As Batman and Superman finally share the same film together in what Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor is calling “the greatest gladiator match in the history of the world”, we here at Audiences Everywhere have orchestrated a Batman/Superman match-up of our own. Namely, we would like to establish who has the better filmography: Batman or Superman? Does Batman come out on top with his seven films or does Superman beat him with his six films? Are there bad representations of these characters on film? All that and more shall be topics of discussion in the fierce debate between own Diego Crespo and Anton Reyes, and by the end, you, the voter, can champion the deserving winner.
Batman Has the Better Filmography: Diego Crespo
What makes a great superhero? Is it the amount of suffering? How seriously they take their job? The weight of their tasks? Every superhero is different. And you will find few superheroes that fall under the same umbrella of “same but different” heroics as Batman and Superman. So naturally we need to compare and contrast to see who has had the better movies and who is the better DC hero on screen.
Note: I’m only talking live action movies. There were already more Batman than Superman movies, so I’m evening the odds a little. Sorry, The Lego Movie. By now you all know who the best cinematic superhero is.
Batman has always had an overwhelmingly positive response from audiences and critics alike. Everyone loves their Batman. It helps that he’s had some of the most respected directors tackle his biggest theatrical outings.
Batman ’66 is not the serious, brooding dark hero that we know today. It’s an adaptation of a series full of childlike wonder and bright color palettes that were representative of its time. All is fair in love and comics, and this series loved to show the audience a good time. It introduced bat shark repellant. And who could forget “Some days you just can’t get rid of a bomb” into the public zeitgeist. It’s a commonly darker superhero with a comedic edge approach. It was secretly revolutionary. We need more movies like it. All hail
With Batman and Batman Returns Tim Burton had crafted two superhero movies, neither of which were very true to Batman as a character (Good Christ, the murder) but atmospherically and aesthetically, Burton had made something unlike any other live action comic book to date. The roots of the material were firmly planted in representing what it was like to live in Gotham an entity comprised of gothic pulp. Clown mobsters dance to Prince, a small Penguin man searches copes with being rejected by the world, and a resurrected woman empowers herself with a cat costume. Two out of the three are even thematically relevant! Sadly, it’s our titular dark knight who gets the shaft in these films with all the interesting and meaty story bits focused on the villains. And the night is darkest just before the dawn. We had a good long while to go before things got better.
It’s important to look back at mistakes in history as we should learn from them in order to not repeat them. Sadly, it appears we have much to learn when it comes to bad Batman movies. Thankfully, only two of them range from hilariously bad to hysterically awful. That’s the beauty of bad Batman movies, they’re still entertaining.
Joel Schumacher’s orgy of neon infused Gotham was like someone bumping the contrast and saturation up by 200 percent to splash a dash of artificial entertainment. If we didn’t have Batman Forever, would Seal have had the same career without “Kiss From a Rose” in the end credits of the film (and that YouTube video I made on my spare time)? Probably not. Batman & Robin is a trash comedy masterpiece with infinitely quotable dialogue and an infinite amount of drinking games to be played while watching it. We all win here. Except for George Clooney.
The best news news is the fustercluck of inconsistent tonal mismatch and toy-selling attempts led to the franchise requiring complete overhaul from another visionary director in Christopher Nolan.
Starting a franchise from the ground up and re-working it for modern context, Nolan’s Batman focused on something the films had only scratched the surface of: Bruce Wayne. The man behind the mask was fully explored with no stone unturned. Part trauma survivor, part man driven by honor bound duty, Christian Bale’s Batman/Bruce Wayne is one of the most empathetic heroes in blockbuster history because of how he fits into these predetermined structures that stand for symbolic goods and evils.
The modern architecture was a welcome change of pace from over-lit color extravaganzas, but the metaphorical structures and confines of justice, fear, and hope were the main focus of the trilogy. Upholding the law by working outside of it, this is the first live action Batman worth following for an entire trilogy due to his moral obigation and constant exploration of his relationships with people and the city of Gotham.
The Burton Batman may have been 100% comic book but Nolan’s features each had their own distinct identities. Batman Begins showcases a Blade Runner inspired Gotham. The Dark Knight delves into a more modern, flashier Gotham resembling Chicago, or Michael Mann’s filmscape interpretation of Los Angeles from the crime epic Heat. The Dark Knight Rises is a bit of both. Part overt science fiction and part disaster movie, Nolan and his DP Wally Pfister ended their trilogy by promoting the most extravagant version of their Gotham.
And on the topic of The Dark Knight trilogy, these films undeniably have the best villains in Batman movie history. Ra’s Al Ghul, Scarecrow, and Carmine Falcone lead the troupe of villains in Batman Begins, each character personifying an aspect of fear to be overcome in order to save Gotham. The Joker of course is pure anarchy, an uncontrollable vessel only throwing nonsense and violence among the citizens of Gotham which Batman must defeat to return balance to his once glorious home. Heath Ledger’s critical praise for his performance is not undeserved. Bane ranks high on the most under appreciated villains list with Tom Hardy’s performance relying entirely on body language and intensity communicated through his eyes.
Each villain not only represents a different challenge for Bruce Wayne physically and intellectually, but they personify varying aspects of his heroes journey and the story of Batman. Tie that with the fully rounded character of Bruce Wayne in the series and I think it’s clear which hero had the better franchise.
Batman | Superman