Some days you just can’t get rid of a bomb

There’s a new movie in town. Batman! The first Batman movie I saw was the 1966 version with Adam West. I thought it was wonderful. Still do.

Will this new one be as good? The second one I saw was in 1989, with my 5 year old son in tow.

The boy liked it, I enjoyed it, despite the controversy over casting Michael Keaton, he was excellent. It was grimmer, though.

There have been many Batman movies ever since, and they seem to demonstrate a terrible entropy, getting darker and grimmer and less enjoyable. It seems to be a trend.

I think I’m going to skip this one. The other movie playing in the Morris Theater is something called Dog. It looks rather less gritty and dark and grim and bleak. I might just go see that.


  1. wzrd1 says

    Well, the movies match with the Batman comics after the second Robin was killed. Darker and darker they grew.
    Which kind of makes sense, given that he’s officially a vigilante.

  2. ethicsgradient says

    I found out this week that Alan Napier, who played Alfred the Butler in the 60s version, was the first cousin, once removed, of Neville Chamberlain, the British PM of the Munich Agreement and start of WW2.

  3. PaulBC says

    Penn State Science Fiction Society used to bring in very reliable cash in the 80s by showing the 60s Batman movie on campus. It was cheap to rent and for reasons I never quite got, always pulled in a big audience. It didn’t require cleanup like Rocky Horror either. Of course times have changed and we all have our own little screens. Even by the mid-90s, I think there opportunity for fund-raising by showing movies had gone way down.

    I wasn’t a fan of the one with Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson. Maybe it just caught me on a bad day, but it seemed cruel and pointless. Since then I have no desire to go any further down that rabbit hole. I’ll stick with Cesar Romero’s campy Joker. I mean he’s actually just as evil, but there’s no risk of taking him seriously.

  4. says

    And the next one will be called “Again With The Batman.”
    I too grew up on the original TV show, with the only true Batman, Adam West. And the only true Catwoman, Julie Newmar, Lee Meriwither, or Eartha Kitt. And the Batusi. Most of all, the Batusi.

  5. Akira MacKenzie says

    Just finished watching the first new MST3K episode and now I’m settling in for the night. I’m planning on seeing The Batman tomorrow afternoon for want of something better to do.

  6. says

    That’s not an accurate assessment, as the trend went back towards campiness in 1995’s Batman Forever and especially in 1997’s Batman & Robin, which are widely agreed on as being among the worst Batman movies to date. You might decry the DC Cinematic Universe for being too dark and gritty, but Batman himself seems to have the best media when made in that style, whether it be The Dark Knight or The Animated Series.

  7. Hairhead, Still Learning at 59 says

    If you are a veteran, or have a veteran in the family, go see Dog. And if you like dogs, too — go see Dog!

  8. rydan says

    I saw Dog. It is definitely a gritty and dark movie with some humor sprinkled in. They advertise it like it is a dog buddy roadtrip movie but in reality that’s just a cover for taking the dog to its death because it is broken beyond repair. That’s not really a spoiler though since it is revealed early on. The ending looks like it was so dark that they had to reshoot it last minute in order to be allowed to be shown in theaters.

  9. lumipuna says

    Meanwhile, climate change is making winters in northern areas darker and grittier.

  10. JoeBuddha says

    The Adam West batman was great campy fun, but I liked the darker ones as well. I liked comic Batman because he was the only “hero” who could take out any of the other heroes even though he had no super powers. And the only one who could take on the Joker.

  11. billmcd says

    It’s dark. But the darkness in the movie works. And unlike the Snyder films, this is a Batman movie. Like, with actually Batman in it. And focused more on the detective side of the story than the ‘Batman punches people’ (though there’s plenty of that, but it’s in service to the plot, not the point of the plot).

  12. cartomancer says

    My favourite Batman film has always been the 1997 Batman and Robin. It seems fashionable among a certain demographic, a demographic that takes comics far too seriously, to decry Batman and Robin for being outrageously silly and over the top. But that’s precisely why it’s the best one. If I wanted a grim and brooding meditation on cycles of violence and the hopelessness of existence I’d watch an Ingmar Bergman film. Or a Sophocles play. Or the news.

