Mon
Jun 23 2014 9:30am

You Wanna Get Nuts? Let’s Get Nuts! The Schizophrenic Excellence of 1989’s Batman

Twenty five years ago today, Michael Keaton uttered the words “I’m Batman,” twice. The first was while wearing the iconic rubber bat-mask complete with eye-makeup underneath, but later he repeated this sentiment with his regular non-Bat face, too. All these years later, many of us either love this film or loathe it, but which is the correct way to think about it?

Like the duplicitous nature of Batman himself, the answer is you should both love it and be suspicious of it. Batman (1989) is great because its mash-up of good decisions and bad decisions make it an accidentally perfect tribute to the Dark Knight.

Depending on what kind of person you are, one “I’m Batman” scene is more memorable than the other. On the one gloved-hand, Batman is an art-film send-up of a beloved comic book character, brilliantly executed by an auteur filmmaker in his prime. But it’s also a mishmash of Hollywood bogus hype and marketing which somehow resulted in a classic. Like Batman/Bruce Wayne himself, all aspects of this movie are correct, and it’s in these paradoxes that it becomes accidentally, wonderful.

When casting of Michael Keaton as Batman was announced, comic book fans wrote letters in the hundreds protesting the decision, proving the fanboy rage of the previous century was way more dedicated than it is today. For those of us who simply fire off angry comments online (or in my case, sometimes write scathing reviews of stuff for the Internet) the total rage-commitment of these letters is amazing:

“Hey honey, are you going to the post-office today?”

“Of course I am, I have to send my letter to Warner Bros. about this Michael Keaton thing.”

“Right. Yeah, you stick it to them. Can you pick up some stamps?”

But as it turned out, Michael Keaton is sort of great, if not as Batman in general, then at least as Bruce Wayne. Despite being darker than people expected, and carrying itself—as Gene Siskel put it at the time—as a more “adult,” film than pervious superhero efforts, Batman is not even in the same neighborhood of realistic. The sets obviously look like sets, and the visuals are rooted in film noir rather than the wiz-bang style of the 60s TV show. Basically, Batman is Sin City meets, well, Tim Burton. Which is why you need Michael Keaton. Without his frenetic vibrancy, without his bat-next-door face and vibe, this movie would have quickly fallen flat and become too mired in its own faux-gothic weirdness, totally preventing it from becoming a mainstream blockbuster. (Tangentially, I believe nearly every actor cast as Bruce Wayne—from West through Bale—has been a great Bruce Wayne. Whether they exist in a good Batman movie is a totally different question.) Keaton, though not himself a huge star, is part of why this movie became huge.

It was a blockbuster, by the way. And when adjusted for inflation, no other DC comic book film came close to making as much money until 2008’s The Dark Knight. To say Batman set the standard for superhero movies would be hyperbolic and confusing, but it did set a standard, one which was hopelessly impossible to replicate, partly because this particular movie was such an accident. The script went through numerous re-writes, including some story elements being changed during filming. Kim Basinger’s Vicky Vale was originally supposed to die in the final Bats/Joker confrontation, but was brought back to life seeming on the day the cameras rolled. According to various reports, even Jack Nicholson didn’t know how the scene was supposed to end. With this information in your head, it’s almost impossible not to view the last few scenes of Batman with a critical eye—if you get the sense that you’re watching something being made up as it goes along, you kind of are.

And yet, this Batman film offers us more memorable moments, more memorable lines than any other. I’ve come to love and defend the Christopher Nolan Batman films, but I still remember groaning during Batman’s final confrontation with Bane in The Dark Knight Rises. When faced with this nemesis, our contemporary Batman growls “I came to stop YOU!!” with a total lack of subtlety, or even a trace of wit. Back in 1989 however, in a similar final showdown, Keaton’s Batman steals the Joker’s “Ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight?” line as almost a punchline, which is of course, followed by an actual punch. This one scene makes The Dark Knight Rises look like a clunky soap opera and Batman look like award winning poetry. I’m not sure this particular character should come across that way, but when it comes to snappy and memorable dialogue, I don’t think Nolan is beating Burton.

