Why Burton’s Batman will age better than Nolan’s

[Note from the editor: This article is by prospective staff writer Steven Birkner. Enjoy!]

When I find myself contemplating which Batman movie to watch, I’m amazed at how often I feel like watching either Batman or Batman Returns, rather than the three Christopher Nolan films. While it may be that the latter demand more of an investment in time and attention, as they’re longer and more intricately plotted and more closely connected, I don’t think that’s the real explanation.

As a fan of the character and the comic books, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about my Batman viewing preferences, and I’ve come to the following conclusion: The two Tim Burton-directed Batman films will eventually age better than the three Nolan-directed ones.

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Let me back up a moment to clarify: I don’t mean to suggest that either of the Burton films are necessarily better as films, and I can certainly understand the perspective that the Nolan Batman films are superior in specific ways, such as writing, acting, special effects, and editing. Burton films are more often about mood or style than a strong script, whereas Nolan’s films are always structured with great care and attention to detail.

However, Batman Begins and its sequels seem stuck in a very specific period of the pop culture mindset, one that was self-consciously reacting to post-9/11 concerns, as well as fixated on the idea of something akin to “comic book realism” that keeps those films from having the kind of easy rewatchability that the Burton films have. In some ways, it reminds me of the differences between the original Battlestar Galactica and the 2000s remake. The latter deals substantively with issues like terrorism, paranoia, and security, but gets bogged down by its own solemnity. The original had a sense of fun that the reboot lacked.

Art is often a product of its cultural period, and film is no different, especially Batman films, as they’re designed to appeal to a large part of the current fanbase. In the case of the Nolan films, as well as the Burton ones (or perhaps just Burton’s first film), both did a great job of reacting to the mood of Batman fans at the time.

Why Burton's Batman will age better than Nolan's

1989’s Batman came in the wake of The Dark Knight Returns and The Killing Joke, two stories that were fantastic, dark in tone and image, yet not stymied by considerations of “realism”. Batman ‘89 was in the same vein: a 180-degree departure from the ‘60s Adam West series, but also deliberately over the top, and comic book-esque in style (note the traditional yet absurd Joker “chemical bath” origin instead of The Dark Knight’s attempt to craft a Joker origin more in line with a tragic tale(s) of knife scarring).

Nolan’s Batman films were of course a reaction to the very prominent failure of the ‘90s Schumacher films. (And it continues to fascinate me that Batman & Robin gets plenty of scorn and ridicule, but Batman Forever is largely given a pass despite a similar level of cheese and camp. Is it the $77 million difference in domestic box office that allows the latter to avoid the stench of a bomb? Or is it the unforgettable image of Nicole Kidman saying “hot entrance”?)

Why Burton's Batman will age better than Nolan's

Nolan took a back-to-basics, grounded approach that while well-received, may strike future viewers as wrongheaded, considering the subject matter. As an example, he takes the time to show how Bruce Wayne orders his weapons and gadgets, even going so far as to detail the accounting subterfuge required to disguise the purchases. Is this necessary? Is it fun to watch? Were viewers really wondering as they watched Batman strike a foe with a batarang, “I wonder whether he paid for that with a credit card under an assumed name or used PayPal?” These kinds of things strike me as designed for the viewer who wants a sense of “realism” about Batman, of all characters, because he’s often seen as the most relatable.

The notion of Batman as the most relatable of major superheroes is simultaneously understandable and yet ridiculous, if taken too far. True, Batman has no superpowers, but he’s also a billionaire who achieved his wealth through inheritance rather than entrepreneurial skill. He had the luxury of honing his fighting abilities and knowledge of criminology because he had nearly limitless time and resources with which to do so. So yes, while Batman was able to train himself to the peak of his abilities, it’s more accurate to say that he had the money and time to devote to buying gadgets and acquiring the skills for crime-fighting. It’s not quite the grounded and realistic origin people think it is, and placing him in a grounded and realistic setting takes away much of what’s special about him.

Having Batman operate in a gritty, neo-noirish environment makes him stand out in an especially silly way, as he often does in the Nolan-verse. It has the effect of reminding us while we’re watching a tightly-plotted crime drama that there is in fact a billionaire dressed up as a giant bat who refuses to use guns, fights criminals who have guns, and yet routinely emerges unscathed. An overemphasis on realism can also make him redundant as well. If you’re just going to use Batman as a glorified noir-ish police detective, why not just tell stories about Jim Gordon or Harvey Bullock, actual police detectives, and leave Batman out of it?

Burton self-consciously creates a dark, yet still comic fantasy world, one in which a figure like Batman is at home, as well as outlandish villains like a scenery-chewing murderous clown, and a deformed, orphaned man who was raised by penguins and controls a circus-themed crime gang.

