Wednesday, July 23, 2008

I am the Bat.

Consider this just a random post script to my previous entry about the "Dark Knight." Like I've said, along with apparently the rest of the universe, the newest Batman film was definitely all kinds of awesome (blew away "Mask of the Phantasm" as my all time favorite Batman movie). It's probably not a stretch at all to say it is the greatest super hero movie ever made, however the jury's still out on if it really deserves that number one imdb ranking. I, for one, said the film was at least a few minor nitpicking criticisms shy of a flawless masterpiece.

The biggest little flaw for me in the film was actually one of the most enduring of traits of the franchise. Despite a film history of over 40 years, 8 films, live action, animation, and a handful of re-imaginings and resets, one thing still remains: that ridiculous sounding serious Batman voice! Like some sort of stubborn vestigial organ, each incarnation of the Batman will usually have some sort of extra-serious, "I'm being a Superhero", tone they use when they're under the hood.

Ironically, as outrageously campy and unrelated the Adam West Batman was, he probably had the most subtle bat-voice of the bunch. While his dialog was nowhere near subtle, the shift from his casual Bruce Wayne voice and his Batman persona was oddly nuanced...or maybe Adam West can only do Adam West. The Michael Keaton Batman voice really set the bar for contrasting badassness. I think this grew out of the darker vision of director Tim Burton along with the fact Keaton had to compensate for being the wimpiest nerd of a Bruce Wayne ever. The Kevin Conroy animated Batman had the best overall voice out of all the Batmen (makes sense since he's a voice actor). Whether he was Bruce or Batman he always sounded fairly badass, but it rarely crossed the line into outrageousness. Val Kilmer and George Clooney were both forgettably generic retreads of the old Keaton voice. One thing to note though, while Clooney may have been the worst Batman ever, in my opinion he was the best Bruce Wayne ever (Goddamn you're one suave fucker!).

In this latest entry into the franchise, Christian Bale ups the gravel to almost laughable proportions. It's all well and good and properly badass when he's just shooting out one liners ("Then you're gonna love me") while punching people or screaming orders; however when he's having serious introspective conversations about the the duality of man with Dent and Gordon or bantering with a psychotic Joker it just comes off as a bit ridiculous. Anytime where Batman had to speak more than a terse sentence, in the back of my head I kept picturing him just breaking down and laughing at how weird he sounded. The extra badass voice feels even more surreal when you see Bale as Bruce Wayne and you realize how much of a difference there is in tone and figure how much laughably needless amount of effort he's putting in to do "the voice" when talking as Batman.

One has to wonder why Batman even goes through the ridiculous charade of going through the voice. I guess it is probably part of the whole " transcending being just an individual into a symbol that strikes fear in the heart of criminals" mythology he's trying to perpetuate by dressing up as a bat in the first place (that was what basically half of "Batman Begins" was about). Maybe using the voice helps him get into that Batman state of mind that he needs when fighting crime (think Stallone turning his cap around before arm wrestling in "Over the Top"). Or perhaps it's just a practical measure, just so no one can recognize his voice and find out his true identity ("Hey, did anyone ever notice that Batman sounds a lot like billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne? I'm just saying.").

As odd as the voice seems at times, it's really no big deal overall. In fact, if you think about the Batman character as a whole it's probably one of the lesser eccentricities of a billionaire vigilante with a pro-ass kicking agenda, who wears a bat costume, drives around in an armored tank, and communicates through police via a gigantic searchlight. And this is not factoring in other crazy continuities like an adopted young ward and "Ace the Bat-Hound." It can all probably be chalked up as part of the necessary suspension of disbelief that comes with enjoying superhero movies. If I were a super hero I'd probably whip up some kind of special tone as well. In the end, I guess my question was just basically: Why so serious?

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