Batman vs. The Dark Knight
May 20th, 2009
NC: Hello, I'm the Nostalgia Critic. I remember it so you don't have to. And welcome to a new portion of the show called Old vs. New.
The title card is shown, featuring an old man crossing his cane with a little boy's baseball bat, as dramatic music plays and lightning strikes.
NC: This is where I take something old and nostalgic, and compare it to a recent remake to find out which one is better. With that said, let's take a look at two of my favorite movies of all time: Batman and The Dark Knight.
Various clips of both movies are shown
NC (vo): Now both these films pushed the envelope of how to make a good comic book movie. They were dark, edgy, and constantly breaking the barrier between fun kiddy antics and epic adult dilemmas. But which one is truly better: the original or the re-imagining?
NC: Now I know, technically, Batman Begins was the first of these new movies, but The Dark Knight is considered to be the best, and it has the most similarities to the '89 film, battling the Joker and so forth. Also, remember that NONE of this is fact, it's strictly opinion, so don't go ape-shit if you don't agree with me. (Beat) Even if you are completely wrong. So, let's see who's the best bat as we compare Batman and The Dark Knight.
The opening sequence plays as we see pictures of the main characters from both movies fly into the sky, while the theme songs of both movies play side by side.
NC: Well, let's just cut to the chase and jump to the main character: Michael Keaton vs. Christian Bale.
Round 1 - Best Batman
NC (vo): Now, to be fair, Christian Bale has a lot to act through. He has to play Bruce Wayne, the college student; Bruce Wayne, the outcast; Bruce Wayne, the warrior; Bruce Wayne, the drunken millionaire; and Bruce Wayne as Batman. Thank God they didn't ask him to do Bruce Wayne, the transvestite. That would've destroyed him. Any one of those would be hard to do, and he has to do all five. But I have to admit, as hard as Bale tries, Michael Keaton is still the superior Batman. The main reason? He keeps all his pain inside. When you see Bale, you can instantly see someone who's either looking for attention or trying to hide something. With Keaton, he acknowledges that this is his battle, and he'll fight it alone. If you heard this guy (Bale) was Batman, you'd be like, "Yeah, he seemed a little odd to me." But with Keaton, you totally wouldn't believe it. In fact, a lot of people didn't. Many people petitioned not to have Keaton as Batman because they couldn't see him in the role. But that's why he's so frickin' perfect! You wouldn't suspect him! Look when he grieves over his parents' death. This is all very, very subtle: no tears, no facial expressions, but you can feel the pain that he's going through, where Bale still seemed a little lost and confused. And, of course, you have to look at them as Batman. Keaton is the only Batman who can actually smile and still look intimidating. It says, "Yeah, I got nothing to fear, bitch. Your ass is grass." Bale in the costume just looks...well, silly. Now to be fair, that has a lot to do with the design. Keaton's costume was dynamic, classy, but also very threatening. Bale's always looked a little off to me. The nose was weird and I think it was little too bulky. It didn't really look like Batman, it looked like a guy dressing up as Batman. And, of course, there's that infamous voice.
Batman (Bale): (in a deep, raspy voice) This city just showed you that it's full of people ready to believe in good.
NC (vo): I know, everyone's made fun of this voice, so I'll try to keep it to a minimum. Let's just say Keaton's sounded very natural...
Batman (Keaton): (speaking naturally) The Joker's tainted hundreds of chemicals at the source.
NC (vo): ...and Bale's...
Batman (Bale): You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.
NC (vo): ...didn't. In fact, let's play these threat scenes back to back.
Batman (Keaton): I'm not going kill you. I want you to do me a favor. I want you to tell all your friends about me.
Batman (Bale): Where were the other drugs going?!
Krass: I don't know.
Batman (Bale): Why?
NC (vo): You can tell Bale is trying to be threatening, while Keaton just sort of naturally is.
NC: (Imitating Keaton's Batman) You don't mess with Mr. Mom.
NC (vo): Even when he's trying to save a family's life, he still does that stupid voice.
Batman (Bale): You don't want to hurt the boy, Harvey.
NC (vo): Come on, people's lives are at stake. Can't you just cut the act?
Batman (Bale): Because you were the best of us.
NC (vo): Let's just pray that he doesn't read at any orphanages any time soon.
(Cut to NC reading a comic book)
NC: (Imitating Bale's Batman) Good night, moon, Good night, MOON! Good night, STARS!
NC (vo): While still doing a good job, Bale can't compete with the unexpected master himself. Point goes to Keaton.
Bruce Wayne (Bale): Sorry to disappoint.
Round 1 Winner - Batman
NC: But a hero can only be as good as his villain, and the Joker is one of the greatest villains of all time. But again, which one is the true clown prince of crime: Ledger or Nicholson?
