by: Steve (@MisterJackal)
Unfortunately, summer is slowly coming to an end and one of the biggest most anticipated movies of the year is finally here, The Dark Knight Rises. Until then here’s a history of the Caped Crusader. Batman was created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger in May of 1936 and was first introduced in Detective Comics #27. The original story, which hasn’t really changed, is about Bruce Wayne is a millionaire, playboy, philanthropist and industrialist, (sounds a lot like Iron Man, right) who witnessed his parents murder as a child and has dedicated his life fighting crime. He didn’t do it all alone though. He had help from his “sidekicks”: Robin, Batgirl, Commissioner Gordon, Alfred and the list continues. The thing that made Batman such a beloved character was the simple fact that he didn’t have any super human abilities. He was a regular guy that could solve just about any case and could take on anything in his way in the name of justice. Of course like all great stories people always like to see what their favorite hero would be like in real life.
In the 1940’s there were two 15 chapter serials of the Dynamic Duo. The first serial (which was only 260 minutes) was in 1943 and starred Lewis Wilson as Batman and Douglas Croft as Robin. In this serial, Batman and Robin fought against Dr. Daka, Japanese scientist and also agent of Hirohito, who engineered a device that can turn people into pseudo-zombies. Oh and I almost forgot to mention Daka’s secret layer was in a Funhouse of Horrors. Watching this now some people might say it’s slightly racist because there were a bunch of anti-German and anti-Japanese comments throughout the run but remember it was filmed during WWII. Being that this was super low-budget there was no awesome looking Batmobile (sad I know) they would drive around in a black Cadillac limo.
Then in 1949, Batman and Robin, the second 15 chapter serial was released by Columbia Picture. It starred Robert Lowery as Batman and Johnny Duncan as Robin and they faced off against The Wizard (Leonard Penn). Your asking yourself “WHO?!” Yeah, thats what they Dynamic Duo said because you didn’t exactly know his identity until the very end much like in Scooby Doo, just with out the meddling kids and the dog. Much like its predecessor it was very low-budget and it was extremely noticeable. Once again no Batmobile but this time they drove a 1949 Mercury. Batman’s cowl didn’t fit properly (WHAT?!) and pink tights were added to Robins costume to cover their hairy legs. Also there were a few blunders that should not have happened. A big one to me was that was very evident was the Bat-signal working during the day. No utility belts, they were replaced with regular belts without pouches or pockets but when Batman needed something he would pull something out of a non-existent. Not cool…
Then in 1966, the American Broadcast Corporation (ABC) brought us Batman, the show that introduced me and many of my generation to Gotham’s protector. (Yeah, I know I was born in the 80s.it was still my first.) Adam West played Batman and Burt Ward played Dick Grayson in this action comedy adaptation, along with Cesar Romero as the Joker, Burgess Meredith as the Pinguin, and this show had three people playing the notorious Catwoman; Julie Newmar in seasons 1&2, Lee Meriwether in Batman: The Movie, and Eartha Kitt in season 3. As a child, I loved this show, heck I still do! Yeah it was very campy and childish at times it was still great. This was also the first adaptation to actually have an actual Batmobile! OMG! Outside of the BOOM! and the POW! this show was super fun and it introduced me to this world of heroes and villians. I thank William Dozier (executive producer) and Adam West for making me the geek I am today. Tears…
After this series finished Batman was everywhere. Filmation put out The Batman/Superman Hour in 1968, Batman and Robin were in two episodes of The New Scooby-Doo Movies, and of course he was featured in various episodes of Super Friends, which kept changing names until 1986 (The All New Super Friends Hour, Challenge of the Super Friends, The Worlds Greatest Super Friends, then back to Super Friends, Super Friends: The Legendary Super Powers Show, and finally The Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians). In 1977, we got the magical Batman fan from the planet Ergo, Bat-Mite, in The New Adventures of Batman.
After the huge success of The Killing Joke and The Dark Knight Returns, Warner Bros were interested in a film adaptation. So in 1989, Tim Burton directed the Batman, starring Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne/Batman, Jack Nicholson as The Joker, Kim Basinger as Vicki Vale and Billy Dee Williams as Harvey Dent (even though he didn’t play much of a role but it was cool to see Lando Calrissian play the dude that would eventually become Two Face). This is STILL my favorite Batman film to date. Many people were worried to see a comedic actor play such a dark serious role but Keaton did an amazing just portraying Batman. But what else would you expect from the guy who played the edgy Beetlejuice. Then Nicholson as the Joker, OH BOY! Another great performance, much different from the Cesar Romero performance which made you think twice about walking down an empty alley in Gotham on a rainy night. Let us not forget the amazing score by Danny Elfman. The scene where he is going through the museum while Prince is playing in the background is one of my favorite scenes in film history. “Tell U what his name is, Partyman, Partyman, Rock a party like nobody can, Rules and regulations – no place in the nation, Partyman, Partyman”
Batman Returns came out in 1992, once again directed by Tim Burton and starred Michael Keaton as the Bat but this time around we have Michelle Pfeiffer as the very sexy Catwoman and Danny DeVito as the extremely creepy Penguin. I still get shivers down my spine thinking about him, eek. In this one we get a look at Selina Kyle’s transformation into Catwoman and we get a lot of the Penguin doing what he does best, wreaking havok on Gotham. Even though this movie wasn’t as good as the first, it was still good because it maintained the dark and edgy feel of the original.