I’m always a little alarmed by how little we seem to read these days about directors fighting with studio heads or producers. From Nicolas Meyer, to early George Lucas, to Tim Burton, it seems like the big genre movies of  late 20th century history were made by rebels, iconoclasts, and contrarians. Tim Burton felt really wronged by a lot stuff in this movie (Nike demanded they get to make Batman's boots) and his desire to walk out at any second sort of comes across in the tone of this movie.

I never get the sense that people like Christopher Nolan or Zack Snyder are really sticking it to anyone, or grumbling about changes made to their material. Perhaps studios trust the creative powers to deliver a product more aligned with what they want now than they did 25 years ago, or maybe the people making these movies are just less risky, saner individuals. Which is why Christopher Nolan's Batman movies are more realistic, but not necessarily better, than Tim Burton's Batman.

Bemoaning the relative faithfulness of Batman from the page to the screen is many people’s favorite thing to get upset about, and whether they are writing real letters in 1989 or tweets to Zack Snyder in 2014, one thing I feel gets left out of the conversation is this: there are a lot of ways to do Batman, and while all those various Bats might not please everyone all the time, each of them pleases somebody, some of the time. Like the iconic mythological character he is, Batman is going to be drawn differently by different people in different ways; even when the same source material is supposedly cited.

Being a schizophrenic crime fighter who seemingly has two distinct personalities who fights other weirdoes who also have mental problems does not necessarily create easy paths for writers of any stripe. The characters aren’t always complex, but they are complicated. With 1989’s Batman, a ton of money, a lot of risks were poured into a movie that, at the time, changed the world. Next year, Batman’s face will change again, and our interpretation of the character will alter slightly. This is as it should be!

But, there’s something unique, something a little wonderfully insane about a normal looking guy, nervously trying to explain he’s Batman. And for a certain group of us, that guy—the one who wants to get nuts!—will always be our Batman.


Ryan Britt is a longtime contributor to Tor.com. 

36 comments
Colin R
2. Colin R
Michael Keaton is interesting, a very weird Bruce Wayne. His scenes feel like they would be more interesting in a different movie, because they don't really seem to have a lot to do with the Batman stuff. Nicholson is pretty terrible on the other hand. Not his fault I guess; they brought him in to be Nicholson, and he was. But that "Dance with the Devil in the Pale Moonlight" line is so terrible.

The sets are pretty though. The theme song is exciting. The main contribution this movie had I think is to the animated series, a much better interpretation of Batman than we have otherwise seen on big screens.
Kit Case
3. wiredog
Don't forget, the soundtrack was by Prince. No other Batman can match that.
John Massey
4. subwoofer
Let's draw the line between Tim Burton and Michael Keaton. Tim is one of those polarizing directors, you either love his work or you don't. The darkness, the sets, the music, the colors, the lighting all has a Tim feel. For Batman it was perfect.

I remember when Batman came out, I had issues because Michael Keaton, IRL is a small guy and there is no way he could kick butt. It was a stretch on Tim's part to make the fight scenes work, I think he had to cast physically small bad guys. As Bruce, Michael did an awesome job, but then he always brought a certain intensity to every role he played.

On the whole, the two Batman movies do hold up over time, much better than following versions until Nolan took the helm. Then Batman became what it was supposed to be all along. The right actor, the right script and director. It was like "FINALLY".

Woof™.
Robert H. Bedford
5. RobB
There was a such a fervor for this film when it was released, I remember seeing it with group of friends in a filled theater. The way the camera panned around the Batman logo was cool and then when Prince's name came onto the screen, much of the theater booed.

Even it the film has its problems (SPOILER - The Joker killed the Waynes and then died in the end), it left such an imprint on everything Batman since. Without this film, you don't have Batman: TAS (which is still the perfect distillation of the character). Without this film, you don't have the iconic music.

