Robocop Becomes Batman
Peter Weller has confirmed that he will be doing the voice of Batman for the DC Animated: The Dark Knight Returns Parts 1 & 2.
I have to say that the animated movies have been rather hit and miss with me over the past few years. I wasn’t overly excited by the Superman/Batman films, even though they touted such a great cast in getting Kevin Conroy and Tim Daly back for their respective roles as Batman and Superman. I felt that their adaptation of Batman: Under the Red Hood stood out as one of their best. It introduced Bruce Greenwood into the role of the character, and he did a great job with it. I commend the entire cast of that film for a job well done.
With The Dark Knight Returns, this is one story I wish they would stay away from. I know why they aren’t, but this is everything about the current generation of Batman that I love to hate. For those who have never read it; Bruce Wayne has been forcibly retired from active duty. Superman has been working for the government for years, and crime in Gotham has shot through the roof. The resident gang; the Mutants, have been ravaging the good people and finally Bruce snaps. Once again donning a version of his costume, he modifies his equipment and goes on a more-often-than-not lethal campaign to clean up the streets.
I could go on about the storyline, but it’s been regarded as one of the must read comics of all time. You can find a copy anywhere. If you’re not interested in that, the I recommend going to the Wikipedia page on it. Here you go!
In regards to these films; Peter Weller is fairly good casting for this version of Batman. I’m not a huge Weller fan, but I do like Robocop. For all intents and purposes, without the actual body mechanics, this is what Bruce becomes in this storyline.
Bruce Timm’s thoughts on Weller are:
“He definitely brings all of the world-weariness of the character and inner core of optimist covered in a cynical shell.”
And about these movies:
Dark Knight Returns is the granddaddy of beloved comics properties that we’ve ever attempted… There is definitely the imperative to get it right.
It’s understandable why Timm and company went for this story. The money that they could make from a well-adapted storyline could help the budget for the next line of animated films. Business aside, it makes me sad to see it. Mr. Timm has always been a sort of hero on the inside to me. These films are such a departure from the long-loved DC Animated Universe.
I also think it’s noteworthy to mention the optimism of Batman in this story. Not to further disagree too much here, but I really don’t remember Batman being optomistic in this story. As a matter of fact it’s his pessimism that seemingly drove him from retirement. In a twisted version of what made him become Batman in the first place, he came to the conclusion that there was no one that would step up to the plate and deal with the real problems plaguing the city. In order to become a deterrent, he became someone who wasn’t afraid to put down the bad guy. It didn’t matter whether it was a beating gone too far, the gang of people in his name roaming the streets, a sniper rifle, or the villain that breaks his own neck trying to escape the “hero.” It’s not that I don’t want to believe that a hero believes in optimism, but this version didn’t seem to be optimistic about anything. He expected things would go down badly and planned for the event. Batman usually does this, but always to the effect that it will give him enough time to figure out another solution or be able to explain what’s going on to the other hero. This old man became the Punisher, which is the age old “Hero vs. Anti-Hero” discussion. Batman is in category hero.
If you’ve read our page or listened to our podcast, then you know why I don’t condone such things with Batman. Batman doesn’t kill for a reason. Why? Well, the publisher said that they didn’t want him to come across as the Shadow. He was too close to the mark, and making him deliberately lethal wasn’t helping matters. So the explanation was given that Batman doesn’t kill because he hates guns. He hates them because his parents were murdered with one. It’s a cowards weapon, and criminals are a cowardly lot.
I won’t be going back through the entire diatribe. If you want to read more on the subject, there are several in our library for it. The most recent being the Avengers article I posted. However, that doesn’t say I don’t have more to say on the subject that I didn’t say there. To me, it’s important that I discuss this for full effect.
Batman in adult comics format: Yes, I believe Batman lends himself very well to a Rated R movie. Gotham is gritty and full of psychopaths who are capable of atrocities that PG isn’t going to cover. That doesn’t mean it HAS to be an R-film. The suggestion of something horrid happening, when done properly, can be far worse. It lets the imagination wander into what’s going on. All of a sudden you’re placed into the role of victim. It’s frightening when you can’t desensitize to the situation because you’ve seen a ton of fake gore. In an adult Batman film, it just means that the writer and director don’t caricatures of the characters. They’re not comedic and campy, nor are they Steven Segal in kevlar/nomex weave tights. A hero doesn’t have to kill to make the scene work. As Troy has always been fond of pointing out, you would be surprised what you can live through.
Giving Batman an edge: He’s Batman… What other edge does the man need? He was trained to be the top of his physical and mental game. He’s studied the arts and himself to achieve a balance. Some people ask how a man in a bat-costume is sane? Let’s put this in real perspective here. We’ve established the in-story stance on things. Batman doesn’t like guns because they’re a cowards weapon. He’s made a vow that he’s going to bring down every last criminal for the evils that they do. It happens that the most frightening image from childhood stuck with him; a bat. If you see the things in silhouette during the oncoming night, those things can be frightening. It’s creepy when there are several and they’re screeching to get around! Now picture a rather well built man in a similarly shaped costume jumping from a rooftop at you? His eyes are covered with some sort of lens that gives him an supernatural look. Yeah, it’s going to frighten the absolute hell out of you. Then when you’ve gone to urinating yourself, he starts to beat the crap out of you for breaking the law. The man considered what he was doing and for that reason. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm goes into good detail as to why DCAU Batman came up with the costume. There’s rhyme and reason behind it.
Why doesn’t Batman kill: A short quote was given to me a long time ago. I don’t know if it’s part of a larger quote, but it goes something like this:
Kill the spiders and save the butterflies.
It’s rational until you realize that be striving for it,
you become a spider yourself.
It simply means that you become the thing you hunt. Batman is the antithesis of this. I know that we’ve gone over this above, but this is a point I want to instill most vehemently. Pointing again to the DC Animated Universe, let’s look at the pilot for Batman Beyond. We have an older Bruce who is wearing a costume meant to help out his well-honed by failing body. During a rescue, he starts to have a heart attack, and realizes that things are going to get worse for him. He manages to grab a gun that’s lying on the floor from where one of the thugs he bashed had dropped it. He points it, to which freaks out the lead of the group and he runs. The look on Bruce’s face when he had to pick it up was one of complete defeat. That night he quit, saying simply; “Never again.”
The man would rather quit than to kill someone. He tries to help rehabilitate these people. Obviously there are some cases that won’t ever be cured. However, he has to try. There has to be that little hope in the bleak. Some manage to make good and become better people, but the psychos are another story. They are the foils to the Dark Knight. He has to stand as an example to others and to the memory of his parents. It’s not hard to figure out when you sit there long enough and think about it.
To wrap it up; I know how anticipated this is going to be. It’s also a way to keep people in the thrall of Dark Knight fever once the Nolan Batman is gone, or it will give them something to latch on to if Nolan bombs this last film. This was one of the big inspirations to his series, you can almost see it, which is why I think people will end up loving it and wanting more. Though it begs me to ask, why must our heroes be portrayed this way? In a world full of grim and bleakness, can’t we have our bright spots? Batman might not be what Superman is, but when the signal goes out over the city, there’s a glimmer that whatever wrong that’s been done will be put to rest. When broken down to the archetype, he’s someone to look up to. Some one who shows the perseverance of a human in a metahuman world.