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Tuesday, July 05, 2022

The hero Gotham deserves: How “The Batman” compares to “The Dark Knight”

Did the latest iteration of Batman live up to Christopher Nolan’s trilogy?

Nirvana, black eyeshadow and angst are all the rage in Gotham. 

“The Batman” brings us Bruce Wayne two years into being the hero and vengeance of Gotham. He battles The Riddler to save the city. The audience is immersed in his day to day life fighting criminals to seek justice for the loss of his parents.  

“The Batman,” released on March 4, grossed a total of $134 million in North America in the opening weekend alone and is the highest grossing film of 2022 so far. The latest movie based on the famous DC Comics character was directed by Matt Reeves and stars Robert Pattinson taking on the role of Gotham’s hero. 

Even though there were concerns among DC fans when Pattinson was originally cast as Batman, Pattinson has continued to make a name for himself as a critically acclaimed actor receiving raving reviews with his performances in “Remember Me,” “The Lighthouse” and “Good Time. Hating him only because of “Twilight” continues to be a pop culture trend that has no actual merit. 

This fan reaction actually has familiar parallels to when Heath Ledger was cast as the iconic twisted clown, The Joker. Jonathan Nolan, screenwriter for “The Dark Knight” and Christopher Nolan’s brother, told The Hollywood Reporter that the studio and fans originally thought Ledger’s casting as the Joker was the “worst casting decision ever.” However, Christopher decided to stick with his instincts because he believed Ledger was right for the role.  

It’s hard to imagine a time when anyone held negative beliefs about Ledger’s portrayal of The Joker. But, before he was cast, Ledger was known as the ‘pretty boy trope’ in Hollywood, appearing in rom-com “10 Things I Hate About You” and the emotional drama, “Brokeback Mountain.”  

However, many avid Batman moviegoers are left with one question: How did this new take on Batman compare to Christopher Nolan’s beloved trilogy? 

“The Dark Knight”, the second movie in Nolan’s trilogy, is the highest critically acclaimed Batman movie ever, receiving a 94% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Favored by fans for having a clear start, middle and end to both Bruce Wayne and Batman, fans were eager to have a new movie worth raving about. In order to weigh “The Batman” against the Nolan trilogy, there are three categories to take into account: cinematography, villains and Bruce Wayne.  

With all of this being said, comparing “The Batman” and “The Dark Knight” trilogy only seems right as “The Dark Knight” is the highest rated Batman movie. Besides, Ben Affleck’s Batman, the most recent version of Batman, is too painful to mention. 

Cinematography 

In Reeves’ “The Batman,” Pattinson creeps up on criminals in a similar way to Michael Myers, walking slowly and not saying a word, because he is…the shadows. 

These quiet and subtle mannerisms fit the dark aesthetic of the film so unbelievably well, as if Pattinson is the embodiment of darkness. The black and red colors emphasized in the movie poster are incorporated throughout the film seamlessly, making scenes appear as though they’re coming off the pages of the comics.     

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It’s obvious to the viewer that every scene in this movie is shot with the highest production level possible. “The Batman” is the best visually looking Batman movie ever made. 

The cinematography of the film also centers around the incorporation of the movie’s soundtrack, specifically in regard to the Nirvana song, “Something In The Way.” The song has seen a drastic surge in streams since the theatrical release, reaching the Top 5 of Spotify’s Daily USA Top 50 songs as of March 8. 

The track plays at the beginning and ending of the movie. Despite being released in 1991, it sounds as though it was made just for this movie. 

While watching the movie, it’s important to remember how many challenges the production team faced while filming. Filming itself took over a year. Production was shut down in March 2020 due to initial COVID-19 lockdowns. Then, Pattinson, tested positive for COVID-19 in September 2020. All of these instances led to the theatrical release to be pushed back several times. 

Despite these complications, the audience can hardly notice the effects of these filming issues because of how clean the production is. In particular, the fight scene in the Penguin’s club was gorgeously shot. 

“The Dark Knight,” on the other hand, is heralded for being the most realistic looking out of all Batman films — absent of over-the-top costumes and cheesy one-liners from the comics. Nolan achieved something previous directors couldn’t: immersing viewers in the city of Gotham. These lifelike visuals and relatable storylines are part of what made the trilogy so special.

However, something “The Batman” excelled at more than “The Dark Knight” was matching the cinematography to Batman’s gritty character. It makes sense to envision the character of Batman in a goth, sad and dark atmosphere because it parallels how tragic Bruce Wayne’s life actually is. Witnessing the murder of both of his parents at a young age and blaming himself for their deaths isn’t a light topic, and the cinematography reflects that well. 

Villains

What are the Batman movies without their infamous antagonists? 

In “The Batman,” Reeves took on one of the most iconic villains, The Riddler, with an interesting spin. An interpretation on the comic book character hasn’t been displayed on the big screen since Jim Carrey’s campy performance in 1995. 

The Riddler, played by Paul Dano, challenged Batman’s intellectual capability by sending him sardonic riddles that would be easily over analyzed. Dano gave a strong performance as the main antagonist in the film. 

However, Ledger’s performance of the Joker will go down in history as not only the best comic book character performance, but one of the best acting performances of all time — winning him a posthumous Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in 2008.

The performance and win continues to haunt fans as Ledger tragically died before the release of “The Dark Knight”, never knowing the outpouring of love he received for his role as the Joker. 

While there will be many more exceptional takes by actors on fan-favorite Batman villains in the future, there will only be one Heath Ledger. 

Bruce Wayne 

Deconstructing the facade of Bruce Wayne has always been an essential feature of the Batman films. 

There are three different sides of Bruce Wayne: the the cocky, arrogant playboy he presents to the public; the secret identity of being Gotham’s hero, Batman; and the real Bruce Wayne, a sensitive, charismatic man that fights everyday to protect Gotham as a way to redeem the pain he feels inside since losing his parents to a criminal. 

The shift between Wayne’s playboy persona and sincere side is best shown in a scene from “The Dark Knight” where Wayne makes an extravagant entrance to a house party with his helicopter and multiple girls by his side. He begins to make fun of Harvey Dent in true arrogant Bruce Wayne fashion, but then his true demeanor comes through and he pays his respects to Dent. 

However, in “The Batman,” Pattinson’s Wayne makes small appearances throughout the film. Instead, the film focuses on the Batman persona and gives no substantial back story to Bruce Wayne or evolution to seeing him become the hero. After all, he had only been Batman for over two years in this iteration. 

In other iterations, especially Nolan's, Bruce Wayne is portrayed to the world as a playboy. However, in Reeves' universe, Wayne is more of a hermit. His only concern is inflicting fear in criminals scattered around Gotham. 

There’s also the supporting actor and father figure to Wayne, Alfred Pennyworth. 

In “The Batman,” there is evident tension between Wayne and Pennyworth, and they seem to lack an emotional relationship. 

On the contrary, anyone who’s seen “The Dark Knight” will mention how strong Alfred and Wayne’s connection is. He is the only person that truly knows who Bruce Wayne is. “The Batman” falls short of paying the same homage to this memorable relationship. 

Contact Alexis at acarson@alligator.org. Follow her on Twitter @Alexis_Carson99. 




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Alexis Carson

Alexis Carson is a third-year journalism major and staff writer with the Avenue. In her free time, she loves watching horror movies and going to concerts.


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