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Comparing Different Versions Of Batman Film Studies Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Film Studies
Wordcount: 1766 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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My aim for this essay is to analyse and compare different versions of the Batman film. I've decided to compare the 1966 "Batman" to the 1989 "Batman" and "The Dark Knight", which was released in 2008. I wish to look at how these films have been made, how 'Batman's' reputation has changed over the years and how they compare to the original comic books.

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Batman made his first appearance in Detective Comics in 1939; he was the 'caped crusader' who went against the criminals of the underworld who killed his parents. In the early comics, the drawings showed 'a grim tone and 'nourish' use of bold blocks of black ink' (Sabin, 1996, p.61). However, later on the comics 'were progressively lightened in order to draw a younger relationship; a trend which culminated in the 1960's where the comics became 'camp' comedies to reflect the amazingly successful television series' (Sabin, 1996, pp. 61-62).

Wikipedia (2008) Man Who Laughs [Online] Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Manwholaughs.jpg (Accessed: 3rd December 2010)

BD Comics (1999) Batman- No Mans Land [Online] Available at: http://bdcomics.bdgamers.net/2007/06/13/batman-no-mans-land/ (Accessed: 3rd December 2010)

The 1966 'Batman' was a film adaptation of the 60's TV series; it had budget of $1,377,800. In the film, there are no shots of skyscrapers or any buildings that resemble the scenery in the comic books. The costumes in this film are basic; the villains are all dressed in suits and Batman and Robin's costumes look cheaply made, compared to the most recent film; this shows the difference in budget. The make-up is very basic; the 'Joker' has a ghostly white face and red drawn on smile; no prosthetics are used on him. The 'Penguin' has a prosthetic nose to make it freakishly long and pointy, however the rest of the characters have normal day to day make-up on.

The fight scenes in the film are unrealistic, fake punches are thrown between characters, with words such as "URKK" and "OUCH" entering the shot is big letters:

"The TV show was definitely dopey, comedy and slapstick substituting for anything remotely violent or suspenseful. It even offered the surreal 'bonk'/'zap' title cards to amplify the fun". (Gibron, 2008)

This makes the fighting look comical and amusing. However it does match the comic book style of fighting and was what was acceptable to be shown in the film and TV series at the time.

Still from TV 1960's series 'Batman' (1966) Batman Generation : Batman 1960's TV Series [Online] Available at: http://movie-collections-on-dvd.blogspot.com/ (Accessed: 10th November 2010)

The sidekick 'Robin' appears in this film. I think his presence makes Batman look less macho, it implies that he needs back up, this may have been the reason he wasn't written into the series of films that followed decades later. In comparison to films today; it is very naive, in one scene a very toy looking shark is used as a prop and in the Bat cave every machine or piece of equipment is labelled.

Heath, R (2008) The Dark Knight 2010 [Online] Available at: http://www.ferdyonfilms.com/?m=200807 (Accessed: 3rd December 2010)

Clara, H (2010) Entertainment [Online] Available at: http://www.mylifetime.com/lifestyle/entertainment/lewis-wilson-michael-keaton-and-val-kilmer-batman (Accessed: 3rd December 2010)

In 1989 'Batman' was released, it was the first of a series of feature films starring Batman which were produced by the Warner Bros; it had a budget of $35,000,000. This film strayed away from the 1966 'camp' version, 'Beyond Hollywood' emphasises this point by saying:

"Before 1989, unless you were an avid comic book reader, you probably viewed Batman as a clownish superhero, trading punches and quips with bad guys with his youthful assistant Robin faithfully at his side. He was campy, a bit dull, and never dangerous. That is, until the summer of 1989, when Tim Burton arrived to changed all that." (Beyond Hollywood, 2004)

Gotham City is dark and gothic looking; the buildings are dingy and old. The shapes of the buildings resemble the comic book images; they don't look like any usual American city. Lots of smoke is used in the setting, it reminds me of backdrops in a theatre production.

The joker also matches very well with the comic book illustrations; the make-up cleverly allows the actor to have a fixed smile. He puts on a show and prides himself on being theatrical, using joke shop type gags, i.e. a flower that squirts poisonous gas and a buzzer which he attaches to his hand to electrocute his victim. The music, which is often played as a backing to the joker, is almost the same as you might hear in the circus, everything about it is comical.

