Sunday, 5 August 2012

Batman Continuities

We have learned to live without a single continuity. Not only do the comics, if you read them, change:

Golden Age;
Silver Age;
New 52

+ Imaginary stories & Elseworlds

(please don't worry if you don't understand any of that)

but also there are four screen continuities:

the cinema serials of the 1940's;
the TV series, with accompanying feature film, of the 1960's;
the film tetralogy of the concluding decades of the 20th century;
the film trilogy of the opening decades of the 21st century.

In Greek drama, as in Pantomime, the story was already known but audience interest was in a new presentation. Will this dramatist make better sense of the sequence of events and of the characters' motivations? In the Batman mythology, the characters are already known but their relationships can change.

Usually, Joe Chill kills Bruce Wayne's parents and the Red Hood becomes the Joker but, in the 1989 film, a new character, Jack Napier, played by Jack Nicholson, kills the Waynes and becomes the Joker, thus unifying the film somewhat. In the execrable 1992 film, one new character was Selina Kyle's employer, Oswald Cobblepot's political backer and a business contact of Bruce Wayne, thus unifying that plot even more. In the 1997 film, a Batgirl who is not Gordon's daughter but Alfred's niece keeps the Bat team within the Wayne household.

The Dark Knight (2008) really made me think that Jim Gordon had been killed at an early stage, thus contradicting continuity, but, of course, his death had been faked. Heath Ledger powerfully played a completely different and original version of the Joker. It looked as if he was falling to his death as Jack Nicholson's Joker had done. Of course, the Batman, who does not take life, had to save him but, ironically, the actor died before he could have re-played the part - and I don't think that anyone else will match it.

The Dark Knight Rises (2012) made us think that Bane was Ra's al Ghul's son, then revealed that not Bane but Ra's' daughter Talia, helped by Bane, had escaped from literally life long imprisonment. In different continuities, Dick Grayson has become the first Robin either as a young boy or as a teenager. In The Dark Knight Rises, Robin, already a young man and not yet in costume, first appears after Wayne's career as Batman has ended. Since the story is well told and powerful, we appreciate, instead of resenting, these new perspectives on established characters.

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