As much as this movie added to the character of Batman, Gotham never looked the same after this film.
Colin R
6. w00master
Never understood the "love" for this film. I honestly think Burton's Batman is absolute dreck. It's dated. The Joker performance is really just yet another Nicholson movie vehicle. While I thought Keaton did an admirable job, even he couldn't save this terrible piece of film.

Full disclosure: yes... I do think Burton is a hack.
Colin R
7. Timmy TwoPants
It's weird that the author describes itself as a defender of the Nolan trilogy. The implication is that the Nolan trilogy is oft-criticized and needs a defender. The Nolan trilogy clearly doesn't need a defender and I've found the Nolan movies to be pretty universally praised.
Colin R
8. w00master
@7 I've never understood the Nolan backlash. I can understand not enjoying DK Rises - heck, even I'm a bit iffy on that - but the backlash of Nolan didn't begin with Rises, it actually began with Dark Knight which boggles my mind.

I realize so much of this is about opinion, but IMHO compared to *any* superhero film (read: Avengers, Iron Man, etc.), nothing comes close to the brilliance of DK. Not only is it amongst the best of the "Superhero film" genre, it's truly a great film.

Still do not get the backlash on that masterpiece.
Colin R
9. AlexandruConstantin
This is my second favorite Batman, Batman Returns holds the top spot. Tim Burton and Michael Keaton just have this crazy fantastic feel that create a crazy gothic fantasy where a guy dressed as a bat make sense. The Nolan movies are preachy and boring.
Colin R
10. Colin R
I don't think the Nolan films are boring at all, but they're definitely turgid and oppressive. Their biggest sin in my mind is that they're no fun.
I walked out of the theaters feeling more like I'd gotten accosted in a
hallway and yelled at for two horus, than like I'd had a good time. I keep meaning to go back and watch the Dark Knight again, and I keep finding more entertaining ways to spend two and a half hours.
Eric Lesch
11. Eric Lesch
Schizophrenia != Multiple personalities.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
12. Lisamarie
I was never that into this one, to be honest. When it came out I was still too young to be allowed to see it - the first Batman movie I really remember seeing was Batamn Forever (full disclosure, I love that movie in spite of its hokiness). When I did get around to seeing this one, I thought it dragged on just a bit too long and was bored by the end. Normally I really enjoy Tim Burton - I like Batman Returns better than this one. I do really enjoy the Nolan films as well, but view them as totally separate entities.
Colin R
13. ASG
@10 I totally agree. I grew up with the Batman animated series as a kid, so to me -that- was Batman, not this "Dark Knight" that comic book readers love. I always said that the third movie of the Nolan trilogy should have been the story of Mr. Freeze as told by the animated series. The first two movies were about how everyone would turn to evil when given a chance. It would have been a great arc, imo, if it came full circle and there was a villain who was not pure evil and turns around and becomes kind of OK by the end. While it is true that good people can turn bad if circumstances force it, it is also true that bad people aren't by nature irredeemable. To me, that is realism.
Colin R
14. GarrettC
I actually feel like the Nolan films to seem more and more insulting the more I get away from my first watches. Dark Knight will always be great, but only because Ledger's performance was so transcendent. It's a Joker movie -- not a Batman movie (and i can clearly see an argument that a Joker movie can only be better than a Batman one). The Batman stuff in TDK is not very good, and the Two-Face stuff, though Eckhart gives it his all, is overblown.

Part of the issue that I have is the faux-realism. If anything, Nolan's films are less realistic than Burton's first, and the attempt to pass them off as anything else is bewildering at best. So a secret organization that implicates itself in the FALL OF ROME decides to finish of Gotham because of... plot reasons. So the plan (at first) is legitimately the equivalent of destroying Fake-Chicago by making it really, really poor? Hey, mission accomplished guys! Job well done! Looks like you can go home and eat a satisfying good-job dinne-- wait, you're still here? Because fear gas? Which you're putting in the city's water supply because as steam it makes everyone insane? Well, that seems like overkill, but okay. Whenever somebody takes a steamy shower or makes some tea, mission accomplished. Job well done! Looks like you can go home and... you're still here? Because unlikely magical microwave machine? Stop posting, League of Assassins. You're drunk.

