The Batman Movie I've Been Waiting For Since I Was 10 Years Old

Alternatively Titled: The Batman Movies Christopher Nolan Should've Made Instead Of Batman Begins & Dark Knight Rises, or: The Reason Bruce Timm Needs To Get To Make A Theatrical Batman Movie Is He Always Gets It Right The First Time, Period.

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By Albie - 12/27/2012



Well, the hardcore Batophiles already have a good idea where this rant is heading, so let's back up a bit first for everyone's benefit: The real focus here is going to be on the Rogue's Gallery, Gotham's plethora of villains (bonus: most of whom are clinically insane), and the dismally poor use that every Batman movie so far has made of them.

Obvious highlights of Batman villains on-screen are Heath Ledger's Joker, Danny DeVito's Penguin, I would almost say Anne Hathaway and Michelle Pfeiffer equal each other's Catwoman, but the stitching all over Michelle Pfeiffer's suit and that scene where she crazily throws herself out a window put her just above Hathaway, and let's face facts: Jack Nicholson's Joker sucked. Plagued by a horribly indecisive Tim Burton (you can just feel Burton's confusion all through the first Batman--should it be campy? Should it be dark? Should we only ever see about one block of what's supposed to be Gotham City? Don't forget to toss in a scene where the Joker dances to Prince! Ugh.), there was no way Jack could save this one. Then it turned out that the Joker, before he was the Joker, was also the guy who killed Bruce Wayne's parents, and just, look, it was crap, but at least Burton redeemed himself with Batman Returns. Two more villain highlights for me are easily Jim Carrey's Riddler and Tommy Lee Jones' Two-Face. Jones' dialogue was shit, but isn't he a perfect Two-Face? If he had had real lines written for him, we all know he would've delivered them perfectly. And Jim Carrey started breaking into more than just comedy as The Riddler, and he is so dedicated to that role, it's all over his face how seriously he took that job. He acts circles around Val Kilmer the whole movie (not that hard to do, though), and if only this one had a decent script, and no neon-coloured street thugs, and... no nipples on the costumes... yeah, there's a lot of problems with Batman Forever, let's move on.

Notice anything, though? With all the Batman movies so far, we've had two portrayals of Catwoman, two portrayals of Two-Face, two of the Joker, two of Bane, four different portrayals of Batman himself, debatably two of Robin (very debatably), etc., etc., and we just keep repeating the same villains! Where's Killer Croc, or Baby Doll, or Scarface, or Harley Quinn, or Black Mask, or Clay-Face, or Man-Bat? (Also, how about a decent Mr. Freeze or Poison Ivy? Or a decent Bane? Or, better yet, never using Bane ever again for anything? But those are like, three other rants.)



Yes, Man-Bat, also known as genetic scientist Dr. Kirk Langstrom, also known as HOW THE EXPLETIVE DO SEVEN GODDAMN BATMAN MOVIES GET MADE WITH ZERO DESIRE FROM ANYONE INVOLVED TO WATCH BATMAN TRY TO MOUNT, RIDE, AND TAKE DOWN A MASSIVE, SCREECHING, FLYING BAT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE CITY!?! And the possibilities really are limitless with Man-Bat, because as more of a side character in the comics, keeping him mostly on the sidelines in a movie makes perfect sense, but you can also just as easily switch things around and have Man-Bat be the A-story villain that keeps both Batman and the city distracted while the B-story villain (let's say the Joker, just 'cause everyone loves the Joker so damn the repetition) gets a plan and stuff together and comes to mess shit up in the second act. He's nearly just as emotionally deep a character as Batman himself, since he's not actually a villain, he's a scientist, and he's constantly at conflict with his own inner demons, most especially the times he lets them take him over externally as the Man-Bat. This also makes him incredibly versatile as a character, so long as he's well-defined throughout his introduction to the audience; do it right, and you could easily plug Man-Bat into almost any Batman story-line appropriately, which you really can't do with any other Batman character. Except Lucious Fox, I guess, but I think it was clear after hardly seeing Catwoman at all in Rises that she either should've been introduced in Dark Knight if she was going to be so minimally in Rises, or she just shouldn't have been in any of them. Anne Hathaway was great, and I loved the cat-ear goggle things, but Catwoman was so underdeveloped, and top of it, later on so unnecessary to everything except one time tricking Batman (but anyone could've been in that scene, even a little kid that's under Bane's orders or something), that it just reeked of Christopher Nolan not wanting to do Batman movies anymore and just getting lazy. It was as if the script was already finalized, and then someone reminded him that he referenced Catwoman slyly in Dark Knight and he went, "Oh, shit, right, Catwoman! Damnit, uh, alright, I guess none of these movies will be 2 hours or less everyone, we've got twenty more unnecessary minutes to write!"