Shortly after in 1994, came one of my favorite animated series of all time, Batman: The Animated Series. No other animated series embodied Batman the way this one did. This show transended generations because everyone loved it, from the youngest child, to the avid comi reader, to the old man at the store that remembered Robert Lowery in his loose-fitting mask. It was dark, gritty, drama, full of action and tons of amazing voice acting. So much that every time I read a Batman comic, the voice I hear when ever Batman speaks is the voice of Kevin Conroy or whenever The Joker speaks my mind hears Mark Hamill (yes, Luke Skywalker is a bad guy). Both of which have continued to do these voices nearly two decades after their inception. Another thing that came out of this series was Joker’s right hand, Harley Quinn. She was a brand new character in the Bat-verse and everyone loved her so much that they continue to use her in comics and video games today. Thank you Paul Dini, Eric Radomski and Bruce Timm!
After the success of first season, Warner Bros. released Batman: Mask of the Phantasm aka Batman: The Animated Movie, a full length animated theatrical feature! We meet Andrea Beaumont, Wayne’s old love interest, who returns to Gotham and rekindles their relationship. While all this is going on, there is someone going around killing all of Gotham’s crime bosses but someone sees this individual and confuses him for Batman. Now Bruce is on the run, while trying to catch the rightful killer, balance his relationship and clear his name! AWESOME! But it didn’t do very well as a theatrical release but later on did great with VHS and DVD sales.
In 1995, Joel Schumacher, director of such great films as The Lost Boys, St. Elmo’s Fire, Flatliners and Falling Down, now brings us Batman Forever, now starring Val Kilmer as Batman (yes, Doc Holiday from Tombstone) (you thought I was going to mention Top Gun… sorry buddy) Jim Carey as the Riddler and Tommy Lee Jones as Two-Face. We also had Chris O’Donnell coming in as Dick Grayson who becomes Robin after Two-Face killed his family during a charity event and Bruce takes him in as his own. I don’t know how true this may be but Robin was originally going to be Marlon Wayans but then was replaced afterwards. They also constructed a new Batmobile which looked really cool! This film had a lot a potential but Warner Bros. were looking for something a little more family friendly that the previously released Tim Burton films. So this was full of lights and color and not your dark and dreary Batman. Not cool.
Forwarding to 1997, Batman & Robin directed by Joel Schumacher, now starring George Clooney as Batman, Arnold Schwarzenegger (did I spell it write) as Mr. Freeze, Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy and Alicia Silverstone as Batgirl. Yeah… The only good that came out of this was the Smashing Pumpkins winning a Best Hard Rock Performance Grammy for “The End Is The Beginning Is The End”. That’s all I have to say about that.
Towards the end, the animated series was renamed The New Batman Adventures and lasted until 1999. At this time, Warner Bros. decided to revamp the Batman story and introduce a new look at Batman, so they created Batman Beyond. This was a great re-imaging of the Batman franchise. This story starts in 2019 with an aging Batman, still fighting crime, suffers a heart attack and forces Bruce to retire the cowl. Then forwards to 2039 in Neo-Gotham, Gotham is now filled with towering skyscrapers and flying cars, Bruce Wayne is now a bitter old man living like a hermit in Wayne Manor with his guard dog, Ace. Enter Terry McGinnis, a 17-year-old high school student and reformed bad ass, tries to defend his girlfriend from the Jokerz gang and starts getting chased onto Wayne Manor where Bruce comes out to help and they fight off the Jokerz together. Bruce is significantly weakened after the fight, so Terry take Bruce into Wayne Manor and after he falls asleep Terry finds the entrance to the Batcave. A couple more things happen and he eventually becomes Batman! YAY! Terry McGinnis was also a new addition to the Bat-verse that has crossed over into comics much like Harley.
Since Batman Beyond, Batman has been featured in a few other series like The Zeta Project (a spin-off of Batman Beyond), Justice League, Static Shock, Justice League Unlimited, Animaniacs (yeah, you read correctly) and Teen Titans. Then in 2004 the WB released The Batman where we follow a young Bruce Wayne in his third year protecting Gotham as Batman. To be honest with you this was not one of my favorites. Mainly because it was its own entity, it didn’t follow any of the comic continuity or even anything from Batman: The Animated Series. There were new interpretation of classic Gotham villians, but they did had an all-star voice cast (Tom Kenny, Edward James Olmos, Gina Gershon, James Marsden, Ron Perlman, Robert Englund, Will Friedle, Phil LaMarr, Mark Hamill, Brandon Routh, Louis Gossett Jr., Dave Foley, Jerry O’Connell and Adam West) and lasted five seasons.
