Tag Archives: Batman Begins

Michael “Size of a Tangerine” Caine as Alfred

   Michael Caine punch to cameraWe’re each others’ good luck charms. I always say to him, I’m not your good luck charm, you are mine!  

Michael Caine

Father figure, mentor, friend, guide, conscience, bad ass, gentleman.

Alfred is all of these and more to ‘master’ Bruce.

Alfred as portrayed by Micheal Caine in Chris Nolan’s Batman Trilogy is the character whose essence is perhaps most true to the comic book source material.

Caine embodies the best qualities of Alfred.

Alfred is loyal, passionate, tough, loving and kind.  He is the father that Bruce conveniently forgets he has, the man who actually raised him.

The Alfred /Bruce relationship is at the core of the Nolan Batman films, their relationship is the core dynamic that binds the three films together thematically and emotionally.

Michael caine Alfred Bruce Wayne Batman Dark Knight Christian Bale

Micheal Caine’s Alfred eases us into our Batman cinematic journey.  The transition of Bruce Wayne boy billionaire to Bruce Wayne masked avenger is also the relationship of Bruce and Alfred.

Alfred is there at the beginning to hold our hand and guide us in the dark, he travels with us along the way through the hard times and the good times, he’s quick with a joke and a smile, he stands up to and questions Bruce’s journey as all good mentor figures do, and Alfred is there to shed a tear at the end of the journey, the lone figure standing over the empty grave of a strange man the world truly never knew.

Christopher Nolan began his cinematic relationship with Michael Caine in the film adaptation of the novel The Prestige.

Nolan has included Caine (his “good luck charm”) in every subsequent film from Batman Begins and Inception to Interstellar.

In Nolan’s Batman Trilogy, Caine plays Alfred to Christian Bale’s Batman.  Alfred is a father figure, mentor, guide, conscience and a friend to Bruce Wayne.  Alfred is Bruce’s rock in a chaotic life, he is Bruce’s only family, and primary care giver, even though they are not related by blood.

Michael Caine dapper gent 2

In the Batman source material, Alfred Pennyworth has been portrayed as a bungling amateur detective and failed actor for comedy relief.

Alfred later died and then turned into a super-villain called Outsider in one of the silliest and ill-conceived ideas in comics history.  Of course the idea would be repeated with Jason Todd / Red Hood as well as other ludicrous stories that make no real sense.  Alfred got better better and reverted to his normal self after Batman punches some sense into him (see the image below, top left panel).

Alfred over the years evolved into the sarcastic but warm hearted mentor/father figure to Bruce Wayne that we are most familiar with in the modern era of the Batman mythos.

Detective Comics 356 Alfred revealed as Outsider 1
Alfred gives up his short career in super villainy

Alfred is an essential of element any great Batman story.  Without Alfred, Bruce is just some spoilt rich manchild in a silly costume who takes out his anger on criminals and refuses to move on with his life.   Alfred is Bruce’s conscience, stand in father figure, mentor and friend.  Without Alfred, Bruce would rapidly descend into his own self-invented Batman persona, leaving behind the ‘Bruce Wayne’ parts of his personality.

As a character, Alfred has never been more vibrant, wise, sarcastic, kind and loving as when Sir Michael Caine brought the cheekiest, toughest and most loyal Butler in town to life in Chris Nolan’s Batman Trilogy.

Michael Caine Dapper Gent

If there is a valid criticism to be made of Nolan’s Batman trilogy it is perhaps they are TOO serious, too grim, too dark and depressing.  Batman is a dark character, but not one hundred percent of the time.  Spawn and The Shadow are darker characters (and both are killers), lets say not one hundred percent, but around ninety-nine percent.

I see Batman as more like 60-70% dark, in my hypothetical ‘just imagined for this sentence‘ scale of darkness for popular fictional anti-heroes, vigilantes and masked avengers.  Otherwise Batman becomes too much like Spawn or the Punisher.

There has to be a line somewhere, and I think maybe Nolan went over that line.  But I still love the films, even when they are not being true to the comics by having Batman kill, or when Bruce gives up being Batman after The Dark Knight to go sulk in his mansion like a bratty child.

Batman basically kills the main villains in each of the Nolan Batman films, something that doesn’t sit right with the comic book version of Batman.  Most of the time when I watch The Dark Knight I forget that he kills Harvey Dent / Two-Face at the end of the film by knocking him off a building, which muddies the character of Batman in a film I really love.

The thing you have to accept to really enjoy Nolan’s Batman Trilogy, is that this is HIS Batman, not our communal (comic book) Batman.  It is Nolan’s version of the character, and the internal film logic makes sense to him,but not always to us.