And it’s easy to see how these contrasting visions of Batman impact the character of the Joker, which is a natural point of comparison, given that other than Catwoman, he’s the only supervillain appearing in both the Burton and Nolan films. Again, it may be that Heath Ledger’s take on the Joker is the deeper, more nuanced, and complex performance. He undoubtedly earned his Oscar and all the praise he received. However, Jack Nicholson, to me, is the more fun one to watch because, well, he seems to be having more fun.

Why Burton's Batman will age better than Nolan's

Ledger’s Joker comes across as an angry psychopath who happens to have chosen a clown theme almost at random, or as a result of the appearance of his scars. While he has clever dialogue, he’s rarely funny. Nicholson’s Joker, on the other hand, is constantly telling memorable jokes that amuse us even as he’s horrifying us. Many great lines of his come to mind, like “Where does he get those wonderful toys?” or “This town needs an enema!” Dark Knight’s Joker has “Why so serious?”, which doesn’t really qualify as a joke. Ledger’s performance is powerful, but less entertaining. Nicholson’s performance seems more suited for a comic book supervillain and truer to the character.

In addition, the Danny Elfman scores are superior to the Hans Zimmer ones, further adding to the rewatchability factor. Zimmer’s scores are dull, fading into the background or sticking too close to what’s happening on screen, never daring to outshine it. Elfman’s scores remind us that we’re watching an exciting, epic film. The opening music to the first Batman sets up the movie incredibly well, with a tone befitting Tim Burton’s vision: operatic, somewhat dark, yet still heroic.

Though this may be obvious, I’m a huge fan of the Batman character (I tried writing this much content about Ambush Bug. Didn’t work as well). One of the great things about Batman is that, like fellow fictional detective Sherlock Holmes, he’s had a myriad of different interpretations over the years, some very light and some very dark. Both Nolan and Burton lean toward the darker approach to Batman, but only up to a point, and that’s not really where the contrast lies.

Nolan’s films feel bigger now because of box office results, Heath Ledger’s passing, and because they’re more recent. As all the films in the series recede into the past, however, these things won’t seem as significant. And the demand by many comic book fans for a more grounded, realistic approach will fade as well. And once that happens, my guess is that Burton’s films will age better.

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  • Wizkamridr

    I like batsy, but I do not understand the point of making him realistic. The thing that gets me is the fact that Bat worshipers believe he can take down gods, and yet still get his arse handed to him by the Joker.

    • To be fair, Bat worshipers are only in it for the indulgent power fantasies, so they have their own twisted mentality.

  • I don’t think Batman ’89 will age well at all, mainly because it’s just not very good. Returns is fun, but Burton’s first movie just gets bogged down in the Joker and Batman fighting over a woman, with the Joker committing some random act of violence and Batman reacting to it and this pattern gets repetitive quite quickly.

    Really, I think Batman ’89 is only remembered as it is because the thirty-something geeks today bought into the massive hype when they saw it as kids, and being ten they overlooked all its faults because Batman. Personally find The Dark Knight the more engaging movie, and while it is becoming a fascinating time capsule of post-9/11 culture (it’s to the War on Terror what Dirty Harry was for the Zodiac killings) I feel it’ll be the only one of the two people still remember in ten years.

    • Tom

      Batman 89 is 25 years old and still talked about. In 10 years, it will be 35. So maybe people won’t be talking about it by that point. I sincerely doubt anyone anyone will be talking about the Nolan film when it’s 35 either (expect maybe that generation’s thirty-something geeks).

      • CaptainCalvinCat

        But before that, there will be a big “Schoemacherstalgia” – meaning, people will see “Batman Forever” and “Batman and Robin” and will say: “Well, it sucked back than, but compared to the borefest, that’s “Batman Begins”, this is frakking shakespear”. ^^

        • Tom

          Ugh. Sadly I can see that happening.

          • Mitch Sanders

            You know one bat movie that will stand the test of time the Adam west tv movie that movie is still being talked about to this day, “some days you just can’t get ride of a bomb”

      • Nolan’s Batman films are some of the most influential of the 21st century. The entire reboot culture and modern superhero films can be traced back to Batman Begins (Iron Man was an attempt to do the character BB-style so it inspired the MCU as we know it), and The Dark Knight created the subgenre of blockbusters trying to sell silly, indulgent characters as serious art pieces (Skyfall, the DC movie universe etc). Batman ’89 only changed how films were marketed, something even fans of it tend to forget already.

        • Wizkamridr

          “Nolan’s Batman films are some of the most influential of the 21st century.”
          Unfortunately.

        • T.J. Murtâgh

          Most influential of the 21st century. .. we’re only 15 years in so the bar hasn’t exactly been set very high. And the reboot culture predates Batman Begins. And you are kidding yourself if you think Blockbusters trying sell silly characters as serious pieces of art started with Batman Begins. It may have been among the first to successfully do so but it was by no means the first. That’s exactly what the 1998 Godzilla reboot tried to do though it failed spectacularly.

