The new Batman movie, Batman vs. Robin, has finally arrived. After five years of teasing, the world is about to find out if Christian Bale’s The Dark Knight was a flop or not. But, of course, there’s more to the story.

The actor and his team went through hell to make the movie and he put his life on the line several times. So it’s only fair that we look back and see if they really made the right choice. After all, we can learn a lot from a movie that doesn’t work. And to be able to say whether or not this particular Batman movie was a success, we have to first look back at the franchise as a whole.

The Batman Franchise As A Whole

The Batman franchise as a whole can be considered a success. The Dark Knight, the first film in the series, was a massive hit and established the basis for the entire franchise. Since then, both Batman and Robin have appeared in various forms of media, including comics, and successfully kept the character alive. And, of course, we can’t forget about Christopher Nolan’s trilogy, which remains one of the most popular and influential superhero movie series of all time. If you want to find out more, check out my article on the greatest Batman films of all time. But, before we get to the newest installment in the franchise, let’s take a quick look at the previous three movies.

The Amazing Batman Chronicles

For those of you who haven’t heard of it, The Amazing Batman Chronicles is probably the best example of a direct-to-video superhero movie. This 2004 film serves as the origin story for Christian Bale’s Batman and is, in fact, named after the 1992 comic book, The Amazing Batman. So, if you’ve ever wondered what the inspiration for the Christian Bale Batman was like, this is the video you’ve been looking for. The movie directly ties into the comics and follows the adventures of Bruce Wayne as he transforms from a corporate playboy to a masked crusader. The Amazing Batman Chronicles was released to moderate theatres in 2004 and then got the VOD (Video on Demand) treatment in 2005. It currently holds a 6.1 rating on IMDb, which is considered average. But I’d like to see what it would look like if it were reviewed today.

The Dark Knight

The Dark Knight is the second and, so far, the most successful film in the franchise. It’s worth noting that The Dark Knight wasn’t initially intended to be the first part of a trilogy. As the director, Christopher Nolan, explained in an interview with Empire magazine, “[The producers] told me, ‘Look, this is the last one.’ And I went, ‘We’ve still got two more?’ And they said, ‘No, no, this is it.’ And I said, ‘It’s a pity because it’s a great story.’ And they said, ‘No, no, it’s not. Let’s move on.'” So, in other words, the producers didn’t see the potential in The Dark Knight and felt that it was best to cut their losses and move on. While this might have been one of the biggest snubs in Hollywood history, it ultimately worked out for the best. Because, when The Dark Knight was released in 2008, it became an instant classic and established Batman as a major player in the cinematic universe (especially considering that it was released during the height of the’superhero’ trend). To this day, The Dark Knight is still considered one of the greatest superhero movies of all time and is frequently ranked among the all-time greatest films.

Batman Begins

Coming soonest to mind is Batman Begins. This 2005 film serves as a prequel to The Dark Knight and, in fact, takes place before Bruce Wayne becomes Batman. It tells the story of an orphaned billionaire who is struggling to find his place in the world and decides to create a social justice program. In order to finance his plan, he has to go into hiding. But, since none of his friends and family want to join him in his crusade, he turns to street crime in order to fund his operations. In this sense, Batman Begins is a lot darker than most superhero movies and definitely one of the most interesting examples of the genre. The film also marks the origin story of Christian Bale’s Batman and introduces us to his sidekick, Dick Grayson. And, of course, the Joker is back and playing a much bigger role than we’ve seen him in before. For those of you who were dissatisfied with The Amazing Batman Chronicles, you’ll likely find this slightly more to your liking. Batman Begins currently boasts a 7.8 rating on IMDb, which is considered high. And it’s no wonder. This is one of the best superhero movies of all time. Thanks to the Dark Knight’s immediate success, everyone wanted a piece of the action. And, as a result, we got five more awesome Batman films. (1)

The Dark Knight Rises

Like Batman Begins, The Dark Knight Rises also serves as a prequel to The Dark Knight and tells the story of an orphaned billionaire who is forced to go into hiding. This time, the villain Bane is the key player and he sets his sights on Harvey Dent, who has taken up the identity of Mr. Dent in order to fight crime. When Gotham is devastated by a terrorist attack that is blamed on Dent, he loses his ‘good’ character and is driven to commit more and more crime. He eventually seeks revenge on those who betrayed him and, in the process, discovers his true identity. This is where the movie begins to parallel the comic book series, The Dark Knight Returns, by Frank Miller. In this sense, The Dark Knight Rises is, in fact, the conclusion of the Batman trilogy. But since it wasn’t the last film in the franchise, it was also the beginning of something new. After this point, both Batman and Bruce Wayne would go on to have their own solo adventures, which would then be wrapped into another trilogy, which is still ongoing. So, while we were promised the end of the Batman franchise five years ago, it still has plenty more to come. (1)


Finally, let’s turn to one of the most interesting examples of a Batman movie that didn’t quite work out as expected. Robin, which was released in 2012, is the final film in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy and the result of a merger between Warner Bros. and Tim Burton’s Dark Castle Productions. This is the only film in the franchise that does not feature Christian Bale as Batman and, instead, features Kevin Costner as the Dark Knight. The plot involves Commissioner Gordon forcing Batman to take a vacation, which results in Robin taking over as the caped crusader’s sidekick. While this might sound like a conventional superhero movie, the twist comes in the form of the villains. The movie focuses heavily on the idea of family, especially fathers and sons. And it’s no coincidence that Batman’s parents were both murdered by the Joker. So, in a sense, this is the ultimate Batman story. The problem is that, even for those of us who loved the idea of a gritty, no-holds-barred take on the DC Comics character, this one didn’t work out so well. Robin currently holds a 6.5 rating on IMDb, which is considered average. But this is a franchise with much more potential. With the right director and some solid writing, this could have been one of the best Batman movies ever made. (1)

So, what do we learn from this? Well, for one thing, Christopher Nolan is a genius. He understood exactly what he was doing when he merged his Batman films with Burton’s. Even those of us who love a good, old-fashioned Batman film will have to admit that this series is infinitely more interesting and exciting when viewed in the context of the larger Batman film franchise. And it’s also important to recognize that, as awesome as these movies are, they’re also somewhat of a one-and-done type of thing. Sure, we might get a Robin movie one day, which will expand the idea of what a sidekick is, but we won’t really see anything like this again in the foreseeable future. That’s what makes the smaller, more personal films like Batman Begins and The Dark Knight so interesting; they expand the idea of what a superhero is and, in doing so, create something new. But, ultimately, these types of movies exist in a world where the larger, Badder films still hold a special place in our hearts. And that’s why we have to wait until 2018 to find out if Christian Bale’s Batman was a success or a flop.