English towards the criminals, but to the audience

English Literature SBA

Julian
6D1 (7)

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Batman was created in
1939 by Bob Kane and his collaborator Bill Finger. The general idea of the
character was that he was an “ordinary” man and that the batsuit gave him his
special persona. The character was heavily influenced by the movies The Mark of Zorro from 1920 and The Bat Whispers from
1930. Supposedly,
the suit of Batman was meant to be mainly red with black as a secondary colour.
But both Kane and Finger came to a consensus that the colour scheme would have
been too bright and that it would not highlight the ominous tone that they
wanted to give. With the character being revolved around that idea, the colours
of black and grey were chosen to give a fear factor. Therefore, my thesis is
that throughout the batman films, the batsuit is progressively becoming more masculine
to the point of the ridiculous hyper-masculine form of armour to create an ominous
and dangerous atmosphere not only directed towards the criminals, but to the
audience as well.

 

The character already
became very popular before it was shown on film, as it was first shown in comics. Eventually, the
character had its own movie in 1943 (Starring Lewis Wilson as Batman) and was
simply called “Batman”. This was
the first time the Batman was ever shown on the big screen. (See Photo 1)

 

Photo
1: Lewis Wilson as Batman in “Batman”
(1943)

 

By contemporary
standards, the suit would be considered a joke. It was low budget and was
overall poor in quality. The actor wore a spandex suit, covered himself with
what looks like a curtain as a cape, an unusually large belt, oversized underwear,
a loose cowl and a pair of gloves and boots. Although it may seem the like
black and white film made it difficult to illustrate what the director fully
wanted to show, the black and white feature made it appropriate for batman’s
theme of creating an ominous presence. At the time everyone thought that batman
was still a menacing crime fighter, even with such an appearance. Contemporary
audiences would see an adult wearing a ten minute made Halloween costume. The
idea of masculinity highly depended on the physique of the actor since a
feature of spandex is that it is skin tight and highlights the body. Batman
just cannot look scary or masculine if he was out of shape in that suit.

 

About six years later,
the next Batman film was introduced, “Batman
& Robin” (1949 starring Robert Lowery as Batman), and Robin finally
gets some acknowledgement. The whole suit was basically reused from the 1943 Batman
film except that there was a new actor for batman. (See Photo 2)

 

Photo 2: Robert
Lowery as Batman in “Batman & Robin”
(1949)

 

However, there were technical
problems encountered while filming both the 1943 and 1949 movies that made
Batman look silly. One of the problems was the cape which was too large. In the
middle of an intense fight, his cape always got in the way when swinging a
heavy punch. (See Photo 3) Although fighting scenes make the character seem
masculine and all that, this type of accident however made the situation less
intense and even funny to see the mighty Batman struggle with his inanimate cape.

 

Photo
3: Technical difficulties with the batsuit

 

The cape even fell off at
one point and yet they kept going, knowing how much of a nuisance it was to
retake. The criminal that Batman was fighting even discreetly helped him. (See
Photo 3) Another problem was the cowl, it was too loose. During Batman’s
dialogues in the movie, his cowl would sometimes get misaligned with his face. (See
Photo 4) This was due to the cowl not being fastened or tightened as it was not
a mask that covers the whole face nor was it connected to the suit; it was a
separate piece.

 

Photo
4: Batman’s misaligned cowl

 

You can only imagine
that everyone couldn’t keep a straight face if he told you to look at him in
the eyes. Minor details such as these put an impact on how people would see
batman, which makes him less masculine and more of a crime fighting goof.

 

For “Batman: The Movie” (1966 starring Adam
West as Batman), coloured film was introduced and new aspects of emotions and
costumes emerged. It is as if the movie has embraced the goofiness from the
previous movies. The film had contrasting themes all around. You can say that
the film was opposite from the past two films with its 1960’s camp aesthetics.
There were contrasting colours such as Batman’s blue and yellow (See Photo 5),
Robin’s green and red, and one of his enemies’ light blue and pink.

