So, I’ve been thinking about this for a while, and I have to say that I just do not like Nolan’s idealized Batman. I should point out that while Nolan’s movies are truly well done, I simply find how he handles Batman to be a bit strange and perhaps even irritating. That is to say that Nolan makes batman a rich guy who dresses up like a bat and knows karate (oversimplifying I know, but follow me). The thing is that I respect the idea that Batman is just a normal human being, that in one way or another he doesn’t have super powers he just has money. In another respect though, the thing I loved about Batman was while he didn’t have super powers he was still a paragon of humanity (and I don’t mean in the sense of Mass effect), but if one were to stat Batman out it would be 18’s across the board [D&D 3.5].
Yes, Batman was a human, but he was also a really smart, really athletic, and really strong human. In a great deal of the Batman literature (not all of it mind you, some comic authors are more true to Nolan’s interpretation), the thing that makes Batman such an amazing super hero is the fact that he’s so many steps ahead of the enemy. A bit like the Doctor, batman always seems to know what the next step of the plan is, or what needs to be done. I mean sure he can get beaten up, but it’s incredibly tough to outfox or outsmart batman. And yes, sometimes this is taken to extremes in terms of just how “smart” batman is, or what kind of knowledge checks he can make on the fly and succeed at, but for the most part I feel like they are well within the realm of a plotting mastermind who happens to go out at night and catch criminals.
I suppose my “Idealized” interpretation of Batman would be the one that the Justice League (the TV show running in early 2000’s). It tended to keep Batman as this mastermind character who could fight, but ultimately was a “normal” human being with cash. The character was aware of his surroundings and saw through the simple rouses. He was the character that served as the “brain” for the team.
If you compare this to Nolan’s Batman, the difference is startling. Nolan’s batman isn’t just a normal human, but he’s not a very smart one either. I mean think about it; it wasn’t Bruce Wayne who built all of the armor, weapons, and Vehicles. That was entirely the work of Lucius Fox in the movie series. In Fact despite this rare moments when Bruce just seems to get bored and come up with an amazing piece of software, for the most part he isn’t involved in the creation of the Batman technology, one of the key elements that makes Batman who he is.
I suppose to some degree, this allowed the conclusion of the Dark Knight rises to have a brand new Batman without to much concern. Furthermore it does fit in with the lynch-pin of the story that Nolan was telling, primarily that Batman was not a superhero, that he was simply a symbol and that someone with the right equipment could go on to assume the mantle and no one would know the difference. I want to stress that I think this an interesting interpretation of the Batman lore, but I think it takes away from the core of the superhero nostalgia. That at the end of the day the superhero is more then just a costume, that the idea of a the superhero itself is it’s own kind of symbol.
It represents this idealized human or even alien, whichever it does not matter. While they may have their flaws it allows the reader or viewer to submerge them self in this world where the evils of the world can be righted, justice served, the grim nature of the universe unraveled and turned on it’s head by a single man or group of men. The superhero can’t change because their very existence as a superhero goes beyond the symbol in their own universe and stretches out into a symbol of this one. The lore of Batman is one of a great hero for humanity, who strives to do what is right, to avenge all those who have been ravaged by thoughtless crimes. I think perhaps that the new movies irritates me in the same way that Batman Beyond did.
It created an instance where the superhero was depreciated in favor of the symbol. Luckily Batman and Green Lantern can get away with this; because, they are ultimately symbols within the universe and less individuals within the universe. But could the same thing be said for perhaps Marvel’s Spiderman? What about Superman? The things that make up that superhero are unique to the individual. You can’t just put on a Spiderman mask and suddenly assume the role. There were certain conditions that had to met first.
To me, Nolan is doing the same thing that Batman Beyond did, the depreciated the super hero, by making it about what the superhero represented to the universe they were in rather, then what they represent to the readers and viewers.
It’s much the same thing that irritates me about the new Star Trek. It’s a perfectly fine production that stands up on it’s own right, is a brilliant movie, but as a Star Trek fan it hurts me to see Gene’s vision of the future (batshit as Gene may have been) twisted in such a way as to make it this war porn story. Nolan, in my eyes is doing something similar.
He is taking a classic and twisting it to fit his own narrative, at points, I think, forgetting what it is that made that classic character so appealing. Now obviously comic books change, hell the Batman of the 30’s is NOTHING like the batman that I am praising here today. Beyond that, I have to be willing to admit that the cultural views of a super hero can change just as easily over time as anything else, but I think at times it can be uncomfortable to watch as the intelligent and cunning super hero you worshiped get’s mutated into little more then a vengeful playboy with money.
To realize that the Batman going forward in a lot of respects is not going to be the same Batman (in the eyes of the majority public) that you grew up loving and idolizing, can I think at times be a little irritating. So brushing aside some of the minor plot holes (Seriously Christopher, how did Batman get from a hole in the desert to one of the most heavily fortified cities in the world with zero money or supplies in under 24 hours), and moving forward I am happy to see Batman revitalized and the series continuing on in such a major way, it’s just a shame to me the direction in which the character is going.