Batman has and presumably always will be an important part of pop culture. People love the Caped Crusader and his adventures. An ordinary human being, Bruce Wayne’s mortality is what makes him so relatable, earning him a genuinely impressive-sized fanbase. Everywhere you look, there’s Batman, especially when it comes to movies. There are many who feel the Christopher Nolan Dark Knight films ushered in a renaissance for superhero movies. They changed the landscape of the medium and forced critics and even some moviegoers to embrace the genre more fully. Once Heath Ledger debuted as the Joker in The Dark Knight, it was like an atom bomb went off. People were floored by the actor’s portrayal of Batman’s greatest enemy and realized the potential of superhero movies.
To this day, many consider The Dark Knight to be one of the, if not the, best superhero flick. Even if that is the case, both Nolan’s Batman Begins and The Dark Knight Rises left quite a bit to be desired for the overarching series. To the chagrin of many, the series is far from perfect. Today at CBR we’re looking at 15 different things Christopher Nolan for wrong about Batman with his Dark Knight trilogy.
15 THE VILLAINS
Unquestionably, one of the most memorable things about the Dark Knight trilogy was Heath Ledger’s amazing depiction of the Joker. As ruthless as he was cunning, the Joker had little qualms with trying to make everyone else see his particular brand of madness. Ledger’s Joker set the bar for every superhero movie villain that would follow.
Yet while the Joker made The Dark Knight iconic, the other two movies didn’t do nearly as well. The baddies in Batman Begins and The Dark Knight Rises didn’t receive high-grade treatment. Rather, Jonathan Crane, aka the Scarecrow, was overshadowed by Ra’s Al Ghul. Ra’s mystic background, one of his more intriguing aspects, was completely cut from the films. Talia al Ghul was an uninteresting femme fatale with a half-baked scheme to destroy Gotham. Bane became known for his goofy voice, and Two-Face whined a lot.
14 BATMAN'S COSTUME
Batman is iconography personified. Aside from heroes like Superman and Spider-Man, Batman, and his Batsuit, is one of the most recognizable fictional characters on the planet. His suit is perfect and only in rare and precise instances does it ever need to be altered. Batman’s outfit in Nolan’s Batman universe is incredibly problematic. It’s essentially a bunch of disjointed pieces fitted together haphazardly. There’s no elegance or beautify to its design. It just looks cheap.
Batman’s cape also suffers. It does nothing for him in the movie, besides helping him glide a little bit, but it fails to even blend in with the suit. It’s a deeper shade of black, which completely ruins the solid effect of night that Batman represents. In turn, the illusion that criminals are looking at a giant bat is ruined and is replaced with the feeling you’re looking at a guy wearing a costume.
13 THE BATMOBILE
Batman has a lot of cool toys. Thanks to being a multibillionaire, Bruce Wayne can afford to buy and make military-grade armaments for his war on crime. One of the many reasons fans of Batman wish they were the Dark Knight is because they’d like access to all the fun gizmos and gadgets dwelling in the Batcave, with the most popular one being the Batmobile. From the Adam West years all the way through the Schumacher movies, Batman’s Batmobile was front and center. It played important parts in nearly every movie and no one could ignore just how awesome it looked.
The Batmobile is suspiciously absent from Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. Yes, we know there’s the Tumbler and that it resembles the Batmobile, but they aren’t the same thing. People wanted to see the Batmobile and instead all they got was one hulking mess of a car.
In the annals of film, Robin the Boy Wonder, Batman’s famous sidekick, has only been featured in Batman Forever and Batman & Robin. Portrayed by Chris O’Donnell, Dick Grayson was written as overly impulsive, but at least it was an honest attempt at bringing the character to the big screen.
Christopher Nolan could have planted Robin in his grittier world with his tragic origin. Instead, viewers got John Blake. It was, without question, one of the series’ biggest ham-fisted inclusions. Blake was a GCPD officer who somehow uncovered Batman’s identity by recognizing a special look in Bruce’s eyes. It was dumb. At the movie’s end, Bruce gives him the keys to the cave and Blake’s name of Robin was revealed. Having Robin relegated to a throwaway reference was disappointing beyond measure.
