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The Batman We Deserve
There are not many film characters who constitute their own genre. When we talk of Tarzan movies or James Bond movies, we’re talking about characters whose film careers span decades, and who have been tackled by a variety of filmmakers and actors. For the most part, a movie character is usually associated with a particular actor, so there is no Rocky without Sylvester Stallone and no Dirty Harry without Clint Eastwood.
Watching the eight live-action Batman films—ranging from 1943 to 2005, and Lewis Wilson to Christian Bale—becomes a journey through more than sixty years of American life. Some of the ways times have changed are obvious, as with a ’40s dress code that has even the thugs in suits, ties, and hats; others are less so, as in the evolving depictions of the life of Batman’s alter ego, Bruce Wayne. In exploring the movies, one thing becomes clear: each age gets the Batman it deserves.
The first two Batman films—Batman (1943) and Batman and Robin (1949)—were serials, a fact that reveals much about the era before a single frame is viewed. Although movie serials go back to the silent film era, by the 1940s they had been firmly established as kiddie fare. The fact that Batman was deemed fodder for the serials as opposed to a feature-length film shows that the character was dismissed by the studio executives and the adult world: Batman was not a legendary avenger like Zorro or the Scarlet Pimpernel, he was merely a comic …
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