I watched the trailer for The Batman the other day and said on Twitter that there was no perfect Batman movie to me because I have my own perfect Batman movie in my head. So, I figured I’d share those thoughts with you. We’ve seen Batman as Edward Scissorhands, as James Bond, and now it looks like we’re getting a 90’s David Fincher-type Batman. That’s mostly cool, but here’s what I’d like to see:
The first thing to do is take away the stuff about Batman I don’t personally like: The cops, the bat-vehicles, and his mask. Batman’s mask is a great way to get shot in the mouth, and bat-vehicles are a great way to get trapped by traffic or shot down from the sky. Batman should be completely armored in smooth black steel covering his face and chest, accented by discreet pouches and piping crawling around his body not unlike H.R. Giger’s xenomorph design.
Batman’s one of the few (maybe only) superheroes who still absolutely needs a secret identity, and in having a secret identity, the desire for his enemies to unmask him would be one of his biggest threats. For as much ass as Batman kicks, there are literally thousands of crooks and killers looking to make a name off of him or get revenge on him. Batman stalks the shadows like a ninja, but as soon as he engages the enemy, they fight back. Some are paralyzed by their fear of him, but many are looking to kill him, injure him, or just encumber him enough to rip off that mask and see who it is.
Know what else would be cool? Batman’s smooth, shining black mask suddenly lit up with a big yellow bat-signal, to be used to light the dark or to blind those he’s fighting. Getting that mask/helmet off would be near-impossible, but these crooks will gladly give it a try. Speaking of fighting, Batman’s weaponry is important. Technology should play a bigger role in being Batman than anything else, and I think a balance can be struck between Batman being a man who uses a few gadgets here and there (like Bond) and a man with a gadget for every situation (Iron Man). He should have an assortment of martial arts weapons, tranquilizers, smoke bombs, and flash grenades, all of it nonlethal so he can subdue his enemies quickly and brutally. Any grappling hook he’d use is dependent on having a good anchor somewhere and not getting his arm ripped off. I never liked Batman swinging around like Spider-Man, but he shouldn’t fly, either. I’d compromise by giving him a low-powered jet pack beneath the cape. Something that could blast him a few hundred feet into the air if he got pinned down in a dead end somewhere or had to travel across the city rooftops. Remember, he has to evade capture at all times, and everybody wants a piece of him.
Which brings us to the perfect Batman movie’s villain, which is always a big deal. Now, my movie would have all the weirdo gangsters you like, but they’d exist in the background. Each boss and his organization wants Batman’s head, which leads to a criminal stalemate. Everyone’s so worried about the Batman that they don’t bother fighting each other too much. Gotham’s underworld isn’t the real problem.
The problem is the cops.
Jim Gordan and the GCPD are Batman’s truest adversaries. They’re the ones standing in his way the most. This is maybe my biggest gripe with Batman. He works with the cops. They have a signal they send whenever they want his help. An entire city’s police department defers its duty to a vigilante. This wouldn’t happen in real life, and as characters I don’t think either side really wants it either. Batman HATES the cops. At best they’re incompetent, and at worst they’re as corrupt as any criminal. And if Jim Gordon is as good a cop as we’re meant to believe, then he’s not going to ask some mystery man to do his job for him.
Batman wants the cops out of his way, and he’d communicate this to them regularly. Would they listen? Hell no. They can’t. They can’t allow some guy, no matter who he is, to run around taking the law into his own hands. From their perspective, Batman is just as bad as the criminals. So, while Batman is out doing his thing, he will inevitably come into contact with the cops, who have all been given orders to arrest him at almost any cost. Batman gets active resistance from them, they fight, and in turn, half of the cops grow to hate him because he either kicked their or their coworkers’ ass. The other half of the cops appreciate Batman as a crime fighter, though many of them would use him as an excuse not to do their job. Why bother doing dangerous policework when some maniac is out there doing it for you?
Threading this needle is Jim Gordon himself. Gordon doesn’t want the police to depend on Batman in any way, but he also knows that Batman’s prime targets are criminals, not cops. Still, over time he’s broken a lot of noses, arms, and legs. Many cops walk with a limp thanks to Batman, which is an assault on the institution that Gordon’s responsible for. Batman keeps picking apart the city’s crooked politicians and exploitative con men and psycho gangsters, and Gordon wishes he’d just stop doing the cops’ job. He might be getting results, but he’s doing it as a vigilante, which is completely opposite to the concept of law and order. Batman won’t go away, and the cops can’t go away, either.
And so, as our perfect Batman movie begins, Jim Gordon is assembling a secret team to find out who the hell Batman is. Unmasking him is the only way to stop him and return the city to normal. From the cops’ interactions with Batman, Gordon has reverse-engineered some of his weaponry and tactics. He’s gathered a mountain of evidence that may make him look like a conspiracy nut, but he is certain that this is the key to learning Batman’s identity. He knows this guy must have money, time, and a deep hatred for crime. Gordon begins making connections and eventually thinks he has it figured out. The movie reaches its climactic end not with a fight scene (though there’d be a ton of them throughout), but with Jim Gordon arriving at a mansion one day to speak with Bruce Wayne.
Though Alfred tries to make excuses for Gordon to leave, Wayne appears and agrees to talk with him. Gordon reveals everything he knows about Batman and Bruce Wayne and deduces that they are one and the same. It’s a huge revelation, and we think that Gordon finally has Batman pinned down. But, of course, Batman has planned for this contingency. He has alibis, which Gordon knows can be easily faked. But he also reveals that Gordon’s office itself has been infiltrated by Batman. The mountain of evidence Gordon has gathered has already been destroyed by a dirty cop in Gordon’s department, someone who’d gladly take an anonymous envelope of cash to destroy Gordon’s precious files. Now all Gordon has is a theory. He’s been undone by the corruption living in his own police force. Bruce Wayne politely asks Gordon to leave his home, and while Gordon is still sure that Wayne is Batman, he can no longer prove it and thus has to exit.
We see the lengths one must go to in order to successfully keep a secret identity while fighting the criminal justice system itself instead of one maniac’s evil plan. That’s my perfect Batman movie.
So, to review: I want a Batman movie where the actor barely matters, the costume looks like a creature feature, there are no vehicles for toy sales, and the villains are reflections of our own society’s systemic problems instead of charismatic Oscar winners in fancy makeup.
Where’s my check, Hollywood?