Last year, on the last day of 2017, I set out to write a piece on whether or not the latest Batman film, The Return of the Dark Knight, lived up to the high bar set by Tim Burton’s 1989 classic, Batman. Like most other critics, I went into the film expecting a lot and, for the most part, ended up liking it a lot. Unfortunately for Bat-fans, the character of Batman never really goes out of style. Even now, as the trailer for The New Batman has just been released, it’s still one of the most recognized superhero characters out there. Since then, there have been a plethora of movies, video games, and Christmas cards featuring the Dark Knight. While most of these other iterations of Batman prove to be serviceable, there is always room for improvement. Especially when compared to the one and only, classic Batman.
Unlike most other characters in the DC Comics universe, who have had multiple appearances over the years, the Batman character has been around since the early 1930s. Since then, various filmmakers have taken on the character, with each one bringing something new to the cinematic table. Whether it’s anachronisms, laughable accents, or just a completely different visual aesthetic, each film is a new take on an old character. So, when comparing one incarnation of the Dark Knight to the next, it’s always interesting to see what elements have been tweaked, updated, or just given a complete makeover.
Adapted From What?
While it’s always great when a studio decides to adapt a popular comic book series for the big screen, it can be frustrating when the results simply don’t feel right. Even more so when you compare them to the source material. Take the 2011 version of Batman for example. Despite being a faithful adaptation of the original 1989 classic, that film feels more like an episode of TV show, Batman than a movie. Especially when you compare it to the source material, a dark, gritty noir thriller, which I consider to be one of the greatest superhero movies ever made.
Like most other adaptations of the Batman character, The Return of the Dark Knight was adapted from a much older version of the character. In this case, it’s the 1939 detective story, The Adventures of Batman. Though based on the same characters and set in the same universe as the later classic, this pre-code adaptation, with its dark, moody atmospherics and adult, noir aesthetic, makes it feel like a complete reboot. Yet, despite its dark tone, it still retains a lot of the characteristics that made the original Batman so special.
Different Version Of Batman
While we’re always happy to see different takes on iconic characters, it can be disheartening when these variations feel like a different character entirely. Take for example, the latest version of Batman. Though it’s not the first time that filmmaker Zack Snyder has tackled the character, it’s the first time that he’s completely reimagined the character, giving us a darker, more dangerous version of the Dark Knight. Inspired by the 1966 TV series, Batman, which introduced an adult-style Batman and established a darker tone for the character, Snyder, who previously worked on the 2006 film, The Golden Compass, decided to go in a completely different direction.
Even more disheartening is that, for the most part, the new Batman, which Snyder dubbed “The Batman”, feels like a poor fit for the character. While clearly inspired by the ideals and characteristics of the older Batman, the new character, which, once again, is named after a film, this time, The Batmans, feels more akin to an amalgamation of every other version of Batman rather than the brilliant crime fighter we know from the comics and classic films, the ones that inspired him in the first place.
So, while some fans might be over the moon that another film focused on the Dark Knight is finally being produced, others might be a little put off, especially those, like myself, who feel that Snyder has taken the character in the wrong direction. Though, for the most part, Snyder’s take on Batman proved to be an effective one. Combining a gritty, noir aesthetic with brilliant action scenes and beautiful visuals, the filmmaker made a name for himself by taking popular characters and giving them a unique, adult spin, a la Watchmen or Sucker Punch.
Brighter And Brighter
Though it didn’t debut in theaters until 2019, The Curse of La Llorona, which won the Special Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, is a prequel to The Dark Knight. Set in the 1940s and starring Jennifer Lopez, Ralph Fiennes, and Luis Garcia, this is one of the first “prequels” from Warner Bros. Pictures, the studio, which has been on a bit of a spree, releasing a variety of “prequels”, including The King’s Man, The King’s Woman, and now, The Curse of La Llorona. This is yet another indication that Warner Bros. sees a potential market for films set in the Golden Era of Comics, when many of the classic characters first debuted.
Warner Bros.’ upcoming film, The New Batman, which will be directed by Matt Reeves and star Batman himself, Ben Affleck, will be the studio’s next installment in the superhero franchise.
Though Reeves is best known for his work directing multiple episodes of the CW TV series, Arrow, and for his remake of the French film, Les Miserables, which earned him an Oscar nomination, he has always wanted to direct a Batman movie. While The New Batman won’t be out until 2021, fans can check out the trailer, which features Affleck, now portraying the Dark Knight, and the rest of the cast, including Zoe Kravitz, in theaters, this summer.
Has Anyone Seen the 1966 Version?
To my knowledge, there has never been an official adaptation of the 1966 TV series, Batman. Though, in theory, it would be easy enough to lay down the basic plot of this incarnation of the Dark Knight, the only way to really get into the swing of things would be to watch it. Which, for the most part, I’ve avoided doing. I know, I know…the ‘60s must have been so much fun, with all of that cool music and fashion. But, let’s be honest, the show just wasn’t that good.
The episodes I saw, which featured the guest star, Telly Savalas, who, at the time, was considered to be one of the greatest actors of all time, had some pretty low ratings. Though, to be fair, the show did feature some brilliant, action-packed scenes, which were mostly well worth the time it took to see them. The biggest problem lay in the writing, which was often corny and definitely not in the same league as the gold standard, The Bill Stern Show, which was the inspiration for the ‘60s series. In the end, watching this one-off TV series, which only ran for two seasons, was more of a chore than an enjoyable experience.
Just imagine how different the reception would be if I had watched the 1966 TV series, back in the day, when it was first broadcast. Though I’m sure there were other factors that contributed to its low ratings, I wonder if the fact that, at the time, it was one of the first TV shows to air after the regular TV season had already started might have had something to do with it. After all, what is considered to be “prime time” now is a mere puff of air compared to what it was back then. Not to mention that the focus then, as now, was on attracting a completely different audience, which might not have been as receptive to a loud, brash male voice, delivered in a fake American accent, bragging about how great he is.
To his credit, George Barris, the show’s creator, didn’t just take one, but two, giant, potentially career-ending steps by renouncing his American citizenship and moving to Portugal. Though his decision to leave was mainly made in order to make more money, it was also, in part, due to Portugal’s progressive gun control laws at the time.