This post contains spoilers for The Dark Knight Rises. I'll warn you when it's about to happen.
I like to ask people this question: what superhero movie would you like to see made?
I asked this question before I had answered it for myself-- and when I did I was surprised at the answer. Although I'd love to see a movie based on Wonder Woman, I think the movie I'd most want to see is... another Batman.
Yes, I know that Batman has been in many, many movies. The interesting thing is that they all focus on some single aspect of his heroicness. The Tim Burton Movies focused on gadgets. The way that Batman dealt with things reminded me of the more campy James Bond films. What makes Batman great? The gadgets he has.
The Christopher Nolan movies focus on Martial arts. What makes Batman great? He's the greatest martial artist, and nobody can beat him in a fight. That's what I think, anyway. Nolan has a different idea-- he thinks his superpower is his money.
"I always loved the relatability of Bruce Wayne," Nolan says. "He is not a superhero in the usual sense. He wasn't bitten by a radioactive spider and he wasn't born on Krypton. He's just a guy who's done a lot of pushups. His only real superpower is his extraordinary wealth."
But if you look at Batman Begins, we see him training for years to be a great fighter. When he's done, he's ready to be a superhero. Morgan Freeman's character ends up acting like Q from the Bond films.
What's wrong with this? Nothing, really. Bruce Wayne is supposed to be rich, and a great fighter. However, what none of the movies so far have done is show Batman as the world's greatest detective.
He's supposed to be an incredible genius. Like Tony Stark level genius, but not just for tech, for human nature and the whole bit. I adore the comic stories where Batman is with the other superheros and just thinks circles around all of them. Even the gadgets are a result of his genius, much like Iron Man's armor is a result of Stark's.
But we don't see this, particularly, in any of the movies. He's portrayed as smart, but they don't play it up so much. That's the movie I want to see. I want Orson Scott Card to write it-- he's the best author I know for showing convincing genius characters. Even the Iron Man and Avengers movies do a great job of making Stark look like a genius, at least technically. It's doable.
To take a case study, let's look at the recent The Dark Knight Rises. I found this film dissatisfying in many ways, but the thing that bothered me most was that it didn't really feel like a Batman film.
Okay, so let's accept that in the Nolan trilogy Batman is supposed to be an incredible badass in a fistfight. What happens? He gets into a fight with Bane and loses. I don't mind this, by itself. What it suggests to me is that Batman can't rely on his fighting skills for this one. Great! So he'd have to outwit Bane. Does he? Nope.
When he gets a chance to face Bane again, what does he do? Gets into another fistfight. No outwitting, no gadgets, no genius. Just trying to beat Bane by hitting him in the wide open. This time, miraculously, it works. Bane should not be that difficult to outsmart, especially for Batman. But no, it's just a straight up fight. Twice.
But even the fight scenes were disappointing. These two are supposed to be incredible martial artists, some of the best in the world, but their fight looks more like a bar brawl out of Road House than an epic battle from The Matrix. The best Batmanish scene was when he was taking out criminals with Selina in the passageways on his way to Bane. So I got a few minutes of good Batman action, anyway.
Batman solves the problems in the film, in the end. But how? He rises from the pit. He gets back to Gotham (I don't know how) and recruits some friends. The cops fight the militia, Batman fights Bane. Then the day is won because he flies a bomb away in a helicopter that he happened upon by chance earlier in the film. Am I missing something, or is that really it?
Don't know about you, but I want to see Batman show his stuff more than this. You don't need a superhero to have a helicopter.
Anyway, that's what I want. A Batman movie where he's the smartest crime-fighter and gadget maker in the world, where he out-smarts all the criminals and the police. And Superman.
A few great fight scenes would not be bad either.
To the reboot-mobile! Let's go!
Pictured: People dressed up as Superman and Batman. Batman's smarter. He'd better be-- he has to have something to make up for his lack of cold breath.