By Daniel Eisenhut
The Batman is in theaters! The launch was a success and reviews have been very positive. Film buffs were nervous about the choice of Robert Pattinson to play the bat because of his association with the Twilight franchise, but critics have been pleasantly surprised. Pattinson had big shoes to fill replacing Ben Affleck, who had played the hero in previous films and has many ardent fans.
The film explores Batman’s detective side within Gotham City’s criminal underworld. Fitting right into this gritty backdrop are chosen antagonists the Riddler, Penguin and Catwoman.
Critics also agree that Batman really is the protagonist of the film. This may seem weird, but in most films that bear his name, the hero ends up being overshadowed. Sometimes this is due to choices in the direction of the films, but the main reason is that the plot in Gotham is so developed, immersive and captivating that the characters around him end up stealing the show–especially the villains.
Batman has a long history of appearing on the big screen. The first movie, Batman: The Movie, dates back to 1966. Today it is part of pop culture because it portrayed Batman in a childish, silly, and clumsy way.
In the late 80’s and early 90’s, things got more serious. In Batman (1989) and Batman Returns (1992), director Tim Burton created a dark, gothic scenario for Gotham, with a silent Batman and villains that made an impact: Jack Nicholson played the Joker in the first film, while in the second film, Danny DeVito played the Penguin and Michelle Pfeiffer played Catwoman. Batman Returns is one of the films that marked my own childhood.
In the mid-1990s, Joel Schumaker took over directing the franchise, changing the perspective and adding more color and glamour. In Batman Forever (1995), Jim Carrey, as eccentric as always, played the first Riddler and Tommy Lee Jones played the first Two-Face. However, it was in Batman and Robin (1996) that the extravagance reached the limit of what most critics found acceptable. Among Schumaker’s questionable decisions we had prominent “bat-nipples” in the uniform, Schwarzenegger with a confusing performance of Mr. Freeze and Bane, the brainless henchman responsible for breaking Batman’s spine in the comics.
Schumaker’s legacy ended there, and the Batman franchise paused for a lengthy eight-year period. But, director Christopher Nolan rebooted the character in style with Batman Begins (2005). The apex of Nolan’s trilogy was the second film in the series: The Dark Knight, a psychological thriller masterpiece that was taken to new heights with Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker, which won him a posthumous Oscar. Finally, The Dark Knight Rises (2012), closes the trilogy well with a menacing Bane and a widely praised Catwoman.
In recent years, Ben Affleck has presented a more violent version of the hero in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), a film that divided opinions (it’s far from one of my favorites). Affleck also appeared as one of the founding members in Justice League, which got a director’s cut from Zack Snyder after huge fan appeal.
Batman is one of the most beloved heroes of all time, and like the vast majority, he had his origins in comic books. Batman: The Long Halloween, and Batman Year One are classics that influenced this last movie and are great reading recommendations for anyone interested in hopping in the Batmobile.