Monday, August 4, 2008

Batman In The Movies - Sillier than 'Swear to ME!'

Glad to see I'm not the only one. When I first saw The Dark Knight in early July, one of my biggest issues was the over-the-top, obscenely goofy vocal put-on that Christian Bale affected for Batman. Whether it was aided by audio effects, or whether Bruce Wayne himself uses a voice modifier on his suit, it's still a silly voice. Sounding basically like a young weakling trying to sound older and more bad-ass, it's been compared to McGruff: The Crime Dog and it's been compared to 'sounded absurdly deep, like a 10-year-old putting on an `adult' voice to make prank phone calls.' (a reference actually referring to Bale's voice in Batman Begins, but far more accurate a description for The Dark Knight).

I'm all for Wayne changing his voice as Batman. I love the bit in the pilot for Batman: TAS when Batman, in costume, switches to his Bruce Wayne voice to take a phone call. But the issue is the quality of the voice he chooses. The voice in Batman Begins was a little shocking, mainly because no actor had made that choice (to intimidate with primal fury rather than subtle threats and sly posturing) in a prior Batman project. Still, it was effective and only slightly goofy in certain spots ("It's not who I am inside, but what I doooooooooo that defines me." comes to mind). Had Bale just stuck with that voice this time, it wouldn't have been nearly as silly.

But this new voice is even more over-the-top raspy, with a more affected lisp thrown in for good measure. It's not a deal breaker, but it does lessen the effectiveness of several dramatic scenes (especially towards the end, when he uses the voice in long, thoughtful and/or quiet conversations). And I'm glad I'm not the only one annoyed.

Oh, while I'm thrilled that Jake Coyle gave credit to the vocal performance of Kevin Conroy (correctly noting that many fans consider him the definitive Batman), he makes the lazy mistake of stating that Batman: The Animated Series came from "DC Comics of Batman as envisioned by Frank Miller, whose work heavily informs "Batman Begins" and "The Dark Knight."

First of all, once again, dark and gloomy Batman was not invented nor was it patented by Frank Miller. From a previous related essay-

Oh, and for the record, despite what writers seem to keep saying, Batman comics were dark, introspective, and violent again by 1969, a full seventeen years before Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns. Yes, it was a groundbreaking piece of social satire, but crediting Miller with single-handedly saving Batman from the camp of the 1950s and 1960s is a slap in the face to Neal Adams, Denny O'Neil, Steve Englehart, Marshall Rogers, and all of the other writers that did so much good, truly groundbreaking work in the 1970s and 1980s.

Second of all, if you watch the show, it takes bits and pieces from every era of Batman, but it feels to most resemble the tone of the 1970s Batman comics. Batman was a dark, driven adventurer with genuine issues, but he was not a sociopathic nutcase. He was able to maintain relationships with friends and quasi-family. The villains were murderous and somewhat three-dimensional, often sympathetic, but never so overburdened by psychosis that it overwhelmed the story telling. Ironically, this was the era that Batman Forever seemed to try to emulate, with mixed success (aside from Jones' terrible portrayal of Harvey Dent). But Timm/Burnett/Dini/Radomski beat them to it by a full three years.

Scott Mendelson

No comments:


Related Posts with Thumbnails