Alfred Bruce Wayne The Dark Knight Nolan Movie

The cinematic Batman is its own thing, you can’t hold a director/writer accountable for following their own vision in telling the story they wanted to tell.  Whatever the story ends up being, it is basically the writers/directors subjective opinion/interpretation of the character, so can not be “wrong” in any absolute sense.

You can argue “Batman doesn’t kill” and pick plot holes in the Nolan Batman Trilogy all day long, I have no issue with that, but remember that you can do that with any film ever made.  You could say, in an imaginary heated exchanged with the tea drinking heavy coat wearing Nolan:

“Wait a minute, I don’t think you are really being true to the essence of the Batman character here.”

And you would have a valid point.

But the counterpoint is that Nolan went with his version of Batman, his cinematic Batman – a character based on the source material that was never intended to be the same literal Batman from the comic books.  So calling out errors based on what people like in the comics is just irrelevant, because it is a movie, NOT a comic book!

I do have issues with Nolan’s Batman, – such as Batman killing Two-Face – but overall I love the films.

As Batman’s conscience, Alfred (Michael Caine) helps Bruce Wayne reach the outer limits of his psyche, harnessing the power of the villain / shadow archetype without fully giving in to the darkness he feels inside himself.  Batman owns his demons, they don’t own him.  It would be easy to just kill criminals and be done with them.  But Batman holds himself to a higher moral standard.

At the end of the day, Batman values life, and the lives of all people.  He is not an executioner, nor a judge.  Batman is more like a cop, bounty hunter or sheriff in the old West.  He chooses to operate outside of the law, because of the high level of Police corruption and all around ineffective law enforcement at all levels in Gotham City due to the stranglehold of the mob, serial killers and masked maniacs.


Some may call Alfred an “enabler”, in that he at first resists Bruce, then ultimately supports and helps Bruce to become Batman.  He enables Bruce Wayne’s particular brand of madness.  Alfred is such a highly principled character, so strong, motivated, caring, loving, and yes – wise – that I feel it speaks volumes about the rightness of Bruce Wayne’s choice (or mission / calling) to become Batman.

In ordinary terms becoming Batman is basically an insane choice.  It would not be the choice of a well adjusted person.

But Gotham City is no ordinary city, it is the most crime ridden most corrupt city in America.  Extreme times call for extreme measures, and given the depths to which  Gotham City has sunk, and the cities genuine need for some force outside of government and law enforcement to allow for genuine change and progress, progress here meaning not capitalism, but a return to wellness, in this situation the invention of the mythic “Batman” may be a very reasonable response.

Any system that is so corrupt as to be completely ineffective has lost any sense of wellness, or sanity.  A return to sanity, or wellness then requires either abolishing the current system, or change from outside of the system itself that ultimately pulls the old system down by proxy, or coerces it the old system to change by demonstrating a superior model.  A city that lives in its own Shadow (as in the psychological term, not actual shadows) and refuses to evolve becomes a cancer on the land, and Batman is like an immune system response to the overwhelming attack of corruption (cancer) on the body of Gotham City.

Batman Robin Comic Alfred with Shotgun

Sanity and wellness then are ultimately the same thing.  Once the city has been rehabilitated, then in theory there is no need for Batman, or if Batman is to continue, he becomes no longer an emergency response to a sick body, but a worker preserving the healthy status of the city.  Batman becomes a defender of life, wellness and sanity, despite appearing to be a bit of a loony.

People in all times and places respond to Mythic characters, not with their intellect, but at a primal instinctual gut level. Mythic characters and archetypes bypass our everyday rational mind and penetrate our subconscious, they haunt our dreams and fantasies, they live in the space between worlds and flow from our intuition speaking to us of timeless tales and life lessons.

In this sense, Batman is an idea whose time has come.  He is the antidote to the sickness of Gotham.  He is Gotham’s underbelly given form and shape come back to haunt them, he is a wrathful deity determined to drag us kicking and screaming out of darkness and into the cold hard light of truth, showing us what we refuse to see or acknowledge for ourselves.

harry-brown michael caine

Michael Caine’s accomplished career has seen the actor staying the course in more iconic roles than most of us can even remember.  Early films such as Alfie, The Ipcress File, The Italian Job, Zulu and Get Carter established Caine as a versatile actor.  He could be an effortlessly charming ladies man, a tough guy, a quiet spy, a soldier, an upper class gentleman, or a lovable James Bond-like rogue.

Caine’s seventies roles were stereotypical male power fantasy roles that later led into his more intellectual roles in eighties cinema. Caine featured in further dramatic and comedic performances in the nineties, and a surprising return to both action and thrillers in the post year two-thousand era amidst the resurgence of aging male action stars in B grade films such as Harrison Ford, Bruce Willis, Arnold and Sly Stallone.

Throughout his career, Caine has played a mix of heroes and villains. He has every bit the talent and ability to play a Bond, Batman or Bruce Wayne.  Caine is well suited to a variety of roles, but he is not limited by those roles, nor afraid to do something different.

