This coming weekend, fans of The Dark Knight will get a chance to see firsthand why so many people consider it to be one of the greatest superhero movies ever made. Because it’s set for its US premiere on Friday, March 8th, theaters will be showing the movie a day early, on March 7th, in an effort to capitalize on the interest created by Christian Bale’s iconic performance as the caped crusader. Naturally, the media have been quick to jump on this news to get some publicity before the movie comes out. They’ll be asking you to make your voice heard, so we decided to do some research on who’s the better Batman, Christian Bale or the Dark Knight himself, and which version of the character you think is the most impressive!
Which Batman Movie Is Better?
While we were lucky enough to see both versions of Batman during the press tour for the movie, it was clear which one people responded to more. Christian Bale’s Batman, The Dark Knight, received universal acclaim from critics and fans alike, with many comparing his performance to that of Jack Nicholson’s iconic portrayal of the Joker. But which version is better? Let’s compare them side-by-side and find out.
Both movies use the same source material, the DC Comics character. However, The Dark Knight is considered to be an adaptation, rather than a direct sequel, to the previous movie. This is probably because the filmmakers wanted to explore more facets of Batman’s personality and give us a more intimate understanding of the character. While Christian Bale’s Batman is a complete and utter badass who’s cool under any circumstance, The Dark Knight makes us question how much of a superhero he is. Even the title character acknowledges that he’s not perfect, and more importantly, that there’s more than one way to accomplish a particular goal.
One of the things that made Christian Bale’s Batman so great was how he related to the common man. Through a series of flashbacks, we see how the son of a petty thief became so popular with the public that he eventually earned the name ‘The Dark Knight’. In The Dark Knight, it’s revealed that Batman has a tenuous relationship with his parents, who were both petty thieves, and he grew up feeling more comfortable around criminals than around his family. The Dark Knight also highlights the fact that Batman’s greatest superpower isn’t necessarily being able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, but rather, it’s the fact that he’s able to put the pieces together, whether they’re psychological or physical, and use his wits and resources to dominate and control his environment.
The filmmakers behind The Dark Knight were clearly inspired by the acclaimed comic book series, Watchmen, which features a masked vigilante clad in blue and yellow who goes by the name, Ozymandias. One of the things that make Christian Bale’s Batman more realistic is the fact that while he does have amazing effects, we can tell that he’s actually performing the actions of a human, rather than a CGI character. He has a fight scene with two of the thugs that Rosy Posenski’s character, Dr. Chase, uses as dummy heads in her psychotherapy practice. In the scene, the camera follows Bale as he kicks and punches the two men, who only have pale blue eyes because of the chemical they were forced to swallow. The Dark Knight also uses practical effects for the majority of its fights, some of which are so realistic that they make us question whether or not they were performed by computer-generated imagery (CGI).
A significant portion of Christian Bale’s Batman’s greatness comes from the way director Christopher Nolan shot the movie. It’s not just about the cinematography, but rather, the way it’s used in conjunction with sound and editing to tell the story. The Dark Knight is full of split-screens, tracking shots, and dramatic high-contrast lighting, which make it look more like a crime scene than a typical Hollywood production. It might not seem like much, but when you consider that this is a directorial debut for Nolan and it won him an Oscar, it’s pretty impressive.
Action-adventure movies are made for one reason: to entertain the audience while making the character look as realistic as possible. It doesn’t always have to be spectacular to feel like a superhero. Christian Bale’s Batman is very realistic when it comes to showing the audience how a fight would actually go down. It’s not just about having big scenes, but about having them feel real. For example, early in the movie he uses martial arts to defeat a thug, but instead of simply jumping over the man after knocking him down, he holds him in his arms, looking him straight in the eyes, as the two of them struggle.
Other scenes, like the opening fight with the Joker, involve a little more of the spectacular, but they’re still rooted in reality. We see how the Joker maneuvers, dodges, and counterattacks, using his intelligence and resourcefulness to defeat the Dark Knight. Even when we’re told, through narration, that this is a fantasy film, we don’t really believe it until the filmmakers start showing us practical effects and CGI models of fantastical creatures and places. Then, it becomes apparent that this is more than an action movie, but an adaptation of a story that spans several genres: psychological thriller, action-adventure, and sometimes, even horror.
One of the greatest things about Christian Bale’s Batman is its score, by Hans Zimmer. Not only is the iconic music from the movie etched in our minds, but it also serves as the perfect accompaniment for some of the movie’s most memorable scenes. Whether it’s the tense fight with the Joker or the opera theme whenever Batman appears in costume, it’s clear that Zimmer’s music is as important to the film as the acting and cinematography. He won an Oscar for Best Original Score, which he shared with Alexandre Desplat, for the film, The King’s Speech. Like Christian Bale’s Batman, The King’s Speech is also adapted from a famous comic book series, in this case, the life of England’s King George VI. In the film, the King is played by Colin Firth, whose operatic singing voice was supposedly inspiration for the iconic music in this movie, as well as, The Soloist and The Hunger Games, among others.
Another way to compare Christian Bale’s Batman and The Dark Knight is to look at how they represent the ‘classical’ and ‘modern’ styles of filmmaking, respectively. While the former is characterized by elaborate sets and lots of costume changes, the latter relies more on practical effects and streamlined styling. This is most apparent in the two films’ opening credits, which are, in many ways, their defining images. The Dark Knight opens with a long, slow-motion shot of a police car slowly approaching a house. We soon learn that this is where the Batman has been living his life as Bruce Wayne, as the camera tracks slowly behind the front door before coming to a halt, framed by the reflection of a porch light. It’s an uncharacteristically melancholy start to what is otherwise an action-adventure blockbuster.
The other defining moment comes just a few minutes later, when Christian Bale stands, alone and unmasked, in front of a mirror. The way he turns to face the camera and stares at it, unblinking, is both terrifying and mesmerizing at the same time. With no one around him to stop him, we’re made to understand just how much rage he’s been holding inside ever since his parents’ murder. And then, just as he’s about to pull his mask off, we cut to black for a very brief but effective instant, as he freezes in place, with a terrifying grin frozen on his face.
This style of filmmaking can be attributed to Christopher Nolan, who was an important figure in the rebirth of cinematic storytelling, after a decade-long cinematic absence, during which time video games rose to become a new entertainment medium. While video games never truly left Hollywood, thanks in large part to the accessibility of consoles like the PlayStation and Xbox, they did step away from the limelight for a while, allowing filmmakers to explore new ways of storytelling and innovative ways of using technology to tell their tales.
Nolan is not the only person responsible for the cinematic rebirth that Christian Bale’s Batman represents, however. The movie features some incredible costumes by Nolan ally, J. McCleister Fraser, whose previous work includes Ironman and the recent X-Men: Apocalypse, and it’s also graced by a score by Matthew Margolis, who has also composed music for X-Men Origins: Wolverine, X-Men Days of Future Past, and The Wolverine. This is a film composed of many great collaborators, each contributing a piece to the grand puzzle that is Christian Bale’s Batman.