    Perhaps it’s because I’m British, and I grew up with comics that were entirely about being silly and over-the-top and fun. When we were very young we had things like the Beano and the Dandy, and when we got older there was 2000AD. That did do dark and dystopian and grim, but in a satirical, tongue-in-cheek manner that always let us know how ridiculous the grimness and darkness was. Indeed, grimness played entirely straight was very rare. “Comic”, to me, meant exactly that – comical. And Batman is a grown man who runs around in a lycra costume like a toddler at a birthday party, throwing boomerangs at campy villains in overdone make-up.

    So yes, the gloriously silly costumes, the sets straight out of a sci-fi musical, the awful puns, the themed henchmen, the schlocky dialogue – that’s what Batman really should be. I liked the Adam West Batman, but to my eighties-born eyes it looked very dated. It was a thing of my parents’ generation, and thus like everything else made between the late 50s and late 70s irredeemably naff and uncool. Batman Forever and Batman and Robin did the campy silliness but with an up to date 90s vibe. So this is why, in my entirely unbiased and universally applicable opinion, they were the best.

    Well, apart from the Lego Batman movie. That was better than all the live-action ones put together.

  13. fishy says

    The whole idea of a vastly rich white guy willing to sacrifice himself for the betterment of society seems a bit stretched these days.

  14. says

    I did go see Dog last night. It was showing in the second, smaller theater while The Batman was on the main screen. I figured I’d get the whole theater to myself, but no! Dog was packed, mainly with what looked like high school kids! They were well behaved, and totally silent, except for an occasional sniffle.
    I guess we have a lot of dog-lovers in the community here.
    It’s a road trip movie. Started at Fort Lewis, where my son currently serves, went down through Oregon all green and lovely, along the California coast, and then over to Arizona. I’ve made that drive, and one thing that bothered me is the timing — late Friday afternoon to Sunday morning? No way. Especially not with the long scenic stops along the way. You could only do that if you drove non-stop, no hanging out in bars, no getting shot with a tranq gun by a marijuana farmer, no visits to your estranged wife and daughter, no training sessions with the dogs brother, and no tracking down stolen supplies in a shanty town.
    Also it’s about damaged goods, both the human and the dog, wrecked by war…and redemption.
    Nice dog, too.

  15. christoph says

    I had a refrigerator magnet that said “Always be yourself. Unless you can be Batman. Then always be Batman.”

  16. Larry says

    Saw the Adam West Batman move when it first came out in ’66 and I remember laughing ourselves silly in the theater. On a whim, I checked out a DVD from my library some years ago and I thought that it held up pretty well. I love camp and this had it in spades. Otherwise, I did enjoy the Keaton Batman but I think a lot had to do with Nicholson as the Joker.

  17. Rob Grigjanis says

    I like Batman: The Animated Series and the (much grittier) animated film Batman: Year One.

    The only Marvel adaptation I have any time for is the 1967-1970 animated Spider-Man.

  18. Susan Montgomery says

    The big problem with The Dark Knight was the attempt to have the Omniscient Campy Supervillain cake and eat the Dark and Edgy realism. The mind always tries to “fix” the inconsistencies it creates.

    I always suspect that the reason for the dark and edgy stuff is that aging Xers are doing something similar and trying to convince themselves that movies and comics about superheroes are totally for adults.

  19. KG says

    I remember the Batman series on British TV in the 1960s, in which the comic-book Pow!, Sock! etc. appeared on screen when Batman thumped a villain. That’s about the level of seriousness the whole superhero schtick needs. I’ve only ever seen one “superhero” film: Superman with Christopher Reeve. No desire to see another.

  20. birgerjohansson says

    The Superman franchise was ruined when he reversed time by flying around Earth.
    And the final nail in the coffin was when a weather satellite was implicated in affecting the weather.
    BTW wasn’t Reeve in the Midwich Cuckoos? That was a good remake of an old film.

  21. StevoR says

    If you thought Batmn was getting darker and grittier wait till you see the Joker..

    Just screened on free to air Aussie TV tonight and .. F me..

    That’s grim and dark and very much not campy or fun.

  22. klatu says

    Lukewarm take: Batman sucks. He’s literally only ever figthing to maintain the status quo. And who does he fight? Ignoring the occasional real threat, he mostly beats up poor people.