From working with Woody Allen in Hannah and Her Sisters to boldy strutting around with a shotgun in Get Carter to being Austin’s dad in Goldmember, and the pseudo-father to Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins, Caine never really felt like a “young man” even when he literally was a young man on screen.

Michael Caine seemed to appear fully formed on screen, full of wit, bravado and effortless class.  The seasoned veteran is a thoughtful actor whose acting style has changed and grown over the years, while still remaining effortlessly charming and unique.  Caine is a perennial favourite among impressionists.  The list of celebrities and laypersons who love to impersonate his distinctive voice are legion.

Alfred Pennyworth Batman comic sarcastic

Caine can play a tough guy loner, spy, mild mannered intellectual, charming thief, father figure, mentor or just a lovable rapscallion that you can’t help but enjoy on screen no matter what mischief he gets up to.

The Italian Job while a relatively boring film, is memorable for two reasons – the fantastic car chase getaway scene in the iconic mins through the stunning shops and streets of Italy, and leading man Michael Caine.  Remove either of those two elements and the movie would be a totally forgettable sub-par Ocean’s 11.

Even when playing a villain or amoral selfish character, Michael Caine remains very likable.  There is something about his face that he just seems trustworthy and reliable.  At this stage of his career, he literally is the archetypal Wise Old Man.  It is hard to imagine Michael Caine in his younger days being a scoundrel running around with Sean Connery picking up women.  Michael Caine starred alongside Sean Connery in the John Huston directed The Man Who Would Be King (1975).  Caine and Connery remained lifelong friends.

There is something of a retired James Bond feel to Micheal Caine’s Alfred in Batman Begins.  Beneath the cool and fatherly exterior is a man of remarkable depth and insight.  While Batman despises guns, Alfred has no issue with them, and will not hesitate to shoot an attacker.

As much as we learn about Alfred over the three films, by the end of Dark Knight Rises we still know next to nothing about his personal history.  The original Alfred introduced in Batman #16, 1943 was a fat bumbling Detective, a failed actor and son of Thomas Wayne’s butler Jarvis.

Batman 16_First appearance Alfred Pennyworth

Later revisions of the character saw Alfred slimming down, changing his name and becoming the slender snooty sarcastic butler we are more familiar with today. Another retcon of the character made Alfred a former cold war spy.  In yet another take on the character – Geoff John’s Earth-1 Alfred is a former Royal Marine, sharpshooter and martial artist who trains young master Wayne in martial arts.  It will be interesting to see which version of Alfred turns up in the next Batman live action film.

Michael Caine Get Carter Shotgun
Gangster, Ladykiller, Thief, Lovable Rogue

When Micheal Caine made Harry Brown following his success in Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, it instantly reminded me of his seventies film roles such as Get Carter.  It is easy to forget that Michael Caine is not just a classy English gentleman, but is also suave, sexy and charming on and off screen.  Just as dangerous as BOND on screen, and real life friends with BOND (Sean Connery) off screen.

Harry Brown was a return to the anti-hero character made popular in revenge films by Lee Marvin, Charles Bronson and Clint Eastwood.  A senior citizen who grows tired of the endless street gang violence and drug dealing in his neighborhood, Harry Brown is set on a path of destruction when his best friend is murdered.  Being a former soldier, Harry is more than familiar with guns, and goes to town like a senior citizen version of Marvel’s Frank Castle / The Punisher.

The Four Horsemen of Awesome 1
The Four Horsemen

Michael Caine makes a difficult role believable. It is Alfred’s role to convince us that Batman is plausible, that it is not completely insane to dress up like a Bat and punch crime in the face.  Alfred is the cinematic bridge between our everyday world we inhabit and the realm of the unknown world, or underworld that Batman makes his own.

When Bruce decides to dress up as a giant bat and punch crime in the face, Alfred is the voice of reason.  Micheal Caine sells this role by being a very warm, gentle and yet tough no nonsense mentor.  Alfred’s acceptance of Batman ultimately becomes our acceptance of Batman, we want Bruce to succeed  in his insane quest.

Alfred helps us to make the unknown known, he helps us to see the shadow that is Batman is not some threat, but an essential part of our personality that we have been afraid to explore.  The power of Batman is not just about fear, but that there is a little of Batman in us all, we all have a dark side, and we all have hidden strengths demanding to be expressed.

Batman is an also an explorer of the human psyche

Batman then is not only a highly trained martial artist, scientist, criminologist, strongman, gymnast and detective.  He is an explorer of the human psyche, making his home in the place where most of us fear to explore within our own lives, he not only journeys to the mythic underworld daily, he embraces and empowers himself with the symbols of shadow.  Batman uses a criminals own fear against him by appearing to him as an otherworldly wraith, an invisible ninja, an unkillable spectre of the night.

