As the years go by, it’s becoming more and more certain that no matter how flawed or divisive a version of Batman may be released, the character is strong enough to endure. That fact was shown in person at San Diego Comic-Con 2014 where some of the most beloved “Batman” writers were on hand to celebrate thee Dark Knight’s 75th Anniversary. Among the questions fielded by the prestigious panel was one asking which, if any, film or director had captured the character as they would hope. And surprisingly, several agreed that Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale delivered the best version yet.
There are sure to be fans and detractors of just about any comic book adaptation these days, and whether Christian Bale’s version Bruce Wayne/Batman is criticized for its unmistakable voice, lack of ‘detective work’ or simply not fitting the part for some, those responsible for the DC Comics icon aren’t so harsh.
With a panel consisting of award-winning “Batman” writers, editors and artists Denny O’Neil, Neal Adams, Grant Morrison, Frank Miller, Scott Snyder, Geoff Johns and Jim Lee, it would be hard to claim a more reliable resource for all questions pertaining to the modern Batman. So when one fan asked which film versions they felt had ‘gotten it right’ (if any), “Batman” editor Denny O’Neil (creator of both Ra’s and Talia al Ghul in the original comics) didn’t mince words:
“I can answer that in two words: Christopher Nolan. I created one of the characters in the first and third, so you would expect me to be pretty picky about it. And about halfway through that script I thought: ‘My God, he’s doing it better than I did. He really gets this character… why the hell didn’t I think of this?’ He is a man who has great respect for the source material – that’s not always been true – and a master of his own craft.”
Legendary writer Grant Morrison (“Batman R.I.P.”, “Batman and Robin”) was quick to offer support for Nolan’s work on Batman Begins, The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises, although warned that his love of the character may make him less… discerning than others:
“I loved the recent Christopher Nolan stuff. For me that was the best distillation of Batman: it incorporated a lot of stuff that Denny and Neal had done as well, which was nice to see. And also Frank’s stuff. So I think he got it really, really, right. But as a Batman fan I like all of them, even those dumb [director Joel] Schumacher ones. No matter how many bullets you put into the guy, you can’t kill Batman.”
While Nolan’s decision to portray Bruce Wayne as a darker, more visibly tortured soul turned off some movie fans, it’s no surprise that comic writers would appreciate the shift. Since Batman was always been allowed to be more of an antihero or, at times, a downright callous figure on the comic book page, there had never been much overlap with film versions. As Zack Snyder has made clear already, Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice will be sticking to Frank Miller’s “Dark Knight Returns” even more closely than expected.
But not every writer spoke quite as glowingly about Nolan’s trilogy. Neal Adams(frequent collaborator of O’Neil’s) claimed that while 75 years of writers had managed to capture the mythic elements of Batman, a film had yet to do it. But he did hold out hope for the version Snyder is pursuing – even if it is just based on the costume:
“The last three movies that came out, I believe the first two were good. I liked the third one… but I thought it wasn’t exactly Batman. I’m hoping that the people who make the [next] films take a little more armor off of him, or make it it out of something where we can see his muscles. And stop making masks that make his face look like this [squishes cheeks].
“I know nobody asked me about Ben Affleck, but you know what? I think he’s terrific.”
These respected voices aren’t likely to end the debate of whether Nolan and Bale did the Dark Knight justice or missed the mark entirely, but they certainly provide some ammunition (for both sides, depending on how you view their work).
What do you think? Have writers and directors managed to capture every aspect of Batman’s character on film, or is there something you think has been missing? We’ve got our own hopes for a new Batman in a Justice League universe, but welcome any thoughts or responses in the comments below.
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