Adaptations are a tricky business. Just ask Alan Moore or Uwe Boll – though, admittedly, not for the same reasons.
Promotional Art for Frank Miller's 'Batman Year One' Trade Paperback
At the best of times your source material has a rabid following who will, once you've announced your intentions, scrutinize your every move – down to the the colour of underpants your hero may, or may not, wear under, or over, their costumes.
And at the worst of times... well... you should click on the Alan Moore link (above) before you go on to the rest of what I've got to say...
Most times our worst fears are realised (see Uwe Boll for the worst case scenario) but sometimes... sometimes the improbable does actually happen...
The planets align and everything in the universe works in harmony and in sync with the efforts of a select few individuals who have the patience and the tenacity to get it just right – in the manner most suited to the medium in which they operate and wield almost magical powers over.
Such are the Batman films by Christopher Nolan (collaborating in no small part with David S. Goyer and Jonathan Nolan).
Promotional Art for 'Batman Begins'
I've already pissed and moaned about 'The Dark Knight' (2008) not getting more Oscar nominations, at the least, for best adapted screenplay.
My short, unvarnished, opinion; it should not only have been nominated but should have won.
The adaptation of Batman ['Batman Begins' (2005) and 'The Dark Knight'], by Nolan and Co. is spot on. They jettison what really would not work in a film adaptation and even when they keep stuff, they adapt it to propel the story forward;
Rā's al Ghūl is no longer an ageless alchemist who is forever resurrected via Lazarus Pits – rather he is a succession of individuals who take over the mantle, with more or less the same objectives as their predecessor, thereby sustaining the myth that is Rā's through the centuries.
The money stored in the warehouse is burnt – in the comics by Batman, but in the film, because this story requires it and rings true to its almost organic development, by the Joker.
A comparison – Comic [Batman: The Long Halloween]
vs. Film [The Dark Knight]
There are several more such instances, and not all of them big – some so seemingly insignificant that one might wonder why the effort was made to put them there. Yet even those little extras contribute and enrich our experience of the film.
Then there are the new bits – still ringing true to the core of the character. The Tumbler and the Bat-pod would irrefutably be the most 'iconic' changes. They're very different to what we see in the comics BUT they're raw, utilitarian beasts with a focus on function; to get the job done efficiently – sacrifices have been made in the design, much like that of the Bat-suit, but even then it's an exercise in the maintaining of efficiency and efficacy.
And how about the symbolism that is alluded to in Batman Begins (and the comics) of being 'more than just a man', of being 'incorruptible'?
Turns out that this Batman is so hardcore he's not only incorruptible by evil – he won't be corrupted, technically one might say, by good either (go see the films if you haven't already – it's seriously more than comic book, bubblegum pop – seriously!).
Artist Jim Lee's rendition of Batman
If this is not classic Batman, the core of the character brought forth, then you sir/madam don't get Batman.
Remember, his unrelenting cause is justice and justice is not always black and white and neither is it, at times, immediate or fair.
Jim Gordon illustrates this best when, in The Dark Knight, he says of Batman;
'… he's the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now. So we'll hunt him because he can take it. Because he's not our hero. He's a silent guardian, a watchful protector. A dark knight.'
That might not work in the real world but it sure as heck works in film – and it works brilliantly in the capable hands of Chris Nolan.
Promotional Art for 'The Dark Knight'
After the Debacle (yes with a CAPITAL, italicised and bold 'D') that was Batman and Robin (1997) [Shudder.] I had all but given up hope. And when Nolan took over I was hoping just for a more than decent 'reboot' – something that would bring back a semblance of... dignity to the farce the Batman films had become. And maybe, just maybe, hoping, against all odds, that it might be a bit more...
Boy did he pick that ball up and run with it. Heck, he kicked it out the ballpark – out the stratosphere even!
In the words of Mr. Broodypants (Batman) in The Dark Knight;
'… sometimes people deserve more. Sometimes people deserve to have their faith rewarded...'
Messrs Nolan, Goyer and Nolan – thank you.