The stage had been set to kick off the night with a ‘‘Which is the best Batman movie?’’ debate, hosted by 35mm presenter Mark Dolan. This was to be followed by a screening of Dark Knight in all of it’s HD glory.
Four fan-favourite Batman films were selected and advocated in the debate -Batman, Batman Returns, Batman Begins and Dark Knight. Batman was championed by Shortlist editor Terri White, while comedian, movie-geek and ‘Batman-freak’ Josh Howie waved the flag for Batman Returns. Dom ‘Trigger Happy TV’ Joly justified Batman Begins and Vic ‘Eranu/Uvavu’ Reeves drew the “short straw” for Dark Knight. (Disclaimer: The actual views of panel are not necessarily representative of the films they were ‘fighting’ for. However, later on everyone unanimously agreed that Batman & Robin was the worst Batman film. Ever. The unity brought a tear to my eye).
Arguments put in favour of their respective films were sometimes educated, often funny and even a little eyebrow raising (Joly isn’t a superhero fan and Howie made his own Catwoman suit?!?) But was this really a proper ‘verbal-fisticuff’ style debate over one of the greatest fictional heroes to grace the pages of a comic or apply a smackdown on the silver screen? No, but it was obvious that the panel had a good time and it was very fun to watch. A high/low point of the evening was when one audience member in the Q&A session unintentionally and repeatedly referred to Heath Ledger as Keith Ledger. In a Church. At a Batman movie debate. Surrounded by hardcore and intelligent Bat-fans. About to watch Dark Knight. Cinema-style. In HD. In a Church.
I laughed and cringed at the same time. The Kevin Bishop Show is probably on the phone to that chap right now.
Batman was praised by White for it’s creation of the ‘Gothic’ Batman character with credit given to Michael Keaton for beating out Mel Gibson and Tom ‘the ‘tache’ Selleck for the role. Howie weighed in with how DeVito was born to play a mutant penguin and that the Batman franchise had gotten cooler because, at the time, MacDonald’s pulled the plug on the icon being included in Happy Meal promotions due to the film being ‘too dark’. Howie also gave a great breakdown of how ‘Returns’ uses the character identities of Max Shrek, Catwoman and the Penguin to reflect Bruce Wayne’s internal struggles.
Dom Joly questionably lead the charge for Batman Begins by confessing he had never seen the Batman films until the previous night. However, he did go to school with Christopher Nolan and therefore took credit for the creative essence of the Nolan driven movies. He took pictures for his twitter feed @domjoly and confused me with Adam West (I am only like Adam West in any respect of the man by the way I spell my first name). Like a fart joke, he was actually very funny, you just had to be there.
In the same vein, Vic Reeves put forward the argument that Dark Knight was the best because “it was too long and Christian Bale sounds like he has laryngitis”. However, Keith Ledger/Heath Ledger was ssssseriously acknowledged by Vic as “THE Joker’’.
After an audience ballot was taken there was genuine shock that Batman Returns scored lowest. Ascending rank is then given to Batman, Batman Begins and the winner – Dark Knight.
On THAT bombshell, the 200 strong crowd settled down on the stiff wooden pews and took in a special screening of the Dark Knight with an amazing backdrop of stained glass windows, coloured spotlights and acoustics that made Dolby Surround Sound a truly vibrating experience. They even had the Bat signal shining on the Chapel’s highest ceiling. Very groovy.
But one thing was nagging me (other than an incredibly numb-bum) after the 152 minute modern classic was over. While the debate was fun, I felt there was a lot left of ‘The Batman’ unexplored. So the question remains…
Which IS the best Batman movie?
The Complete Batman & Comic Book Movie season begins on Sky MoviesShowcase/HD on 12th July 2010.