With Batman now having endured continuous publication since 1939, it comes as no surprise that so many different interpretations exist. I mean, just look at how many directors and actors have brought a different slant to the character in movies alone, the medium from which most people likely know The Dark Knight. And here’s the thing, not one take has actually been “wrong.” Few icons prove to be so malleable while also managing not to stray from their intrinsic characteristics, something that no doubt contributes to the character’s longevity.
One of the most influential creators to ever touch The Batman is undoubtedly Frank Miller, who not only shifted the paradigm for the Caped Crusader in the mid-1980’s with his seminal work The Dark Knight Returns, but also turned an entire industry on its head in one fell swoop.
Even if you haven’t read that graphic novel or any others related to it, you’ve felt its reach. From Tim Burton’s Batman to Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy to Zack Snyder’s Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice – the most prominent example due to it featuring an aged Bruce Wayne donning a mech suit – Miller’s fingerprint is omnipresent.
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Variety recently had the privilege of sitting down with Miller and asked in which direction he would steer the film franchise if he had creative control. Here’s what he had to say:
“My dream would be to make it much smaller. To lose the toys and to focus more on the mission, and to use the city a great deal more. Because he’s got a loving relationship with the city he’s protecting. And unlike Superman his connection to crime is intimate; it has been ever since his parents were murdered. And he defeats criminals with his hands. So it would be a different take. But it will never be in my hands, because it would not be a good place to make toys from. There wouldn’t be a line of toys.”
What he says certainly has merit, seeing as how Batman is a highly introspective character and that’s not always something you have time to explore in a two-hour movie. Still, toy lines will always be ever present. Even if an R-rated Batman film ever graces cinemas, you would still see premium figures hit the market.
On a similar note, his ill-fated project with Darren Aronofsky was brought up as well, and here’s what Miller said about that:
“That screenplay was based on my book “Batman: Year One,” and yeah it was much more down to earth. In it a fair amount of time is spent before he became Batman, and when he went out and fought crime he really screwed it up a bunch of times before he got it right. So it was 90-minute origins story.”
Being someone who’s read a draft of that screenplay, I can confirm that it was a more intimate story, but it did stray quite a bit from the source material despite having the same writer. Furthermore, it would have most certainly received an R-rating, something WB wasn’t ready for and ultimately led to their settling on Nolan’s Batman Begins to reinvigorate the franchise.
If you’re looking to satisfy your Batman fix and don’t plan to sit down with one of Miller’s books, I highly recommend watching the animated movies Year One and The Dark Knight Returns, both of which are incredibly faithful to their source material.