Yes 7 movies. I’m not going to count Batman: The Movie of 1966 starring Adam West and Burt Ward and you know why.
June 23, 1989. I was 8 and eagerly hopped into my mother’s Cadillac with my two older brothers to drive across town to the new Cinema 5 to see Batman. But that’s not where my love of Batman began. My oldest brother, Shea had an affection for baseball cards, and we frequented the local baseball card store in Searcy, Arkansas that also sold comics. Matt, the second oldest picked a large volume of Batman: A Death in The Family off the rack and had to have it. The cover – gothic style lettering and all black save the small image of Batman picking up the lifeless, bloody Robin with torn cape and pixie boots. Whoa. Pretty heavy for an eight year old. I picked up a Batman myself. It was the newest issue of Detective comics – a one off of Batman tracking a deranged bomber. Anyway…
We got our large cokes in collectable Batman cups and sat on the fourth or fifth row and two hours later, my Batman interest became a life-long endearment. Needless to say, I’ve seen every Batman movie on opening day and most more than once in the theater. After watching Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises, I reflected on all eight movies and realized the sequential comic book history of Batman is reflected in these movies.
First – Batman (1989) Directed by Tim Burton. You know what? I’ll go ahead and throw Batman Returns (1992) in here too. (My favorite Batman movie btw.) These two movies represent Batman’s Golden Age to me. Earth 1 and early Earth 2 for you comic book aficionados. Like creator Bob Kane, Burton established Bruce Wayne already operating in the cape and cowl in a gritty and ominous Gotham City. The reason for taking up the mantle is strictly B-Story portrayed in flashback. Joker is set up as the arch nemesis and a off-then-on affair/battle with Cat Woman remains open ended.
Then – The Schumacher films, Batman Forever (1995) and Batman and Robin (1997). We’re in the Silver Age now. In the 50’s and 60’s the Batman comic books became light-hearted and campy. The villains became more flamboyant. Robin, although established early on, was a mainstay by Batman’s side along with Batgirl. Elements of science fiction heavily influenced the stories.
I like to assume that Christopher Nolan noticed this pattern.
A healthy break of 8 years led us to forget but not forgive Joel Schumacher. Crisis on Infinite Earths must have happened in the lull. Batman Begins (2005) introduced us to the modern Batman from the mid 80’s until now. Everyone knows that Frank MIller’s Batman Year One (Batman #404-407) heavily influenced Nolan’s first Batman movie.
Many don’t know that The Long Halloween by Jeph Loeb was written as a follow up to Year One’s story of Carmine Falcone being an untouchable gangster. The Dark Knight (2008) like Long Halloween tied that story up and also gave us the origin of Two Face. Also the late 80’s with stories like A Death in the Family by Jim Starlin and The Killing Joke by Allen Moore and gave way to an insane serial murderer, Joker – no longer the “Clown Prince of Crime” that in the past was essentially just a huge pain in Batman’s ass.
And now, Nolan was able to get into some really fun stuff starting with the multi-title story arc Knight Fall of the 90’s, Hush’s love story between Bruce and Selina, and even the much more recent Grant Morrison run which included Batman: RIP. I assume if you’ve read this far, that you’ve seen the movie so I will include spoilers from here on out. DKR was very much what I expected from someone who was trying to wrap up a 3 movie story arc of the film’s protagonist. I’m surprisingly satisfied with the liberties he took with Robin – my favorite Batman family character. Many have been Batman’s right hand young man (or woman), so I see no problem with one more in Nolan’s real-world universe. (Who is Robin at any given time anyway in non-comic media i.e. Animated Series, Teen Titans, The Batman? Who cares?) In the movie, Bane breaks Batman’s back. Selina struggles with her criminal past and turns over a new leaf by Bruce’s side. Batman heroically “perishes” in oblivion leaving John Blake to take up the mantle, who happens to have a mansion full of orphaned children with their young and supple minds ready to spend their childhood training to be protectors of Gotham. Batman INC. anybody? That’s on the newsstand right now!! Anyway, that’s one way you could take it.
I’m not sure if the above filmmakers knew what they were doing when they did it, but one thing I am sure of; Christopher and Jonathan Nolan had a hell of a good time reading and researching for their Dark Knight trilogy. If you haven’t read the above Batman stories, find them. Read them. You’re in a for treat after treat.