Two days ago, on its premiere, I saw The Dark Knight. As a movie, it was spectacular. As a sequel, it was fantastic. As a work of art, Heath Ledger’s finest performance. But as a Batman story, it was a let-down.
(Don’t worry if you haven’t seen it; no spoilers ahead.)
I’m a comic-book geek. A total superhero dork. Yep, I collected comics, still have a hefty collection, and recently have often contemplated getting back into it. Superman’s still my favorite, and with that comes an affinity to DC Comics. Naturally, Batman comes in at a very close second.
Let’s consider the success of comic-book based movies. Artistically, “now that Hollywood can do them justice (with believable CGI), they are recognising that comic books are readymade for the big screen. If you look at any comic book, it is nearly a shot-by-shot storyboard just waiting to be filmed” (credit: Telegraph). As far as the writing goes, I wouldn’t hesitate to pit certain comic book writers against some of the top novelists, screenwriters, essayists, or storytellers in the world.
Of all the comics I’ve read, Batman stories are some of the most excellently written. Batman: Year One, The Killing Joke, A Death in the Family, and All Star Batman & Robin are just a handful of excellent milestones of the 69 years of Batman history.
What The Dark Knight lacked was mythology. Batman Begins was a great story, more so because it appeased the fanboy. It drew upon history: where Batman came from, what fueled his desire, what drove him to become what he is. With a wealth of history to draw from, creating a brand new story-line wasn’t necessary. By illustrating previously established plot-points—such as Bruce Wayne’s combat training—it both provided an entertaining story that supported the overall idea of Batman.
That’s not to say that The Dark Knight had no mythology. However, while there were some nods to the mythos (unstated in order to not spoil the movie), the Batman character could have been replaced with any conflicted action hero—John McClane, the Terminator, Wolverine, Neo, Jason Bourne—and the movie would have been equally as good.
If I wanted to see a good movie, I would certainly have been satisfied.
But I paid to see a Batman story.