    • Secret Journey

      In just a couple of words, you’re completely wrong, I’m sorry! 🙂 This article is so well written that I don’t have to add more words! But I respect your opinion!

    • Rick McCallister

      You have to remember that there’s a massive swath of the population that sees Batman ’89 as the first real Batman movie they ever got to see in theaters. And while it doesn’t quite hold up to today’s standards, it’s going to hold a place of nostalgic kingship for a lot of people.

      It’ll be remembered just as surely as the Nolan version. At this point, Batman is becoming a James Bond/Dr Who/Hamlet character, where the character is so widely known that we’re all just buying tickets to see how an actor and director team up to create a specific take on that character.

    • vollstix

      I am guilty of everything you outlined in your second paragraph. Bats was really the first cape whose comics I collected fervently (which I started doing several years before the film came out) and I remember having to lie about my age to get into see the Burton film, I believe it was the first motion picture to be rated 12. You’re right, I think the nostalgia is a HUGE factor when regarding appreciation of it today (I WAS ten when I saw it! And I didn’t think it had any faults, I was utterly swept up in seeing Bats on the big screen; he was to us what Donner’s Superman film was to the previous generation, I think). Having seen it numerous times since it just doesn’t hold up beyond that initial thrill of nostalgia, I’m afraid. The Dark Knight stands at this moment in time as the definitive Batfilm, I reckon, even though it’s not perfect. I really think it’d benefit from being half an hour shorter, for one thing….but what it does well it does EXTREMELY well. However Steven Birkner did a good job with his argument in this piece, I think, he makes some salient points.

      Film Runner, are you a Supey fan, or a Marveldrone?! Hahah I’m not dissing at all, just curious! I’m not bothered, I have no investment in contemporary Big Two comics AT ALL, to be honest. I think the last cape I bought was that Dr. Strange comic The Oath (?) and that was only ’cause I really like Marcos Martin’s art. Oh wait no it was the Dollar Bill Watchmen one-shot because Steve Rude is one of the best to ever do it! Only spend my money on “pretentious hipster garbage” these days, really.

      Cool profile pic, too!

  • Tom

    Enjoyable read, thanks. I imagine results will vary a lot from person to person. I definitely fall into your camp already. I really enjoyed the three Nolan films, saw them all opening weekend, bought the discs when they came out, etc. But I’m already bored with them. I’ve seen each twice, and if I don’t ever see them again, life goes on. I can still watch and enjoy the first Burton film any old time, and while I’m less fond of the second, I can still watch and enjoy it too.

    For me personally, I think the problem with the Nolan films is that they’re so damn dreary. And they’re built on detailed plots as you said. Once you see the story once, there’s really no incentive to sit through the 2+ hours again to see how things unfold. And there’s not really any sense of fun or wonder to draw you back either. Inception was the same. It is a fantastic movie… the first time you watch it.

  • Where as I think that the Nolan-verse will age better because it is about something. The original movies didn’t really talk about the hows and whys of characters.

    Nor were they contextualized, there really isn’t any deeper commentary to “Batman” about anything related to late 80’s or early 90’s culture, I guess that makes them uncoupled from reality and thus can be watched at any time, but it also means that they lack depth. When people watch the Nolan movies they will see an issue being explored as it relates to the era in which they were made, which gives them weight.

    • Mike

      I can understand both arguments fairly well. The reason I preferred the Nolan-verse upon initial watching is pretty much the reason you describe Rocketboy1313 The layers of of context for the stories and the character insights. In particular the insights of Batman himself.

      It’s interesting to note the Burton films put more focus on the minds and methods of the villains (Joker, Penguin, Catwoman all get the best lines), while only giving brief insights into the life of Bruce Wayne. The Nolan films focus on the mind and methods of Bruce Wayne and gives only glimpses in the heads of the villains. Both are perfectly fine story approaches, it just comes down to which prefer. I realize many prefer the less talky, more subtle approach Michael Keaton gave the character, but I got tired of him being so mysterious even in private.

      I think that’s the reason I’m once of those people mentioned in this article whose a little easier on Batman Forever than Batman and Robin. Sure it was high on cheesiness, but it was the first time I really felt we like we got a since who this “masked man” truly is on a personal level. Yes Val Kilmer in hindsight was blatantly obvious a troubled man than Christian Bale (especially with him dressing down in black even in daylight!), bug least I could feel him struggling with trying to do the right thing while having doubts if he was doing it the right way. If it comes to a choice between the two, I prefer the hero to be more identifiable than the villain. I get Batman is supposed to more mysterious in his universe than somebody like Sherlock Holmes, but that doesn’t mean he needs to be a mysterious to the audience. It’s like if a Spider-Man movie gave us as much reason to suspect Spider-Man is a criminal as Jameson leads his readers to believe.

    • Wizkamridr

      I don’t see the point of a movie with people dressed in costumes needing depth. The avengers sure as heck did not have any depth. IMO, it was nothing more than a satuday morning cartoon. Nolan’s batman was too boring for my tastes.

