Those who have read comic books know that the title character is not usually the one around whom the story runs in most comics. For instance in Donald duck comics, you have Huey, Dewey, Louie, running riot and without Uncle Scrooge (plus the Beagle boys) around can you imagine Donald getting into any interesting scrapes at all? Same with Mickey/Minnie/Goofy/Pluto…Same with Archie/Juggie/Ronnie/Betty…you need these interesting side-characters to move the story along and can’t depend on the main one alone. If you have read Batman as a comic book you would know what I mean. In the comics Batman is always shown as the world’s greatest detective, with the finest technology he builds with his own hand and of course, he is drawn to be bigger than Arnold Schwarzenegger…muscles bulging and ripping out of the dress..Show me one comic book of Batman which does not have a single panel of him exercising? Often lying on the bench press? Lifting weights? That’s the secret of his bashing up the criminals without guns. Superhero films require such big larger than life characters to make them believable. Do you remember how Chris Hemsworth looked the Perfect THOR in last year’s movie of the same name..you can’t have a puny guy playing a superhero and bashing up villains by the dozen and make it believable. Or that’s what I thought.
When Nolan made the first film Batman Begins and chose Bale to act in it..I was wondering why and how he was going to justify it. Chris bale might be a good actor, but he surely as hell doesn’t look like a patch on a superhero, atleast not a beefy, bulky Batman. And that it seems turned out to be the entire premise of the franchise re-boot. This wasn’t about a Batman who intimidated with his sheer presence. This was about an everyday Batman, an everyman’s Batman so to say. Remember Batman, like that other superhero the Phantom, doesn’t have any special or super powers to justify his kicking villain ass. He needs to work bloody hard (in the gym) to hit harder than the bad guys do to him. Nolan cleverly took the Bruce Wayne character to the Orient and Trained him in Ninjutsu..Now if you are a fan of martial arts movies (and who isn’t) you wouldn’t be surprised at a puny little dwarf beating up a dozen people with flying kicks and crane finger punches and not breaking a sweat. In real life, at least most of the time size (and reach) matters, a hard fact which I learnt when I entered a kickboxing tournament (during one of the crazy periods of my life) and spent a lot of time (on the mat watching the ceiling mostly) chasing after taller opponents who simply kept me away from them with their longer reach (longer arms) and when they came in, they could stay away at a distance and still punch me for points. My point, in real life Size does matter…Despite whatever the movies say and not everyone can become Bruce Lee.
So our puny little, everyman Bruce Wayne becomes the greatest of Ninjustsu technicians and strikes terror in the hearts of Gotham’s criminals along with the help of some high tech body armour courtesy his tech wiz Mr.Fox aka Morgan Freeman. His real strength or the lack of it is shown in one telling scene in the first part, Batman Begins where he is trapped under a fallen pillar and Alfred makes fun of him by asking “what is the use of all those pushups if you cant lift a little pillar?” Our hero proceeds his way merrily beating up out of fitness villains who depend on their guns and in the case of the Joker, on wits by using his early martial arts training to win all those battles of fists. Until in the final part of the trilogy he comes across someone who knows more than a little about martial arts, trained by the same master, Qui gon Jin, sorry, Liam Nelson (Ras al ghul) and hence our Batman gets his puny little ass kicked. Till he is put in a secluded spot told to train, train and train some more, build up a lot of muscle and then he comes back to hurt, really hurt Bane.
The movies clearly strike a blow for the common man, the not so naturally well endowed. If you are not born buff, you can still turn Batman by doing enough push-ups and spending time in a monastery. This looks like a social service message wrapped in a superhero movie. Another social service message was casting the unlikeliest of heroines like Maggie Glyenhal and Anne Hathaway as the female leads. Seriously Maggie as Rachel Dawes? The only scene I really laughed out loud in the Dark knight was when Heath Ledger playing the Joker catches hold of Maggie and says “hello beautiful”. We all know the jokers weird sense of humour, so he was probably saying it in a dead pan way at someone who clearly looked at least 2 years older than him and almost as old whenever you seem her in a scene with bale. As for Anne Hathaway, anyone who has seen Halle Berry play “The Catwoman” with aplomb would cringe at the sight of Anne hamming it up. But I guess they were running out of budget and a probable A-list actress would have cost a bundle – just for doing a few scenes.
Well, finally my verdict. I really, really enjoyed the first batman movie starring the unlikely Michael Keaton. That man had presence. Christian Bale doesn’t. so whenever he is in the bat suit and the movie is rolling along at a rollicking pace, courtesy the screenplay, I have enjoyed it immensely- example the Outstanding performance of the late lamented Heath Ledger who erased Jack Nicholson from our minds as “the Definitive version of Joker”. But whenever the movie has depended on Bale alone, it has sunk into another b-grade action. Maybe that’s why Nolan filled it up with so many diverse characters and depended on screenplay rather than star power.
All in all, in Nolans universe, the Batman is everyman, you or I, provided we drop down and do those pushups.