    Batman is who every buzzcut meathead cop wants to be. A vigilante, fighting for order. Never wrong, always just. It… doesn’t make much sense. It would all be excusable if Bruce Wayne actually used his billions to tangibly help people. Instead, it all goes into technology for the sake of more efficiently beating up poor people and also the occasional super villain.

    Now, I think a lot of that is a result of Christopher Nolan fundamentally misunderstanding the central conceit of the character, but here we are.

    Canonically, Batman is supposed to be the second smarted person alive, right? Just after Lex Luthor or whatever. And this max IQ dipshit can’t figure out how to make the world (or even just Gotham) a better place, while in posession of hundreds of BILLIONS of USD?

    There’s a neat, little browser game called “You are Jeff Bezos” that kind of makes my point. It’s a couple of years old, but still extremely salient.

  23. birgerjohansson says

    It is just as well that Michael Caine has gone into retirement. If the future Batman films are going to be miserable they don’t deserve him

  24. Susan Montgomery says

    @29. He might have done it anyway. Caine was notorious for having very low standards for what he appeared in.

  25. Peter Bollwerk says

    I saw The Batman today and it was decent, but also wasn’t as good as The Dark Knight (but I’m biased, as I like most of Nolan’s work). It was definitely too long and too dark, but the gritty film noir feel wasn’t bad and the plot was mostly interesting.

  26. andrei613 says

    I come at thid as a long time DC Comics fan, though I’ve dipped into Marvel from time to time.

    The MCU films have (IMHO) run from pretty good to awesome. It helped that their makers, 1) Understand the characters and how to transfer them from a comic page to a proper cinematic format, 2) They had a long term story to tell in all the parts, and three, they actually light the sets.

    The attempt at a DC cinematic universe failed because Snyder doesn’t understand the main characters, nor does he want to. His style worked very well for Watchmen, which is a dark story, with varying degrees of dark characters in a dark universe, but that’s not remotely what Superman is about, and really, it’s not even what Batman, at his core, is about.

    At his core, Batman does what he does for similar reasons why the 12th Doctor did what he did:

    DOCTOR: I don’t understand? Are you kidding? Me? Of course I understand. I mean, do you call this a war? This funny little thing? This is not a war! I fought in a bigger war than you will ever know. I did worse things than you could ever imagine. And when I close my eyes I hear more screams than anyone could ever be able to count! And do you know what you do with all that pain? Shall I tell you where you put it? You hold it tight till it burns your hand, and you say this. No one else will ever have to live like this. No one else will have to feel this pain. Not on my watch!
    (Kate closes the lid of the red box and steps back.)

    At his core, Bruce Wayne does not want what happened to him as a child to ever happen to anyone else, ever again.

    And, he knows at least some of his limits, which is why he does not kill.

    The best DC and Batman stories are in the comics, in many of the excellent DC Animated series and movies, and the final CW TV crossover event, Crisis On Infinite Earths, was just…. awesome.

  27. says

    The best of the MCU movies, I think, was Taika Waititi’s Thor: Ragnarok precisely because he didn’t take it too seriously. For that reason, the only big budget superhero movie I’m looking forward to right now is Thor: Love & Thunder. Everything else, I’m just meh. Or worse: this Morbius thing with Jared Leto (hack, spit, bleh) I find actively repellent.

    OK, maybe Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse will be great. Otherwise, I think even Spider-Man is a bit oversaturated.

  28. says

    I gotta admit I never really liked Batman, either as a child or as an adult. When I was about 3-4 the original TV show was scary. After that — even as sheltered as I was — I just started feeling real criminals weren’t at all like the ones in Batman; so I just dropped it then, and didn’t bother with it again till I saw some “Dark Knight” comics, which instantly repelled me as appallingly pretentious and ohhhh so self-consciously grown-up and dark and portentous…not to mention very unoriginally pro-vigilante-justice and anti-liberal. And the few Batman movies I saw always seemed to have the bad guy delivering some asinine “we’re both alike even though you can’t bear to admit it” speech at the end, and Batman suddenly realizes he can’t, for some silly and unspecified reason, actually kill the bad guy, even though said bad guy was clearly intending to kill huge numbers of innocent people, ‘cuz he’s just evil or whatever. I am so totally sick of those “we’re a lot alike” speeches — they don’t just happen in Batman movies. Like, if you’ve gone so far and almost died hunting down such an evil mastermind, just SHOOT HIM ALREADY BEFORE HE ESCAPES AND DOES SOMETHING ELSE! Seriously, Would any of us stop and listen to a pompous lecture from Pol Pot or Stalin, if we’d volunteered to hunt him down?