 

Photo 5: Adam West
as Batman in “Batman: The Movie”
(1966)

 

The film generally does
not take itself seriously and is more of a comedic movie that is suitable for
children. Pop up texts during fights like ‘Krunch!’, ‘Zlonk’, ‘Klonk’, ‘Bam’,
‘Kapow!’ gives the movie a cartoonish and comical theme to it. Batman was no
longer the serious, mysterious and threatening crime fighter that they knew of,
he was a silly and funny persona. He even blatantly corrects Robin’s grammar at
one point of a chasing scene1. And just by the picture
alone, he looks like he came straight out of the comic books, especially with
those drawn in eyebrows. (See Photo 5) Obviously the silly and funny persona
does not make Batman more masculine and perhaps even does the opposite. The
only form of masculinity shown are pretty much the fighting and once again the
physique of the actor in the spandex suit.

 

In “Batman” (1989 starring Michael Keaton as Batman) and “Batman Returns” (1992), the movies took
huge a shift of how the batsuit looked as it became more threatening and hypermasculine.
(See Photos 6 and 7) The film from there on ultimately and literally took a
darker turn when compared to the previous film.

 

Photos 6 and 7:
Michael Keaton as Batman in “Batman”
and “Batman Returns” respectively
(1989 and 1992)

 

The suit was entirely
jet black excluding the belt and bat symbol. A figure in a fully black suit
makes it hard not to think that your death is coming. Also, his suit was no
longer made out of spandex; it was made out of molded plastic. This emphasized
the idea of masculinity that shows off an over-the-top muscle bound freak as
pectorals, biceps and abs were clearly shown and built into the suit. The
physique of the actor was no longer important in illustrating masculinity as
the plastic suit already does the job. Lighting plays an important role in
highlighting the features. Light can be easily reflected off the plastic mould
and makes the muscles of the suit appear to be bursting. The emphasis on masculinity
shows that the batsuit was taking a hard turn in the threatening and ominous
side that makes everyone fear him. In the opening scene of the movie, Batman
seems to be a well known crime fighter that the criminals are afraid to talk
about. Spreading stories about how the other criminals were punished and that
was what Batman wanted, to spread the fear.2

 

But on the other hand,
there are some aspects of the suit that makes a joke out of himself. Since the
suit was a leotard type rubber suit, it made it very difficult for the actor to
be mobile. One move in particular that stood out was the Bat Turn3. It was called this
because Batman had to completely turn his body in order to look in a certain
direction, he could not simply turn his head. It made him appear that he had a
stiff-neck, and yet the audience adored Batman for it instead of hating it. On
the other hand, the director of the film (Tim Burton) fully admits that the
leotard suit was ridiculous but just had to go with it.4

 

Moving on to the next movie “Batman
Forever” (1995 starring Val Kilmer as Batman), the seriousness was toned
down not intentionally by the director, but once again because of the audience.

Photo 8: Val Kilmer as batman in “Batman
Forever” (1995)

 

It was the first time the suit features nipples on the pectorals. (See
Photo 8) This turned out to be another aspect that was mocked by the audience
as it was such a unique feature and it was mocked as the Bat-Nipples5. This made
batman less of an intimidating character since people just cannot help but
notice his protruding nipples. One of the reasons as to why they added such a
feature was because according to Randy Gardel, costume coordinator of the film,
they wanted to make the batsuit feel and look more human and animal like as
well.6 And even
he could not keep a straight face when he said it. Asides from that, his suit
was given a more solid like look with its black utility belt and glossy
texture. Making all aspects of the batsuit black just makes the appearance of
batman more terrifying and gives that ominous presence when a criminal notices
a figure of pure darkness.

 

In the following film “Batman
& Robin” (1997 starring George Clooney as Batman), there were two given
suits. The colour scheme was also changed up a little from full on jet black to
darkblue with silver as a secondary colour. (See Photos 9 and 10)

 

Photos 9 and 10: George Clooney as Batman in “Batman and Robin” (1997)

 

The picture on the left hand side is made dark blue from head to toe
this time including his utility belt and his emblem. Whereas the picture on the
right hand side made his utility suit and emblem silver metal-ish look to it.
This makes the batsuit seem literally and figuratively hard and heavy. The
suits and the film had once again toned down the seriousness just like the 1966
“Batman: The Movie” film due to the
colour scheme not being too intimidating when compared to all black.

