Hydration

Overheating and hydration are likely the primary concerns with any iteration of Batman. Since they’re tied very closely together, I’m addressing them at the same time. They still have their own headers, though, to try to delineate where specifically they concern the health and well-being of the Dark Knight Detective.

Overheating

Even appropriately-breathable materials trap heat. It’s an inescapable concern for Batman especially, as physical exertion increases body heat. If that heat can’t escape, your heat basically gets trapped.

It’s a vicious cycle; even high humidity prevents adequate sweat evaporation and can lead to overheating. Imagine the issues if you’ve got a layer of material on top of your skin, and the only way for the heat to escape is through your eyes and the bottom half of your face.

This ties into hydration because sweating is how we cool off, but as we expend that water…we need more of it.

Hydration

Hydration is an issue regardless of the era we’re examining. Every suit we’ve seen Batman wear would trap body heat. That’s not a terribly difficult hurdle for the moments we see him idling, as he can just bring a big water bottle, presumably attached to his utility belt. Given the bursts of activity he endures, though, it becomes an exponentially increasing concern as it’s paired with the concern for overheating.

Batman would have to be constantly mindful about salt imbalances, and the deleterious effects of fluid loss. Batman would therefore need to carry a lot of water with him, or have water stations hidden all around Gotham so that he could grab a quick drink when he was feeling worn down by fluid loss.

You could argue that he could carry this in the Batmobile, but then we have to parse out which Batmobile we’re discussing.

For this reason, the economy-of-motion Batman we saw in Tim Burton’s 1989 masterpiece seems a much better approach for the caped crusader than the higher-energy versions we encounter in other iterations.

Batman Adam West as Batman in a still for Batman about Batman the TV series about Batman with Adam West as Batman who could beat Craigula.
Terror: Possibly the best choice for costume is this one.

 

Chafing and Other Skin Issues

Chafing and skin issues are unquestionably more serious issue for the “rubber-suit variants” to which we’ve grown accustomed in the modern age. The aforementioned trapped sweat – a part of our overheating concerns – could easily combine with the rubbing of the material on the skin, and cause abrasions, cuts, or even infections.

Chafing

You could ostensibly avoid these sorts of things with baby powder, but we’re talking a fair amount of it. There would have to be enough that it would slow down Batman on the way out, and in cases where he was unable to slather himself in baby powder, even putting the suit on becomes a difficult task.

(I have a personal grudge about baby powder, but I promise I’m not taking that into my reasoning. It’s a weirdly personal thing, too, and I’d appreciate it if I stopped talking about it. It’s none of your business.)

You could reason that he has a suit that functions like a diving suit, but that would arguably multiply the concerns of overheating and even fluid loss/imbalance.

Other Skin Issues

When I mentioned “abrasions, cuts, or even infections,” I should also have mentioned “rashes.” Ingrown hairs would also be a potential side effect, as would boils. Basically, Bruce Wayne would be able to be a recluse because his body odor and apparent lack of hygiene would drive people away from Wayne Manor.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, it’s pretty much just fall and spring where Batman would be the most effective “on the ground” crime fighter. Those seasons alleviate some of the suit concerns by virtue of lower humidity and more moderate temperatures.

They don’t remove them completely, though. For this reason, it would follow more that Batman would be active only for short bursts every few days. Christopher Nolan seems to address that idea with an exchange in The Dark Knight that Batman doesn’t always show up for the Bat Signal, and by implication isn’t out on the streets every night.

The whole reason I write these sorts of things, honestly, is to remind myself of how absurd it is that we look for “realistic” explanations to fantastical things. He’s Batman, he’s a vigilante, and we don’t need to care about anything else. Otherwise we run the risk of becoming insufferable bores like “real life scientists” on a Twitter rant about the scientific accuracy of Star Trek.

Help us all if that’s the road we go down.

The Batman Blogs: The Car

When you hear the name “Batman,” perhaps the first thing you think of before Gotham, The Joker or killing off Robin is the Batmobile. The one and only stock car of heroism.

Superman may be able to fly, but he’s never had a rad car like the Batmobile. Much like the average male, Batman makes up for what he lacks by having a fly ride.

And who can blame him? What better way to let criminals know that they’re about to get a legendary beat-down than to roar onto the scene with a car that roars, “I am severely maladjusted socially and looking for someone on whom to lay the smack down.”