Alfred doubts Bruce Wayne’s reasoning, methods and motivation.  He is the sounding board to Bruce’s eccentricities.  By running up against barriers and resistance in life, we are better able to gauge our actions, and know when we are moving beyond a barrier through the natural growth of our personality, of whether we are pushing ourselves in a direction which ultimately does not serve our best interests.  Bruce butting heads with Alfred over his decision to become Batman only leads Bruce to further solidifying the idea in his mind.

Bruce Wayne becomes determined to become Batman, despite Alfred’s well reasoned and sane pleas not to.  When Bruce later decides he no longer wishes to be Batman, Alfred reminds him that once you start something, you should really follow through.  Alfred suggests to Bruce that the city may need Batman after all.  Of course by the third film, Bruce Wayne has lost his way.  He has given in to his own ignorance and self-delusion.  He has walked away from his quest and Alfred, again the voice of reason pleads with Bruce not to be Batman.

After years of being idle, Wayne has lost his edge, and he faces new dangerous enemies he knows nothing about and fails to understand. Rather than retreating from his enemies, instead Batman charges head on into situations in which he has no hope of being victorious. This is where the movie version of Batman departs from the source material.  The comic book version of Batman would have retreated, studied his enemies and their tactics, and eventually moved in like a ninja, catching his foe unaware to kick ass and take names.

Michael Caine get carter shotgun2 resized

Instead, the Nolan movie version of Batman goes further down the rabbit hole.  He gives in to his own selfish false needs, his gives in to his own anger, desperation, rage, his need to prove to himself that he can still be Batman, and Bruce fails spectacularly when he is beaten physically and mentally by Bane.  Bruce is robbed of all his wealth and resources, cut off from his allies and then dumped in a third world prison.  Bruce then is his own worst enemy, and his spectacular failure seems to be what he needed to get him out of his Howard Hughes inspired self-exile.

Eventually Bruce Wayne comes back, he redeems himself.  He trains and reinvents himself like Rocky and other movie heroes.  But Bruce loses the one companion he has known his entire life. Alfred warns him not to continue his insane quest, and walks away, leaving Bruce to his fate.

Bruce Wayne redeems himself as Batman, but betrays his relationship with Alfred.  He destroys his relationship to the man who raised him and cared for him his entire life.  Bruce betrays Alfred by not telling him that he is alive after the resolution of the terrorist actions by Bane and Talia that threatened the city.  The crisis has passed, and what possible reason could Bruce have for not telling his friend, father and mentor that he is in fact still alive, and did not die in the bomb blast, we, the audience never find out.

At the end of The Dark Knight Rises Bruce/Batman is revealed as still alive, but the pain and anguish that Alfred went through because of Bruce’s deception will take a lifetime to heal, if at all.  The ending is bittersweet, as we see no evidence of Bruce Wayne attempting any reconciliation or re-connection to Alfred, the man who has been by his side his entire life, and whom he conveniently cut loose when the relationship no longer suited him.

On the one hand, we can say Bruce Wayne is a spoilt rich brat, on the other hand we can see his dedication and commitment to being Batman and serving the common good is total, and he is willing to sacrifice his friends, father figure, his wealth, resources and ultimately his own life.

Alfred Pennyworth Butler Batman the animated series

Starting in Batman Begins, Alfred supports Bruce in his one man war on crime, but he never really fully approves of Batman.  When Bruce insisted on becoming Batman, Alfred reluctantly supports him in his choice, but his loyalty is never in question.  It would be quite reasonable for Alfred to walk away and have nothing to do with “Batman”.

It would be reasonable to go to the cops when your former employer starts punching criminals in the face while dressed up at night because of his childhood trauma rather than going to therapy or burying his misery in a bottle of booze.

The fact that Alfred never does any of these things speaks volumes of his character and integrity.

Alfred’s actions also suggest that he is not just the Wayne family Butler,  but also Bruce Wayne’s primary care giver, the man who raised him more than his own father did.  The man who has been by his side his entire life, supported Bruce, loved him and never let him down.

Few of us in the real world have it so good.  Despite Bruce Wayne going through a terrible trauma and loss of his parents as a child, he was never truly without parents in the sense that Alfred was always his third parent, and continues to be his parent, mentor and counsel even as Bruce begins his career, obsession and calling as Batman.

The conflicting nature of the Bruce / Alfred relationship is one that has been tested to the limits in both Chris Nolan’s films, and in various comic book stories.  Most people have heard of Batman and Robin, but few appreciate how integral Alfred is to Bruce Wayne.  Robin, whether Dick Grayson, or any of the subsequent people to take up the role of Robin, can never be Batman’s equal.