Let me definitively make my point about how malleable-yet-still-natural a character Man-Bat can be, though; here's a very (a very-very) basic synopsis of Chris Nolan's Batman trilogy with Man-Bat plugged in:

Batman Begins - Bruce goes off to train with the League of Shadows, etc., same old shit, but before he left, he approved a genetics division of Wayne Enterprises, with Dr. Kirk Langstrom as its second-in-charge, if you will. Shortly before Bruce returns to Gotham, Kirk first becomes Man-Bat and starts terrorizing the city, so when Bruce Wayne gets back, Man-Bat is two things: 1., the immediate reason Bruce needs to put his training to use, and 2., it could also be written that Bruce Wayne is just dressing in plain all-black and a mask as he hasn't developed the Batman persona yet (this period of Bruce fighting crime in black but not as Batman has been shown in tons of the older comics, then again in the Mask of the Phantasm animated flick--highly recommended, that one), and the fear he notices in himself of this huge, freaky bat creature inspires him to go with the bat look thereafter. Batman "beats" Man-Bat (so we get to be detective-y and see Bruce experiment a bit with serums, too), and just when all seems good, here comes Ra's al Ghul to burn shit down, no change, but he takes note of Man-Bat, and we pretty much keep the ending as it already is. Oh, and you can keep the Scarecrow scenes in this easily if they were trimmed a bit more. Ask yourself, though, was that pathetically barely-there Scarecrow even worth calling a real portrayal of Scarecrow, or just a weird dude who's into drugs and looks like he rubbed poo on a baggy, badly-made mask? But if you wanna keep him, wouldn't he be even more motivated to mess people up with the fear drug while there actually is a huge freaking bat flying around, anyway?




The Dark Knight - Change nothing, except for adding a scene or two showing Kirk working on stabilizing the Man-Bat serum, maybe helping Bruce with some whatever detective work, but at the end of the movie, there's a tag either just before or after the credits of Kirk experimenting with serums and saying something like "Not yet, but we're closer than we ever have been."

The Dark Knight Rises - Eight years pass, sure, fine, no change there, but Kirk has finalized a stable Man-Bat serum. He tests it, and he can speak sentences and think problems through and shit while in his Bat-form. Bane comes to town, Bruce is being agoraphobic, same shit, same shit, Catwoman does stuff, keep going, but as Bruce is first taking a look at info. about Bane or a clue about him in the Batcave, Man-Bat is in the cave waiting for him, having followed other bats to get there, and once Bruce realizes Kirk is really in control of Man-Bat, they team up. "Miranada Tate" at some point shows knowledge of the Man-Bat serum and seems a bit too curious about it, so Bruce still gets her to safeguard the nuclear thing, just this time to try and keep her questions about the serum at a minimum. Keep going, keep going, etc., and when Bruce is trapped in Bane's old prison, Bane goes after Man-Bat, wanting the serum. Bane wins, but only gets two doses of the serum for some reason (maybe now Kirk just makes it as he needs it instead of making a ton at once? Whatever), and Bane takes Kirk and his wife hostage to get more serum later, not knowing that Kirk has already had so much serum all it does to him now is keep him stable, he doesn't need it to transform into Man-Bat, that can still happen on its own outside of his control. Keep going, Bane announces his planning to add the serum to the drinking water, or to make more of it or something, whatever, just something threatening, keep going, keep going, and at the final showdown of Batman vs. Bane vs. Talia, Bane gets knocked down but somehow Talia takes the serum they stole from Kirk, and now the face-off is Batman vs. Talia-Bat, which is epic as shit, and at some point, let's say Kirk and Francine are tied together, get shoved off a high point, and as they're falling, Kirk becomes Man-Bat and goes after Talia-Bat. He lets Francine fall and die as he didn't turn into Man-Bat by choice, the bat woke up in him this time, so he doesn't speak like Talia-Bat can, we're back to raw, animal Man-Bat. The fight between two Man-Bats alone is awesome, and we still keep the ending, just a minor tweak: the Batplane's motor died somehow, so Man-Bat carries the plane out to sea while it still has the nuke attached to it, Talia-Bat in one final strike comes after it, then the Batplane and both giant bats themselves blow up. Bruce still leaves the country and all that, "John Blake" still finds the Batcave, but now the city forever debates whether there ever even was a Batman, or just this mutant Man-Bat they all saw save them from the nuke.