Neumaier, J. (2008) Jack Nicholson warned Health Ledger on 'Joker' role[Online].Available at: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/2008/01/24/2008-01-24_jack_nicholson_warned_heath_ledger_on_jo.html (Accessed: 31 October 2010)

Newsrecord. (2008)Heath Ledger Was Changed by playing 'The Joker'[Online]. Available at: http://www.inoutstar.com/news/Heath-Ledger-Was-Changed-by-Playing-The-Joker-6583.html#nimg_16437 (Accessed: 31 October 2010)

'The Dark Knight' (2008) was directed by Christopher Nolan and had a budget of $185,000,000. When writing the film, screenwriter David S. Goyer took influences from a few comic books rather than just one. In an interview he said:

"I think that there are elements from The Dark Knight, elements from The Long Halloween, elements from The Killing Joke. But it's not like we were specifically adapting one specific comic book or comic book arc." (Goyer, 2008)

In this film the joker has apprentices who are masked like clowns. These masks are very eerie; they allow the characters to be emotionless and cold; only showing the single expression that is drawn on their mask.

Batman's fight scenes are bold and highly choreographed; this is a big contrast to the joker's style of fighting, which is very rash. This film is dominated by the Joker character; his scarred face is messily covered with make-up giving him a clown-like persona. This persona is confirmed by his greasy, green tinged hair, black eyes, smudged roughly outwards and his red creepy smile. His drawn on smile is covering thick badly raised scars. The white make-up which covers his face is uneven and always looks worn. His costumes are odd, purple velvet suits with a green shirt; this allows him to stand out against others, who mainly wear classic suits. Costume Designer, Lindy Hemming, wanted to create a "younger trendier look, in order to represent Ledger's generation"(Hemming, 2008). This costume also matches the comic books. His character is fearless and chillingly calm; I think this creates a great atmosphere and carries the film.

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Sound has a huge impact on this version of the film; dramatic music is played in the background, ticking noises are also frequently used, symbolising the rapid passing of time. However there are a few shots in the film which have no backing music or noise for that matter; this is a big contrast to the rest of the film and cleverly creates a maximum impact. One particular shot is of the Joker hanging himself out of a stolen police car that he is driving, I find this scene very chilling.

After watching a documentary about the composer's thoughts behind some of the music, I learnt that the sounds are based on the 'Joker' character:

"Shots and clips were used to produce music that matched the joker's movements and personality. Punk influences were used and tones and noises were produced using two clashing notes of the cello, to give the feel of razorblades." (Zimmer, 2008)

The sounds are unsettling and the composer wanted to create a sound which demonstrated rising tension.

Uhlich, K (2008) Trickster Heaven, Two Face Hell: The Dark Knight [Online] Available at: http://www.slantmagazine.com/house/2008/07/trickster-heaven-two-faced-hell-the-dark-knight/ (Accessed: 3rd December 2010)

Another hugely important character is Harvey Dent. He is Gotham's golden boy who, by the end of the film, thanks to the 'Joker's' words; 'I took Gotham's white knight and brought him down', has been turned into a villain, Two Face. The effects for 'Two Face' were created using 'digital make-up', in other words high use of CGI.

A lot of shots in the setting are of buildings, the camera pans high above lots of skyscrapers as a link between scenes. The villains seem

to always be lit darkly, where the lighting has a blue tinge.

In conclusion, as the decades pass, technology improves and the budget for the films increase, which I think is due to the increase in film popularity. Each film stays true to the comics in different ways; the 1966 'Batman' is most like the comics in the fight scenes where they are quite graphical, with sounds entering the screen in text. However the make-up and costume doesn't match up and doesn't give enough of an impact. The 1989 'Batman' does match very well to the comic book images, make-up and costume-wise. It also has a great set which matches the buildings of Gotham city and really gives a feel that they are living in the comics. 'The Dark Knight's special effects are by far the best and in my opinion I think the acting is best in this film.

The joker is a crucial character in all three versions, particularly 1989 'Batman' and 'The Dark Knight'. It is a matter of personal opinion which version is the best, however I agree with Slant magazine in preferring Health Ledger's chilling version:

"Eighteen years after Jack Nicholson's over-praised, distinctly Jack-ish personification of the dastardly purple-clad jester in Tim Burton's Batman, Ledger returns the character to his demented The Killing Joke graphic novel roots, conjuring up a transfixing, indelible portrait of our worst terrorist-extremist nightmares." (Schager, 2008)

'The Dark Knight's acting and gothic feel matches well with the original comics, before they were made more camp to match the '1960's' audience. The make-up takes a different direction to avoid copying Tim Burton's film, this however meant they needed to steer away slightly from the comic books. Overall, in order to achieve the perfect film version of the batman comics, you would need to combine, 1989's make-up, costume and set with 'The Dark Knight's' music, special effects and acting.


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