Unless your superhero was created with live-action in mind, and some of my favorites were, more often than not animation is the best place for superheroes, especially when they’re adapted from comics. The nature of animation, which I’m sure I’ll go into in Art Of Storytelling at some point, allows for a greater suspension of disbelief, which is what I love about comics and cartoons. It’s already removed from the real world unless they’re trying to go photorealistic that you can accept certain aspects of the science fantasy world of superheroes a lot easier. And yes, this includes Batman, as evidenced by the way live-action has approached the Dark Knight. Even the wackiness of the 60s series or the surreal Tim Burton movies still connect too much to real world, though not as much as the Nolan films. The serials betray this as well, while the Schumacher films highlight what happens when you throw common sense to the wind.
However, even with less disbelief to properly suspend you’d think the iconic nature of Batman could still be replicated in live-action more than Superman. This does not bear out to history however, as the best theatrical Batman film may well be Mask Of The Phantasm, the animated movie set in the DC Animated Universe. Professor Geek goes over all the mistakes the various live-action Batman films have made (though sadly doesn’t mention the serials).
First, as a reminder, here’s the teaser released for Matt Reeves’ The Batman.
I did my own review of the trailer when it came out. I was not seeing Batman in this. Regardless of the quality of the final product it has already failed as an adaptation. As the Prof points out this is not necessarily anything new.
Catch more Professor Geek on his YouTube channel.
I think the more recent problem is that the directors and screenwriters (which often includes the directors) really don’t care about iconography as much as their own vision. They may even show disdain for the superhero genre, as seen in Todd Phillips’s Joker movie and Zach Snyder’s Watchmen-style take on the Justice League, which now that he’s getting the Snyder cut out for Justice League he’s talking about getting more of his vision of what superheroes are…which we know shows absolutely no interest in the iconic version of the DC heroes in favor of his more cynical idea of what superheroes in the real world would be like. This made him a good fit for Watchmen, Alan Moore’s deconstructive rejection of superheroes, but a terrible fit for the DC heroes, the embodiment of everything Moore and Snyder reject. It’s further proof that being perfect for project A can still make you a terrible fit for project B.
This is also why I prefer the animated takes on Batman. They’re usually done by people who understand Batman. The other The Batman, the Kids WB series, went a little fantastic at times while Batman Unlimited gave Gotham City a high-tech makeover but they still understood Batman. Batman Beyond had a new Batman being trained by the original in a futuristic setting and didn’t need all of Bruce’s villains to understand what Batman should be and what his goals are, even if Terry had his own motivation versus Bruce’s. No live-action show or movie has really understood Batman, his supporting cast, or even his villains to a degree. That includes the most recent Gotham series or the current Pennyworth show, that looks more like a spy picture than a Batman series. If you want Batman, stick to drawings or computer animated works. They seem to get Batman as a character because they aren’t driven by their own ego-fueled “artistic vision”. Sadly so many reject animation that they aren’t getting the REAL Batman!