Bruce Wayne found in young Dick Grayson the boy he thought he had lost, his inner child.  The child he so desperately lost in himself, who never got to grow up with his parents.  The death of Dick Grayson’s parents (also a murder) means Batman reliving his trauma, and knowing how it affected him, wants to guide young Richard Grayson to a happier, healthier life than Bruce had after the death of his parents.

Richard Grayson looks up to Batman, and sees the man he wants to become, while Bruce looks at Dick as the child who he never got to be, the child who died along with his parents the day Thomas and Martha Wayne were brutally murdered in a back alley.  Bruce, Richard and Alfred then are an impromptu family.  Alfred is the wise elder in the family, and guardian of the family traditions, while Bruce Wayne is the progressive rebel who cares nothing for tradition, and insists on doing everything his way.  Alone, Bruce, Dick and Alfred are broken men, but together they are a great team, and family.

While the Robin we know from the Batman comic books was not part of Chris Nolans Batman Trilogy, Alfred very much is, and that core relationship remains, proving to be the most emotionally resonant and satisfying relationship in the three films.

micahel caine smoking black and white still handsome bastard he is

Aaron Eckhart as Two-Face: Gotham’s White Knight B

harvey-dent I belive in harvey dent Two Face Aaron Eckhart The Dark Knight Nolan Bale Ledger

Aaron Eckhart could have been Batman.

He has the square jaw and intensity of Batman, the charisma, charm, slick confident attitude and good looks to be Bruce Wayne.

It seems fitting that an actor who could have easily played Batman / Bruce Wayne ends up becoming Two-Face.

Two-Face has been handled differently in the comics according to the values of the day, and who was writing the character.  In his original inception, he is a knock off of a Dick Tracy era “ugly gangster with a gimmick”.

The split in half suit of contrasting colours, double sided coin and split personality were a gimmick that made Two-Face distinguishable from other comic book or pulp villains.  The classical look of Two-Face speaks to the era of guys in suits, Al Capone era bad guys, mob enforcers and other similar crooks and made men.

The modern day version of Two-Face plays up the similarities and differences between Bruce Wayne and Harvey Dent, and gives more emphasis to the psychology of Two-Face rather than just the gimmick clothing, coin and gangster schtick.

In Batman: The Animated Series the early years of Bruce Wayne and Harvey Dent show the two of them as friends and contemporaries.  Both men are passionate about law and order, and genuinely care about proactively fixing the corrupt city they live in.

Two Face Aaron Eckhart The Dark Knight Nolan Bale Ledger

The relationship of Bruce Wayne and Harvey Dent was retroactively established in Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One. Comics are a strange medium where time is fluid, where events can change seemingly without warning.  The next retcon (retro-active continuity) is only just around the corner for most modern characters.

When the friendship of Harvey Dent and Bruce Wayne was established in the Batman comics, set during his earlier years in Millers Year One, it retroactively meant that every story before that was now affected by this new continuity.  It meant the relationship had always existed, even if stories  in the previous decades had failed to mention it.

That Harvey Dent / Bruce Wayne relationship endures in most modern interpretations of Batman.  Nolan’s The Dark Knight takes it cues from Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns, Miller’s Batman: Year One and Jeph Loeb’s The Long Halloween.

The movie version of Two-Face is played by Aaron Eckhart as Gotham’s White Knight, a bastion of goodness, moral virtue and incorruptibility.  He is a day time version of Batman, who needs no mask and operates within the law, he exists as a bold contrast to Batman’s Dark Knight.

Thank you for smoking Aaron Eckhart Two Face Aaron Eckhart The Dark Knight Nolan Bale 2 sm

In some ways The Dark Knight is more the story of Harvey Dent than Bruce Wayne.  The entire film sets up Harvey Dents’s inevitable fall from grace, he is used as the Joker’s example (one of his many pawns) of how even the best of us can become rotten inside, if we were not already rotten to begin with.

Even the best of us can turn our backs on our own highest values and dreams, and instead be overcome with anger, grief, depression, vindictiveness, the need for revenge or to take out our frustrations on the world, rather than owning our behavior, and accepting the roles and responsibilities as authors of our own lives.

Harvey Dent’s transformation into Two-Face comes about not because of the scars on his face, the damage to his body, but because of the unbalancing of his fragile mind.  He becomes Two-Face because of his psychological scars, although the movie does hint that he has a hidden dark side.

A throwaway line earlier in the film has Gary Oldman’s Gordon refer to Dent as “Harvey Two-Face”, a name he had been called by former associates. Whether this meant he was genuinely bad, or just unpopular because did his job so well, putting criminals behind bars (many of whom who had were in league with corrupt cops) is unknown.  The Joker does not make Two-Face so much as give Harvey Dent a small push at a critical point in his downfall.

