Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight is my favorite superhero film. It’s what one should expect from a Batman movie: gritty, dark, worthy heroes, and scary villains. But what sets it apart from Tim Burton’s cartoonish version and Zack Snyder’s just plain ridiculous take is that it breaks your heart into a million pieces and you walk away changed.
I was not into superheroes as a kid, save for my daily Spiderman read in the local paper. When Tim Burton came out with Batman in 1989, I loved it. Burton’s use of grape purple, stark white, and kelly green against the gray bleakness of Batman’s home dare you to ignore it. Michael Keaton is a soft spoken but matter of fact Bruce Wayne. Robert Wuhl is a wisecracking reporter who works along side Vicki Vale (Kim Basinger). Jack as the Joker is immortalized (in my mind at least) as he sits next to his love Alicia Hunt (Jerry Hall) and has her put on a mask to cover up the scars he gave her. He walks the line of sanity, putting the audience on edge. I loved him for it. With Prince’s BatDance as the soundtrack, Batman is a classic 80s film.
Zack Snyder took over for Christopher Nolan after 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises was released. I was hopeful. I had seen 300 and Watchmen. Both had haunting sights and solid, dark story lines. Then Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was released. The reviews were bad. Not Batman and Robin bad, but worse than Batman Forever. I love Ben Affleck. I really do. But it says something when you keep reading that his performance is the best thing about the movie. But it did give us this:
Suicide Squad was equally terrible and silly (Just NO Jared Leto, NO). Snyder produced the film. He produced the upcoming Wonder Woman and helmed this November’s Justice League. All of these have made or will make a shit ton of money. Why does it matter that the stories are borderline stupid??**
This brings me back to The Dark Knight. When it first came out I would ask those who had already seen it how it was and they would shake their heads with emotion and say, “It’s really sad.” I felt like I was prepared going in. My husband and I went with our sleeping 11 month old. For 2 ½ hours we witnessed not a great superhero film but a phenomenal film PERIOD (screw you Oscars). You come to expect good vs. evil in these type of movies. But watching our heroes break under a mad man hurt me as an audience member. It has been nine years and I can remember the third act in vivid detail like I’m still sitting in those theater seats.
Michael Keaton’s Batman with Burton’s bright and deranged setting. Nolan’s grittiness and heartbreaking storytelling. These are the elements I miss in Batman. Matt Reeves (Cloverfield) is attached to direct The Batman with Affleck starring. Now if they can just keep Zack Snyder’s mitts off of this one, maybe they could give us back a hero we can root for?