Batman (1966) and related work:

Batman (1966) IMDb

Glorious intentional Comic Code camp. To think the franchise recovered!

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Batman (1989) IMDb

A different camp.

References here: Darkman (1990), Birdman (2014).

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Batman Returns (1992) IMDb

References here: Birdman (2014).

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Batman Forever (1995) IMDb

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Batman & Robin (1997) IMDb

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Batman Begins (2005) IMDb

Ra’s al Ghul and Scarecrow.

An admirable attempt at believability but those repeated comments about the car cinch it. As China Miéville commented on Frank Miller’s original in a 2001 interview with Gabriel Chouinard, “the underlying idea is that people are sheep, who need Strong Shepherds.” Batman’s lack of supernatural power is not part of Nolan’s treatment: We see little of the ordinary people he is trying to save, or inspire. We see the man and his car. I like the excision of the camp aesthetic, but I do not like the purposeful naïveté.

References here: Interstellar (2014).

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‣‣ The Dark Knight (2008) IMDb

Joker and Two-Face.

Though clearly preferable to pure-fantasy superheroes, the rule-of-cool technology is disappointing, in this case mainly the sonar. It’s used pretty poorly and then thrown away.

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‣‣ The Dark Knight Rises (2012) IMDb

Seen in 2019.

Bane, Catwoman, and a little bit of Robin.

On its face, it’s just stupid. Nobody would ever implement a fusion reactor that can be so easily reconfigured as a portable multi-megaton bomb with a built-in five-month timer accurate to the second. Nobody would ever build the prototype for such a reactor in the densest part of the world’s most prosperous metropolitan area. Doing so, and handing the detonator to a random citizen, has no logical relationship with Bane’s ostensible program of anarchy.

Bane’s program is a ruse and his real motives are apolitical and nonsensical, but even so, the opportunity to explore something like anarchism in pseudo-New-York is wasted and this is an artistic mistake. There is almost no indication of how the city of 12 million gets food for 5 months. There is no sign of economic activity or legislation. There’s just partying with looted wine and a kangaroo court headed by Johnathan Crane, reappearing without reference to the trilogy starter. With the premiere set ten months after Occupy Wall Street began, and years into the contemporary financial crisis that sparked the movement, Nolan had a golden opportunity to do more: To end his trilogy with a democratic counterweight to Batman’s fascism. He blew it, though not completely. Alfred, at least, speaks against the wisdom of superheroes.

Instead of democracy, we get more and weirder superheroics, including Commissioner Gordon himself executing multiple action set-pieces and the reveal that nice-girl WASP Miranda Tate is actually a supervillain in her own right. This comes with a change in wardrobe, aligning her with the unnamed, unrealistic, implicitly Muslim country where the prison system consists of a hole in the ground and nobody watches the hole. Perhaps that place was inspired by the name of the Black Hole of Calcutta, but they have nothing in common. Tate’s curious side story and the nuclear terrorist plot align the whole trilogy with post-9/11 anti-Arab sentiment, without even the common courtesy of naming countries, real or otherwise.

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Lego Batman: The Movie – DC Super Heroes Unite (2013) IMDb

Seen in 2017.

Advertisement. A direct-to-video movie version of a video game, preserving the original cutscenes and replacing the playable sequences with more scripted ones. It seems to aim for the low standard of fan-made machinima. The showdown has some mildly interesting design work with a mecha Joker reminiscent of Okawara Kunio’s work, but other than that I see nothing that would make me want to build.

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‣‣ The Lego Movie (2014) IMDb

Seen in 2019.


Batman is a major character but this is primarily a Lego ad that subsumes various media franchises in toy form, including DC supers and Star Wars (1977), based on older commercial arrangements in copyright law. It is not representative of a child’s imagination and it doesn’t try to be.

The main strength of the film is its careful simulation of physical Lego and stop-motion animation: An expensive salute to the “brick film” genre of animation, with carefully polished writing at a punishing pace. I dislike the live-action sequence that breaks this pace. It chops the head right off the smartest part of the writing up to that point, replacing a passable parody of the chosen-one formula with a gratingly sincere story of adult hypocrisy, staleness and selfishness, as stereotypical and lifeless as the earlier object of parody.

References here: Reviews on this site, Ghostbusters (2016).

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