Four Empire writers tackle the ongoing cinematic adventures of the Dark Knight, and try to come up with a definitive Batorder
Holy long-running series, Batman!
Chris: Batman has been going for over 75 years. He’s been reinvented a number of times. Different directors have had a take on him. Why is that?
Helen: I think there’s little to him that’s canon, and that means you can reinvent him at least once a generation for a whole new audience. He’s weirdly flexible in that way. I think Adam West’s Batman is as much a Batman as the Christopher Nolan Batman.
Dan: That’s the two sides of it. Either you treat it as stupid and all a big joke, or you can take it seriously and say, “Here’s someone with something so wrong that they’re using all their money to do this ridiculous thing.”
Olly: Isn’t that why he’s great cinematically? You could argue that people have made the interpretation that he is a weird sicko pervert who just likes dressing up. Or he is this messed up man who is very damaged and is vaguely psychotic.
Chris: I love that the Adam West Batman is neither of those things.
Olly: He’s a little bit sicko pervert.
Chris: He’s just a paunchy middle-aged billionaire who likes to dress up and get his kicks by punishing people… hang on.
Olly: Exactly. It’s the fact he runs around in satin that is a little bit strange.
Chris: Does Batman reflect the era around the movies?
Dan: I think Batman ends up more reflecting the director. The Tim Burton Batman movies are Tim Burton movies. The Chris Nolan Batman movies are Chris Nolan movies.
Olly: I don’t think he reflects the world so much as what the cinematic trends are.
Dan: The Nolan ones did reflect the world. In The Dark Knight, they set fire to a fire engine. That would have been a deliberate thing in terms of 9/11 and the War On Terror. The Dark Knight Rises…
Helen: Its politics are the thing I hate about it most. It came out the summer after Occupy, and it cast its villain as the guy standing up for the 99 per cent, and it had a billionaire saving the day. It is the most politically tone-deaf film of my lifetime, and it irritates me beyond reason.
Dan: Selina Kyle is also on the side of Occupy. Her and Bane are the two sides of it.
Helen: There is no part of that film that can legitimately be read as prooccupy, and that annoyed me a lot. Our hero shouldn’t be standing up for the one per cent against the 99.
Chris: I don’t think he was. He had to go through a cleansing of the soul and the bank account to strike back against Bane. I’m going to stand behind Bruce Wayne on that one. And his incredible array of wonderful toys that he paid for with his billions.
Dan: However you interpret it, Nolan was all about making it as realistic as you possibly could, given the genre. Chris: Batman Begins isn’t.
Dan: I suppose not.
Helen: This goes across all Chris Nolan’s Batfilms. It’s so frickin’ portentous. I find it a bit much, to be honest.
Chris: This is why Helen has chosen
Suicide Squad at number one.
Dan: I loved that in Batman Begins, the sense of urgency and the relentlessness of it. The drive that it has. It’s weaker at the end, its final third doesn’t match up to what went before.
Olly: It’s not my number one. But of all the directors who’ve taken it on, Nolan has most convincingly told the story of who his Batman is. Batman is not the main attraction in anyone else’s.
Chris: Let’s talk about the movie that, as much as any in history, changed cinema. It was a phenomenon. It was Batman.
Helen: I loved it. It was a 12 and I still got to go see it.
Olly: I didn’t see it at the cinema but I remember its existence being the most exciting thing. I remember seeing that poster, which was just the symbol, all over. When I saw it, I was slightly disappointed. I thought it was going to be life-changing. Batman Returns was. Chris: I know you love Batman Returns.
Olly: Absolutely love it. My favourite thing about Burton’s take on Batman is that he’s interested in these weirdos who decide they are going to turn themselves into something else. That is done best in that film with him and Catwoman.
Dan: I’m not a fan of Batman Returns.
Chris: Holy shit, the Batcat is among the Batpigeons.
Dan: I don’t disagree about Pfeiffer at all. But that movie doesn’t feel like a Batman movie to me.
Olly: That’s not a loss to me.
Chris: Burton made way for Joel Schumacher. Batman Forever and
Batman & Robin are, for me, two of the worst blockbusters of the modern era. The latter is a horror show.
Olly: It has a camp value. The Snyder ones are so downbeat, they’re a slog to get through.
Chris: I do sometimes wonder if Keaton would have made a better fist of Batman Forever.
Helen: I love it for the bit where Robin goes, “Holey rusted metal, Batman” It’s rusted metal and it’s full of holes!
Olly: The thing you have to say for Schumacher is he had an aesthetic. He knew what he wanted it to look like. It was garish and horrible, but he had a take.
Chris: Right, enough squabbling. Let’s vote!
The Batman movies are available now on DVD, Blu-ray and Download
To listen to the full Batman movies debate as a podcast, go to www.empireonline. com/podcast