Round 2 - Best Joker
NC (vo): I have to admit, when I heard Heath Ledger was going to play the Joker, I said: "What, the prissy guy from A Knight's Tale? Come on." And when I saw the design of the character, that didn't help much either. It looked like a kid who put on Grandma's makeup wrong. How is that threatening? Even after his tragic death, that didn't change anything for me. I still thought he was gonna suck. Nobody can top Jack, and nobody ever will. He's practically been playing the damn part all his life. So what makes them think this pretty boy can do any better? Well, thankfully, I was 100% wrong. Heath Ledger is not only funny as the Joker, but he's also shit-your-pants scary. I think this is because he encompassed every previous Joker that had existed before. The comic, the cartoon, the Nicholson performance. There's even a little bit of Cesar Romero in there. Just listen to that laugh and tell me they don't sound alike.
Clips of Romero and Ledger's Jokers are shown of them laughing.
NC (vo): But while combining all the previous Jokers together, he also managed to still stay fresh and new, paying homage to the other renditions, but still giving his own take as well. Nicholson is great and funny, but he's more creepy than he is scary. Ledger was actually terrifying, and this is the scene I think cemented it for everybody. He was so scary, you could hear a pin drop after this moment was over.
Joker (Ledger): Every day he doesn't, people will die. Starting tonight. I'm a man of my word.
(The Joker laughs crazily and attacks someone off camera. Cut to NC so terrified that he can only manage a tiny shriek.)
NC (vo): It's interesting how in the '89 film, we know all about the Joker and little about Batman, yet in the new films, we know all about Batman and little about the Joker. In both cases, I say less is more. The more mystery there is about the character, the more fascinating we often find them. And Ledger's character is no exception. Jack, I love you, but this is the Joker that seems to have everything, all the laughs, all the intelligence, and all the frights.
Joker (Nicholson): I have given a name to my pain.
Round 2 Winner - Dark Knight
NC: But what good is good characters without good supporting characters? (Beat) I don't know, but this film had some good ones.
Round 3 - Best Supporting Cast
NC (vo): This isn't quite as easy to pick out because both films had a really good cast. I guess we'll look at girlfriends first: Kim Basinger vs. Maggie Gyllenhaal/Katie Holmes. Now believe it or not, I actually didn't mind Katie Holmes in Batman Begins. True, it looks like she's about 12, but outside of that, I think she did alright. And the same can be said for Gyllenhaal, who both play very tough and intelligent roles. Basinger, on the other hand, was very typical damsel in distress: always in trouble, always being saved, and, I swear, speaking only in screams.
(A montage of Vicki Vale screaming is shown)
NC (vo): But, to be fair, she was a much more interesting character. She was kind, insightful, but was also cunning and quick. She was supportive, but also had her limits, which made her seem a lot more realistic. She really stood out as a character where the other two just seemed to stand out as role models. That isn't bad, it's just not very memorable. Alfred is also kinder in this movie, but I have to admit, I love how anxious and involved [Michael] Caine gets in the new films. But, dude, does he always have a speech prepared?
Alfred (Caine): (various scenes) Batman stands for something more important. / But you spat in the faces of Gotham's criminals... / You squeezed him, hammered him to the point of desperation... / That's the point with Batman: he can make the choice...that no one else can make.
NC (vo): Good GOD, he can give a speech about anything!
NC: Hey, Alfred, you want some breakfast?
Alfred (Caine): A long time ago, I was in Burma. (NC looks confused) My friends and I were working for the local government. They were trying to buy the loyalty...
NC: ...I-Is that a no?
Alfred (Caine): ...of tribal leaders by bribing them with precious stones.
NC: I JUST WANT TO KNOW IF YOU WANT EGGS! (sobs into his desk, his hands behind his neck)
NC (vo): Pat Hingle was good as Commissioner Gordon, but Gary Oldman is always a powerhouse actor, giving even a small supporting role so much weight, though maybe he just relates with people that dress up like giant bats. (picture of Gary Oldman as Dracula) I can't imagine why. And I guess there's really no point in comparing Harvey Dent (clip of Billy Dee Williams as Dent), as the first film barely mentions him and eventually turns into... (clip of Tommy Lee Jones as Batman Forever's Two-Face) Yeeeah, that never happened.
NC: But overall, I think I have to go with the '89 film. Why? Because GODDAMN it, it has BOB in it!
(Clips of Bob from 1989's Batman)
NC (vo): And I fucking love Bob! He's the henchman that doesn't say anything, do anything, but for some reason, he really leaves an impression! He's like the Boba Fett of Batman, he barely does anything but for some reason, people just love him. He even got his own action figure. Why?? Why the fuck does he have his own action figure?? I don't know, I don't care. I just know that little bit of coolness tips the pile over to Batman's side.
NC: I love you, Bob. We all do.
Joker (Nicholson): You...are my number one...guy.
Round 3 Winner - Batman (by a Bob)
NC: But, hey, what fun are good supporting characters if they can't beat the shit out of each other? Here's to the best action scenes!
Round 4 - Action Scenes [sic]
NC (vo): Both these films have really good action, but I'll admit that Batman's is a little more...traditional. I mean, the sounds are great and the fighting is cool, but it's nothing really spectacular. I mean, look at this, they fire randomly in the air! Why? Isn't that a waste of ammo? What, they're looking for BIRDS to shoot or something? (Imitates crows) CAW, CAW! CAW! Despite Batman Begins suffering from way too much shaky cam, Dark Knight learned its lesson and gave us some really intense action scenes, the best one being the car chase in the middle of the film. This was really hardcore and had a great amounts of suspense and tension.