I mean, look, what it all comes down to is that I'm just sick of seeing the same Batman villains running on a loop in the movies. I get it with most of them (nobody knows or cares about, let's say, The Clock King), but I cannot understand with any fibre of my being why there has yet to be a Batman movie to feature him fighting a giant mutant flying bat. It just seems so obvious--it's like the kind of thing you'd hear some nerd complaining about, like something that got crammed into a comic book movie despite having no connection to the original comics. Like, "The Green Lantern movie is so bullshit, he seriously fights a giant, actual green lantern in space," except Man-Bat is actually a long-running character as opposed to lazy screenwriting, and he is actually grounded in reality as scientist Dr. Kirk Langstrom, as opposed to characters like, let's say, Batmite, and just, c'mon, people! I'm barely scratching the surface here; there's also the identity crisis angle with Kirk Langstrom himself as he struggles to control and to decide whether he even should control his Man-Bat identity, the what-are-humans-really-worth angle with Kirk having developed this serum with the original intention of skipping past a few hurdles in human evolution, and if Man-Bat is the accurate result of that, should he be stopped, or should he try to push more forward like himself? Or just kill them all? Then how does Kirk feel about either option, and how does his wife, Francine? And, again, with or without the emotional arc, he's a giant goddamn bat flying through Gotham and shredding skyscraper windows to pieces with his veiny, widespread bat-wings.
Get him in the goddamned movies.



(Post-Script: 1. No, that Talia-Bat thing isn't too far off, actually--go read Batman #655, 2. Bruce Timm always gets it right the first time--Man-Bat was the centre of the very first Batman - The Animated Series episode back in '92, and if you haven't seen it in a while, or at all, do yourself a big favour and find it. It was called "On Leather Wings," see clip below.)

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18 Comments
relentless1 - 12/27/2012, 12:58 PM
man bat sucks. the basics of doing a great batman trilogy are as follows: harvey dent, catwoman, batman, gordon, alfred are all established in the first movie with scarecrow as the main villian (theme is fear) with carmine falcone and sal maroni as the side villians, second movie is the joker as the main villian (escalation) with black mask and penguin usurping the rival mob boss roles from falcone and maroni in the first one, signifying the change from traditional crime to super villian crime, third movie, two face is the main villian, have him kill the regular mobsters in the second movie and try to consilidate the super villian crime bosses under his rule in the 3rd movie insted of the tired old "hold gotham ransom" shtick doen previously in almost every batman movie to date, instead of robin have catwoman go from thief to morally ambiguous to anti hero over the course of the trilogy,3rd movie ends with bruce taking a date to haileys circus to watch the flying graysons in action......
Albie - 12/27/2012, 1:05 PM
The school of thought with Man-Bat is more about keeping the internal human conflicts always in the forefront (Bruce Wayne vs. Batman, Kirk Langstrom vs. Man-Bat, etc.). Now that I think about it, though, I never did say what my ideal Man-Bat or any Batman movie would be, I just showed how easily Man-Bat could be plugged into pre-existing Batman movies because he's that malleable-while-remaining-grounded of a character overall, which is also big in his favour.

You and I ended Nolan's trilogy the same way in our heads, though. I wish instead of just calling John Blake Robin, there were shots of like "The Circus is Coming to Town!" posters or something.
95 - 12/27/2012, 4:10 PM
Let me start by clapping. I'm pretty bummed that you said it before me... but I'm glad you said it. Of course I agree! Since the credits rolled at the end of Batman Begins in '05, I've been thinking the same thing. Not specially having Man-Bat in Christopher Nolan's TDK Trilogy... rather just having Man-Bat in a reboot.

I imagine Man-Bat to be an old folklore in Gotham City, like crocs in the sewers. Like you said, Man-Bat could inspire the Batman persona. And rather than starting off a reboot with an origin story on Young Bruce's fear of Bats, show a terrifying man-sized bat haunted Batman ever step along his journey in his crusade against crime. It would a good way to reintroduce the fear of bags without having another character "instill" fear (like Scarecrow).

