The Over-Abundance Of Dark, Gritty, Realistic 'Batman' Films Is Our Fault
Recently, a trailer for Matt Reeves' The Batman dropped, and honestly, it looks solid.
Robert Pattinson has never not been an underrated actor, and as Vern, one of my favorite film critics, pointed out, it's cool that they're kind of absconding with the traditional system of Batman villains where two new ones show up at a time and then shuffle out of Gotham before the credits roll to make way for two other fresh ones in the sequel. Instead, there seems to be quite a few of them hanging out in the city simultaneously, which I assume is much more stressful for Batman but much more exciting for me.
However, this movie has inspired a certain amount of questioning. Because one look at the trailer, with its dark color palate and Zodiac Killer Riddler and Batman punching some clown dork in the face until it's shredded beef and you can see that this will not be a return to a lighthearted Caped Crusader. Instead, it seems emblematic of the Frank Miller Batman arms race that filmmakers have been involved in for the last 20 years. One where everybody is trying to see just how gritty and dark they can make a bodybuilding billionaire ninja who dresses like a bat and goes around wrassling with crocodile men and dudes made of clay. Do we really need another moody, vengeful Batman?
Well, if you're Hollywood, of course you do!
Look, I'm not saying that we need another 20 years of the most tragic Bat-stuff possible. I know how downright blissful a funny, pleasant Batman can be. The Brave and the Bold cartoon was wonderful ...
... as was the short-lived Justice League Action.
I adored the anime-inspired antics of The Batman, and the '60s Adam West series remains about as close to my heart as a piece of pop culture can get. But that's also the series that fans spent 50 years mocking, the one that Batman directors actively tried to not replicate to blockbuster numbers. The '60s Batman series' mass reclamation as an important (and brilliant) piece of pop art is a relatively new movement.
We've spent over 20 years making fun of Batman & Robin, and if the Star Wars prequels hadn't come out, it would probably be the most made-fun-of blockbuster franchise installment in history. If I had a nickel for every time I've heard a joke about "bat nipples," I'd have enough money to make the lighthearted Batman movie that people seem to want. And when Joss Whedon tried to make Justice League a little lighter, breezier, and funnier than Batman v Superman, a movie that most people seemed to hate, audiences were even less interested.
And even though movies and TV series have leaped past comics when it comes to most people's go-to resource for Batman adventures, it's not like people seem all that eager to go back to Batman's adventures in the '40s, '50s, and '60s where chummy derring-do and sci-fi zaniness were the rule, not the exception. Many excellent modern writers like Grant Morrison have paid homage to and reference these tales. Still, any search through the trade paperbacks at Barnes & Noble will find them juxtaposed against stories where, ya know, the Joker has his own face cut off.
Hell, when The Dark Knight came out, we all applauded it for not trying to force-feed us a Joker origin and instead leaving his backstory to be a haunting mystery. And then Joker came out, a movie all about his sad ass life, and it made over a billion dollars. More than a movie where Batman fights Superman and way more than a movie that features six big-name Justice League characters all hanging out together. As it turns out, Warner Bros. pays way more attention to the money we seem to be forking over for depressing Bat dramas than the tweets we make about how much we don't want any more depressing Bat dramas.
Daniel Dockery is a writer for the internet. You can follow him on Twitter!