Batman: Burton vs. Nolan
There is a great deal of animosity between fans of Tim Burton’s and Christopher Nolan’s Batman films. Fans on both sides of the fence champion their pick for the best leading man and director while consistently attacking the other. What is the basis for these debates and what do the fanboys and girls claim to be their toughest arguments?
Burton being the first Batman director has a step up over Nolan’s films in the eyes of many viewers. They appreciate the director’s unique look and the gothic style that meshed well with the feel of the batman comics and made it’s mainstream debut with the batman movies. With Batman (1989) Burton changed the way action and superhero movies were made, he ushered in a new era and it’s hard for Burton fans not to make it the high bar that every other batman movie is held up to.
Obviously one of the key differences between the two worlds created by Nolan and Burton is that Burton’s Gotham was very dark, very gothic, very stylistic and very, very Burton. Subsequently it also closer to the comic books original feel for the city. While Nolan’s is very realistic, more like a Chicago or New York, you’re average-looking city, overrun by crime and watched over by your not so average caped crusader.
Nolan’s world is one that we can all see ourselves in. It is the city that we live in and it has a villains that would terrify us and a vigilante that would make us unsure whether to ask for a signature or run and hide.
Although Keaton’s costume didn’t allow him to turn his head, he still manages to beat-up every bad guy he comes across. I personally love the way he delivers The Joker’s own line to him (Have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight?) before saying something very un-Batman, but still kind of awesome, “I’m going to kill you.”
At the time he wasn’t the obvious choice for a super-hero leading man and the out-of-left-field casting reminds me a little of Robert Downey Jr. being chosen for Iron Man. Still there are many criticisms. For one thing Keaton was a little short and slender for Batman. Fortunately his suit came with muscles and lifts to remedy both of these short comings.
Again, Bale was not what many people expected for a leading man in an action movie. Clearly the man can act, though some people may have forgotten when they heard his throat-cancer voice coming out of that black mask. For me though, as for many other viewers, the voice didn’t ruin the performance.
With Bale’s Bat we see the rich boy with playboy style and pride that we almost lost completely with the soft-spoken and uncomfortable Keaton. Bale also convinces us that he is completely torn up about his alter-ego while Keaton gives us the feeling that he is very happy being a little confused.
There are many people also who feel a great deal of loyalty toward one Joker or the other. The two being so different, so extreme, so unique and so damn immitatable (not sure if that‘s a word).
Both Nicholson’s and Ledger’s Jokers were applauded respectively for being the best representation of Joker yet to be seen. Both were also criticised for being far too brutal. The two were created with extremely different intentions, both in my opinion, were intentions that were effectively realized.
Nicholson’s being a recreation of the comic-book prankster. He’s jovial, homicidal, proud and extremely theatrical. He likes to steal the spotlight and get all the press. He shares an origins story with his comic book counterpart and stays true to the stylistic and gothic feel of Burton’s movies.
Ledger’s joker was never intended to rival Nicholson’s. Both Nolan and Ledger stated how much they admired the character that Burton and Nicholson created together. Instead of simply recreating the character once again they came up with a new Joker for a new Batman universe.
The Nolan/Ledger Joker is a realistic, homicidal maniac. He has no interest in cash and seems to enjoy pain. He is a truly terrifying character, a terrorist. He represents something that would be extremely threatening to the society that keeps us safe, pure anarchy.
For many people who were too young to have watched Batman when it first came out the new movies are incredible, with their realistic style, the effects, the make up and costumes. Burton’s Batman doesn’t represent their childhood, it’s just old and washed up and not worth the second viewing.
Being part of the that demographic myself though I’m going to have to encourage my peers to give the original Batman movies a second chance. We can’t expect the effects to dazzle us like they would have done our parents but we can still appreciate the many innovations of a once young and up-and-coming director who did a lot to create such a unique visual style.
Certainly Nolan’s films have been better received by critics than Burton’s films were back in the 90s. I think that has been a hard pill to swallow for many hardcore Burton fans, which may been the spark of much of the initial Nolan bashing.
On the flipside movie-goers who had plenty to complain about in 89 probably had all their trash talk dusted off and ready to hurl when Batman Begins first started making headlines. Many people who were disappointed the first time around feel like they have finally gotten the Batman movies they have always deserved.
It has been suggested before that one of the main reasons why these films are so often compared to no avail is because they are not, in fact, part of the same film category. While both movies are full of action and are super-hero adaptations B89 and Batman Returns are straight-forward escapist action flicks, while TDK and Batman Begins are complex dramatic thrillers. Therefore a comparison of the two sets is much like comparing apples to oranges, or perhaps apples to pears.
The two set out to accomplish two very different things and in their own right, they do just that. Nolans films are more complex, more mature and more modern, certainly. But you can’t fault Burton's films for being exactly what they wanted to be, well-paced , action-filled and exciting.
When all is said and re-said, bumped and trolled, the main complaint that fans of either series have is how the other camp is always attacking and insulting their favourite films. Perhaps we should just agree to disagree and stop clogging message boards when we can simply be enjoying our own personal favourites.