While I don't agree with your placement of Man-Bat in the TDK Trilogy... I like your ideas (and explanations). This is a great editorial, you drive an engaging tone. I agree with your analysis on the possibilities of the Dr. Langstrom character. I have one question I'd like to discuss... would Dr. Langstrom feel derivative in a post–TASM Dr. Connors/The Lizard world? Some would argue: "The Lizard hasn't been portrayed correctly, anyway". Others would probably say: "I don't want to see another bad-guy-turns-city-into-mutant-creatures plot".

Thumbs up'd.
Albie - 12/27/2012, 4:34 PM
95 said: "...would Dr. Langstrom feel derivative in a post–TASM Dr. Connors/The Lizard world?"

Potentially, but my line of thinking is that Man-Bat's struggle with his mutation more closely parallels Bruce Wayne's struggle with his morality and sanity, and that relationship puts them on an equal plane, even though Batman's had to help him by beating Man-Bat the same way Spiderman's had to help the Lizard by beating him. The difference is Dr. Connors is a teacher and mentor to Peter, and the relationship is based on Peter's want/need to learn more about mutation to deal with his own thing, and guilt that he needs to help Dr. Connors stay himself and fix his own thing. It's a relationship, but not equal, and nothing is paralleled, they stay two very different people.

And for the record, outside the comics, I think the closest to a decent Spiderman portrayal is still probably the '90s Fox cartoon, unfortunately. It wasn't great, but it was detailed as all shit.
95 - 12/27/2012, 4:43 PM
That makes sense. Good thinking.
Albie - 12/27/2012, 4:51 PM
Well, I do have to do a Spiderman rant still. This latest movie even, it was an improvement, but not by much. And maybe I was alone in this, but Dr. Connors' Lizard form looked dangerously close to the small round-headed dinosaurs in jackets from the Super Mario Bros. Movie to me. Glad you liked the ramble, though, man, I clearly have more to come.
95 - 12/27/2012, 4:58 PM
LOL. A lot of people think The Lizard looked like a Goomba. I liked the movie. Not to the point that I'll defend it, so I won't comment further on The Lizard's appearance. LOL.
Jollem - 12/27/2012, 5:04 PM
the dark knight trilogy kicked so much booty
Albie - 12/27/2012, 5:14 PM
Whoever else reads this and enjoys themselves, click the thumbs up bullshit, c'mon. Better yet, if you disagree, click the thumbs up so more people can read it and disagree, too, c'mon.
BB52 - 12/27/2012, 6:14 PM
more than anything i'd want to see nightwing in some capacity (joseph gordon levitt doesn't count, despite best efforts)
Parker2017 - 12/27/2012, 10:58 PM
@95 they did do man-bat in a deleted scene form Batman forever. it's actully pretty cool and ties back to hsi origins very well, now i understnad you all ahve a crush on man-bat and it could eb liek the court of owlls whcih WOULD BE EPIC!
DukeAcureds - 12/28/2012, 2:28 PM
I like the way you think. I've been thinking in the exact same manner. I just watched Onm Leather Wings this morning because of this exact same train of thought. I'm actually hoping for a continuation of the Nolan-verse first, for two reasons 1- It didn't fvck up at all so it doesn't need the fixing of a reboot and 2- if they don't continue it now they will never be able to go back and do so ever again. But when they do get around to a reboot, there is a script that I have rolling around in my head that I should write just to exorcise it from myself and it is very much along the lines of what you have been ranting/outlining above. Who knows, maybe I'll try and sell it whenever they get around to rebooting. Stranger things have happened.
They do say that everyone has at least one Batman film rolling around in their upstairs noggins, right?
DukeAcureds - 12/28/2012, 2:31 PM
relentless@ So just the Nolan trilogy with a few tweaks then?
DukeAcureds - 12/28/2012, 2:37 PM
Parker2017@ That wasn't Man-Bat, that was the Giant Bat from Dark Knight Returns.
Albie - 12/28/2012, 2:44 PM
Thumb it up if you had a good read! I don't need subscribers or bullshit, just thumb it up.
DukeAcureds - 12/29/2012, 11:35 AM
Thumb up and bullshit compute as the same thing for me. I'm not even sure if I can. Isn't that a facebook thing or something? I'll give it a go any way, because I liked the article. For you, Albie, for you.
DukeAcureds - 12/29/2012, 11:36 AM
Well, how about that? It worked. I didn't know I could do that.
Albie - 12/29/2012, 12:06 PM
The whole internet's bullshit, don't worry about it.

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