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[Article] – Too Much Batman?

 

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Posted September 17, 2017 by

 
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Over the last decade we have been treated to numerous outings of the caped crusader across many platforms, the dark knight is at the peak of his popularity, along with his supporting cast as well. But how much is too much, it seems hard to turn a corner without being surprised by shadowy bat silhouette, as new iterations continue to arise, will the DC darling reach the point of burnout?

Batman of course has always been one of the more popular cape-swishers; his iconic appearance, actual lack of superpowers and his impressive list of nemeses have elevated him above many of the other clean-cut comic book characters. And successful adaptations from Burton through to West have enamoured the inhabitants of Gotham City who would have never flicked through the panelled pages.

The Batman’s highest and lowest points came in a relatively short period of time, after Joel Schumacher’s imagining, filled with disco lighting, obtuse angles, cookie-cutter villains and of course, nipples, Batman was consigned to the cinematic graveyard, with Batman And Robin becoming one of the most derided films of all time.

Batman had lost all respectability by this point; it took Christopher Nolan with Batman Begins to complete a successful resurrection, taking the Dark Knight in a more realistic, grittier direction. And that was the start of the popularisation we can see today, where Batman’s cinematic outings can earn over a $1 billion, its stars can win Oscars, even critically acclaimed video game series, with Rocksteady’s Arkham series, and lets not forget the slew of animated features and graphic novels. Such has been it’s popularity over recent years, Terry Gilliam even envisioned a church of ‘Batman The Redeemer’ in his dystopian The Zero Theorem, you know are popular when people start deifying you.

But as Nolan completed his Dark Knight trilogy, rather than bask in the glory of one the most acclaimed trilogies of all time, the powers that be wasted little time to make sure the Bat wouldn’t be off our screens for too long, not to mention his rogues gallery as well. Since Nolan’s Dark Knight’s demise(?) the new adaptations have come thick and fast, with Gotham City’s extended family appearing in Batman Vs. Superman, Suicide Squad, the animated The Killing Joke, and are scheduled to appear in the upcoming Justice League, Gotham City Sirens and solo Batman and Joker movies. And these outings are all from differing actors and directors, if it wasn’t hard enough to keep up.

Will all of this become too much for audiences, it is a template that has worked for Marvel, the idea of a cinematic universe, but will it end up being a case of too many cooks? The signs around the already released Batman Vs. Superman and Suicide Squad are not hugely encouraging. Instead of new solo movie to reinvent the Batman after The Dark Knight Rises, Newly appointed Bruce Wayne, Ben Affleck was forced to face off against the son of Krypton, and the response was not kind.

While it didn’t suffer catastrophe at the box office, B Vs. S certainly didn’t command the types of figures that the Nolan era did, and fell way short of the billion dollar box-offices Marvel rake in. Considering it had not one but two headliners with large established audiences, along with Wonder Woman as well, more was definitely expected. Critical response was much worse, toxic reviews and a slew of Razzie nominations, with four ‘wins’ have made it the worst received since the Schumacher age.

Suicide Squad may have faired better at the box-office, given it’s R-rating, but still suffered from critical contempt. Both films struggled to siphon off of the Marvel template, bringing together a bunch of characters to quarrel and bicker with each other, leading to Gotham’s best and worst suffering from muddled plots, tonal inconsistencies and fighting each other for screen time.

The main players, Batman, The Joker and Harley Quinn all fared differently, with Ben Affleck and Jared Leto’s takes on their characters receiving a decidedly mixed response. Affleck’s bulked-up, brooding Bat, with no aversion to breaking his one rule was certainly a different take on the character, and one that has left his future in the role in limbo. While going on to appear in Justice League, early footage suggests a tonal shift, and originally slated to direct and star in a solo Batman film, Affleck’s appearance at all is now in doubt, with Matt Reeves how taking the helm. This creates a somewhat muddy future for the great detective, where Reeves’s solo film may stand alone from the Justice League and there may be multiple Batmen, with Affleck’s continuation unresolved, and this is all without mentioning the Lego version, yet another (albeit successful) take on the Dark Knight.

Leto’s performance was also the recipient of ambivalent response; his crudely tattooed, cat-walked attired and snake-like physicality was not everyone’s cup of tea, and it was a role that saw even Leto at odds with the studio at how he was portrayed. His disappointment at how his performance was portrayed in Suicide Squad has left his future up in the air, his return, like Affleck’s also remains in the balance, and one that looks increasingly unlikely in the announcement of a solo Joker film.

The newly announced film has been touted to be another stand alone feature, potentially an origins story, with Martin Scorsese on board to produce and Leonardo DiCaprio to star, a tantalising proposition, but also dangerously risky. While another solo film adds another thread to any already crowded web of stories in the DCU (DC Universe,) Joker origin stories have always been decidedly vague, their truths questionable, more folklore than fact. Shining a light onto this may take away from a character whose mystique is only added to by mystery, Leto’s iteration was always going to struggle in the shadow of heath Ledger, but perhaps it is better to take layers away rather than adding, the less you know, the better.

Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn fared better, with many deeming Suicide Squad to be beneath her, leading to another spin-off, Gotham City Sirens, good news for female characters in the wake of the huge success of Wonder Woman, but again another addition to the overladen DCU. Marvel may suffer from the same kind of oversaturation, but at least theirs forms a cohesive whole whereas the establishment of the DCU progresses, it is beginning to unravel.

With multiple films, with multiple directors and actors, that may or may not be connected, alongside differing tones and time periods, it is becoming difficult for even the most ardent fan to keep track. Batman and Co. have been able to embrace different tones and approaches over the years as the projects have been given time to breath, not forced through in a bottleneck, with potentially fourteen to fifteen new releases over the next five years under the DCU umbrella, featuring Gothamites and their extended family in the Justice League.

In the few short years since the end of the Nolan era and the birth of the DCU, we have already potentially three iterations of the Batman, Affleck, Will Arnett and whoever may wear the cowl in Reeves’s version, the same goes for the Joker, with Leto, Zack Galifianakis and a rumoured DiCaprio. Does this add to the characters oeuvre, or rather water it down? Surely having many versions running concurrently wouldn’t be employed for other famous returning characters like James Bond, Kirk/Spock, Mad Max or Jack Ryan. Perhaps the only character that exists in multiple iterations successfully is Sherlock Holmes, but those versions span different mediums rather than just film.

In turning bankable again Batman became the jewel in the DC crown, and the lynchpin of their cinematic universe, following on from Marvel’s success. But as critical and commercial failures cause the DCU to fragment it will be interesting to see how many of the slated project come to fruition, and whether their currently attached cast and crew remain intact. Multiple versions of multiple characters futures hang in the balance, whichever may be the most successful is hard to predict, though if the current pattern continues cohesion needs to be found somewhere. The League Of Shadows aimed to burn Gotham to the ground in order to save it citizens from themselves; a purging and a clean slate may become an increasingly attractive option, as was necessary after the Schumacher era, surely the current crop can’t fall to those lows though.

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Written by:

Sam May
@Sjmay92
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Freelance Contributor

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One Comment


  1.  

    Well written. I’m looking forward to a new episode of Batman and with a good script instead of drowning the audience in special effects that no one seems to care of anymore. If it looks like a videogame like B.VS.S people will not like it and leave Batman to his destiny. In the bin.
    The origin of the story Nolan well told was both smart and bold. Keep going in that direction amd Batman will live forever.





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