Joker (Ledger): (laughs crazily)
NC (vo): The rest of the action is decent, too, though the last fight at the end did seem to go on a bit. The action seemed much grander in Dark Knight, where the grandness of all the other films is somewhat limited to its effects budget. (spotlights going up a skyscraper in Batman) (sarcastic) Yeah, that doesn't look like a model at all.
King Arthur (Monty Python): SHH!
NC (vo): Again, I love the action in both films, but Dark Knight had me glued to its scenes from beginning to end. And I say that definitely deserves the point.
(Bob runs away!)
Round 4 Winner - Dark Knight
NC: So now it all comes down to the most important factor of all, the story. Which one was best written, best directed, or just overall best told? Well, let's just dig in a little closer to find out.
Round 5 - Best Overall Story
NC (vo): Now, to be fair, the plot to both these films is all over the map. Neither of them are that coherent, but then again, with the Joker, that's kind of the idea. The motivation of Ledger's Joker seems to be to spread anarchy and chaos, but Nicholson's motivation actually is anarchy and chaos - it just sounds crazy.
Joker (Nicholson): I make art, 'til someone dies.
NC (vo): How totally nuts is that?
NC: That's like saying "I want to be an architect. I need bodies!" (The Critic points to his head and twirls his right pointer finger, mouthing 'Cuckoo')
NC (vo): The film also climbs to a decent climax, building on top of every scene while still leaving time for the audience to breathe. In The Dark Knight, the whole third act is like one big climax. It's intense, but it does get a little tiring after a while. Can't there ever be a break?
(NC has his right hand up)
NC: (Imitating Bale's Batman) Alright, give me a minute, I...I need water.
NC (vo): In the '89 film, a lot of people have problems with Batman being so quiet and in the shadows, while the Joker is so loud and soaks up the attention. But really, that's what's so brilliant about it. Batman is mysterious, and he is quiet. That's what makes him so fascinating. And that's really my main problem with The Dark Knight. They ANALYZE EVERYTHING. In Batman, all the choices, dilemmas and consequences are implied and hinted at. The rest you can just see from how the characters look and their actions. That's the idea of a visual medium. There's really only one talk about why Batman does what he does, and it seems very much like how a real person would talk.
Bruce Wayne (Keaton): Look, sometimes, I don't know what to think about this. It's just something I have to do.
Bruce Wayne (Keaton): Because nobody else can.
NC (vo): In Dark Knight, everything is talked about, and I mean everything.
Joker (Ledger): When the chips are down, these, uh, these civilized people, they'll eat each other.
NC: (Imitating Bale's Batman) DON'T question me about ethical dilemmas! I read 'Psychology for Dummies', too!
NC (vo): It's like if the characters of Greek mythology actually talked about and analyzed their problems all the time; it wouldn't be the same. It's not their place to talk about it; that's the job of the viewer. The '89 Batman movie talked little, but said a lot. The dilemmas are still there, they're just not analyzed to death. And don't get me wrong, I love the talks in The Dark Knight. But they seem like conversations that movie critics would have, not the actual characters.
NC: So like I said before, the plot is kind of the big deciding point here. So, which one do I like better?
NC (vo): Well, as much as I love The Dark Knight, I have to say Batman is the one that's more compared. It just seems like a more classic story, more subtle and more epic. I love the themes of The Dark Knight and how adult they make the protagonist, but it just seems more like a character study than it does an actual three-act movie.
NC: So even though I love both films and I'll probably get a lot of hate mail for this, I have to say that Batman is the superior film.
Round 5 Winner - Batman
NC: So the old wins in this situation. Does that mean I don't like The Dark Knight? Not at all, I just like Batman a little more. And, uh, my only hope is that Christian Bale doesn't take what I said about him too seriously. (cellphone rings) Excuse me. (answers) Hello?
("Bale" is on the phone yelling at the NC with clips from his rant on the set of Terminator Salvation)
Bale: What the fuck are you doing?!
NC: I'm sorry. I just thought...
Bale: Now don't just be sorry! Think for one fucking second!
NC: Well, that's not very nice.
Bale: What the fuck is it with you?! Are you professional or not?!
NC: Well, I don't like to brag, but...
Bale: Fuck's sake, man, you're armature!
NC: Look, I don't know why you're getting so angry...
Bale: No, shut the fuck up! Do I want...
NC: Maybe I could....
Bale: No! NO! I'm gonna fucking kick your fucking ass!
NC: Why are you so angry? I just don't get it!
Bale: What don't you get about it?
NC: Hold on, hold on. (To the viewers) I'm the Nostalgia Critic. I remember it so you don't have to.
Bale: Give me a fucking answer!
(NC walks away, continuing to talk to Bale. The conversation still continues as the credits are shown)
NC: I just don't get why you made Batman sound like he had lung cancer.
Bale: Oh, good for you! You're a nice guy!
NC: Well, thank you.
Bale: Shut the fuck up!
NC: YOU SHUT UP! GO MAKE REIGN OF FIRE 2!
Bale: Fuck's sake.