With vomit-inducing exposure to the likes of Mr. Freeze, Poison Ivy, Bane, and Batgirl , movie-goers forced to endure the atrocity that was Batman and Robin had nothing good to say about a comic book franchise that had seemingly flatlined the instant George Clooney agreed to play Bruce Wayne's alter-ego, the third actor to reprise the role. With every star (Arnold Schwarzenegger, Uma Thurman, Alicia Silverstone) that signed on to to be a part of Joel Schumacher's Razzie-worthy project, the Batman story became more about marketability and less about comic book mythology. Seven years later, Christopher Nolan (mastermind behind the films Memento and The Prestige) opted to give the series a 'reboot,' recapturing the essence of Batman with a dark, introspective look into Bruce Wayne's psyche and Batman's principled origins. Thanks to Mr. Nolan, loyalists to the DC Comics production were given Batman Begins, one of the best comic book adaptations to reach the silver screen in recent years. Starring a devilishly good Christian Bale, Batman Begins thrived off gripping performances by Liam Neeson, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman, and Cillian Murphy, who parlayed the film's success into roles in Red Eye and The Wind that Shakes the Barley. Batman's revival allowed for a fresh take on the Caped Crusader, one that will continue with Friday's premiere of The Dark Knight, a film that needs no additional billing. Regardless, here are five reasons to engage in a summer blockbuster that will surely live up to the hype that Spiderman 3 and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End could not.
5. Recall just how important Batman Begins was to the franchise.
It took the directorial efforts of Tim Burton and Schumacher three films before they decided to inject an origin story into the storyline of their collective Batman chronicle. Nolan, giving the crowd exactly what they it wanted, incorporated Bruce Wayne's martial arts background and clandestine findings of the criminal underworld into the lore of the Gotham Knight with his masterwork, Batman Begins. Batman never looked so dark (like Burton before him, Nolan paid homage to Frank Miller's mid-1980's portrayal of Batman), so militant, so aggressive, and above all, so human. His decisions affected the people around him and the city he tried ever so hard to protect, a pursuit met by Wayne's search for his identity and place in Gotham City. Wayne's story was rife with betrayal (Henri Ducard's expectations for a young Wayne's place in the League of Shadows), lost love (his fractured relationship with Rachel Dawes), and ambition (what can a symbol like Batman do against the crime lords of Gotham?). All in all, a bold way of telling Batman's story.
As part of Batman's origin, we understand how Wayne procured such mind-blowing technology like the Tumbler: it was all delivered courtesy of Lucius Fox, a character reminiscent of James Bond's Q. With each addition to Nolan's Batman series, fans will be eagerly anticipating the gadgets, tools, and vehicles that will be at Batman's disposal (in The Dark Knight, we will be introduced to the Batpod).
3. Out with the old (Katie Holmes's Rachel Dawes, Neeson's Ra's Al Ghul) and in with the new (Aaron Eckhart's Harvey Dent, Maggie Gyllenhaal's Rachel Dawes).
At the expense of dumping a boring portrayal of Dawes and a great villian like Al Ghul, The Dark Knight will be replaced by Thank You For Smoking's Aaron Eckhart (a brilliant film in which Eckhart, ironically, starred opposite of Katie Holmes) and a 'refurbished' Rachel Dawes, played by bad-girl Maggie Gyllenhaal. As is custom with any Batman film, the Caped Crusader, at one point or another, will face two villains, primarily, the Joker, secondarily, Dent's reincarnate Two Face. Dent plays an antagonist on a number of levels, going so far as to sweep Wayne's sweetheart Dawes off her feet. Despite the failure of the multi-villain approach (see Batman Returns and the aforementioned Batman and Robin), Nolan made it work in Batman Begins and will surely devise a way of making it work again in Batman's newest installment.
Film veteran Michael Caine went so far as to favor Ledger's undertaking as the Joker over Jack Nicholson's, a role he was ultra-renowned for. Said Caine about Ledger's performance, "Jack was like a clown figure, benign but wicked, maybe a killer old uncle. He could be funny and make you laugh. Heath's gone in a completely different direction to Jack; he's like a really scary psychopath. He's a lovely guy and his Joker is going to be a hell of a revelation in this picture." While filming, Caine was so taken aback by Ledger's Joker that he could not recall his lines. Channeling the role of Alex in A Clockwork Orange, Ledger prepared for his Dark Knight act by living in isolation in a hotel room for a month, nailing the Joker's mannerisms, psychology, posture, and voice by the sojourn's end. Will it be Oscar-worthy? We'll have Friday's premiere to see for ourselves.
1. Batman is a superhero needing no super powers to fight crime.
Nolan's take on the series is as much about Bruce Wayne as it is the symbol he morphs into on a nightly basis, the Dark Knight himself. By extrapolating one of his innermost fears into a crime-fighting persona, Wayne, ever-so ferociously, battles past demons he felt he created in the first place (the death of his parents). If Batman Begins is any indication of Wayne's fragile mindset, then The Dark Knight will delve even deeper into Bruce Wayne's ego and ambition. Wayne's chemistry with Alfred (or should I say, Bale's connection with Caine) will serve as another great subplot that will only be matched by the Joker's pursuit of the Batman, the heart of a 152-minute epic that will deliver the goods---you have the word of this V-List contributor to back that up.