      • It is not about “need”. You don’t “need” many things. But depth is what separates enjoyable things from things that have impact and meaning. While there are stories well told that have no depth, if I have to pick between two things (all other factors being equal) I would rather have depth than no depth. Just like if I had to pick between two equally tasty treats I would pick the one that has positive health benefits.

        • Wizkamridr

          I see your point. However, I was not impacted by Bale portraying batman. I did not find anything compelling about his version. I’ll stick with the 90’s cartoon or recent Batman video games. That is how I see the character.

          I wasn’t blown away by the avengers or guardians. It was all fluff and no substance. However, I understand why people like those films.

          On the other hand, I can watch Superman punch things for 2 and a half hours.

        • CaptainCalvinCat

          But why can’t films, that have really depth, have more than just subtle humour?
          Why can’t we have a movie, that has the same witty banter than avengers or guardians of the galaxy and yet have depth in it? That’d be a match made in heaven.

          But the comic-book-movies that have “depth” – a.k.a. the Nolvan-Flicks – might have subtle humour, but nothing that witty, bantery….

  • Toby Clark

    “note the traditional yet absurd Joker “chemical bath” origin instead ofThe Dark Knight’s attempt to craft a Joker origin more in line with a tragic tale(s) of knife scarring).”
    Actually, they were going for the “Multiple choice past” approach popularized by the exact same comic that gave us the chemical bath scene.

    • Mike

      Right. The both used the same source. It’s just the first case went with the most commonly accepted origin story, while the second centered on the Joker telling some many versions that even he wasn’t even sure which one was the truth.

    • Jonathan Campbell

      Actually the chemical bath origin comes from the 40’s. The Killing Joke just elaborated on it a bit.

      • Toby Clark

        *facepalm* I stand corrected.

        It was actually 1951, though.

        • Jonathan Campbell

          “It was actually 1951 though”

          (grumbles) (hates being wrong).

  • Mike

    One more important point. (My last post already was so long I figured I’d make I’ll make it separate).

    I do understand the problem with too much emphasis on realism bringing down the magic. And yes, Batman is assumed to be grounded in realism, with abilities stemming from science, physical training, and detective work, when in fact he’s really about as far fetch as any hero with powers rooted in fantasy. I think part of the problem is he’s easier to write for than Superman because it’s easier for him to be challenged. But while that’s make it easier to tie this character to real science and social conflicts, it can also most for lazy writing.

    Lately I’ve been re-watching episodes Macgyver, (which was one of my favorite shows growing up) and have discovered the same problem. Because the so-called Macgyverism has some bases in real science and because Mac is basically written to seem like a deceptively average joe with a genius mind, it’s easier to fit him into all kinds of conflicts and let the story run on auto-pilot.

    But it still requires you to buy a lot. If Batman’s greatest sin in that he (almost) always has the right gadget on his belt on for any occasion, Macgyver (again almost) always manages to just FIND the right combination of things for any occasion. His stories are usually at there best when the writers seem some what aware of the own absurdity. Heck as someone pointed out on this site several years ago, “the first Macyver joke was in the very FIRST episode of Macgyver.”

    The lesson: even if you’re striving for a little more realism in your fantasy adventure it’s best for the character to takes things serious and the writers not so much. Let the heroes and their allies worrying about survival. Storyteller should try to relax.

  • tcorp

    Was my original comment deleted?

  • writebrain

    God, why do people like Burton’s Batman films so much? Admittedly, the production design is great, but Batman ’89 has aged horribly.

    • CaptainCalvinCat

      Read the article – there it is explained, what the author thinks and I agree to it.

      • writebrain

        I did read it, and Batman ’89 is still terrible(imo).

        • CaptainCalvinCat

          It’s okay, I mean – I think, that while the Nolan-Trilogy is this great metaphor, greatly constructed etc. I cannot help, I find it incredibly, excruciatingly boring at times.

        • Murry Chang

          Yet it’s still better than the Nolan movies.

          • CaptainCalvinCat

            At least from our perspective, Murry. ^^

    • Murry Chang

      Because they’re fun…and Keaton is a better fit for the role than Bale.

    • Wizkamridr

      I could say the same thing about the nolan films. IMO, nolan does not get super heroes.

    • Bobby Klein

      no it hasn’t people still say its the best. I love re watching it I love the joker’s lines especially.

  • Cameron Vale

    Now I can’t stop thinking about Batman as a guy who became Batman because he had nearly unlimited money and time to do it.

  • CaseX

    “bogged down by its own solemnity.”

    Perfectly describes Nolan’s entire trilogy.

  • Murry Chang

    The Burton films are just more fun, which is the entire point of a comic book movie. Though I do have to say that the 3rd Nolan film was absolutely hilarious in an unintended way.

    Plus, I know it’s a VERY minority opinion, Leger’s Joker was just a copy of Nicholson’s.

