It is no secret to anyone who has read here that I am a huge Batman fan. I also feel very fortunate that my childhood hero has been made into what is, arguably, the greatest super hero films of all time. Had I been more interested in someone like the Green Lantern, Fantastic Four, Captain America, Punisher, Jonah Hex, or a 3rd installment of X-Men/Spider-Man, then my life would be a sorrowful mess of anguish and angst. Thankfully, Batman is the greatest and I'm aware of that. However, with the end of this series only a few days away I have found myself questioning what this is going to mean for the after Batmen.
Over at IGN.com they have a write-up on the upcoming Cartoon Network series, Beware The Batman. Apparently it's going to get back to his detective roots and steer a bit away from the Justice League sociopath that many have come to love over the years. Recently, I also posted an article examining where the next Batman film might steer after this interpretation of the caped-crusader has finally closed out of theaters (but never in the minds of the people!).
At first I was a bit saddened at the fact that such an amazing collaboration of talent will be leaving this famed franchise for lighter pastures. Then I began to think about what this will do for not only the Batman, but fantasy/hero films in general. First, I had to examine what it was that made the Nolan Bat-Films so successful. Nolan and his team have done for Batman was Speilberg did for monster movies, and what Boyle did for zombie movies. They took the magic out of it. I don't mean magic as in enjoyment and spectacle, but in the sense that it could happen in the real world. Gone are unexplained abilities and origins. Gone are scantily clad women running into certain death, while men with shotguns and sexual prowess run to their rescue in a display of masculinity and obvious wit. Instead, we are given thoughtful and though-provoking material meant to get us thinking about more than what is on screen.
What hero movies have been lacking, and what Nolan's films excelled at, where showing how the very aspects that make the heroes "cool" in our eyes also have to be their greatest source of suffering. Batman is able to patrol the streets at night, inducing fear into anyone that crosses his path of vengeance. He can also use his bare hands to take down heavily armed and trained enemies. However, this comes at a great cost. Bruce Wayne lost his parents, any chance at a normal social life, countless amounts of bodily harm, and not to mention the love of his life in a freak gasoline fight(explosion). In addition, he had to give up eight years of his life abroad in some terrible conditions in order to harden himself and understand the criminal element in order to combat it.
If the upcoming Superman film can take anything from this outlook it has to be that Superman's invulnerability must also be a greater weakness than kryptonite. It has to alienate him (pun intended) from anyone that could provide him with a normal life under the guise of Clark Kent. As has been discussed 100 times on this site, film is a business. But because of what Nolan and his team have accomplished there is now a precedent for creative success in the blockbuster arena.
This is where Marvel falls short. I'll admit, I had a good time watching the Avengers. I could have not heard a word of dialogue and also enjoyed Avengers on about the same level. Don't get me wrong, there is some interesting dialogue and substance to the narrative, but it really doesn't leave me questioning anything or thinking about the film for more than ten minutes after I've left the theater. This is also because it's hard to ground a film that rides on the wavelengths of the fantastic. Lord of the Rings was an exception because it wasn't happening in our world (which I find odd that no one addresses to the possibilities of different planets, therefore making the films increasingly in the sci-fi genre as opposed to just fantasy).
Since everyone in this movie had powers, then it's like nobody has powers. I actually found the Hulk to be the most interesting character because of the turmoil that his powers caused him. And that's the point. We all think powers would be amazing, but it's the movies that show us where we're wrong that become the most interesting.
Because of Nolan's success with this formula there won't be a super-hero movie made for a very long time that won't get compared to his Batman series. However, this will also mean that there won't be a super-hero made that won't be influenced by it. And can you truthfully think of any other film you would want influencing the next generation of comic book movies? I'll answer that for you: