i saw the new batman movie last night. what follows is a review, coupled with some other thoughts i have had recently about comics in general and with batman in specific.
rachael asked me the other day about the comics i have been reading the last few months. it had never been a secret that i prefer dc to marvel and always have. for me, the x-men are usually a bunch of drama-filled jerks, the avengers are a bunch of b-list heros that hang out together so they can feel like they are a-list and spider-man…well, fine. you got with spider-man. he’s awesome.
so i like dc. and recently, ive been digging their whole gi-mongous crossover ‘infinite crisis.’ so a little history first.
in the 1960s, dc brought back a bunch of their older superheros that had gone out of style after ww2. but rather than bring them back as they were 20 years previous, they updated their costumes and identities to make them more revelvant. so the ‘golden age’ flash had been a man named jay garrick who wore a hat much like mercury did. but his new version was a man named barry allen who dressed in the very familiar red suit.
this was cool. and then they got even more clever. they brough back the old versions. but dc stated the old characters lived on another earth – a parallel earth. through a variety of methods, the heros of these worlds crossed back and forth. (for instance, the flashes could change the way their atoms vibrated to move between the worlds. like changing the channel of a tv. an old tv.
this went on for a solid 25 years, back and forth. but then in 1985, things happened. dc was celebrating its 50th anniversary. the fans were complaining about continuinity (oh, nerds). it was difficult to keep things straight, as writers had continued to add earths during the previous 25 years. no one could keep track of anything. and so dc came up with a plan.
called ‘crisis on infinite earths’, the series was a 12 issue ‘maxi-series’. that is, dc published 1 issue of the comic each month for 12 months. and thats it. this hadnt really been done before and certainly not with a story of this scale. in the series, dc wiped out the multiple earths and condensed everything back down into one. one earth. it wasnt just a ton of earths that got destroyed. dc killed characters. remember the barry allen version of the flash? yeah, he bit it. so did supergirl. this was all a huge deal. it was big. (i also think this might be my favorite comic storyline ever. i remember when i first bought it as a kid, right after it concluded. and i love it. i still love it. its like a nerd’s version of a michael bay movie. how do you get bigger than wiping out an infinite number of earths? you have a tough time topping that.)
still with me? ok, fast forward to now.
its 20 years after crisis and dc has decided to celebrate by publishing ‘infinite crisis’. but in the last 20 years, people have learned. so what does dc do? well, last year, they publish a 7 issue series called ‘identity crisis’ and a few comics tie into it. then they publish a few months ago a book called ‘countdown to infinite crisis’ for a buck. everyone buys it. then they launch 4 different 6 issue series, all touching on different crisis occurring in the dcu (dc universe). those all wrap up in about 3, 4 months and, finally, we get ‘infinite crisis’. in fact, dc isnt even spilling the beans yet on what it is going to be about.
the original crisis was 12 issues, plus crossovers. but this time we have had a prelude of (thinks…7+1+24) 32 issues. not counting the crossovers. marketing gimmick or solid story? there are people on both sides of the fence. personally, im just enjoying it and trying not to let it break my bank account. so far im doing ok.
i see your eyes glazing over, ill make this relevant in two snaps.
all this dc stuff is predicated on the batman. he plays a large role for a number of reasons. the main focus behind much of this though is that dc has built the batman character into a huge asshole. that’s right, dc has made the batman a giant dick.
(this happened about 20 years ago as well, with the publication of ‘the dark knight returns’ and the portrayal of a future batman who was, surprisingly, a jerk.)
so now batman has built a giant spy satellite to spy on the earth to keep all the heros in check. sounds stupid right? cause it is. batman isnt big brother. but dc, right now, says otherwise.
and now we get to the batman movie.
and they make batman an asshole in the movie too. there are two schools of thought with the batman character. the first is that batman is a mask for bruce wayne. the second is that bruce wayne is a mask for batman. (there is no discussion like this with superman – clark kent is the mask.) in the 70s, batman was the mask. bruce existed and he was a man in a bat suit. but since the dark knight returns, bruce has become the mask. and its made batman a less interesting character. because it makes him one dimensional. and the movie plays this up by the end. it is explicitly stated at the end that bruce is a mask for the bat. ug.
its solid. i give it a b+. but as a comic fan who has read batman off and on (mostly on) for the past 20 years, im going to be picky. and a know-it-all.
first of all, the movie is dark. really dark. and they got it right. it was enjoyable and it worked.
but on the downside, it felt like a dark version of the spider-man movies. not that it didnt have its own flavor, but it almost didnt have its own flavor. you cant compete with the first batman movie. and this one cant. but maybe thats a good thing. maybe its ok that this feels like the rest of the current comic book movies. maybe more people will see it then.
here are my tiny annoyances: 1. nolan cant direct fight sequences. this really got to me. the dude just couldnt make them work. i couldnt follow the action. and i understand making them chaotic, but still. i want to see what is going on. 2. there was no yellow circle on the bat suit. now fine, nerds, you can argue with me (‘year one batman didnt have the yellow. he just had the bat, like in the movie.’). but youre wrong – in the comic, year one batman had a grey suit and black bat. not a black uniform with a black bat you never see. the costume was too dark. i think it looked silly being so stark, with only his chin sticking out. the yellow is supposed to act as a target, drawing fire to his chest, where he is protected. now you can just aim for the chin and blow his face off.
little things: (small spoilers — dont blame me for ruining the end if you keep reading. you know what has to happen anyway before you even set foot in the theater.) zsasz shows up. yay. they use the ‘i’m the batman’ line again. yay. they dont use the ‘criminals are a cowardly and superstitious lot…’ speech. boo. the villians get away in the end, so no more nonsense like in the first batman movie where the only resolution was to kill the villian. yay. katie holmes ducks out, like every other romantic lead. please, can we either kill the romantic leads in these things or just not have them? thats so much more fun than a 5 minute romance: ‘i want to be close to you.’ kiss. ‘holy crap, youre batman.’ ‘yes.’ ‘i cant love you. goodbye.’
should you see this? no doubt. will it change your life? probaby not even a little. but will you be entertained? no question. when my biggest annoyances are over costume details and predictable resolutions to impossible romantic relationships, it cant be all bad.