This Insane Batman Theory will Change Your Life


A friend of mine came to visit me last weekend, and like all good fanboys our conversations eventually turned to geeky films, why the sucky ones suck and how ‘they’ should just let us write everything from now on because no one else ‘gets it’ like we do. You know. Typical.

When the subject inevitably veered toward Batman and how Gods-awful the Joel Schumacher films were, my friend brought up a mind-bending, existential theory he had heard about all four films to branch out of Batman ’89. Some of you might have heard this before, but for those who haven’t, strap yourselves in.

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According to this idea, which some call The Batman Theory of Everything, not only helps put Batman Forever and Batman and Robin in a better context, but actually helps them make sense. Impossible? That’s what I thought at first. Just leave your mind open.

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The theory presupposes that Michael Keaton’s version of Batman is the REAL Batman. In Tim Burton’s universe Bruce Wayne has a different arc than what we’re used to from comic versions of the character. He found the man that killed his parents – The Joker – and now that man is dead. Why would you then still be Batman? I mean, for his motivation of devoting his life to this pursuit of preventing this from happening to other little Bruces, then EVERY criminal he fight has to be the person who killed his parents. It’s something Batman Begins did very well. THAT version of Bruce could never get justice and Joe Chill was just one layer of the onion.

So, his relationship with Vicky Vale obviously falls apart and he falls for Selina Kyle, a woman in whom he finds a foil and a kindred spirit (both stopped being themselves and became personas that were born out of tragedy).  Batman still does Batman things to protect Gotham because, quite frankly, no one else can and because it’s possible that he’s responsible for the ‘theatrical’ criminals who’ve been cropping up, but both the police and Batman treat his activities as routine. He’s now just some guy in a suit who walks around talking to Jim Gordon instead of being an anti-hero and mysterious force of nature.

At the end of Batman Returns Bruce thinks Catwoman is dead he’s been unmasked. Versions of the theory maintain that with the woman he loved gone and his quest for justice dwindling, Bruce retires from crime fighting, choosing to remain unmasked to the public and fades away into the ether. Is he dead, is he retired? That depends on who you ask, but in any event, everyone in Gotham now knows that millionaire Bruce Wayne was Batman.

Here’s the fun part.

Tim Burton’s films were certainly stylized, but not completely implausible. Fast forward to Joel Schumacher’s films and they are obviously loosely BASED on the aesthetic of the first two films,  (black costume and whatnot), but then warped into a circus-like caricature of those movies. That’s one of the billion reasons they’re awful and killed the franchise. Unless… what if Batman Forever and Batman and Robin are films inside the Batman ’89 universe? Hollywood rushed to get the story of Gotham’s now famous superhero onto the silver screen in the form of pseudo biopics.

Think about it. Since Batman ’89 is the base reality, the Gothic style of the city is the standard.

Tim Burton’s Gotham City

The action plays out like what we would think of as a movie, but it’s real life. Therefore, the absurd look, feel, and execution of the Schumacher films would seem far more reasonable, though still terrible movies.

Joel Schumacher’s Gotham City

But what about Michael Gough’s Alfred and Pat Hingle’s Commissioner Gordon? They’re in all four films, after all. For WB Studios to make the Batman films feel authentic and not alienate the people who were there when Bruce’s story unfolded, they had both men play themselves. It was a desperate attempt to silence critics about maintaining the artistic integrity of a true story they obviously took liberties with in telling. Funny enough, you can even make the argument that Tim Burton himself is actually IN Batman Forever in the form of great Star Trek alum Rene Auberjonois.

Rene Auberjonois as ‘Dr. Burton’

Pretty interesting, huh? Perhaps now you can actually tolerate watching Batman Forever and Batman and Robin as Grant Morrison-esque, Fourth Wall-breaking, meta-textual experiences instead of franchise-killing schlock fests. Really wanna see your friends’ brains melt? Explain this theory to them, then add that you’ve started to suspect that both Burton’s and Schumacher’s films are actually separate meta levels in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy. He did write and direct Inception, after all…

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