At the very least, it lets them know that you’ve got massive funding. Odds are they’ll get the point that you’re well-equipped to counter whatever they might throw.

So let’s look at the Batmobile through the ages.

TV Batmobile

The Batmobile in the 1960s was the type of car you’d expect to see cruising the beach. Open top, rad paint job and low riding. It didn’t really look like much of a crime-fighting vehicle so much as an attention getter. And with how low it was to the ground, thank goodness there were no speed bumps back then.

But it did have the jet engine. Who knows where they got enough intake to initiate a jet process? High quality Detroit engineering, that.

1989/1992 Batmobile

This redesign was fantastic. It turned the Batmobile into a sleek gothic missile, and added a turbine so that the jet engine made sense. It looked polished, new and lethal. Though the stop-motion shield animation looked like a Beetlejuice FX-reelcast-off, the end result of the shielded Batmobile was awesome.

And it had freaking machine guns to blow apart obstacles. And apparently they were capable of really fine motor control since they could cut a perfect Batmobile-sized entryway in Axis Chemical’s dock entry doors. And did I mention the bombs? Because it could totally drop bombs, and it was remote-controlled by voice.

I remember obsessing over the Batmobile with the 1989 film. It was hands-down one of the coolest redesign elements of the whole film; I’d argue that it elevated Batman himself from cool to awesome.

As another blogger elsewhere has pointed out, though, when you go back to the car chase scene…it’s painfully slow. This Batmobile moves like a snail; it makes sense because of the armor, but you’d think a jet engine would have helped it move a bit quicker than that. Still, they took a good concept and made it great.

There were some minor tweaks to the design (and shielding animation) for Batman Returns, which were good. They also managed to make it move quicker. I’m not sure if they figured out how to lighten the frame, or if it’s just because they had a long section of straightaway to let it get up to speed in that scene. Either way, it was just a bit better.

1995/1997 Batmobile

Funky neon explosion. 1950s retro as imagined by a hyperactive.

Fitting, for the way the character functions in Batman Forever and Batman & Robin.

The strange thing is, I want to like the design. It’s fresh, it’s original, and it’s bold. Unfortunately, it takes that initiative into a direction that makes the Batmobile less a symbol of justice and more a symbol of pimping. Which, from what I understand, isn’t easy. But it certainly doesn’t inspire fear. Except possibly in the hearts of prostitutes.

In the words of Forrest Gump, that’s all I have to say about that.

2005/2008 Batmobile: “The Tumbler”

Obviously inspired by the tank-like creation for Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns, the Tumbler (they never call it Batmobile in the film, which is in line with the move away from corniness under Nolan’s watch). We all know it’s the Batmobile, so we don’t need to call it the Batmobile.

And what a Batmobile it is. This is a Batmobile that says, “I’m not f***ing around.” If Batman needs to drive through a wall to kick your ass, he will. He’s the only one who can get into or out of the Batcave because he’s the only one with the equipment to do it.

To be honest, I was in love with it for those reasons. While it met its end in The Dark Knight, spawning the equally awesome “Batpod,” it was fun while it lasted. I believed in this Batmobile, that it would get the job done and repel everything short of nukes. If you’re going to make a habit of going into harm’s way, why not be as armored as possible?

And it’s a far cry from the television show with its airy, surfer styling. This Batmobile shows that Batman regards the world as a place fraught with brutal, forceful danger and he’s going to stack the odds however he can.

Side note about the Batpod. I think there’s a theme through the film that Batman gets stripped down to his core, the basic truth of himself, and as a result like Luke losing R2, he loses his biggest piece of technology at a crucial moment and still comes out victorious. I think there’s something to that.

Conclusion

Of course, the gas mileage on all of these is probably terrible. Greenpeace really should protest the Batmobile and the message of oil consumption it promotes. For that matter, PeTA should put out messaging that bats have just as many rights as people and encourage Batman to be a spokesman for their rights.

In fact, maybe that should be the next reboot! Batman as an animal rights activist, who uses only green technology to fight for the rights of animals marginalized by industrialization. That would make a ton of money, and you could show it in school to get extra funding from the Department of Education!

DC Comics and Warner Bros. can send me a check now for that awesome idea.

The Batman Blogs: The City

And now we turn our eye on the most critical design element of any Batman story. Gotham City.

If anything, the Gotham City you get is the biggest indicator of what you can expect from any iteration of Batman. Dark and Brooding Gotham begets Dark and Brooding Batman, Garish Gotham begets Campy Batman, Rea–World Gotham begets Realistic Batman.