  • JustMe

    Here’s my basic problem with the Nolan Batman movies – he took a movie that ought to have been about good vs evil and reflected it through his prism of right wing politics and turned it into “Atlas Shrugged”.

    Think about it – a rich man decides to do something about society, he is opposed by govt forces, he ends up deciding to retire for awhile only to watch the city fall apart without his input and then he comes back and makes things right. That plot is an Ayn Rand plot tweaked only a little.

    And to be honest, Batman doesn’t really lend himself to that plot. It’s always tempting but every time that plot is tried with that character it ends up never really working as well as the person doing it thinks it does. Putting aside my personal distaste of Nolans politics, it’s just not a set of ideas that works well when grafted onto the side of Batman…

    • Jonathan Campbell

      Christopher Nolan is a Democrat. He has donated money to Democratic candidates, including Barack Obama.

      The Dark Knight Returns was not inspired by Ayn Rand. It was inspired by Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities. The city being destroyed is based on the plot of the Batman storyline No Mans Land.

      • Wizkamridr

        I could be wrong, but I felt like the last bat film was anti-military. If you are going to put batsy and his super villians in reality, the Army’s Special Forces should be able to lend a hand. I also did not like the fact that the police were portrayed as cowards.

        Batman gets his butt handed to him, but is the only one who can save the day. Right.

        • Jonathan Campbell

          I don’t think that was the intention.

          • Wizkamridr

            It probably wasn’t. I still did not like the film. I thought the 1st two were better.

          • Jonathan Campbell

            I didn’t mind it, but yeah the first two were superior.

            Although, I read just there that Christopher Nolan has said the opening of TDKR was the scene he was most proud of in his career. And I suppose as a technical feat, I could agree with him that it’s the best scene he has shot.

            But that’s the problem with TDKR. It has a few really cool scenes and a good villain and stuff, but it drags in so many places and it doesn’t do nearly enough with the source material it is drawing from. The fact that it is the end of a trilogy rather than the end of the beginning of a DC cinematic universe is just salt in the wound.

          • E.Buzz Miller

            If anything it had a , slightly heavy-handed Occupy movement undercurrent to it, which is interesting, but going to be really hard to explain to people in say 10-15 years what he was alluding to.

          • Jonathan Campbell

            He is on record saying that was a coincidence, because Occupy started after the script was finished. Although he does seem to have sympathised with them.

          • E.Buzz Miller

            I find that a little difficult to buy frankly, maybe he was told to downplay any political themes so as to appeal to all audiences?

          • Jonathan Campbell

            No. He said they had an inkling of the way things were blowing though, so it’s not like they were completely psychic. But he is telling the truth-the script HAD to be ready long before Occupy happened, given the size of the project.

            I find this happens in art all the time. Lots of works seem to be channelling one socially relevant theme or another, or be based on this or that other work, only to turn out they weren’t after further research. It happens.

      • The American Democrat party are still right-wing.

        • Jonathan Campbell

          But Left of Ayn Rand.

        • tcorp

          In what way?

          • Jonathan Campbell

            In the way that Film Runner and I are British and get Universal Health Care and stuff. From a European perspective, the Democrats are ideologically equivalent to a moderate Conservative party, at best.

      • Wizkamridr

        And here I was hoping Nolan was inspired by Kamen Rider….

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kamen_Rider_W_Forever:_A_to_Z/The_Gaia_Memories_of_Fate

    • E.Buzz Miller

      I don’t think there’s anything Randian about it really, now the Iron Man movies? Tony Stark is almost like if Rand wrote a superhero.

      • Joel Schlosberg

        Except with better writing.

    • Bobby Klein

      YES Thank you some one pointing this out! His last movie in the series was heavily anti revolutionary. And the pro torture of his last films. Nolan is utterly despicable no subtlety just in your face with the bull shit.

  • Doc Skippy

    Sadly, none of the Batman films are very good. Of the Burton entries, the first is superior in that it has a more interesting, coherent, and threatening antagonist. However, as regards plot and characterization, there are some truly inexcusable flubs (e.g., Bruce Wayne exhorting the Joker to “get nuts” – whuh? Why? Way to break character, Bruce). It’s still fun to look at it. The second film would probably also be fun to look at, in terms of art design, if it weren’t also generally repulsive in almost every other way.
    The less said about Bats 3 and 4 the better.
    The Nolan films are hamstrung by their apparent desire to support messages and comments. Guys, look, the world of Batman is too inherently ridiculous, despite its pretense to darkness and gothic ambience, to support profundities. I don’t watch a Batman movie for commentary about the Occupy movement.

  • tcorp

    Since my original comment here was deleted, along with two comments from two other articles (all for not immediately apparent reasons), I’m going to repost the essence of my original comment here, along with an explanation.

    “TL; DR: Nolan Batman is less fun because it attempts to be more “realistic”; ergo, it will have less longevity than Burton Batman.”