Had the Joker hospital room conversation with Harvey taken place earlier in the film, Harvey might have laughed it off. Instead in his fragile, weakened and traumatised state, he subconscious is laid bare, he openly lets the Joker’s foul ideas into his own mind, and accepts them as his own.

Two-Face is one of the most popular villains in the long running various Batman comic books.  While it was good to see him used in the Nolan Batman Trilogy, we only see Harvey Dent become Two-Face towards the last third of the film.  He could have been the main villain in a Batman film, rather than a side-note.

A one time gimmick character who appears only sporadically through Batman’s first thirty years became a staple in the Bat mythos of the seventies and eighties and has been used regularly since then up until the modern day era.  The character has enough complexity and depth to him that there are more stories yet to be told with Harvey Two-Face.

Considering the amount of characters, plots and sub-plots that must be given screen time in the Dark Knight, Aaron Eckhart does an excellent job with the Two-Face character.

Two Face Aaron Eckhart The Dark Knight Nolan Bale 2 movie conept poster

I really enjoyed Aaron Eckhart’s performance, and would have liked to have seen more of him as Two-Face in the Dark Knight film, before his untimely demise at the hands of Batman.  Despite his strict “no-killing” policy Batman manages to cause the death (directly or indirectly) of a major villain in each of Nolan’s three Batman films.

Whoops, so much for those values and codes of behavior Batman holds so dear.

One weaker element of The Dark Knight is Dent’s relationship with Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal) which seems under baked at best.  Poor Rachel seems to exist in a man’s world, where despite being a strong, feisty independent woman, her role still revolves around the men in this fictional world.

In Batman Begins Rachel wants to be with Bruce, but that does not work out as Bruce will not give up being Batman.  In The Dark Knight, she is with Harvey Dent, but then he dies.  It is assumed that between the films she reverts to the strong independent solo women she supposedly is, but any time we see Rachel on screen – in either film – we only see her reacting to events caused by the male leads, or being saved by Batman who is also secretly Bruce Wayne, or being held hostage by a villain.  She fails to exist as her own character separate from the male heroes and villains.

It is no secret that women come off second best in Christopher Nolan’s films.  They are there to serve the plot, and the male leads.  Nolan is no more guilty than the majority of other mainstream films in a patriarchal society that is content to churn out multiple male superhero leads every year, despite roughly half their potential audience being women.

Rather than being second-stringers, it is long past the time when we should be seeing female leads in superhero films, there are no shortage of characters to choose from.

But getting back on topic, I really liked Aaron Eckhart as Two-Face, he was a welcome addition to the Nolan Batman franchise, and his face looks truly horrific in the film.  I was surprised how graphic and detailed his realistically damaged face looked on screen.

I winced when I first saw it, but the horror fan in me was proud of the special effects and attention to detail shown in Dent’s exposed eye socket, jaw, teeth and muscle and connective tissue.  In The Dark Knight Eckhart shows us some of his best talents.

He shows us his charming best qualities – the slick charismatic and genuine guy we saw in Thank You for Smoking, the leadership  qualities he displayed in Battle: Los Angeles and the softer, fragile tender side he displayed in Rabbit Hole with Nicole Kidman.

I think Aaron Eckhart is a wonderful actor, and I have enjoyed following his career and hope to see him in more films that really utilise his talents and have him grow as an actor and a human being.

Two Face Aaron Eckhart The Dark Knight Nolan Bale 2

Have you read these other Nolan Bat Trilogy posts?

Why Christian Bale is the Batman Gotham Deserves

Christopher Nolan – The Intellectual Knight Gotham needs

15 Greatest Quotes on Ledger’s Legendary JOKER Performance

Heath Ledger’s Legendary JOKER Performance PART#2

Why Christian Bale is the Batman Gotham Deserves

Christian Bale Batman Bruce Wayne

I never want to feel that I’m playing it safe. -Christian Bale

A few years ago… well, MORE than a few years ago my best old mate would not shut about some guy called Christian Bale.

“Who’s he then?  Never heard of ’em” I said.

“Oh, he’s good, you gotta watch him in The Prestige, or The Machinist!” he replied.

“I don’t know what the hell you are talking about, I’ve never heard of those films… and I don’t know I care to continue this conversation, good DAY Sir!”

“Trust me, you have GOT to watch them, you’ll thank me man”

And so it went.

Except the “good DAY Sir part” from Willy Wonka, I added that in just now.

So one lazy afternoon, weeks later after I had finished work and *completely* forgotten the conversation with my friend I ambled into a video rental store from the last century and saw the cover of some movie that proclaimed it was “Memento meets Fight Club!”  Well, balderdash and poppycock!  I love both Memento and Fight Club, and surely this was another wild and irresponsible claim that would prove to be a bald faced lie.

