Comic Adaptation Week: Michael Mann's Batman

When the first ten minutes of The Dark Knight made their way onto the internet and it was sorta just a straight rip of the bank robbery in Heat, it sorta justified my thinking that a Michael Mann-helmed Batman movie would be perfect. It wouldn't gross as much money as Nolan's and it'd be way more polarizing but it would be a better better for sure. Where most of our ideas have been rejections of Hollywood's dark variation on the comic book hero, Michael Mann's a director who could bring that kind of hyper-modern, brooding to Batman and make it work.

His Batman would be an adaptation of the Loeb/Sale trilogy--Long Halloween, Dark Victory, and yes, Catwoman: When In Rome. For Mann, that Catwoman tale would be just as important, as there's always this contrasting focus in his films on women. Catwoman/Selena plays a prominent part in Dark Victory and her absence is felt by Batman/Bruce (think of the romantic longing in Thief or Miami Vice or Public Enemies) and Mann could easily weave Selena's time in Rome into a rather epic story of Gotham city. All Mann movies have these kind of weird, "why is this in here?" tangents to them, and this one would provide greater characterization to Bruce's relationship to the women in his life--something every Batman movie's failed to do.

Mann is a Chicago director and though Nolan kinda already based his Gotham on Chicago, Mann is also an internationalist, and could provide a great deal more sensitivity to the portrayal of the fictional city. Think of how low-rent Mann made Chicago look in Thief, or how epic Los Angeles appears in Heat, or how smoothly he translates between the glitz of Miami and the near-third-world-ness of its trailer parks--it's the kind of all-over-the-place, multi-layered urban life, one that bleeds into one another quite easily, that Mann excels at portraying.

Most importantly though would be Mann's ability to inject some real character and feeling into the Batman character. There's too much pseudo-stoic, gruff talk in the Batman movies. Batman can't talk like Bruce Wayne, I got it, but that it always comes out like a guy doing a tough-guy voice is ridiculous. One of the best aspects of Mann's movies is his ability to understand the roles people, especially men, play and the way that person's "reality" seeps through to their "character" in one way or another. Nearly every Mann character's already doing the Batman thing, they all talk like ridiculous hard-asses, but when it comes to the drama, the real acting, when they've been betrayed or fucked-over or had their heart broken, he allows them to subtly shift, not do a 180, and it's all the more affecting because you see and hear the cracks in the armor. Obviously, Colin Farrell in wounded Sonny Crockett mode would be Batman.


Richard said...

I would totally watch this. The Dark Knight, while not completely awful, caused me a lot of pain.

One thing that bother me about the Nolan movies, and I get why it's like that, but it still bothers me: the suit. The suits in the Burton movies bother me too. I mean, I get Batman's suit seems too unrealistic--as if a guy could survive without armor an' stuff--but, dude, it's Batman. He's a comic-book character. The suits in the movies are way too bulky, too stiff. And I'm not fond of the military-industrial linkage, though I know why it makes a certain sense. (Is it just me that this stuff bothers?)

samuel rules said...

I actually love the weird military stuff, even though it's sorta stupid that anyone could figure out who Batman is, it's sorta this Ironman thing from the comics, where everyone knows but no one knows.

What bothers me is that Batman isn't scary, there needs to be more myth. The suit doesn't freak you out, like once you've seen him and lived to tell the tale, it's just this super armored suit, it's not like in the comics where he's always covered in darkness or by his own cape.

Jesse Reese said...

I can get what you are saying, Richard. There's definitely this subtext in a lot of Batman comics that Batman can dodge bullets, or at least is so skilled that he takes guns out of the equation. The Nolan/Burton suits are this Dark Knight Returns spin where Batman is this urban solider or something, which goes past his original intention to stop crime onto combating it. It's like SWAT team vs. Homicide Division.

But yeah, the thing is that there aren't many alternatives unless maybe you go the Wes Anderson/Batman: Snow route.

What do you guys think Mann's take on the suit would be?

brandon said...

I totally agree. I basically hate all the Batman movies, for a lot of reasons, but yeah the absurd stiff suit, like he's in super-tight clothes so he doesn't bend or move as much as he does just like lean his body in this direction or that one.

I think after 'Iron Man' especially, one's gotta investigate the military industrial stuff. I feel like we discussed Iron Man at some point and though you were hardly as hyperbolic about it as I was, that it even attempted to mess around with you know, one's role or one's place in the world if you make weapons or gain your intelligence from weapons (like Batman) is cool.

The military industrial stuff is especially problematic in the last Dark Knight b/c it was such a muddle terrorism metaphor--or something?

seth hurley said...

I can see Mann's take on the suit just being a SWAT uniform with a cape. Not Nolan's quasi-futuristic combat suit, but a contemporary police uniform. Stripped down, totally realistic, just boots, cargo pants, vest, helmet & goggles.

Mann's films & television have always used the contemporary fashion of the times and the Batsuit would be reflective of that.

Mann's Batman would get horribly fucked up in a fight; blackeyes, broken bones, stabbed, & shot.

I imagine it ending with Batman putting his cigarette Batboat on autopilot & dying on the way back to the Batcave.

you guys should check out this review of an imaginary Eastwood/Peckinpah Batman film if you haven't