Dark Knight, of course, gives us the magical cell phone machine of eminent surveillance and that lovely magical negro trope, but also gives us Joker. So, you win, Dark Knight. Mission accomplished.

No, really this time. Nice work. Joker is legit great in every way.

By the third movie we've all but abandoned all pretense, as we're confronted with FLYING CARS (where's my flying car???) and a populace so slavish and childlike in their devotion that the they will devolve into slobbering chaos if they learn that that one guy in public office was actually a bad person in the end. Because that's Bane's plan. Expose a politician as corrupt, and watch society crumble at the revelation. Except with unlikely magical clean energy nuclear plot bombs and the kindest, gentlest prison for the worst people in the world ever. And I said that at this point we've all but abandoned all pretense, except we soooo totally haven't. The films play every last one of these things perfectly straight. Stop posting, Bane. You're really drunk.

On top of all that, the Nolan movies are saturated with this weird fear of the general populace and obsessed with passing off the upper crust as a group morally obligated to protect the rest of us from ourselves. What do we learn Wayne has been doing by the last movie? He's been safeguarding USEFUL TECHNOLOGY from a world in desperate need of it because as a rich guy it's his job to keep us safe from clean energy, or something. Ugh.

Other things bother me. There are POC problems and plot overbloat and scenes end illogically all over the place (what happens at Wayne's party in TDK, for instance, after he jumps out the window to save Rachel? Joker's still up there!).

I'm not sure if it ends up being a reverse-backlash sort of thing for me, then, but I really appreciate Nicholson's Joker for what it was. A distant third behind Hammil and Ledger? Of course. But the movie is right out in the open about the fact that this is Jack Nicholson, ahem, getting nuts in white makeup. This is a Joker that's unpredictable, charismatic, over the top, laughing maniacally, shooting BANG guns, weilding comically long rifles, a Joker who revels in his own unhinged excess, flaunting it for the whole city to see, an uncontrolled grin plastered across his face even when he's not even remotely joking. Growing up, Nicholson's Joker was an iconic image in my mental canon.

The other thing about Burton's Batman that I think gets rather overlooked is that it's minimally origin-story based. While we get the backstory out of the way efficiently, we're not embroiled in the process of Bruce Wayne becoming Batman. And for the first movie in the hero franchise to NOT tediously walk us through that hero's transformation... well, it seems more revolutionary than ever today.
Colin R
15. GarrettC
@13: Wow. That's really a significantly better idea than what they did.
Colin R
16. Colin R
I don't think the Nolan films were supposed to be about the inescapable draw of evil. They were supposed to be about the power of symbols to transform an individual into something bigger than themselves. The Idea of Batman is bigger than one person, and villains like Joker and Bane are the personification of an idea of Crime that is bigger than any two-bit crook.

All well and good--this is a perfectly valid and even good interpretation of Batman. But Nolan is also suspicious of this idea, and I think he can't help but undermine his own idea by making Batman into an fascist--the kindly authoritarian we can trust, who will of course never misuse his ability to spy on us with our cellphones, who inspires peopel with his symbolism to be better than they would be, and who can be trusted leading an army of cops into war against the dregs of the lower classes. I think we're supposed to be unsettled by this, and I think that Nolan thought he had more of a point here than he really did.

Tim Burton's big idea with Batman of course is that Bruce Wayne was so traumatized as a child that he turned into a freak as an adult--one who deals with his pain by dressing up like a bat and beating up Jack Nicholson and getting freaky with Catwoman. Burton's Batman is a terrible hero--he fails to help people and kills people left and right.
Adam S.
17. MDNY
I was the perfect age for the Tim Burton/Michael Keaton Batman (I was 10 when it came out). For me, even though Michael Keaton was nothing like the way I pictured Bruce Wayne, he BECAME Batman, in perfect tradition of Adam West before him. Yes, Nicholson played Nicholson (as always) being the Joker, but he grew on me. The zaniness of the film is part of what makes it so great, it has that perfect balance of dark rehashing of an old character, big-budget action flick, and off-kilter Tim Burton wackiness. I agree that Gotham WAS Gotham, and no other Gotham since has really lived up to it. Part of what the Nolan/Bale films lacked was the humor that Burton had. I really enjoyed the first Nolan film, but by the third I was missing the cartoonish elements. Batman was a comic book to start with, and one thing that Burton got right that Nolan never understood was how central to Batman that is.
Colin R
18. GarrettC
@16:

"Tim Burton's big idea with Batman of course is that Bruce Wayne was so traumatized as a child that he turned into a freak as an adult--one who deals with his pain by dressing up like a bat and beating up Jack Nicholson and getting freaky with Catwoman. Burton's Batman is a terrible hero--he fails to help people and kills people left and right."

Which is, aside from killing people, pretty much a description of Batman, it seems to me.
Colin R
19. Colin R
@GarrettC: It's a very cynical take on Batman. As dark and dour as Nolan's vision is, he at least gets the idealism that makes Batman cool. The idea of Batman as a thrill-seeker is one that was tossed out very early in his development as a character.
Colin R
20. GarrettC
@19: I'd say it's an incomplete take on Batman. If Nolan gets that Batman requires a certain idealism (though I'm not convinced he gets the right one), Burton gets that Batman is driven to his work because he's deeply traumatized. Nolan's Batman is only traumatized for as long as it takes his origin story to wrap up.

The Animated Series, of course, strikes the balance between the two, and is all the better for it.
Colin R
21. fizzel
@14 Yep, I too found the implicit politics of the Nolan trilogy somewhat questionable, and while in the first 2 movies you could (almost) ignore it, the third was quite blatant.
Colin R
22. GarrettC
And the other thing about the Nolan movies that I just now realized bothers me is that Nolan's Bruce Wayne identifies as Bruce Wayne. He views Batman as an obligation, and one that he makes every effort to--and finally does successfully--give up.

That's just... wrong.

But when Bruce Wayne thinks, he's supposed to think of himself as Batman. He's supposed to consider Bruce Wayne to be the disguise. He can no more give up the cape and cowl than he can kill himself, because that's what it would be to do so.
Colin R
23. Colin R
Batman WAS traumatized, as a child. As an adult, he has gotten past that--he has dedicated himself to a cause, and he has built himself a new family. Bruce Wayne lost his family, and decided to turn himself into an enemy of Crime. He does not beat up criminals to soothe his own pain--he fights crime to protect other people, so that no one has to go through what he did.

For Burton, there is no idealism--Batman does what he does as a fetish. Like, who else but a freak dresses up like a bat and beats up clowns, right? That can be a funny joke, and it was even a compelling story when Alan Moore told it with Watchmen. But it's a cynical and lousy way to treat your flagship superhero. Batman lives in a world where hundreds of people dress up in spandex and fight crime. If you're treating the conceit of superheroism as a joke or a fetish, you're not laying a very good groundwork for your stories.

When I look at the Burton movies I see a glimmer that one day turns into the monster that is Mark Millar, and awful movies like Kick-Ass.
Colin R
24. TBGH
Despite the somewhat dated action sequences, Burton's Gotham is just more fun than Nolan's. The TV anchors going without makeup, the extra-extra-long pistol, villains holding parades. It's all such fun to see.

I was a preteen when I saw this, so this was my first dose of Nicholson ever. I didn't feel the problem with Nicholson playins as himself and if you hadn't seen Nicholson before, it makes for a great Joker. He's going to laugh, but there's this viciousness underneath that some other Jokers didn't really have. Ledger was better, but I think Nicholson is underrated.

The finale is a little problematic, but by then I was so invested I didn't notice the many inconsistencies until later viewings.

Otherwise, this is one of the movies that defines what a good superhero movie should be . . . to me at least.

@23 That's what other people said about Batman, but not what he said or thought about himself. He doesn't have to spout the preachiness about what society should be and how he affects it, he's living the idealism.
Colin R
25. GarrettC
In all of my favorite depictions of Batman, the trauma is just as present in his adulthood. It's always there in the animated series, for instance.