But then I remembered my mate who was raving about The Machinist from a few weeks back. I decided that it would probably be crap, but I would watch it just to prove whoever wrote that steaming pile of hyperbole dead wrong.  I watched The Machinist later that night, towards midnight, the perfect time for a paranoid fever inducing film of madness and insomnia.

That quote on the front cover turned out to be pretty accurate. Fast forward in time and I watched The Bale in The Prestige, which became my favourite film for several years.  Not because of Bale, but because our man (I live in Oz) Hugh Jackman was in it, and I liked him in everything, even the crap films. Also,  David Bowie was keeping up appearance as Nicola Tesla, and Bowie is my favourite musician of all time, so I knew I had to watch it, at least for old Ziggy Stardust. Hugh Jackman Christian Bale The Prestige_800x532 The Prestige is without a doubt, Christopher Nolan’s best film.  The internal structure is so sound, that it makes criticisms of the plot in his later films such as The Dark Knight Rises and Inception even more poignant.

To be fair, The Prestige was based on a book, while Inception was not.  Inception is my favourite Chris Nolan film by far, and the one I have watched most next to The Dark Knight.  But while Inception is my personal favourite, I think that The Prestige is Nolan’s best overall film so far.  It became the mold for most of his following films, it established his working relationship with Christian Bale and “good luck charm” Michael Caine.

The Prestige sets up two warring adversaries – not unlike the Joker and Batman, and it features women marganalised by career obsessed men who abandon their loved ones perhaps for a higher calling, or perhaps just because they are selfish – similar to Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins, Cobb in Inception and Cooper in Interstellar.  While similar ideas were explored in Memento and Insomnia, The Prestige became the prototypical blueprint for a “Nolan” film, one he has not deviated far from ever since. After watching The Machinist and The Prestige I sought out any other films with Christian Bale.

American Psycho was tremendous fun, I loved Bale’s performance, Harsh Times was another highlight.  Bale became someone I went from never having heard of, to eagerly anticipating any upcoming film he might be in. I was genuinely excited when he was announced as Batman/Bruce Wayne in the upcoming Batman Begins, but  I never went to the cinema to see it.

Why not?

Two words: Joel Schumacher.

Joel SChumacher director Batman and robin Forever_800x571 Nicole-Kidman-and-Val-Kilmer-Batman-Forever George Clooney Bruce Wayne The bad taste in my mouth was still there from the previous off the rails lunatic high camp low intelligence Schumacher directed Batman films that I did not care for.  Every performance was turned up to ’11’, and not in a good way. Christian Bale brings a certain kind of intensity, passion and devotion to any role he inhabits.

The funny thing is, if you look at the other actors who have played Batman (not including the shitty old movie serials), all of the actors are pretty decent in their own way.  The two Schumacher films are total rubbish in my view, but both Val Kilmer and George Clooney I really like in a variety of other roles.

Val Kilmer I really dig in Spartan (that co-starred a young Kristen Bell, later sassy TV detective and crush of a million nerds Veronica Mars) and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang with Robert Downey Jnr.  Kilmer, while only briefly in Werner Herzog’s Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans alongside Nicolas Cage makes a strong impression that recalls his best work, and had me pleading to the movie gods to rescue Kilmer’s long dead career from Micheal Madsen levels of bargain basement crap.

George Clooney I have enjoyed in just about everything.  Out of Sight and Oceans’s 11, The Descendants, Micheal Clayton, Three Kings, Good Night and Good Luck, Up in the Air etc.  Yet his Batman is shockingly bad, so much so that Clooney has publicly acknowledged his performance was not good. Yet, I don’t blame Kilmer or Clooney for their performances.  An actor who does their job follows the lead of the director, writers and producers.  With the exception of the power players like Pitt, Dicaprio, Russel Crowe and friends who write their own ticket these days thanks to Producer credits, and long term friendships with bankable name Directors.  They can make or break a project if they choose to. Christian Bale Buff Batman Begins Shirtless vs The Machinist super skinny Body Transformation The Schumacher Batman films followed the Batman ’66 idea of over the top camp, there is nothing wrong with that – but they did it as a time when people wanted a darker version of Batman – at least the public did.

Meanwhile, the film studios felt that Tim Burton’s Batman movies were “too dark”.  Studios have been saying Burton’s films are too dark for over two decades now, despite the fact that most his films really are not that dark, if anything his films have become lighter in tone with the exception of the genuinely dark Sweeney Todd. How does any of this relate to Christian Bale?  Well, he is known for his passion and dedication to a performance.

