On Batman

Keeping It Real in Gotham

By Robert Brian Taylor

It was early 2005. Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins was well into post-production and slated to open that June. Meanwhile, filming on Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns was underway for a summer 2006 release. And it seemed like every fourth day I would find myself embroiled in a heated debate over which would end up being the better film. Though I had high hopes for both, I figured the safer bet was Superman Returns. My argument was a simple one, and went something like this: Both directors were up to the task, and the casts for each movie looked solid on paper. However, Nolan was making one huge mistake choosing Ra’s al Ghul–a power-hungry scientist who discovers the secret of immortality–to serve as the film’s primary villain. Ra’s was an awful choice, not because of the non-comic-reading public’s total unfamiliarity with him (though that had to be a concern of the studio’s), but rather because no Batman movie featuring a guy who can live forever could be taken all that seriously.1

Of all the mega-popular superheroes, it is Batman and his universe that are the most grittily realistic. He is not faster than a speeding bullet. He doesn’t swing around Manhattan with the proportional strength of a spider. Batman cannot fly, shoot laser beams from his eyes, or regrow damaged body tissue. He’s a guy who puts on a mask, blocks out the pain, and takes to the streets of Gotham City every night to beat evil into a bloody pulp. The  …

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