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TSR Blog: A Tale of Two Batmans: A Visual Dissection of 'Batman' and 'Batman Begins'

Calhoun Kersten writes for The Scorecard Review, and he also has a blog called “Confessions of a Self Proclaimed Megalomaniac.” This TSR Blog is the first half of his article: A Tale of Two Batmans: A Visual Dissection of 'Batman' and 'Batman Begins' “I am the dark. I am the night. I am… Batman.” These few words came to mean so much to cartoon and comic book fans alike. Bob Kane’s character known as Batman came to embody both fear and heroism. He offered protection for the innocent and served justice to the wicked. So many people saw a true hero in the form of this pop culture icon who subsequently struck fear into the hearts of criminals while living an honorable life by an established code of ethics. However, these ideas are fairly easy to present in the typically one-dimensional world of comics or the small screen for television. However, the question of Batman’s transition to the big screen is one that could not be answered quite so easily. Arguably, the first attempt at a “serious” Batman film was Tim Burton’s 1989 film Batman. The film received both critical and commercial acclaim at the time of its release, but the franchise was diminished over the years, thanks in part to the box-office and critical failure of Schumacher’s Batman & Robin in 1997. However, in 2005, it was realized that a new hero was needed. Nolan opted for an old hero reborn, a point he makes clear in his film Batman Begins. Although both films star an incarnation of the figure known as Batman as well as several other similarities, both Burton and Nolan highlight their differences stylistically, thematically, and ultimately visually in both Batman and Batman Begins. In order to understand the differences between the two, it is essential to recognize some of the similarities. The similarities between the two films are very basic in their presentation. For instance, the imagery that is frequently associated with Batman, such as the iconic cape and cowl, are by and large the same. The similarities are typically the details that precede the reputation of Batman. For instance, even most people that may not have seen either of these Batman films can recognize the emblem. There are some small, stylistic differences such as the insignia that vary, but that is to be expected with such defined design-oriented directors. There’s also the tragic origin of Batman that is similar in its execution, highlighting the innocence lost as Bruce watches his parents gunned down. However, the scene of the mugging is the most similar in terms of composition and the visual. Both function as a visual representation of moral decay in an urban environment. The Waynes are shown as wealthy on a visual level, based on their clothing, in both and, although today’s audiences may view it as an antiquated standard, the theater used to stand as a representation of class. The fact that they are leaving the theater in Batman and the opera in Batman Begins is visually telling the audience of their status. Furthermore, the juxtaposition between the attire of the Waynes and the dark alley setting, even to those who don’t know the story, seems to warn the audience that these folks are out of their element. It is only when confronted with their mugger that the audience’s fears are realized. What follows, in both pieces, is a very telling action on the part of Thomas Wayne. In both films, Thomas complies with the mugger, who is telling Thomas to hand over his wallet, but when his wife is directly threatened, such as grabbing her string of pearls, Thomas springs into action. Although this leads to the murder of both husband and wife, it instills the quality of protectiveness in our hero, a trait that directly contributes to his transformation into Batman. This scene is one of the best examples of the visual similarities between the two films. It establishes what kind of man Bruce’s father was and foreshadows what kind of man Bruce has the ability to become. It seems both films realized the power of the visual in establishing the heroic figure of Batman. As previously stated, the similarities between the two films are kept very basic and crucial to the development of the Batman identity more than anything else.

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