    The “Nolan Batman = no fun” argument has been beaten to death so much in TAB articles that TAB might as well be an echo chamber. That’s fine if you want an echo chamber, but you know who else has an echo chamber? Fox News. Think about that.

    There is a time for everything. Likewise, there is a time to be fun and a time to be serious. I don’t want all superhero movies/tv series/whatever to be Guardians of the Galaxy all the time. And I don’t understand how so many people have a bug up their ass about the Nolan Batman films. That isn’t to say I enjoyed all of them. I didn’t care that much for Batman Begins when it first came out and wasn’t necessarily wooed by the hype surrounding The Dark Knight. It was good, but it’s by no means my favorite movie. Batman had four shots to be as “fun” as it could possibly get (actually more, if you include the Adam West TV show). Why was a change over to something a little bigger in scope and deeper in message such a tragedy?

    But beyond that, saying that a movie wasn’t fun, is a little like saying it wasn’t cool. It is essentially meaningless to say because the term itself is so broadly subjective. What I’ve picked up from TAB is that not fun = not Marvel. For example, I thought Inception was a blast, but I only think that because I can take Nolan’s creation as one take on dreams, not as the end all, be all. Fun can make you think and make you work. It doesn’t always have to be this superficial thing: you don’t have drop an anvil on someone’s head just because you gave a character cancer. To me, that is just as immature as making creative works “grimdark” (whatever that means): you’re not avoiding the problem, just taking the other extreme.

    • Nate Winchester

      Good points, allow me to add:

      “TL; DR: Nolan Batman is less fun because it attempts to be more
      “realistic”; ergo, it will have less longevity than Burton Batman.”

      Know what also is less fun? Citizen Kane. Gone with the Wind. the Godfather. 2001.

      Yes, fun movies can remembered too (Star Wars, Wizard of Oz) but marking it as a determinate of longevity is… well not borne by history.

  • Premonition_45

    I honestly think the most underrated comic book movie is The Rocketeer, from the same time as the Burton films. It had the perfect combination of seriousness and good-natured fun. Some spotty FX aside, it holds up like the Rock of Gibraltar.

  • Animikean

    No love for Ambush bug?

  • James M. Fabiano

    You forgot…Michael Keaton’s Batman could speak proper English.

  • Sgs006

    Why do comic book fans poo poo on Nolan’s trilogy? Is it because he helped make Batman more main stream? The Watchman is far darker than anything in Batman but you don’t see hard core comic fans disparaging that movie. I get that people like to hate on popular things but sometimes there is a reason something relates to a lot of people…maybe it is just good. And maybe you just don’t get it.

    • Dabraat

      I liked them when I saw them but when I try to watch again I have no interest in Nolan’s Batman. The Batman formula is basically Sherlock Holmes, merged with a Ninja, with the technological capabilities of a billionaire defense contractor. Nolan’s Batman was basically a Ninja with a tech company. No great detective, no computer savvy. He doesn’t seem smarter than anyone else, its all Lucius Fox. That’s not the Batman most people love…

  • GodsAdvised

    I like both the Burton and Nolan films. They both have some great moments and I’ve found they all have pretty good re-watch ability. My issue with Nolan’s films is that I don’t think we ever got a true version of Batman. They were entertaining movies but the version of Batman on screen just never worked for me. Batman is a master at strategy and stealth and his one true superpower is his indomitable will. However, in TDKR we got a Batman who quit being Batman after his not-girlfriend died, rushes headfirst into a trap set by Bane, and then takes on Bane, in broad daylight, surrounded by a group of enemies with guns, in a fistfight. In none of the Nolan films do you see Bruce use his intellect and abilities to be proactively 2-steps ahead of his enemies. He merely reacts to the threats and sometimes gives up when the going gets tough…that’s not Batman.

  • Kano

    Nolan shot the the opening scene to Dark Knight Rises (the weakest of the 3) practically, now compare that to Burton’s laughably aged Batwing miniatures.

    I would say that is good reason why they’ll age well since a bulk of the effects in the trilogy has been practical with GCI mostly used for cityscapes and painting out wires.

    As for the Neo-Noir feel, that is straight up out of Blade Runner and very few people would say that has aged badly.

    Batman doesn’t shoot people, its pretty core to the character (and will never change as long as Batman is published). Something Burton stupidly overlooked.

    The real measuring stick will be the DCCU version, which will prove whether or not its just a generational thing. Who knows maybe ten or so years from now people will be posting reasons why Nolan’s will age better than the new version in which case it’s a moot point anyway.

  • Salman Ravish

    Burton’s Batman movies are a piece of art,an experience,& you can never get tired of watching a Beautiful Painting…on the contrary you can get tired of watching a news channel after a while.

