Batmanone of the most famous fictional characters ever created, and one of the top three superheroes in the world, was created by Bill Finger and Bob Kane in 1939 with the release of Detective Comics # 27. The character was an instant hit, receiving his own solo title the next year in 1940.
With the amount of popularity and name recognition, there have been many, many live action Batman movies. The Batman character has spanned eight decades of cinema – from black and white serial series from the 1940s, to acclaimed Tim Burton films and controversial sequels from the 90s, and finally to some of the most critically acclaimed superhero films with in director Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy, providing a model for franchise filmmaking.
The latest entry, director Matt Reeves’ The Batmandid fantastic at the box office and critically, and garnered the second-highest viewership on HBO Max when released on the streamer. As such, The Batman will most likely earn a possible second and third entries to complete his trilogy. Similar to The BatmanNolan’s first film in his trilogy, Batman Begins, serves to reintroduce and revitalize the character to a new audience after previous commercial failures. Thus, the main way each film revitalizes the character is how they reintroduce their respective Batman’s to the world.
Introducing Bruce Wayne
Bruce Wayne, the secret identity of Batman, is a tragic and broken hero. His parents were shot in an alleyway when he was roughly 10 years old, and he spent the next decade of his life angry, sad, and vengeful. That’s how both films (Batman Begins and The Batman) choose to reintroduce Bruce Wayne to the world. Prior to both Batman Begins and The Batmanthe Bruce Waynes of previous movies were already very established Batmen, who had the opportunities and time to heal more from their trauma than Christian Bale (Batman Begins) and Robert Pattinson (The Batman) had.
Batman Begins opens with a broken Bruce Wayne, locked in a Bhutan prison, the clear outcast among the other inmates. The Batman starts with the bat signal lighting up the Gotham Sky, the fear resonating throughout the city, as scared criminals flee before Batman can appear. Though the films open much differently, they drift toward similarity, as both Bruce Waynes enter an absolutely brutal fight scene. Christian Bale takes down a group of around 10 prisoners just by himself, and is taken away for the protection of the other inmates.
Meanwhile, with fast precision strikes, Robert Pattinson absolutely terrorizes a gang trying to kill an innocent man, saving a life and letting a younger criminal go free. Both pictures establish their Bruce Wayne / Batman with anger and revenge issues, the tragedy of their childhood seething through each timed punch, kick, and dodge, a defining similarity in each character’s introduction.
Same Batman, Different Bat Journey
Differences are found where each character starts their respective journeys in the socioeconomic hell of Gotham City. Bale, in Batman Begins, comes to Gotham in the classic, lavish, playboy, millionaire Bruce Wayne persona. Buying hotels so that he and two other women can swim in the fountains, getting his stock shares from the board of Wayne Enterprises; all while he begins to gear up, prepare, and become Batman.
On the other hand, Pattinson is a recently established Batman in The Batman. Full armor and bulletproof suit, menacing persona, working relationship with the Gotham Central Police department, and the classic terrifying appearance: this is an angry young Batman who is ready. Batman Begins intends to show the audience their character building all the way from the ground up, while The Batman takes the same approach as Marvel’s Spider-Man: Homecoming did; by assuming the audience already had the previous knowledge of Batman’s backstory. It allowed for more focus on building the plot and detail for Reeves’ creation, though Nolan’s character building is just as good.
Character arcs are another stark difference between the two Batman films. With Nolan’s Batman Begins, Bale proceeds through his journey quite quickly, going from angry and depressed playboy Bruce to fully embracing Batman by the end of the film. It is satisfying, allowing the audience to feel a sense of closure by the end of the film, instead of having to wait for another movie. Reeves’ The Batman takes Pattinson’s character arc much more slowly over its three-hour run time, mostly hyper-focused on fixing the issue of Batman being a symbol of vengeance, rather than hope.
Pattinson progresses slowly through Batman’s journey, keeping an iron fist on the values and beliefs he holds about the world. It’s not until one member of Riddler’s militia repeats his saying, “I am vengeance,” that Pattinson’s Batman realizes that he may have gone about his ordeal the wrong way. It then leads to one of the best Batman scenes in cinema, as Pattinson leads the survivors of the flood to safety, carrying a lit flare, a light of hope for the citizens. Though not allowing closure, it allows for director Matt Reeves to build a complete, satisfying character journey for Pattinson’s Bruce Wayne / Batman.
With two films introducing the same character being made 17 years apart (not even including Batman’s introduction in Zack Snyder’s DCEU movie series), there’s bound to be much more differences in emotional arcs, plots, story, and characterization than most other movies. But when it comes to the iconic fictional character of Batman, there’s over 80 years worth of stories and content to pull from, allowing directors to pick and choose what they’d like to do with each character. Batman Begins and The Batman are both fantastic entries into the Batman mythos, but introduce the iconic character in unique ways.
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