But interestingly, if you look at the previous Batmen – Micheal Keaton, Val Kilmer, George Clooney – all of them I would call passionate and dedicated actors.  Except we don’t see that so much with them as Batman, but more in other films. Although, they don’t tend to put their bodies through physical extremes for roles like Bale in The Machinist, Rescue Dawn  The Fighter and Batman Begins. Bale’s dedication to total physical transformation, going from one extreme to another recalls the classic Bobby Deniro/ Scorsese pictures Raging Bull and The King of Comedy.  Denero transforms himself into a lean and mean athlete for the boxing movie Raging Bull, and then later an overweight comedian in The King of Comedy. The King of Comedy Rupert Pupkin Robert Deniro Raging Bull Taxi Driver Body Comparison Micheal Keaton for example is far darker as a recovering addict in the brilliant Clean and Sober.  Val Kilmer is far darker and more passionate as Jim Morrison in the Oliver Stone directed The Doors, or David Mamet’s Spartan.  George Clooney is far more brooding and dark in Syriana.  So each of these actors was quite capable of being a darker dark knight in the style of Chris Nolan and Christian Bale or Frank Miller or Denny O’Neil and Neil Adams. That they were not was really a reflection of the times, and what the studio wanted to put on screen more than anything.

It is easy to blame actors and directors for a poor movie, but for a studio blockbuster film made by committee, the fault equally lies in the people who dictate what the tone of a movie will be before it is shot, or a word of the script is written. The studio – in this case Warner Brothers – wanted a lighter tone for Batman and Robin after the dark films of Tim Burton.  In Batman Returns the movie starts with parents trying to murder their own baby, who later grows up to be the Penguin, despite their efforts.

The Penguin consumes a raw fish and later vomits blood in generous amounts, and yet later in the film Batman is harassed by cartoonish real Penguins with rockets strapped to their backs. The style of Batman Returns (thematically, not visually) is a bit of a mess.  In some ways it is the darkest Batman film ever made, in other ways it was already heading towards Adam West Batman ’66 style camp, BEFORE Joel Schumacher ever came along to ruin the dreams of a million children around the world. The idea that Nolan’s Batman is the darkest is somewhat erroneous.

For example, Micheal Keaton’s Batman kills goons left and right and dumps his love interests at the first available opportunity.  He seems amoral and uncaring, close to the original Batman in Detective Comics #27. By contrast, Christian Bale’s Batman goes out of his way to save lives, and is like a lovesick puppy-dog when he realises the love of his life has spurned him when he returns to Gotham.  So the idea that Burton’s Batman or Nolan’s Batman is “darkest”  kind of misses the point, both the Keaton and Bale versions of Batman are dark in their own way, and both are influenced by the same source material. Chrsitian Bale Batman Bruce Wanye Mansion

I start from scratch with each movie; I wipe the slate and I certainly don’t rely on some bag of acting tricks I’ve amassed over the years  -Christian Bale

Christian Bale came arrived at the right time.  He arrived when the world was ready to see another cinematic Batman that was more in line with the darker version of the Batman character that has been around since the 1970s. The foundations of the modern day Batman were laid down by the Neal Adams (artist) and Denny O’ Neil (writer) run in the 1970s.

They re-established Batman as a super cool character.  A globe trotting spy and man of action like James Bond, who had over the top adventures, and he even got a cool Bond like villain in the form of Ra’s Al Ghul. Frank Miller established the darkest version yet of the Batman in The Dark Knight Returns in the 1986 prestige format four issue mini-series that was later reprinted in a single volume and has remained in print ever since.

Dark Knight Returns is the single most influential Batman story ever published. Miller followed this up with Batman: Year One which Nolan’s Batman Begins draws on heavily for its story and themes.  Allan Moore wrote The Killing Joke in 1988, the only story as dark, if not MORE dark then The Dark Knight Returns. Batman 404 1987 Year One_390x600 The Killing Joke well and truly re-established the Joker as a psychotic amoral mass-murdering lunatic, and that version has become the main version of the Joker in recent decades.  The Joker had been portrayed in many different styles over the decades, sometimes he committed pranks and robberies, sometimes he was a killer, his personality varied with the times, as did Batman.

The Killing Joke, and a few other key stories would lead to the eventual metamorphosis Heath Ledger would undergo for The Dark Knight. All of the great Batman stories ultimately paved the way for a dark knight that was embraced in the modern era, who was closer than ever to the modern comics version of the Caped Crusader.  Christian Bale had the intensity, passion and dedication to pull off both Bruce and Batman in a believable manner, quickly becoming a fan-favourite Batman on screen.

Of all the big screen Batmen, he perhaps is closest to the character in his values. Bale is passionate, dedicated, unrelenting and determined in his acting career, and I feel that this puts him a cut above any actor to put on the cape and cowl so far.  To be Batman means being the best version of yourself you can be, it means making sacrifices instead of being soft and lazy, to be Batman requires that unwavering dedication and iron-will, and Christian Bale has no shortage of that.  He is by far my favourite live action Batman, and I am glad he took the role seriously.