Batman and Superman: A Filmic History, part 3
June 13, 2016
Batman Begins (2005) – Directed by Christopher Nolan
As a child he witnessed his parents’ murder, and now that he is grown up Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) travels the world looking for a purpose in life. Once he meets his mentor Ducard (Liam Neeson) he trains him to fight injustice and turn fear against those who prey on the innocent. He doesn’t stand alone in this battle, and helped by G.C.P.D Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman), Wayne becomes a symbol of hope, fighting crime at night as the masked vigilantly known as “Batman”.
After an eight year break, in stepped Christopher Nolan co-screenwriter David S Goyer with fresh new ideas, handling Bruce Wayne’s journey from young boy to Batman very well. The overall look of the movie in tone and visuals is great; Gotham city looks polluted and infested with crime, and the music by Hans Zimmer is very good, albeit perhaps being less memorable than Elfman’s score. The lack of a true villain could be seen as problematic, but essentially the movie is not about the villains – it is about Wayne and his journey from boy to Bat. It is nicely paced, engaging and – although is a serious take on Batman – it never forgets to inject some humour.
When you have the time, give this a watch and see where Batman begins!
Superman Returns (2006) – Directed by Bryan Singer
The last line from Superman to Luther in Superman 4: The Quest for peace is: “See you in twenty”. Well we didn’t have to wait that long – only 19 years for this film! For the return of the last son of Krypton, we get a star studded cast: Frank Langella as Perry White, Sam Huntington as Jimmy Olsen, Eva Marie Saint as Martha Kent, Parter Posey as Kitty Kowalski, Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane, James Marsden as Richard White and Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor.
Once again an unknown actor was cast for the title role of Superman. Brandon Routh isn’t given enough time to shine as the title character, but when he is on screen he does a great job, bringing the charm and charisma of Superman and the fun goofiness of Kent.
Bryan Singer was in the director’s chair this time around, deciding to continue the story following Superman 1/2 and disregarding the events in 3 & 4. This is where the problems sadly start. The movie is pulled in too many directions, and at times it feels like a sequel, then a reboot and a remake. The audience are left wondering where the movie fits in the timeline. The movie was a box office hit but didn’t make as much as the studio was hoping, and over time it has begun to receive some harsh criticism. I think this is due to the fact that it is trying to be too many things and please too many people, and so in the end it lacks focus.
However, the action scenes are exciting, and we do feel connected to the characters during some truly moving moments. Beyond the imperfection of this movie there is a compelling story trying to be told. If you are able to overlook the faults there is a lot to enjoy, and I do recommend it.
Dark Knight (2008) – Directed by Christopher Nolan
The Joker is inflicting havoc and chaos in Gotham. Batman (Bale) is not alone in his battle to save the city; Lieutenant Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) and the district attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) are by his side.
Batman Begins was very successful with fans and critics, and in 2008 Dark Knight was one of the most anticipated comic book movies. Once again Nolan delivers on great visuals and amazing stunts, and the returning cast do a great job. Maggie Gyllenhaal does well to take over from Katie Holmes, and Heath Ledger as The Joker is brilliant. The casting of Ledger initially created some alarm with fans, especially given the fact that he had predominantly been in romantic comedies and so fans were unsure if he had the acting ability to pull off the menacing character of The Joker. However, every time he is on screen he exists as an unpredictable force of chaos, undoubtedly stealing the show.
Batman’s character does sometimes get a little lost among the other characters, but, regardless of this, it’s a brilliant story and a great film.
Dark Knight Rises (2012) – Directed by Christopher Nolan
It is eight years after the events that took place with The Joker and Harvey Dent, crime rate is down in Gotham and Wayne has hung up the cape. But Gotham has a new resident living in the sewers ready to break the peace, known as Bane (played by Tom Hardy). Blake – played by Joseph Gordon- Levitt – is a character that was invented for the movie, a rookie police officer with a lot of charisma and intelligence. Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox is brilliant, and Michael Caine as Alfred played his part well, although the character is different from the source material in that he constantly switches from supporting Wayne to not.
The main focus of the movie is Bruce Wayne. We see him fall to his lowest point as Batman, followed by his struggle to rise up and be the Bat once more. Wayne is still struggling with the aftermath of the events that took place in the Dark Knight, and it is clear that some wounds run deep.
Although the last thirty minutes of this movie is like another Batman movie, “Some days you just can’t get rid of a bomb”, the movie is a police thriller/drama with Batman in it. If that sounds like your kind of movie then give it a watch and see how it all ends.
Man of Steel (2013) – Directed by Zack Snyder
The last son of Krypto is raised on earth as a human by Martha and Jonathan Kent. As a young boy, Clark Kent, discovers that he has extraordinary powers and abilities. He travels the world, hiding his powers, to discover where he came from. But, when survivors from his home planet Krypton invade earth with plans to wipe out all life, the Man of Steel must rise up and protect us earth.
Zack Snyder is at the helm of the movie, along with the crew from the Dark Knight series, produced by Christopher Nolan and screenplay by David S. Goyer. Superman gets the realistic, dark and gritty treatment, and the story follows the same beat as Batman Begins. Snyder is a visual director, and more attention is given to the film’s stlye than character motivation. Once again an unknown steps into the red boots. Henry Cavil as Clark Kent is very good in the role, but we never learn who he really is and what this Man of Steel stands for. Within the story of Clark Kent growing up he learns the morals of being a hero from his earth parents and then his biological father, which is a different story and a different Man of Steel altogether.
The movie as a whole is a mixed bag of good and bad. The visuals and action set pieces are fun but then characters are a little flat. The movie divided fans because it took huge liberties with the Superman character. One scene that came under scrutiny is the scene when Clark asks his dad “should I have just let a bus full of school children die?”, and he responds with “maybe”. Superman’s earth father is the man who shapes him to be the hero he will become. His answer should have been “No”. They claim that this is because there are no easy answers when it comes to being a hero, in which case his answer should have been “I don’t know”. The character of Superman should stand for hope and justice, but Snyder and Nolan are creating a new Superman for a new audience. The colour has been drained from the movie, giving it a dark, bleak and gloomy look, and Man of Steel is somewhat hopeless and dreary.
As I have stated, there are things to like and dislike here. It is a new take on the hero and it may not be everyone’s Superman but it does appeal to some fans. Maybe have a look to see if this is your hero. Personally, this is a Man of Steel movie that lacks the Man of Steel himself: Superman.
Superman and Batman: The fans and the heroes
These characters have lasted for so long because they have changed over the years to fit a new audience; as times change, so do our tastes. As you can see, there are numerous positions and angles from which one can view the re-makes and sequels of Batman and Superman. But, whatever you choose, do keep loving movies. And make sure you watch the film in which they both collide: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.