And so the nature of Gotham has led to some interesting production design choices. I’m not going to bother going through the history of each, or even try to delve into the “depth” of each vision. Just examine how Gotham itself has often been our most revealing and ambitious character in any of the Batman movies.

Batman

First of course is the 1989 film.

In it, production designer Anton Furst established a very gothic Gotham. Just as importantly, the cinematography by Roger Pratt turns a studio lot into a grim, shadowed pararllel-universe New York City of the pre-Giuliani era. Full of rich menace and fear when the sun goes down, regardless of who you are. Looking at this Gotham, it looks like the type of place where muggings are not only common, they’re expected. Hell, it looks like you’d be disappointed if you weren’t mugged once in a while, as if it were a statement about you.

So this is totally in line with what they were hoping to portray on the whole for Batman in this film. Brooding, gothic and gritty. Also, apparently it rained all the time there when the cameras were turned off; I have trouble recalling a scene where the streets don’t look like a street–sweeper just rolled through. However, it really works to the advantage of the film as the streets look slimy most of the time. I think that’s really neat.

And to be honest, it’s the image of Gotham I latched onto through the next three films. Mentally, I refused to let go. Now let me tell you why.

Batman Returns

Batman Returns is where the production design started to slip and Tim Burton’s stranger sensibilities started to creep in through the margins. After the success of Batman I suppose it makes sense he got a little more creative control, but the road Burton would travel through Edward Scissorhands led to the redesigned Gotham City.

It makes sense that the look would be similar, because the same cinematographer for Scissorhands and Ed Wood, Stefan Czapsky, takes over from Roger Pratt. Why? I don’t honestly know. Maybe Pratt was forced on Burton the first time around and they didn’t get along. It happens after all; George Lucas and Gil Taylor notoriously disliked working together, and Taylor was reportedly a hedge from the studio to try to ensure the investment on a strange film.

Production design was taken on Bo Welch, who worked with Burton on Edward Scissorhands and Beetlejuice. Sadly, that’s probably due to the fact that Anton Furst died in 1990.

But the point is, Gotham changed. Instead of a very realistic–yet–Gothic city, we got our first taste of giant statuary populating the film. Combined with some off moments of cinematography, the back–lot set looked considerably less convincing. This Gotham presented a little more of a twisted and cartoonish take on the character, which definitely bears out in how the characters themselves are treated.

Don’t get me wrong, I like Batman Returns just fine, but it’s certainly a let-down after the first film. The production design and photography have a lot to do with that.

Batman Forever

Then the madness started.

Gotham City devolved in Batman Forever into a neon hodge-podge looking like Tokyo had sex with New York and made Fritz Lang the caretaker. Honestly, while it may have looked neat for a few frames, it was a definite step away from the dark reality of the first two into the fevered dream of a 5 year old with crayons. Interesting, but not functional for reality.

And while I’m a huge fan of “interesting,” this Gotham looks like it belongs more in Star Trek III (watch that scene with McCoy in the bar again) than a Batman film. This is, of course, fitting because this Batman film aspires to nothing greater than forgettable entertainment. At least, I wish it was forgettable.

The point, though, is that this Batman is starting his divorce from reality. Scaling vertical walls in cars? No problem. Shouting your secret identity in a room full of people and not being heard? No problem. Batman possessing ray-shield technology on his suit to withstand a fiery explosion? No problem.

I suppose fans sort of lost their right to be surprised after the first few shots of the credits, when Gotham City telegraphed this particular punch. And like I said, I am a big fan of “interesting,” so I’m not bashing Barbara Ling‘s design itself. I’m just saying that like the first two films, this Gotham City told us what to expect.

Shouted it, really.

Batman & Robin

And then it fell into the pit of despair with Batman & Robin. Anything redemptive about the Barbara Ling’s first designs of Gotham are gone. Completely and utterly devoid of anything except camp and giant naked statues. Honestly, the place looks like an Ayn Rand novel as interpreted by Andy Warhol.

The neon’s amped up, the statues are bigger, the geometry of the city makes less sense than Lost Highway and did I mention the black-lights that populate the entire city to make paint glow? And it fits with this incarnation of Batman and his villains. Hollow flesh automata randomly stringing sentences together and occasionally conflicting.