    I’ve been done with Batman for about as long as I can remember; and I really don’t understand what others ever saw in it. Guess I’m just weird…

  29. PaulBC says

    Raging Bee@39 To be honest, I never got the whole superhero thing, Batman or anyone else. I did watch the TV show (in old UHF reruns) and didn’t realize as a kid that it was a comedy. Cesar Romero’s joker is scary enough, honestly. Would you want to wake up with him leering over you? Not sure why you need to go any darker. I did watch the even older Superman series too. That was kind of fun, not because of the Man of Steel but supporting characters like Lois, Jimmy Olsen, and their boss (forget the name) who always said “Great Caesar’s Ghost!”. And yeah, animated Spiderman complete with earworm theme song. But first off I was a kid, and second, the fact that they were heroes or whatever was besides the point. I watched the Three Stooges and repeats of The Brady Bunch too. Whatever was on after school.

    The movies I really like are about ne’er-do-wells. E.g. Midnight Cowboy or Cool Hand Luke. But that just seems to be something they don’t bother making now. Or maybe some “indie” movies try for it. It’s just not the same as having these come out of big studios, so even if you see one and like it, you can’t just strike up a conversation about it with a random person. Like, a more recent movie I thought was great: Nebraska with Bruce Dern. There was some coverage, but it’s also not something you can just talk about and have people get the reference.

    I watched a bunch of MCU movies with my kids and they’re entertaining. But they’re not something I would have much reason to watch on my own. The last Batman I saw was the one in 1989. That was enough for me.

  30. microraptor says

    PZ @38: Don’t know if you saw Spider-Man No Way Home (not going to check through three months of blog posts for that), but if you did I’m guessing you’ll agree with my assessment that the entire film could have been averted had either Dr Strange spent five minutes actually talking to Peter before casting any spells or if Nick Fury had actually bothered cleaning up the mess that was caused by his actions in the previous Spider-Man film?

  31. Walter Solomon says

    PZ Meyers

    Or worse: this Morbius thing with Jared Leto (hack, spit, bleh) I find actively repellent.

    Now wait a damn minute. This is probably the vehicle they’ll use to introduce Blade into the MCU. Give it a chance and don’t knock it until you’ve seen it. Oh, and I’m 90s comics fan so I like a little darkness in my superhero stories from time-to-time.

  32. Walter Solomon says

    I didn’t mean to misspell your name PZ but my autocorrect had to show its contempt for your opinion about Morbius.

  33. dbarkdog says

    I am with Raging Bee et al. I gave up on comics over fifty years ago, and with one exception I have seen none of the superhero movies. All I need to know was in the Lego Batman.

  34. dbarkdog says

    I am with Raging Bee et al. I gave up on comics over fifty years ago, and with one exception I have seen none of the superhero movies. All I need to know was in the Lego Batman.

  35. dbarkdog says

    Weird double post. To be accurate, I have adult children and taught high school, so I have far more information about the Marvel and DC franchises than I ever would have sought.

  36. says

    I gave up comics in my teens, too. I tried to get back into them when my kids were young, but they’d evolved a tremendous barrier to re-entry: they’ve become so convoluted and soap-operaish that I just couldn’t follow what was going on.

  37. PaulBC says

    microraptor@41 I googled after posting, but that was a name I was blanking on. I cheated a little to see if Jimmy was Olson or Olsen. The newspaper is the The Daily Planet in the TV show. Was it different in the original comic?

  38. microraptor says

    PaulBC @41: No, that was me goofing on the name of the fictional newspaper due to it being late. The Daily Planet is where Superman works, the Daily Bugle is where Spider-Man works.

  39. christoph says

    @ microraptor, # 52: That’s what I meant about you making a joke, switching The Daily Bugle with The Daily Planet.