Batman, eh. What is it that makes a grown man dressed up as a bat so appealing. What?
As a young person (and oh those years seem increasingly distant) Batman was always my favourite superhero. The cool kids all liked Superman, but I was the one as school that liked Batman. I even made a Batman mask out of cardboard and – possibly the best thing I ever made as a kid – I made a utility belt. Which I wore around the house. When my parents got a new washing machine the box became the Batcave. (My brother got to be Robin, and I fear he got a raw deal.)
And I’m surprised to discover that the character still fascinates me. I saw Batman Begins yesterday and, Katie Holmes’ nipples aside, I thought it was a wonderfully crafted film. I could go into the reasons why, for individual performances, cinematography and direction, I thought it was a fine film. but that still wouldn’t explain why I came out of the cinema wishing I could start avenging crime dressed as an oversize flying mammal.
But nearly all the Batman films did that to me. I love the 1966 film (the scene where Batman tries to dispose of a bomb remains one of the funniest scenes in cinema history as far as I’m concerned) and to my mind the Tim Burton films near perfection. You can keep the Schumacher films (well, there’s a single scene in Batman Forever involving the Riddler and Two-Face which I like, but I’ve never made it past the first fifteen minutes of the dismal Batman and Robin).
And I’ve never read any of the famous graphic novels, for, out alas, having delusions of culture I tend to read real novels. But maybe I should change. I like looking at pictures, after all. And I do have fond memories of Batman comic strips. There was a great one where Batman proved a man innocent of murder in a court scene by showing that the defendent couldn’t possibly have killed his victim without crushing his hat in the struggle, yet the hat was uncrushed.
But a man dressed as a bat in a court of law – how stupid is that? And even in my pre-teens I was faintly aware that his defence had certain holes in it.
So why on earth did the concept appeal to me? I would love to reference the Christopher Nolan interest in Bruce Wayne’s loneliness, so brilliantly brought to the screen in the latest flick. And a Batman annual detailing the origins of the character did make a lasting impression on me – after all, Bruce Wayne’s parents are shot in front of him, that’s pretty nasty. Also the loneliness of Batman and his desire to fight injustice are things he shares with the other great love of my youth, Dr Who.
But I fear that’s not the real reason I loved – and love – Batman. No, on reflection I think the real reason I love Batman is that I think it would be so much fun to dress up as a bat and have all those brilliant toys. No other superhero has so many toys. Or a utility belt. And let’s face it, that’s the only element that’s consistent throughout the franchise.
There you are. I’m not automatically drawn to human suffering, the fight against injustice and the pain of existence. I just have a shallow desire to dress up and play with toys.