I think you have a really good point that Burton fetishizes the trauma and it creates problems for the movie, but I really can't imagine a good Batman without the trauma present in his life and mission.
Colin R
26. w00master
@GarrettC
Definitely appreciate your perspective and insight, I guess for me I'll have to strongly disagree with and "to each their own." To me, Burton's film was a masturbatory effort in crappy "dark" design of the late 80s all wrapped in a terrible performance from Nicholson (who to me plays the exact same character in each and every one of his film).

Burton's films to me are highly dated, and I honestly cannot watch them to the end anymore. Keaton, for me, was the *only* positive thing about that darn movie.

As for your increasing hatred towards Nolan's films, I guess I still don't get it. Yes, the animated shows were brilliant, but again... DK (and Begins for me as well) transcend the very genre of Superhero film - and to me that says something.

I love the Animated Series. I just think that style wouldn't work on a film scale. And again back on Burton - I admit my bias on him which is definitely coloring my view of his version of Batman - I think he is a terrible film hack.
Colin R
27. GarrettC
@woomaster:

Like I said, though, as chagrined as I feel about the Nolan films as a unit, I can only find so much fault with TDK itself because Ledger is so amazing. That one is a great movie with a great performance afflicted by a few nagging things that would be much bigger problems for me in a lesser film.
Michael Burke
28. Ludon
I've enjoyed this debate, and in fairness, I should say that I still love Batman (1989), but I think many of you missed the point of Ryan's post.

With 1989’s Batman, a ton of money, a lot of risks were poured into a movie that, at the time, changed the world. Next year, Batman’s face will change again, and our interpretation of the character will alter slightly. This is as it should be!

I read what he's saying as Batman is the modern Dread Pirate Roberts.
Colin R
29. Wookster125
I loved the '89 Batman. I was a teenagerwho had seen all of the Adam West era Batman, and this was a welcome change. But I thoroughly enjoyed Nicholson's Joker. I find him endlessly quotable. Along with Keaton's line about getting nuts.

@ 28. Good night, Robin. Rest well. I'll most likely kill you in the morning.
Anthony Pero
30. anthonypero
Count me as those who love Nicholson's Joker. But I had watched all of the 60's batman before this movie came out (I was 11), so the Joker was supposed to be zany and fun. Ledger's performance was great... but not how I've viewed the Joker.

As far as everyone dissing Nicholson in general... You're talking about the only actor in history who has won Oscars in 3 different decades, and been nominated in 4 decades. In fact, he's been nominated 12 times. In Horror, Comedy, Action, Western and Drama roles... If you think he always plays the same character, try watching Prizzi's Honor, Terms of Endearment, Reds, Easy Rider, A Few Good Men, and As Good as it Gets, and tell me those characters are all the same.

Geez, tough room.
rob mcCathy
31. roblewmac
I liked the 1989 batman better than any of the other Batman movies
I liked that Batman and Joker made plans and counter plans against each other. Nolan's Joker was some kind of trickster god who could just plant bombs wherever while Batman sits around saying "Wait I don't get it! He's not motivated by GREED?! This master dectective who is himself motivated by rage seems baffled by anyone that's not a bank robber.
Steven Lyle Jordan
32. Steven Lyle Jordan
Ah, the things the years do to a pair of rose-colored glasses.

I never liked Burton's Batman, not when it came out, and not now. Burton's vision, which I don't normally have a problem with, turned Batman into farce; Keaton was not the athletic ideal the role really needed, nor was he able to portray the flighty rich playboy that was supposed to be Bruce Wayne; Nicholson's acting ability was all but lost in that ridiculous makeup; the Bat-suit was so restricting as to make Keaton look like he was trapped in the top half of a statue; award-winning Kim Basinger was given nothing to do but scream, and the rest of the actors even less; Joker was retconned into Joe Chill, the kind of stoopid stuff only movie producers actually think is a good idea; and even the Batmobile looked stupid. And finally, all that drek inspired three more movies that only got worse as they continued.

