Dark, gritty, and brooding. Matt Reeves’s interpretation of The Batman is the latest in a long history of the caped crusader. Robert Pattinson is captivating as the new Dark Knight. He is a far cry from the noble knight that viewers have seen in the past.
The new Batman is young, conflicted and vengeful, full of rage that feels held back by a single thread ready to break. In his first words, the reclusive Bruce Wayne growls “Two years of night have turned me into a nocturnal animal”. Befitting for a bat, but clearly troublesome for a young man trying to find his way.
Nirvana’s haunting ‘Something in the Way’ seems to fit perfectly for such an emotionally conflicted Bruce Wayne. The song’s ghostlike composition seems like an entry into the head of Pattinson’s Wayne.
The lyrics, written almost thirty years ago, depict a vagrant narrator trapping animals under a bridge. The song seems perfect for the film as Batman traps the animalistic villains of Gotham.
The Batman is far from the first iteration of the caped crusader and the city of Gotham. The story has a history spanning over half a century. Throughout this time there have been different depictions and interpretations of the narrative.
Batman first appeared in May, 1939 in Detective Comics #27. Under co-creators Bob Kane (artist) and Bill Finger (writer), it quickly gained popularity, achieving its own comic publication a year after its debut.
Originally the character was a ruthless vigilante who frequently attacked, maimed and killed criminals to enact justice. Yet, over the first few years he developed into a complex character with a stringent moral code.
Contrary to many superhero characters Batman possessed no superhuman abilities, only extreme wealth. Perhaps contributing to the popularity of the character is his more relatable; intellectual power, physical prowess, and fighting skills.
The Death of Batman?
By 1964 DC Comics were considering killing off the character of Batman due to dwindling popularity. However, changes reminiscent of the latest Batman revamp were introduced instead.
Editor Julius Schwarz spearheaded the new-look which attempted to make Batman more contemporary. Including a return to detective-oriented stories, a redesigning of the Batmobile and Batman’s costume.
Publishers removed the more supernatural elements, including aliens and time-travel. Additionally, Alfred, Batman’s Butler, met his demise, however, this was soon reversed.
The Batman of the 60s and 70s
Batman, for the first time, was televised in 1966. Played by Adam West, this Dark Knight was far from dark. The bright colours and theatrical sets quickly became part of pop-culture.
The character, following the success of the show, again returned to its darker roots. Starting in 1969 writer Dennis O’Neal and artist Neal Adams consciously attempted to bring the character back to its original inception.
This would continue throughout the 1970s and met consistent popularity within the comic book community. This iteration of the character would also go on to influence the 1989 movie Batman.
The comic book iterations of Batman would continually go through changes and revamps throughout the years. Including Frank Miller’s ‘The Dark Knight Returns’ and the ‘New 52’ series of the 2010s.
Batman Goes Cinematic
Beginning in 1989 Batman would go through runs of cinematic popularity. Tim Burton directed the first film, simply titled Batman, with Michael Keaton starring as the titular character. The film has become a cult classic grossing 411.6 million USD.
Burton and Keaton returned in 1992 with Batman Returns, which was again popular amongst critics and the public.
The Dark Knight Falls
In 1995, Val Kilmer took the mantle of the caped crusader, with Joel Schumacher in the director’s chair. Schumacher also directed the 1997 film Batman & Robin. This iteration featured George Clooney as Batman.
Viewers did not have many good things to say about the two films, with the latter becoming a running joke ever since. After any sequels were cancelled, the cinematic franchise was left untouched for years.
With acclaimed director Christopher Nolan at the helm, the franchise was rebooted in 2005. Nolan went on to direct three films in the franchise, Batman Begins (2005), The Dark Knight (2008), and The Dark Knight Rises (2012). The trilogy featured a dark, yet still theatrical Batman universe.
The trilogy featured an all-star cast, Christian Bale portrayed the iconic superhero and Heath Ledger portrayed the villainous Joker. After his tragic death Ledger won a posthumous Oscar for his role.
Batman in the DC Universe
Only a year after the final instalment of the Dark Knight trilogy Warner Bros. and DC announced that they would be releasing an “extended universe” which would be similar to Marvels.
This Batman would first appear in 2016. With the Zack Snyder film Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice in which Ben Affleck donned the cape. A year later he would reappear in Justice League. Critics and the public did not like these iterations leading to any further instalments being abandoned.
Back and Darker Than Ever
Following a complex back and forth of script writing and director choices, the franchise has, once again, rebooted under the leadership of Matt Reeves. Once again, we’re seeing a return to a dark and gritty portrayal. But this Batman film takes it further than ever.
This film delves further into the shadowy corners of Gotham and journeys deeper into Batman’s psyche than ever before.