I’m typically a positive guy. I look for the good in people and experiences. I try to see the silver lining. I believe that, even if I didn’t like a movie, there’s typically something about it that was pulled off successfully. Usually for me, design is that thing.

Usually.

Batman Begins and The Dark Knight

I combine these two because they’re the first f*ing time in the entire series they used the same people in the key design and photography roles. And it shows.

They used a real city to film these two, so maybe Chicago shows through too strongly in some moments. But by and large, the use of a real city – albeit with a heavily altered skyline in establishing shots – give us a route by which we can recognize this Batman and therefore his world. Whereas the previous films varied from heavy gothic sensibilities to cartoonish nightmare, these films offer a subtle visual reassurance that dismisses the need for establishment. We know this world because it looks like the one in which we’re living.

And that’s fitting here because this Batman deals with the same issues we face. We demand a higher sense of reality in our fantasy now. We don’t want just to accept that a thing exists, we want to know how it works. And if we find out how it works, we need to know that it’s in line with our expectations of science (as most of us understand it). Just look at a Star Trek technical manual, or guidebooks to fictional places, to see our new demand to see how it can be explained and believed.

So in a sense, while Nolan’s Gotham delivers a believable Gotham for Batman, it also anticipates the need for the nerd audience to believe that it’s a world in which they could live, too. This is present in the comics, why not in the films now as well? We all want more reality in our fantasy, for better or worse.

I suppose that’s a good thing overall. Tolkien labored to make his worlds believable enough to have us buy into Hobbits, elves and orcs, why not make Batman’s reality just as rich?

The Batman Blogs: Batman vs. Batman vs. Batman vs. Batman

So here we are.

For the first entry in our series, I decided to examine the different portrayals of The Caped Crusader. The Dark Knight.

The evolution of the Batman character itself has been fascinating. As mentioned in the Introduction blog, Batman speaks to certain identity issues that my generation currently is experiencing.

Batman’s gone from brooding, serio-comic figure to seeker of pop psychobabble, to an aimless half–wit, returning to a brooding seeker forced to be a stalwart in a world defined by its lack of definition.

Michael Keaton: 1989 & 1992

The summer of 1989 was an exciting time. We still believed in heroes.

For me, it was the summer between freshman and sophomore years in high school, and I had made no real new friends outside of Mike. I still hung out with my younger cousin Ron a lot, which..hey, wait. I still do that.

Then Batman came out. It’s the first movie I really remember as being a “must see” event and to a lesser extent, a “must like.” It seemed that everyone saw it and everyone that saw it loved it. There were good reasons why.

Unlike Superman, the previous gold standard for comic book movies, there was no tongue-in-cheek chiding of childish fantasy. These characters were treated as real (if bizarrely real) people. There was tremendous theme music, Batman in armor (to up the believability factor) and Jack Nicholson playing Jack Nicholson’s version of the Joker. Most importantly, though, it treated our childhood fantasies with serious veneration, not ironic amusement.

Michael Keaton’s Batman is sure of himself, strong and focused. Whether in the armored suit or tailored coat, this guy is singularly aware. And why wouldn’t our heroes be this way? We were in the heady days of the Fall of Communism, when we believed in strength and the need to be protectors for all the helpless who were victimized by the corrupt and manipulative.

This expression of the character extended into Batman Returns, though it did express Bruce Wayne as the alter ego and Batman as the real man. At the end of the film, when he’s trying to talk Catwoman out of her nefarious plot (to…um, die…again?), there’s an attempt for him to disavow Batman. But we all know that Batman is the real self, and walking away is never a choice. If anything, Bruce Wayne would have to dissipate. The hard choice to make was not to be the hero, but to be anonymous.

Then Batman Forever veers sharply left and accelerates into the era of pop psychology.

Val Kilmer: 1995

Oh, Val. Val Kilmer. The man who gave us a brilliantly fairy tale version of Jim Morrison. The man who made Doc Holliday awesome. Who would also appear in Heat later this same year, in yet another brilliant performance.

He tried to bring the same sort of weight to Batman that Michael Keaton invented. But he’s playing straight man in a very twisted funhouse. He also participates in the first great swell of a sea change in the character.

Batman loses his sense of surety in Batman Forever, the meticulously constructed sense of purpose established by Michael Keaton. He is haunted by dreams of a red book (?) that was a diary his father kept. He is a tentative Batman, acting as hero out of a sense of meekness instead of strength.