11 BRUCE WAYNE'S PERSONALITY
Bruce Wayne’s personality is not easy to represent on screen. The character is incredibly layered and complicated, what with all the varying psychosis going around in his head. While he channels his trauma when wearing the cowl, Bruce is great at pretending to be completely normal when out of costume. Yet in or out of costume, Batman is an excellent leader and doesn’t have to try hard to convince others to stand by his side as they face insurmountable odds. His strength of character is more powerful than any punch he’s thrown.
Whether it was the script or Christian Bale himself, Bruce Wayne in the Dark Knight trilogy lacked any charisma. His allies only side with him because he tells them to. The personality he did demonstrate revolved around awkward jokes and despondent stares into nothingness. The little emotion he showed was used with Rachel’s death.
Alfred Pennyworth is generally recognized as Batman’s trustworthy butler and caretaker. Their bond is unbreakable, especially since Alfred actively plays the role of mentor and father to Bruce. When Michael Gough played Alfred in the Batman films, he portrayed the butler as a wise elder Bruce could seek counsel from, while occasionally cracking a dry joke.
Michael Caine assumed the role in the Nolan trilogy. Alas, here the butler was reduced to a nagging old man. Though his heart was in the right place, he served as an obstinate roadblock on more than one occasion. Nolan’s Alfred didn’t have any meaningful impact on Bruce and his life. Even Nolan apparently realized this since he had Alfred leave Bruce’s side in The Dark Knight Rises. The act was a futile gesture, as it did nothing to deter the Wayne in the long run.
9 BATMAN'S VOICE
An important part of being a superhero is making a distinction between your regular day-to-day voice and your superhero voice. It helps mask your identity, especially if you don’t have anything covering your mouth. When it comes to Batman, almost as important as the cowl, is his disguised voice. In the movies, each actor approaches the voice differently. Some simply change their tone, while others didn’t change anything at all.
Nolan’s take on Batman was accompanied by Christian Bale’s now infamous guttural growl. The voice was so far removed from a regular speaking voice, that sometimes you had no idea what Batman was saying. It didn’t take long for people to start mocking Bale’s voice. Sadly, it remains one of the most memorable things from the franchise.
8 COMMISSIONER GORDON
In the comic books, Jim Gordon is an amazing detective. He doesn’t always get the spotlight, since Batman is the primary hero, but there’s a reason why the Dark Knight respects Gordon so highly. The grizzled detective has endured some of the worst Gotham has offered, including its villains, and just like Batman, managed to come out on top. Before Nolan’s series, the films never portrayed Jim Gordon in a positive light. He was typically seen as ineffectual. The Dark Knight trilogy introduced Gordon as a beat cop and graduated him to commissioner.
Still, the central problem remained: he wasn’t a great policeman. He failed to take out the corrupt officers in his department. The silliest thing of all was that by the final movie, nearly every main character knew Bruce was Batman. Gordon, a world-class detective, was the last one to find out.
7 THE FIGHT SEQUENCES
When it comes to Batman, the first thing that pops to people’s mind, aside from being incredibly intelligent, is his physical prowess. Batman is one of the greatest fighters in the DC Comics Universe; hardly anyone can hope to defeat him in a hand-to-hand confrontation. On the other hand, The Dark Knight trilogy had Batman rely uncomfortably on his gadgets rather than his fighting skills.
That isn’t to say Batman wasn’t capable of taking on groups of thugs, but there’s a surprising amount of rolling around with bad guys and shouting angrily (as seen when he fought Bane) while throwing wild punches. Sure, Batman uses gadgets in the comics, but he doesn’t need them, like how he seems to in Nolan’s movies. Additionally, the cinematography wasn’t that impressive. The editing made the fights really choppy and almost sloppy-looking -- it didn’t work for Batman and his character.
When it was announced Bane would be a villain in the Nolan trilogy, fans couldn’t be more excited. With Nolan’s flair for gritty superhero realism, it was a chance to see the iconic Knightfall storyline play out in dramatic fashion. Considering the first time Bane appeared on screen was in Schumacher’s Batman & Robin, it wasn’t exactly a tough act to follow.