Rumors soon begin about Warner Bros. rebooting the Batman franchise and the only thing I could think was please let it be better than Batman & Robin. Then it was announced that Christopher Nolan, the dude that made Momento, one of my favorite movies at that moment and I was sold. So 2005 comes and Batman Begins hits the big screen! Starring Christian Bale (Patrick Bateman himself) is casted as Batman, Michael Caine as Alfred Pennyworth, Gary Oldman as Commissioner Gordon, Morgan Freeman as Lucious Fox, Cillian Murphy as Dr. Jonathan Crane/Scarecrow and Liam Neeson as Henri Ducard/Ra’s Al Ghul. WOW! This movie was great and did Batman justice and it brought a darker grittier look to Gotham that made me extremely happy. This film was full of great acting, the story flows perfectly and is filled some amazing action sequences. Nolan also did an outstanding job retelling Bruce Wayne’s origin story that has been done tons of times. After this was over, I was ready for more and I could not wait for a sequel!
Nolan delivers the sequel in 2008, The Dark Knight starring the majority of the original cast and the addition of Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent/Two-Face and Heath Ledger as the Joker. The opening scene in this film, to me, is probably one of my favorite heist scenes of all times. Seeing a group of guys going into a job together and than offing each other one at a time to then reveal the mastermind behind it all getting away with out a hitch. AWESOME! Nolan continued to bring a great story, Heath Ledger did a stupendous job as the Joker and Eckhart did an amazing job honing both Dent and Two-Face. Other than the performance, the fact that it was partly filmed in IMAX made this film that much more of an epic. Watching Batman soar through the Gotham sky on a 7 story high screen made you feel like you were Robin or Nightwing flying beside him. In my sincere opinion Batman Begins was better but I was pleased with the outcome of it and couldn’t wait for the next installment.
Also in 2008, Cartoon Network premiered Batman: The Brave and The Bold, a very fun show where we see Batman fight crime and team up with a bunch of different heroes from the DC Universe like; Plastic Man, Aqua Man, Robin, Nightwing, Captain Marvel, Blue Beetle, Flash, Kid Flash, Adam Strange, Atom, Booster Gold, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman and many more. This series lasted 3 seasons with a total of 65 episodes and is probably one of the only animated shows that actually had a farewell episode. The reason it was canceled is because there is a new Batman series in development which will be a little more serious and completely CGI, much like Green Lantern: The Animated Series, titled Beware the Batman set to air sometime in 2013.
Your probably asking yourself, “Hey, this guy forgot all the video games and straight to video stuff!” NO I DIDN’T! There have been 21 different Batman based video games, a lot of them not worth mentioning because they were games based on the movies and honestly not that great. The only ones worth mentioning are the latest four games because they are absolutely fantastic: Lego Batman: The Video Game, Batman: Arkham Asylum, Batman: Arkham City and Lego Batman 2: DC Superheroes!
And here is a list of Batman direct to video titles:
- Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero (1998)
- Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (2000)
- Batman: The Mystery of the Batwoman (2003)
- The Batman vs Dracula (2005)
- Justice League: The New Frontier (2008)
- Batman: Gotham Knight (2008)
- Superman/Batman: Public Enemies (2009)
- Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths (2010)
- Batman: Under the Red Hood (2010)
- Superman/Batman: Apocalypse (2010)
- DC Super Friends (2010)
- Batman: Year One (2011)
- Justice League: Doom (2012)
I wasn’t planning on adding a review but since this was so delayed here we go!
The Dark Knight Rises, the end to the Nolan Batman trilogy. Christian Bale, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman and Michael Caine return with the addition of Tom Hardy as Bane, Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle and Joseph Gordon Levitt as Officer John Blake. This film takes place eight years after the events in The Dark Knight, Gotham has been free of crime and Bruce Wayne has been in hiding since then. Enter Bane, he wants to bring Gotham to its knees and Batman isn’t going to have it!
Christopher Nolan did a great job showing the progression of Gotham from the last film and it was EPIC! The action sequences were on point, the story was great (much like most of Nolan’s work) and it was intense. Joseph Gordon Levitt did an amazing job and in my opinion he stole the show. He showed so much hope, he never gave up in Gotham’s darkest times, he always fought for what was right. Tom Hardy was great as Bane, granted he had a mask on throughout the entire film, but the action sequences with him were great. He showed so much power, strength and he fit the role (this dude is cut the frak up). I was really skeptical about Hathaway but after seeing her the first couple scenes with her, I was completely sold! Michael Caine also brought his A game, he made me feel as if it was my dad talking to me and made me tear a bit.
A couple negatives and I am sure this won’t be the first time you hear these. It is a bit long, they could of probably cut about 10-15 minutes out of it. Another this was Bane’s voice, in certain scenes you can tell that it was redone and didn’t quite fit. Whatever! I can live with it.
The Dark Knight Rises is a great film and definitely worth checking out in theaters and definitely worth checking out in IMAX. In my book, it is tied with Avengers as best movie of the summer! I absolutely love The Dark Knight Rises and can’t wait to see it again in IMAX!!!
On a side note… I was sadden to hear of those needless acts of violence that occurred during the midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises. Sadden mostly because people are going to see a movie about hope and good fighting evil and to hear something like this makes me slightly lose faith in humanity. But we all know in the end good will prevail and justice will be served. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all those lost and injured that evening.