In one key scene, he immediately capitulates to Two Face (again, played horrifically by Tommy Lee Jones) and disavows his “alter ego” for the sake of not the greater good, but his own conscience. And as my pal Joey points out, how the Hell anyone missed him shouting out that he was Batman in a crowded room?.

There’s even a psycho-babbler played by Nicole Kidman, who guides him to get in touch with his feelings about the red book.

And is it a surprise? The 1990s were a corner turned, when we learned to “Feel Your Pain” There was a self-help book explosion. The best was written by Dr. Denis Leary, and everyone should have bought it, including me. (warning: NSFW)

By the end of it all, we have well-resolved man dressed in a bat suit, who’s more concerned with making sure everyone feels content than correcting a system or leading. He’s a short-term thinker, focused only on the present. And this continued into the next iteration of the character.

George Clooney: 1997

Batman & Robin. Clooney’s wooden performance is almost an afterthought, but I will say that he’s quite charmed to have been the only one to come out of this mess with an intact career.

We see glimpses of a happy childhood in the loving care of Alfred. Gone are the pain and desolation that formed him. Instead, all that remains is for Batman to become a gentle den mother to Chris O’Donnell and Alicia Silverstone.

I’ll go ahead and say it. This is a non-manly Batman. He’s not even a father figure; he’s a Mommy. He is not troubled but caring, so sensitive that he has to put on a cape and armor and clean up silly messes in a disco nightmare.

And that’s about all I can bring myself to say about it. The late 1990s, though, were a lot like the Roaring 20’s, so it makes a bit of sense. The dot-com bubble was still forming to give us all a falsely-inflated sense of prosperity, our foreign policy was ignorant of a growing threat even after WTC 1993. This treatment of Batman is completely in line with the thinking that there are no real “problems” in the world. Instead of battling a corrupt system, Batman is now an arm of the system (like the 1960s show) and the outside threats are not so much threats as inconveniences from people who just need to be hugged a little harder.

Christian Bale: 2005, 2008, (2012)

Then the real world hit us all in the face a few times and we needed our heroes again.

Batman was reborn as an avatar of our times yet again, a leader bent on showing us how to defeat an outside enemy that had worked its way into our society: by being brave and standing tall. By fighting back. Even though the odds are stacked against people, they are good at their core and able to be awakened to bravery if only someone shows them how.

This speaks definitely to the dormant desire in the hearts of people who feel powerless in the context of an insane world where one human can so callously brutalize another, for no other reason than to generate a video on YouTube. Where bystanders watch and film instead of trying to help.

Bale’s Batman speaks to the desire to inspire people to be better. To raise themselves up. To acknowledge the good and improve the world simply by being the people we know we’re supposed to be. This Batman is a leader by example, not someone who will be at our beck and call; he wants to help those who help themselves. He believes in the individual to make this choice, not the imposition of the choice about what to do. Besides, in a corrupt system, how can those imposed rules be trusted?

This Batman also wrestles with issues of torture. He struggles with his principle of life’s sanctity, growing from a willingness “not to save” a villain to working to save even the most vile. I wrote about it in great detail before, so let’s just say that this Batman is rooted in the great spiritual crisis facing us all right now: how far are we willing to go, for the sake of protection and safety? What are we willing to do and sacrifice for the sake of principle? Is there a core inside us all that shines like a beacon, simply waiting for us to turn it on?

If we’re to accept the answer of this version of the character, evil is contagious and does exist, but good can and must overcome it. But we all have to be willing to take that leap of faith and risk it all to prove that it can.

Conclusion

I know I’ve gone on a while, but I feel that this was worth it. Batman has always been the most fascinating of the superheroes to me because he’s the most human.

That humanity has been what’s made it possible to see ourselves in him. We’ve grown and we’ve changed, but if the development of our hero story here is any indication, we’ve found our way back to what can make us great again: accepting the burden and doing what must be done not just to survive but to deserve our lives, our principles and our souls.

The Batman Blogs: Introduction

Not too long ago, I blogged about reboots. Naturally, Batman came up in the course of conversation; I’m pretty sure that the first time I heard the term “reboot” was in conjunction with Christopher Nolan’s reinvention of the character’s life on screen.

Now, everyone knows how much I loved Batman Begins and even moreso The Dark Knight. They’re deep, symbolic films rich with meaning and expertly constructed.

But naturally, as I watched Batman Begins again recently, I wanted to exercise some analytical thought about these films and what they represent, since Batman has been such an enduring character.

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