|Bruce Wayne: Hater of Murder and Bats|
After we watched The Dark Knight Rises, the final film in Christopher Nolan's trilogy, we thought it would be good to go back through the seven films that make up the modern Batman franchise and compare them to one another. We've already ranked the bottom four movies, and we were definitely stalling on the final three. Firstly, we didn't want to disappoint readers. Secondly, we were a little sick of the Caped Crusader.
Then, The Dark Knight rises made a billion dollars, and suddenly the films were thrust back into our minds. So here it is, our ranking of the top three Batman movies (with the generous help and support of our many guest bloggers and future guest bloggers). Read the list below and let us know what you think (spoilers ahead):
3. Batman Begins
|Batman fights some baddies as Rachel looks on, lovingly|
Plot: After trying and failing to escape the demons of his parents' murders, Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) trains with and destroys the League of Shadows and returns home to become The Batman. He does this with the help of faithful butler Alfred (Michael Caine), wise tech expert Lucius (Morgan Freeman), and some not-so-gentle chastising from childhood friend and ADA Rachel Dawes (Katie Holmes). His Batman is a masked vigilante who uses non-lethal means to bring peace to the city he loves. It's really too bad that League of Shadows leader Ra's Al Ghul (Liam Neeson) and the Scarecrow (Cillian Murphy) want to wreak havoc and plunge the city into never-ending chaos and destruction using a fear-inducing drug and a good old fashioned bomb.
Director: Christopher Nolan
Femme Fatale: Rachel Dawes, sort of.
Best Villain Quotes:
"When a forest grows too wild, a purging fire is inevitable and natural." – Ra's Al Ghul
"Would you like to see my mask?" – Dr. Jonathan Crane/Scarecrow
|Bruce contemplates career options|
Rating: This is another great movie. Quite a few guest bloggers put this as their top Batman film (guest blogger My Father would like to point out that he specifically would rank this film as the best). Origin movies are usually great, and this film is no exception.
Plot: Batman (Michael Keaton) has to fight off a bevy of enemies, from the gruesomely grotesque Penguin (Danny DeVito) and his freak show minions to the corporate greed machine Max Shreck (Christopher Walken) and his meathead son. Also, a cat's out of the bag when the beguiling and deadly Selina Kyle/Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer) flips through the city of Gotham and quickly becomes more than just the average, run-of-the-mill villainess. And, to top it all off, it's Christmas and Election season in Gotham.
Director: Tim Burton
Femme Fatale: Selina Kyle
Best Villain Line: "Mistletoe can be deadly if you eat it. But a kiss can be even deadlier... if you mean it." – Sentences spoken alternately by Kyle/Catwoman and Wayne/Batman
Thoughts: When Burton directed the first Batman movie, he was more adept at focusing the action because there was really only one villain. With this film, with its multiple villains and split focus, we were struck by how slow everything moves, despite the awesomeness. It really takes a while for things to get into place, and even when it does it feels jerky and disconnected. Burton seems gets lost in his own vision and lets the crazy a bit too far out of the bag. The Penguin is amazing, but he's also so over-the-top. DeVito plays the hell out of the role, but the cartoonishness of his plot strains credulity. Are we really supposed to believe that a supervillain rises up from Gotham's sewers to…. run for Mayor? It's all a little too ridiculous, and it's not helped by crazy-evil (or crazy and evil) Max Shreck, who provides us all with a lesson on the pitfalls of greed and power-hoarding in the most ham-fisted way possible. The man is literally hoarding the city's power to ensure the legacy of his son, Chip.
|Catwoman's kiss-off to Max Shreck|
Rating: This film, ultimately, is really good. It has problems, sure, and it still looks like about 100 people live in Gotham (also, why are villains in Burton's universe so dependent on help from circus and carnival folk?). Still, Pfeiffer is unequivocally the most magnetic presence in this entire film series. She really helps the film hide some of its more glaring problems, and the same thing can be seen in the film that made it to number one on this list…
1. The Dark Knight
|"Why so serious?"|
Director: Christopher Nolan
Femme Fatale: Maggie Gyllenhaal's Rachel Dawes
Best Villain Quote: "Why so serious?" – The Joker
Thoughts: The second film in Christopher Nolan's epic trilogy is clearly the strongest, not only in the trilogy but also in the whole franchise, and it was overwhelmingly the most popular choice among the guest bloggers. Guest blogger Con-Man noted that "It's very hard to compare the first four movies to the second three, because they are very different types of movies tonally and thematically. That being said, The Dark Knight is the clear winner." It's deftly written and directed, there are several little touches that work perfectly. Even a throwaway storyline about a whistleblower trying to expose Batman's identity provides scene after scene of great material for himself, Bale, and Freeman. It's also refreshing to watch a Batman movie where Bruce Wayne doesn't actually reveal his secret identity to anyone. People either know or they don't. In contrast, here are the people in whom Bruce Wayne confides his secret identity in the other films:
- Batman – Vicki Vale
- Batman Returns – Max Shreck and Selina Kyle
- Batman Forever – Dick Grayson and Chase Meridian, as well as shouting it at the circus.
- Batman & Robin – Alfred's niece Barbara
- Batman Begins – Rachel Dawes and Lucius Fox
- The Dark Knight Rises – Commissioner Gordon eventually figures it out, and basically everyone else already knows. It's the world’s worst kept secret.
|Pow! Kick! Bam!|
Saving Grace: As previously noted, this film is really Heath Ledger's show, and the film is an insta-classic because of the now-iconic role that won him a posthumous Academy Award. Guest blogger Square Peg notes that the film is the best in the franchise because of the "perfection of [his] performance." He's the human incarnation of chaos, all manic energy, beady eyes, and lip licks. He's kinetic and scary. We're already afraid of clowns, but now we're terrified by them. Nolan also deserves a lot of credit for crafting a character that maintains a consistency of beliefs yet is constantly surprising. Still, it's Ledger who takes the character and turns it into the kind of performance that makes careers, which makes his untimely death all the more tragic and unsettling.
Rating: As Eau de la Trine says trilingually, the film is "Super dark, über serious, and trés sophistique." It's hurt by some weird plotting and strange character notes, but really this film could be as terrible as Batman & Robin and still make it to the top based on Ledger's performance alone. To us, it's the clear winner.
But what do you think? Did we get the top three correct? Did we make a huge mistake? Are Pfeiffer or Ledger (or both) just so-so? And are there any Batman films you would rather see in these top positions? Let us know in the comments! Also, be sure to check out the amazing work that Guest Bloggers are doing on this blog. They're fantastic!