View Single Post
Old July 29 2012, 08:33 PM   #50
Christopher's Avatar
Re: Your favourite Batman...

Lapis Exilis wrote: View Post
Can I confess to being baffled about all the angst over the voice - both pro-Conroy and anti-Bale? The voice change is key in both performances, but I have difficulty understanding why Conroy's is worshipped and Bale's is the subject of so much controversy.
The problem with Bale's voice change is that it's too overdone and unnatural-sounding and gets in the way of both performance and simple clarity. It's hard to understand what he's saying, and it's hard for him to convey much range of emotion while using it. Conroy managed to distinguish the characters without needing to resort to such awkward contrivance. In early B:TAS he did give Batman a Clint Eastwood-like hoarse-whisper quality, which eventually gave way to just the rough, forceful deep voice he uses now, but it simply works better in terms of clarity, emotional flexibility, and subtlety than what Bale does. And he did a good job giving Bruce a very different vocal persona in the original series, though that was inexplicably dropped in the later continuation. Basically, he managed to make both voices sound good and fairly natural while still making them very different. Bale totally fails at the former.

Adam West also did fairly well at differentiating Bruce and Batman. They're both recognizably the same voice, sure, but his Bruce was mellow and naturalistic while his Batman was ultra-intense and melodramatic.

This is the secret to Batman's longevity - it's a very flexible concept: hard-boiled arbiter of vigilante justice; time-traveling, good-natured father figure off on adventures with his adopted son; tongue-in-cheek wearer of tights trading fisticuffs with grown men in silly outfits; world-trotting-James-Bond-in-a-mask; semi-psychopath fascist, intense gangster-fighting detective... it's all Batman. And there are probably iterations not yet thought of waiting out there.
Hear, hear. That's why it's so wrongheaded to say "Batman has to be this way, he shouldn't be portrayed this other way." He's been all those things and more, and that's why he's endured and thrived beyond other superheroes.

Really, Batman is a liminal figure. By his very nature he exists on the border between categories. Between pulp vigilante and four-color superhero; between intellectual crimesolver and physical brawler; between defender of the law and extralegal vigilante; between privileged rich boy and deprived outsider; between orphaned loner and perennial team-builder; you name it. He's a figure of contradictions, straddling opposing possibilities, and that's why he can be -- and has been -- taken in so many different directions.

This is why so many Batman stories have been along the lines of "The Batman Nobody Knows" in the comics and "Legends of the Dark Knight" in The New Batman Adventures -- stories where we see how ordinary people perceive Batman and learn that each of them imagines him differently. Batman, as Nolan's films made clearer than ever, is a symbol. The persona, the costume, and the paraphernalia are tools of propaganda to send a message of fear to the underworld and hope to the innocent. And what makes that symbolism so effective is that it's adaptable, that people can read what they need into it.

I just read an interesting article in the book Batman Unauthorized that tries to sum up the essential elements of Batman (or at least the version of him favored these days). See what you think of author Lou Anders' list as to what constitutes "an accurate rendition" of Batman:

1) acknowledges the supreme force of will of the character.

Anders faults the Burton Batman on this one, describing Keaton's Batman as "frustrated and confused... He was dark all right, but his anger was unfocused, his motivations unclear, his methods unrefined."

In contrast he notes that the Batman of today's comics can command the attention of superpowered beings and "send a chill down every spine there - despite having no powers of his own - by his mere presence and force of personality."

Likewise, he praises Batman Begins and the scene on the ice between Ra's and Bruce (one of my favorites) - "Trainnig means nothing! Will is everything!"
If anything, I think this tends to be overdone in the comics these days. And I'm not sure Nolan's Batman really measures up by this standard, since he was so willing to give up being Batman. He did show supreme willpower on a number of occasions, notably in escaping from Bane's prison, but it was intermittent. (And really I think his escape was more a matter of physics than will. Naturally the rope would've exerted a centripetal force and pulled people down in an arc before they could reach the ledge. The only way it could be done was without the rope.)

2) Batman has something to prove.

Anders' point here is really interesting - he compares Bruce Wayne, quite rightly I think, to Captain Ahab:

"Wayne set out to prove to the universe that death could not catch him unawares again. He chose as his territory Gotham City, and as his target the criminal underworld (as Ahab chose the whale), but his real target (and intended audience) was the cosmos itself... proving to the universe and himself that no matter what form death takes, it will find him ready."
I think it's more about proving something to himself. He was helpless to save his parents from Joe Chill, so he resolved never to let himself be helpless to stop crime ever again.

Nolan's Batman in TDK is impressive here because he has a bigger strategy for battling crime than just beating up muggers and flamboyant supercriminals. He's engaged in a larger project of social engineering to clean up Gotham, and recognizes that his own methods are limited and he needs to foster a successor who can pick up where his ability ends and help build a city that doesn't need him anymore.

Of course, that kind of falls apart in TDKR, and I have my problems with its ending, since in the wake of all that happened, all of Gotham's progress is pretty much gone and the city will need a Batman more than ever.

3) A refusal to kill and an aversion to guns in particular

Burton's Batman gets another round of criticism here for torching the clown with the Batmobile's engines and attaching a bomb to another of Penguin's minions - something whch has bugged many a batfan.
Not to mention dropping bombs from the Batmobile and blowing up a whole warehouse full of goons.

Nolan's Bruce/Batman has some hits against him here too. Bruce tried to assert a refusal to kill, but then totally blew it by deliberately tossing a hot poker into a munitions dump and blowing up a lot of people. Then there's his passive-aggressive "I don't have to save you." And he was a little too comfortable letting Catwoman do the killing for him in TDKR. The only time they really got this right was in TDK in the final confrontation with the Joker.

4) "Finally, any accurate depiction of the Batman must include the understanding that, unlike the vast majority of costumed crime fighters, Batman's secret identity is not his core persona. Bruce Wayne, the millionaire playboy, is the disguise, whereas "the Batman" is his true nature."

Now, I've always found this idea to be slightly off. In my mind, Bruce Wayne's public persona and Batman (as well as other disguises used to probe criminal activity) are tools Bruce uses. Denny O'Neil once said that he thought the truest picture of the character was Bruce Wayne in the cave in uniform, with the cowl pushed back. Christian Bale likewise said he thought of the character as having three distinct modes: Bruce in public - which was cover, Batman in public - which was a tool of fear and intimidation, and Bruce in private, planning which tool to use when.
Right. Batman's methods involve theatricality and roleplaying. The Batman persona and the billionaire-playboy persona are both roles he plays to serve his mission in different ways.

Still, I agree that the Batman is the true persona, because strip away the costume and the theatricality, and the mission to stop crime, serve justice, and protect the innocent at all costs is what truly drives the man. So Batman is a truer embodiment of who he really is at the core.
Written Worlds -- Christopher L. Bennett's blog and webpage
Christopher is offline   Reply With Quote