If it weren't for Danny Elfman's music, the whole thing wouldn't have been worth bat dung.
Colin R
33. MelvinT
As a person that viewed Batman as a person choosing to distance his public self from the actions he felt compelled to do, the armchair diagnosis of schizophrenia seems false. The need to conceal his identity when fighting people who would retaliate was a staple of superheroes for three quarters of a century. The fact that his symbol and costume has nothing to do with him personally actually makes it a good method of dissociating his two public identities. (Every other superhero seems to have powers related to whatever they are using in their costume, the Batman must have some physical or symbolic connection to a bat. Suckers!)
The Batsuit is not an indicator of insanity, the years and possibly decades to get ready for a fatal/futile war against crime is a sign of madness. The repeated acts of brutality against people with little likelihood of inflicting harm on him would be a greater sign of mental issues than just playing dress up (If he did not wear a bat suit at all, but did the same things would he be sane?)But it is a totalizing kind of obsession, not episodes of mental fracturing and compartmentalizations.
Is Bruce Wayne insane?
Yes (as are Barbara Gordon, Peter Parker, Tony Stark, and Clark Kent) Is his insanity an unreasonable response to the area he lived in? No.

With the exception of the Batman: Earth One version of Bruce Wayne, the bat motif was always the last element of Bruce becoming a dedicated crime fighter in a corrupt system. The Burton films made it seem like Bruce was compelled to dress as a bat. But, he was honest about the insane world that he was operating in. Earth One commits a lot of things intentionally wrong and improbable to create false realism.

All Nolan films are good at making something that has a dreamlike logic that cannot hold up under repeat evaluation. Bruce wanted to save Gotham, yet he left it in the hands of the very people he wanted to get rid of for enough time to be declared legally dead. There were many symbolic allusions to big questions in all three movies, but they were best executed in TDK. The result of slyly asking some big questions indirectly, it grounds the narrative. As there is nothing resembling a reasoned answer by TDKR, the structure falls apart. This is the failing of every great work of fiction and drama, as a logically sound resolution of the big questions in a fictional format would implicitly resolve the issue in real life by analogy.

Yes, the unstated questions seem forced. The implication that the Nolan's have elevated popcorn pulp to the stuff of epic was generated by the format of their presentation. The style over substance approach of ponderousness and brooding atmosphere gives the films a patina of literary heft in terms of philosophy.

If there were ever an honest attempt at a realistic Batman, it could not have much that one would find human about Bruce Wayne when he actually begins his crusade into the field. Especially since the aversions to killing and firearms were add-ons in the times of senate hearings and censors. The most genuine portrayal of someone like Bruce Wayne in a comic book setting would either be Punisher or Moon Knight representing the monomaniacal obsessive and the schizophrenic respectively.

P.S. It is very odd that Batman gets the most criticism for insanity, when his actions have always been in close alignment with most mainstream superheroes over the decades. Even the diagnosis of various forms of mental illness would hold for most costumed vigilantes that disguised themselves. Even the issue of creating their own enemies applies to a wide swath of 'good' superheroes.
Colin R
34. Synchronicity
Schizophrenia and Dissociative Identity Disorder (formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder) are two completely different diagnoses.
Colin R
35. gizzardgulpe
What I find interesting about all of these comments (which I normally don't read because DON'T READ THE COMMENTS) is that they are all discussing the interpretations of Batman after reading an article that defends the myriad interpretations of Batman.

I probably saw the Michael Keaton Batman when I was four or five, and loved it. I have seen just about every Batman thing since then, and they've all got something Batmannish about them, despite not always being the same Batman. You've got your insane freak Batman, your Batman that never really seems to have depth, your Batman that is just George Clooney, your Batman that is super self-involved, and your other Batmans (Batmen?).

And it's cool that they are all still Batman. They're all a guy who dresses up as a bat and fights crime, no matter his motivations. Attribute what you want, like the version you like, but Batman is timeless in how many versions we can make out of him.
Colin R
36. JamesG
In the line about the Bane confrontation, you mean "subtlety" not "subtly."

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