As for Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises, the only moment from the comics that made it into the movie was Bane’s signature backbreaking move. After that, the plot loses any semblance of cohesion. Bruce is crippled, left behind in a prison, and conveniently finds a doctor who punches his spine back into place. Just as quickly, Bruce is back and thrashes Bane. It was a wasted opportunity to see what it really meant to have Batman defeated, rather than reducing Bane to a cheap lapdog of Talia.
5 THE LACK OF DETECTIVE WORK
Throughout his history, especially in comic books, Batman is often referred to as the “World’s Greatest Detective.” In the comics, he spends lots of time trying to piece together crimes. In past films, Batman solved puzzles presented by Edward Nygma and things like that. While the theme wasn’t played heavily in the early movies, they at least demonstrated a bit of Bruce’s intelligence.
The Dark Knight trilogy hardly bothered with detective work, a central theme to the Batman mythos. In Batman Begins Bruce didn’t figure out Ra’s scheme until the end. In The Dark Knight, he attempts to deduce the Joker’s identity, and fails. He then simply hits Joker repeatedly until the villain reveals Rachel’s location. Finally, despite being Batman, he doesn’t figure out Miranda Tate’s real identity in The Dark Knight Rises until after the fact. Ultimately, Nolan’s Batman was an awful detective, and more of a brutal vigilante.
4 THE BATCAVE
The Batcave is Batman’s home away from home. Better yet, it is his home. When Batman is not jumping around rooftops looking for criminals to punch, he’s investigating murders and mysteries in the confines of his Batcave. Batman spends so much time in the Batcave that Alfred has to try and pry Bruce away from the Batcomputer so he can get a couple hours of sleep.
In several Batman movies we’ve seen Bruce Wayne spend ample amount of time in the Batcave, but in Nolan’s trilogy, it’s almost like the Batcave exists solely to appease Batman fans. Batman hardly spends any significant amount of time in the Batcave, but that might be because, as stated in Batman Begins, it’s not really finished yet. In The Dark Knight it's being rebuilt and he uses a garage under a construction site, and in The Dark Knight Rises it barely appears.
3 GOTHAM CITY
Gotham City is Batman’s home. It’s the city he protects and would give his life for. In the comic books, Gotham City is as much a character as Batman, the Joker, or anyone. Often represented as something out of a nightmare, it’s always a question why people would actively choose to live in a place that’s a magnet for killer clowns and ninja assassins.
Gotham City is gothic. Christopher Nolan’s Gotham City is a massive departure from what Gotham ought to look like. To the casual observer, it looks nothing like Gotham, but just another metropolitan city. Batman likes hanging out on gargoyles, but where are the gargoyles? Where are the shadows waiting around every corner that offers suggestions of danger and malcontent? At the end of the day, Nolan seemed perfectly satisfied with turning Gotham City into Chicago and then taking a break for lunch.
2 BATMAN'S LOVE INTERESTS
One aspect of Batman’s long comic book history that gets constant attention is the assortment of significant others who have come and gone in his life. No matter the woman, they have each impacted Batman in different, but equally meaningful ways. That’s one of the reasons why it was so exciting to see Catwoman and Talia al Ghul battle it out over Batman in recent comics. You got a sense as to what each woman brought to the table for Batman and what he in turn means to them. Earlier films have tried to replicate Batman’s loves, but were hampered by changing actors, directorial visions, and whatnot.
The Dark Knight trilogy had plenty of time to introduce romance into Bruce Wayne’s life. Unfortunately it stuck with the uninteresting Rachel Dawes for a movie and half. After her story ended, the trilogy tried using Selina Kyle to equally unexciting results.
1 SETTING THE TONE FOR THE DCEU
When Man of Steel debuted in 2013, comic book fans were ecstatic that they were going to be getting a DC Extended Universe… and then they saw the movie. This would lead to many saying that DC Extended Universe is too dark and grim. Many are happy to point out the light-hearted Marvel Cinematic Universe, considering it the standard of superhero filmmaking; DC suffered from taking itself too seriously.
However, it’s easy to see why DC and Warner Bros. chose to take that specific approach. Moviegoers glorified The Dark Knight trilogy, making the films some of the highest-grossing titles in history. DC hoped to capitalize on this success by applying the same formula to Superman, the Justice League, and everyone else. Warner Bros. misinterpreted the love audiences felt with Batman and automatically assumed the same thing would work for every hero. It didn’t and it doesn’t.