  • Wes Falls

    Pretty sure Burton’s Batman has already aged pretty well. I don’t really care much for Batman, outside of casual interest, but I haven’t felt even so much as half-way compelled to watch Batman Begins a second time. I think Burton’s Batman was just a good movie, and also a good Batman movie. I think Nolan’s Batman movies were interesting, but they were basically just Dirty Harry movies starring some British guy with a bad-American accent dressed like a giant bat.

  • Chris Palmer

    “(note the traditional yet absurd Joker “chemical bath” origin instead of The Dark Knight’s attempt to craft a Joker origin more in line with a tragic tale(s) of knife scarring).”

    The problem with that point of view is that thinking it’s a “tragic tale” is like thinking you know how the murder from Rashomon happened. The whole point of the Joker’s origin story wasn’t how it was something tragic, but how it was different every time, which fits in perfectly with Ledger’s Joker.

  • Nate Winchester

    Geez, so wrong.

    THE best Batman movies – are the 3 animated ones (Mask of the Phantasm, Sub-zero, Return of the Joker). They both blow the live action movies out of the water and have longevity.

    Any discussion of Batman movies without acknowledging them (or the HUGELY influential show they were drawn from) is a flawed premise from the start.

    • anonsaga

      For many, many years, Mask of the Phantasm was the best Batman movie ever made, bar none. Of the animated fare, I’d also include Under the Red Hood and The Dark Knight Returns P1&2, rather than Sub-Zero and ROTJ. But yes, all of these animated features are superior to both the Burton and Nolan films.

  • MicHaeL

    There are a few things I agree to in general, but there are also so many things I disagree with.
    There also are many details to discuss here, but I’ll cover a few:

    First of all; What do you mean you think the Burton-Batman will age better “eventually”? – I know the more recent films have yet to go through the test of time, but the Burton-films have already proven themselves over all these years. So they’re already standing the test of time over these decades of films and even through various changes in the film-world. They might not be AS exciting anymore, but they still hold up very well, and at this point pretty much will stay at this level of quality quite consistently.

    However, I will also say that, despite the whole “realism”-thing, it’s pretty safe to say that the Nolan-films will also stand the test of time. As it was pointed out, neither are really worse or better, except in their own ways, in their own styles. So why wouldn’t the Nolan-films last? They tell an interesting story, with quite some depth, they have good characterization and the actors to back them up, there’s the action and spectacle, even the romance, and so on. I mean, even today after a decade ‘Batman Begins’ is a fantastic experience. And if I want a DIFFERENT and somewhat lighter (or more “digestable”) Batman-experience, I can just go watch ‘Batman’.
    But I must add to this that ‘The Dark Knight’ kind of doesn’t completely go with this statement. I mean, that’s the movie in which a lot more of the colder realism and modernization comes into play. Like suddenly it’s all a bit more “open” and modern-looking, basically just “Batman Goes Chicago”, rather than the more fictional-feeling and looking way Gotham was depicted in the first film. Not to mention the suit, as an example, that went from a more classic look, to the completely modernized and amost futuristic soldier look with the many armor-pieces that made up the suit and the cown that acts more like a helmet. It worked in context, and it does look pretty cool, but by doing things like this it did lose a certain charm to the character and the setting.
    That still doesn’t take away that these movies are still solid on their own, and they still tell a good Batman-story, as modernized as they may be. It’s just a product of the time/era, and the same counts very much for the Burton-films with all its sets, make-up, actors, the music (don’t forget stuff like Prince as well), and other qualities. Although the playfulness and abstract style of the older films might be a bit more general than the heavier modernization and “grittiness” of the newer films, which would be more time-specific, I don’t think it will do much for, or rather against, the ageing of these products. The quality of film-making is what will have to stand the test of time, and I think over time the first two Nolan-films will always stand out. They will always come in a package of the trilogy, but I think most people, out of it, will always choose either ‘Batman Begins’ or even more so ‘The Dark Knight’, because to me those films are just great film-making. The last one not so much, but so be it.

    I also highly disagree that Zimmer’s scores are just dull and on the background. I don’t know what you have been listening to, but it’s quite the contrary. Although it’s true that the soundtrack to “Begins” is very subtle for a large part, it does a great job at building up instead of just being bombastic or busy all the time, and they also put a lot of thought into the details by playing some psychological games in the score. Besides that, there are also very great and epic spectacular and romantic themes. Some seem almost directly inspired by Elfman’s themes. And don’t forget, by the way, that a good chunk of it was also contributed by James Newton Howard.
    Then also the score to “Dark Knight” is just very active with a lot more happening and many more themes and variations than the former, which also makes for a nice contrast instead of having two very similar soundtracks. Again, the third isn’t as interesting to me, but that’s also the dullest film of the three, and no input from James Newton Howard. Much more “standard Zimmer”, I guess, as much as I like his work.
    And, byt the way; This is nothing against Danny Elfman at all, I probably love his work even more so. But I do think his ‘Batman’-soundtrack, as hard as he worked on that, is kinda overrated, and I think his score to “Returns” is much better developed and more interesting by far. (Take all this from a musician/composer.)

