OPINION – “A Batman Without Gods”

Let Batman Be Batman

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I re-watched THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE with my kids recently, and as with all previous viewings, I was smiling ear to ear the entire time. I have also been getting somewhat caught up on comics lately. Stuff from the New 52 to old school KNIGHTFALL, along with the GOTHAM BY GASLIGHT, have consumed much of my bed time reading as of late. But BATMAN: WHITE KNIGHT is what has really grabbed me by the throat and not let go. A masterpiece is unfolding in front of our very eyes, my friends. WHITE KNIGHT is already legendary in my view, and we still have a couple of issues to go!

In short, there are endless amazing things happening in the world Batman via animation, comics, etc.

But considering this is Batman On “Film,” let’s address the 800 pound gorilla in the room: the Warner Bros. Batman film franchise.

Where are we with Batman on film, exactly?

Supposedly, Matt Reeves is doing a standalone Batman movie still, but with what actor? In what continuity? In what “reality?”

As of this writing, we are not really sure.

I have some educated guesses and I could go on for hours with speculation, but allow me to share with you what I think WB should do and why.

To begin, I want a complete reboot. If you want to keep the “Affleck Batman” (likely without Affleck himself, of course) in the current slate of films, be my guest. Let that Batman cameo in films like SUICIDE SQUAD 2, WONDER WOMAN 2, and AQUAMAN every day of the week and twice on Sundays, for all I care.

But, Matt Reeves’ Batman movie should its own thing – completely void of any references of the previous films, previous characters, or anything like flying Parademons rendering The Batman useless on the big screen.

For me, it is not simply that I had issues with BATMAN v SUPERMAN and JUSTICE LEAGUE – my issues with Batman in those films is far more complicated than those movie’s flaws as a whole.

Allow me to explain…

I understand many of you love Batman and Superman in the comics and animation together. And believe me, so do I! They are my two favorite fictional characters of all time, so it tickles me to death when I see the two of them standing side by side.

But once you do that to Batman in a live action film, the character not only loses all of its magic, it actually renders Batman rather useless. And it certainly makes him far less interesting.

Take for example the warehouse scene in BATMAN v SUPERMAN; no Batman fan in their right mind can dispute the sheer badassness of that scene. It is by far the most kick ass Batman fight scene of any Batman movie to date. However, when you stop for a second and remind yourself of why he was there in the first place, it all seems rather silly; and dare I say, “unrealistic.”

For sake of the topic at hand, let’s set aside Clark sending a man to save his beloved mother only minutes (literally) after that man was trying to kill him, and instead focus on why Superman would send a mortal human being to save his beloved mother from certain death to begin with! Even if it was someone we knew through the writing and history of the characters that he could trust!

Look, I understand that they divided and conquered for the sake of the story, but Superman could have easily done both- and that is the problem. He could have and would have if BvS was set in “real life.”

In the same film, look at what happens when Doomsday shows up. Batman literally runs, hides and then runs some more.

In JUSTICE LEAGUE, Bruce does put the League together, so that all makes sense (not to mention, the best parts of an otherwise messy picture), but then what? Especially after Superman is resurrected, he has absolutely nothing to do.

Nothing.

Zero.

Zilch.

Even the opening rooftop Batman scene is very well done, up until Batman starts wrestling a Parademon. Once the Parademon is dead, the scene is cool again. But why have the Parademon in the scene in the first place?

It’s ridiculous.

Look, I know many of you may say, “But Rick, it was poor execution of those films, which does not mean it can’t work!” Or, “And look at all the cool times it worked in the comics and animation!” To the former, I don’t think those films are “bad films,” merely flawed. But even flawed, I mentioned some of the coolest parts of those movies and yet those scenes still don’t work when you realize Batman is a man without super powers running alongside gods. And yet, he’s still trying to be relevant outside of some detective work in the Batcave and occasionally giving someone a lift in one his many cool cars.

To the latter – and I know this will upset some of you – but not everything that works in the comics translates well to film.

It just doesn’t.

Sorry.

Now, even though I think THE DARK KNIGHT TRILOGY is a perfect cinematic Batman/Bruce Wayne, three-part story, I am not suggesting that Batman on film be grounded in “reality” like the Nolan films were.

To the contrary, I don’t mind making things more fantastical. Make Bane nine feet tall, introduce characters Nolan would have never touched like Freeze, Hugo Strange, etc., and give us a Batman that we believe could exist as a mortal man for twenty years fighting crime (Zack Synder came close to capturing this, to be fair).

But follow the Chris Nolan AND Tim Burton philosophy: Batman is far more interesting fighting alone (although I have a great idea on how to make Robin work, but that is an oped for another day) and certainly far more intriguing as a Caped Crusader living in a world without gods or superpowered beings fighting alongside him.

Let’s not forget what drives this man: He witnessed the murder of his parents and the burning desire to make sure that it never happens to another child again.

Not a being from an underwater world with god-like powers, or an invulnerable alien from another planet that can fly faster than a speeding bullet and is more powerful than a locomotive.

Nah, he is just a man.

He is, and will always be, a vigilante of sorts – a shadowy figure in the night protecting as many citizens as he possibly can via his detective skills, hi-tech gadgets and bone crushing punches.

BUT, he can be killed just like you and I can.

He will age, just like you and I will.

And he will always fight for justice, because you and I can’t.

Let Batman be “Batman” in the movies…and leave the team ups to the comics and animation where they belong. – Rick Shew