 

The following film on the other hand “Batman Begins” (2005 starring Christian Bale as Batman) was like a
realization that Batman should stick to the realistic and serious aspect. (See
Photo 11)

 

Photo 11: Christian Bale as Batman in “Batman Begins” (2005)

 

The concept of fear in the film revolves around to what Batman was
scared most about as a child, which were bats. He essentially became his worst
fear, although the background does not sound as terrifying but the end result
of it is. The concept of the suit was new and had its own unique story features.
The film explains how the suit was made which gives the audience a connection
to the suit and allows them to know the secrets of how it was made. For
example, the core body of the suit was a rejected military project suit and he
just sprays latex black spray to remove heat signature. Furthermore, although
he sprays a latex type spray the suit has become more of a black matte colour
instead of that glowing plastic/ rubbery texture. This puts emphasis on
darkness as black matte does not reflect as much light when compared to the
shiny plastic mold. His head was able to slightly move more freely but it was
still stiff. The cowl was especially expressive, rather than the cowl just
being a mask. It clearly shows his character as they have designed the mask to
look angry and intimidating.

 

In The Dark Night 2008 and The
Dark Night Rises 2012 (Starring Christian Bale as Batman), the suit was slick
and sharp with its technical and robotic look. (See Photo 12) The Dark Night introduced a feature that
past Batman movie directors have always wanted: a fully rotating cowl. The
actor of Batman at the time, Christian Bale, complained about the issue7. After
that all the years of Batman films, The
Dark Night became the turning point of Batman not looking like he has a
stiff neck as Christian Bale shows off the feature in the picture.

 

Photo 12: Christian Bale as Batman in “The Dark Night” and “The Dark
Night Rises” (2008 and 2012)

 

 

In the next film Batman vs
Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016 Starring Ben Affleck as Batman), it was a
huge back and forth as the suit is alluding to the first Batman films with its
spandex like look yet the second addition of the suit is robotic like. (See
Photos 13 and 14) The first version of the suit has a full range of motion,
despite its solid and rubbery appearance. Furthermore, it intentionally has a
large hulking appearance to contrast with his “enemy” superman. The approach is
embodied more so with the second version robo suit. The suit was bulky and has a
heavy and weighty appearance that seems like it can go through almost anything.
Kind of like the Hulk Buster in Avengers, where the only way to beat this huge
figure is with another huge figure. This gives the audience the feeling of
euphoria and excitement where they just cannot wait for the action to get down
and see everything explode right in front of them.

 

Photos 13 and 14: Ben Affleck as Batman and a Robo-Batsuit replica in “Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice”
(2016)

Works Cited

 

 

 

Videos:

–         
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LxphdF4_H7g  (Batman Movies – Behind The
Scenes – Designing The Batsuits) (Published on YouTube: November 28, 2012)

–         
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V21aZ_ZuoJM (Holy Grammar Batman) (Published on YouTube: April 25,2015)

–         
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=29vsspQzDeU (Opening Scene “I’m Batman l Batman (1989)”) (Published on YouTube:
March 28, 2017)

Articles:

–         
https://io9.gizmodo.com/joel-schumacher-explains-how-batman-robins-bat-nipple-1796074495 (Joel Schumaker Explains How Batman
& Robin’s Bat-Nipples Came To Be) (Published by Germain Lussier on June
13 2017 7:15 pm)

–         
1 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V21aZ_ZuoJM (Holy Grammar Batman)

 

–         
2 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=29vsspQzDeU (Opening Scene “I’m Batman l Batman (1989)”) (2:27- 4:30)

 

–         
3 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LxphdF4_H7g  (Batman Movies – Behind The
Scenes – Designing The Batsuits) (4:50- 5:18)

 

–         
4 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LxphdF4_H7g  (Batman Movies – Behind The
Scenes – Designing The Batsuits) (1:02-1:07)

 

5

–         
6 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LxphdF4_H7g  (Batman Movies – Behind The
Scenes – Designing The Batsuits) (12:43- 13:00)

 

–         
7 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LxphdF4_H7g  (Batman Movies – Behind The
Scenes – Designing The Batsuits) (22:50 – 23:06)