    And lastly, as it’s already too long, I just wanted to put in a word about “Forever”; You keep talking about the effect of the box-office for all these movies, but in the case of this movie, let’s just be honest that it’s still simply better than ‘Batman & Robin’. As “Forever” still felt like they tried to make a coherent movie, just like the actors even said like how it felt like they were making a movie as opposed to it felt like making a toy-commerial with “B&R”, which also turned out to be true.
    Anyway, as goofy as it is, there’s still something “good” about “Forever”, in that there’s still some decent story and a little drama and romance happening, besides the pretty solid performances by at least Jim Carrey and Tommy Lee Jones. And I’m not joking, cause even after having revisited it just before and after the Nolan-films, with the last time before that being during the VHS-days, I found in my grown-up and more competent mind that it still had some redeeming qualities and enjoyment to it.
    It still wasn’t supposed to be a Batman-movie, but I can appreciate them for trying to go even more stylized with the grand Gotham setting with some crazy neon colors thrown in, and still a kind of unsettling and slightly twisted atmosphere throughout the whole thing. It almost reminded me of the animated series in a way, even though the series actually seemed to spawn from the first two movies.

    Just my two Dollars (adjusted for inflation).

  • anonsaga

    Burton’s Batman films have aged better than Nolan’s and will continue to do so because they are the better “comic book” movie. Burton brought a comic book to life which is why Batman and his rogues’ gallery fits in the world Burton created. Nolan transplanted comic book characters to a real-world setting, which is why they seem so ridiculous and out of place when they’re played straight and why they barely seem like themselves at all when they’re forced to conform to reality. For all the complaining about how inaccurate Burton’s take on Batman was, Nolan’s take was far worse. Nolan’s Batman isn’t even Batman. Burton’s films may not have always been consistent with comic book lore but they were never boring and they never wasted time trying to explain that which needs no explanation (i.e. how Batman orders his equipment, how often Batman works out, who made Batman’s car, etc).

    Nolan’s films won’t be remembered because they are actually crime thrillers and only average ones at best. Burton’s films will be remembered because they are actually comic book movies and pretty damn good ones at that.

    • whatevergong82

      You can’t call a movie series like Tim Burton’s to age well when you can tell it’s shot on a Sound Stage, you can tell the director care more for the villians than the Hero, and the plots were under-written, to be honest.

      The majority of Nolan’s films were all on location–from the sword fight between Neeson and Bale in Batman Begins, to Bale getting out the Pit in The Dark Knight Rises. Just because a lot of people on this site don’t care that Nolan’s films weren’t ‘Comic-booky’ does not mean that they weren’t solid films.

      Tim Burton is at best, an average director, just like Zach Snyder–more style over substance.

      I’ll take Nolan’s approach any day of the week.

  • Anonymous

    As a batman fan who grew up with Tim Burton’s versions (and were my favorites at the time), I have to say the article is quite flawed.
    One must understand that Burton’s versions were witnessed by a wide generation of ‘fans’ at that time who now make up some of the older generation today including myself.
    What I have noticed is that I subconsciously feel a soft spot for the Burton movies precisely because of that. It’s human nature to feel somewhat inclined towards something you felt was the true version back in the day.
    Look at the 60’s version, so many ‘fans’ at the time grew up believing exactly the same thing with Adam West’s Batman, and some carried on believing that his version was the best even after Micheal Keaton was introduced. Sound familiar?
    It is for these reasons why we argue every generation as to why the ‘last’ versions are better than the ‘latest’ versions and all too often we do that by finding as many things ‘wrong’ with the newer ones down to the smallest details i.e. Bale’s voice, realism etc
    Truthfully what is often considered ‘wrong’ is mainly a defensive way of saying ‘that’s not the version I grew up being fan of’. That doesn’t it make it wrong, just different.
    In the end what separates the versions is HOW they were done with those differences.
    When speaking from a non- biased perspective, Nolan’s trilogy proved to have had the largest impact of its generation than any other version of their’s and thus often are considered the best Batman films.
    As for the ‘9/11 period’ argument, you are aware that most generally acclaimed films from different generations were rooted in their ‘period’ right? For example ‘Dog Day Afternoon’ rooted it’s social commentary on the Attica prison riot back in 1971, yet the movie remains relevant today. As mentioned above, it is how you present it that affects its relevance. At this point no film rooted upon the ‘9/11 period’ has had quite the bleak impact on audiences the Dark Knight trilogy has had despite being Batman movies.
    Everything in written in the article is pretty subjective, what’s more entertaining for you may not be the same for others. And it doesn’t make it better…
    ‘Independence day’ is more entertaining than ‘The Green Mile’, does that make it better?
    In any case it all comes down to what you’re looking for. Better ‘comic book’ experience? Tim Burton’s Batman. Better ‘plot, writing, acting etc’? Nolan’s Batman.