The development of the Batman series has played well into my life's progression. As a grade schooler, I was brought up watching the Warner Bros tv series with Rino Romano...you know it well by the animated "KUNG POW" and "BAM" type phrases. It was a rudimentary series, a poor man's Power Rangers with the weaponless fighting of mobs and ultra cool gadgety vehicles, and it was perfect for a kid. Then there was the Tim Burton series featuring Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson as Joker. My taste for hero-villain action was not so sophisticated as a young teenager so these films were the bee's knees. Michael Keaton's flamboyant curly hair, subtle lisp, and generally not-so-tough demeanor sticks out now, as well as the fact that the Joker could have just been a cartoon he had so much makeup on (thanks for showing us how it's done, Heath Ledger RIP). It was still cool to dream up spacey villains like mister freeze played by none other than the governator (ahhneld). To sum up Batman from the 80's thru to the 90's, it was like taking an 'action sledgehammer' of sorts to a 'wall of fans' and crossing your fingers they wouldn't dig into the subtleties of the plot and character development.
Now fast forward to 2005, the year my favorite movie was released 'Batman Begins.' It was as if director Christopher Nolan parted the clouds to look upon us Batman fans and hand us down his masterpiece. Just as I had grown to place importance on things like development, detail, and maturity..so did the Batman series. Finally we have an understanding, or better yet one person's interpretation, of what Batman really is. No - he's not wearing a cape because he up and decided to be the next superman...and no he didn't decide his life's work would be to live in a cave and drive an armored car around town (that's pretty cool either way though). A darker, more realistic attempt at character development in 'Batman Begins' turned me into a believer whereas before I was the subject of entertainment. That was kind of the apex of my Batman experience, because unfortunately I believe the subsequent films 'The Dark Knight' and 'The Dark Knight Rises' increasingly transition into action-emphasized plots and get away from the character development that laid the foundation for my peaked interest. Nolan masterfully put together the Joker (as mentioned, played by Heath Ledger) for 'The Dark Knight' but in my opinion that was his only saving grace. After that, we see a huuugely segmented movie that goes from 'Batman vs. Joker' quickly to 'Batman vs. Two-Face / Harvey Dent' in which both are ended and resolved, leaving us thinking "wait, what?" Then we move on to 'The Dark Knight Rises' and though I appreciated the attempt to circle back on Ra's al Ghul, it was a spotty and incomplete attempt. As I was watching Joseph Gordon Levitt climb into a waterfall as the newly minted robin, batman carrying a nuclear bomb off with a super nerdy helicoptor / hovercraft into the ocean, and bruce wayne's butler crying at bruce's fake funeral, I lost a lot of respect for what Christopher Nolan had done so far. Batman can revert to its "KUNG POW" nature and I'll still watch and be entertained but I'm afraid I won't be a believer anymore!!