After many years spent waiting, fans of the Batman franchise finally have a new Batman to worship. Christian Bale’s retirement from acting opened the doors to many exciting new Batman possibilities, and the producers at Warner Brothers set out to capitalize on the opportunity with a brand new Batman movie.
This is the story of the search for the world’s greatest detective and his greatest (and possibly most terrifying) case. While the studio went through many iterations of the script, one thing remained consistent: Ben Affleck was going to play the part of Batman. The role had originally been offered to Matt Damon, who turned it down, but Affleck had recently become one of the most sought-after leading men in Hollywood. After overcoming a lot of criticism about his acting ability, Affleck finally found the role that would make him a household name.
Warner Brothers opted to go a different direction with the casting of the role of Catwoman, which at one point was supposed to be played by Salma Hayek. They opted for a more Asian-looking actress, Caoimhe Mullins, but she turned down the role because she preferred to pursue another project. The studio decided to recast the role, and Hayek eventually accepted.
The Search For The World’s Greatest Detective
Before we begin, it is worth noting that the Batman story is one of the most popular subjects in all of comics. In 1939, Detective Comics #27 featured the Golden Age debut of the world’s greatest detective, with his amazing “scientific” approach to solving crimes. Based on that one comic book story, the studios decided to search for the modern day counterpart to Dick Tracy, and they found him in the shape of Harvey Ellis, the former Chief of Police of Detroit. Since then, countless other comics have followed in the footsteps of Detective Tracy and his first case, featuring a character called The Detective, and now fans of Batman can follow his adventures as they happen on the big screen!
In keeping with the Golden Age of Detective Comics, the producers of the new Batman movie decided to follow the practice of presenting the audience with a case that starts off hazy and ambiguous, but then reveals its true nature with a final, shocking twist. We’ll be talking about the New Batman movie for many years to come, so this is as good a place as any to begin our retrospective.
Why Is Batman So Popular?
With the dawn of the Golden Age of Detective Comics, crime in America was at an all-time high. In 1939, the most famous case was that of a bank robber named Richard Lonely, who became the subject of a New York Times bestseller and a movie of the same name. Two years later, the studios decided to cash in on the growing popularity of this story by presenting the public with a character called The Batman, a dark vigilante who roamed the city streets, fighting crime. And so Batman was born.
It was a character that was ahead of its time. While The Batman was inspired by Batman Tracy (creator Bill Worsham’s favorite character from Detective Comics), the producers strove to put a modern twist on this classic character by making him a hip crime fighter who dressed in modern clothes and drove a modern car. Batman became an instant hit, and the war against crime was on!
While The Batman went on to become a pop culture phenomenon and a defining symbol of the Golden Age of Detective Comics, it was not without its critics. Some comics readers at the time believed that Batman was glorifying crime and punishing the poor. But the fact is that crime was on the rise in 1939, with many people believing that comics were a major contributor to this alarming trend. That same year, Radio City heard the rumors that Batman was inspired by their own radio celebrity the Inner Sight, and they publicly blasted him for stealing their characters and ideas. But that was then, this is now, and today Radio City has every reason to be proud of their 1940 Pulitzer Prize for Music.
The Case Of The Black Mamba
Our story begins in Paris, where a wealthy socialite named Mamba is found murdered in her apartment. Her body is discovered in a pool of blood by a housekeeper, who phones in a panic to the police. When detective Emile Chopin arrives, he finds the murdered woman’s daughter, Josette, in a state of shock. Mamba was a close friend of Josette’s mother, and the two young women became fast friends when Josette moved to Paris to live with her. The press at the time referred to this case as “The Black Mamba Murder,” and it was a grim reminder of the perils of being the child of famous parents. In fact, it was so notorious that it was the inspiration for Alfred Pennyworth’s famous line, “You have an excellent record, Chief Woof!”
An Early Golden Age Tribute
While The Batman (1939) was the first in a long line of Batman movies, it was not the first time that Hollywood paid homage to the Golden Age of Detective Comics. In fact, four years earlier, Warner Brothers released Django (1935), a classic pre–World War II western starring Benny Hill, the king of the one-liners. This is a film that many Batman fans will grow up with, and it was a tribute to the great stories of the Golden Age. But, as great as Django is, it is not a perfect fit for a Golden Age character. The setting of the film is timeless, but the story line and characters are from the 1930s. Even The Batman itself feels like it was cut from the Golden Age, with its noirish tones and low-tech approach to crime-fighting.
Despite its imperfections, Django is a worthy homage to the Golden Age, and it has become a stand-alone film for modern day viewers. That is precisely what The Batman was designed to be. In the decades since Django, countless other films and television shows have paid homage to The Batman. Even Die Hard (1988) (the John Carpenter film that kicked off the die hard revs.) considered itself a pastiche of The Batman. So it is no accident that the tribute film line has become such a phenomenon, with the last two movies being particularly iconic. In The Dark Knight Returns (2012), Bruce Wayne (Batman) confronts an emissary of Hollywood’s greatest villain, himself! The emissary, Mr. Grimm, presents The Dark Knight Returns as a remake of the 1939 classic due to its similarities to that story. But The Dark Knight Returns is a distinct entity from its predecessor, despite both being inspired by a Golden Age comic book.