Monday, July 21, 2008
The Dark Knight
I wasn't around to read Bob Kane's original version of The Bat-Man. The Golden Age hero was ruthless, even using a gun at times against his enemies. He was dark, mysterious and frightening--a lot like the decades of the late 30s and early 40s, when he was created.
The 1943, 15 chapter seriel, Batman was the first time Batman was seen on film. Lewis Wilson starred as Batman. Mirroring America at the time, Batman fought a Japanese spy in the seriel.
I wasn't around for this one, either, although I saw an edited version in the 80s.
My first Batman fix came when I was three, during the run of the ABC series Batman. I was too young to care that the show was camp; Batman and Robin were heroic (albeit, over the top) and they never lost. I was hooked.
Batman, as presented in the Silver Age of comics, was written more as The World's Greatest Detective than anything else. I read Batman comics on a monthly basis during the 70s. While I loved the character, it seemed the mystery was more important than the character. Batman of the 70s and early 80s was simply the narrator of the story, not the focal point.
Batman of The Super Friends was all batarang and no balls. And my younger brother kept asking: "Why does Robin sound like Shaggy, from Scooby-Doo?"
I. Hate. Bat-mite.
(Although I watched The New Adventures of Batman every week.) Bat-mite, the 70's version of Scrappy-Doo, nearly ruined the Batman character for me.
The Dark Knight Returns.
Yes, he did. And then some.
This was how it was supposed to be, all along.
I was so excited for Tim Burton's Batman. The 1989 flick was good, and I liked Michael Keaton in the lead. I thought Burton's visual depiction of the world Batman lived in was awesome, and that he made clear the psychological aspects of the character that are vital to why Batman does what Batman does.
But Jack Nicholson as Joker?
I prefer Bat-mite.
Batman Begins, in 2005, gave me hope that the character can be portrayed seriously on film. No bat-nipples, no Mr. Freeze, no cool casting stunts, ala Jim Carrey as The Riddler: just a great story, great effects and a great actor in the lead.
I want more.
The Dark Knight is all that, and more. All the bells and whistles of a summer blockbuster plus top-shelf acting plus The Batman the way fans of The Batman want to see the character.
And Heath Ledger as Joker is as good as advertised. Better, maybe. He drives the movie with an effortless control that is beautiful to watch. This is more than just a great comic book movie. This is, simply, a great movie.