Eighty years ago, Bob Kane gifted the world with Batman. In those eighty years, countless artists, writers, directors, and screenwriters have delivered all kinds of unique perspectives of the Dark Knight. More so than just about every other superhero depicted in movies and television have these writers have taken more liberties with the Caped Crusader than you can shake a Penguin umbrella at.
He’s danced the Batoosie and tortured criminals. He’s enjoyed the lavish lifestyle being a billionaire playboy affords him and he’s been haunted by it. He’s driven convertibles and all-terrain armored tanks. He was all camp on TV and film until Tim Burton’s Batman brought the Batman back to his dark, haunted roots. Nearly twenty years later, Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy went even darker and made at least two of the prior four films look like Adam West was back in the cowl. But there were still some things that both the Burton and Schumacher adventures did better than Nolan’s Bat-flicks. Here are 10 Things The Original Batman Movies Do Better Than The Dark Knight Trilogy.
Anne Hathaway might be a very talented actress and so is Michelle Pfeiffer. Let’s face facts, here: the whip twirling, bird eating Catwoman far exceeds anything Hathaway’s Selina could do in The Dark Knight Rises.
Pfeiffer put out some of the best work of her career in Batman Returns while Hathaway seemed like she was just going through the motions for some of The Dark Knight Rises (so did anyone not playing Bane or Gordon). Lastly, the outfit—the iconic beyond-tight, vacuum sealed leather Catsuit—became iconic and inspired dozens of poster thefts in bus stations across the country.
9 The Wonderful Toys
Some might consider this a toss-up since Batman always has some cool tech in every movie. But the sheer lunacy of the original movies wins out over the real-life take of the Dark Knight.
Remote-controlled Batarangs over shuriken-inspired ones, comically huge pistols against some knives. There’s really no way that Nolan’s movies could ever compete with a giant rubber ducky and an army of fighting penguins.
8 The Batplane
The Bat made its debut in the entire Bat-universe in The Dark Knight Rises. It’s quite the eyesore! It was made clear very early on that the Batman preferred function over form, but a top-heavy hovering black slab can’t be as functional as the more sleek and aero-dynamic Batwing.
That aircraft made its debut in 1989’s Batman and it was actually also the first aircraft that Batman used that actually looked like a bat. Not to mention the classic shot of the ship making the bat-signal in the moonlight.
7 Gotham City
In Batman Begins, Christopher Nolan took on the Herculean task of building all of Gotham City on a soundstage. But in some areas, it looked too real.
Throughout the trilogy, the real world approach didn’t help to capture the incredible gothic architecture of Gotham. This is where Burton was at some of his production design best. His vision of Gotham is tall, dark, and teeming with all sorts of spooky visages.
6 The Music
Be honest—the second you read the heading, you heard Danny Elfman’s now-iconic Bat-theme. Besides the Joker’s theme in The Dark Knight, not much of Howard Shore’s Bat-scores are nearly as memorable.
For Elfman, the main theme transcended the movies and made its way to The Animated Series while Shore’s only kicks in during those pulse-pounding scenes. Plus, PRINCE! The Purple One’s wildly over-the-top sound somehow fit the original movie completely.
5 Michael Keaton
The debate will rage on forever and a day as to who the best Batman was and who the best Bruce Wayne was. And each and every Bruce Wayne / Batman combo (even including George Clooney) has their merits.
But Michael Keaton had the right amount of dark foreboding menace and gallows humor. If he wasn’t believable in the original ‘89 movie, we might not have had any of the films that followed it. No other Bruce has the gumption to “get nuts,” either.
A lot of Bat-fans' first foray into their Bat-fandom came in the form of the classic Adam West / Burt Ward Batman TV show. It was funny, silly, and not geared at all to the “traditional” Dark Knight character. Who cares? It helped show Batman to lot more people!
That fun is completely devoid in the Nolan movies, which isn’t a knock against it, as the stories don’t call for it. If you’re looking for some ‘66 Era tributes, look no farther than the latter two Schumacher films. Certainly, a lot of fans were hoping they’d continue in Burton’s image, but instead, they were campy films in their own right. “Holy rusted metal, Batman!”
3 Led To The Animated Series
Had it not been for the success of both Batman and Batman Returns, fans might now have been treated to one of the best cartoons of all time: Batman: The Animated Series. The show was created by the team of Paul Dini, Bruce Timm, and Alan Burnett. The trio took their inspiration directly from Burton’s Batman films.
Have there been any Batman animated shows using The Dark Knight trilogy as its template? So far, the most successful animated Batman movies we’ve gotten since are in LEGO form.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt shined in The Dark Knight Rises. As Officer Blake, he was a worthy sidekick, aiding Batman in his war against Bane. He and Bruce’s fates were seemingly linked since the day Bruce Wayne visited the orphanage that John Blake grew up in.
But he wasn’t Robin, no matter how much Nolan shoehorned it in as the kid’s middle name. Which means, of all things, Batman And Robin did much better introducing Dick Grayson as so far the one and only Robin to be realized in live-action.
1 Love Interests
Sure, Rachel Dawes’ life and death were integral to the heart of Bruce’s story in The Dark Knight trilogy. She is able to inspire Bruce during his quest to save Gotham.
But it was cool to see Bruce Wayne truly embrace the playboy facade of his character and date a beautiful girl every movie. Maybe the Bruce Wayne of the earlier movies took the advice of the Alfred in the Nolan movies and, in pretending to have fun, actually began having some.