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Old 11-25-2012, 02:41 PM   #92
Nave 'Torment'
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Default Re: Batman-"the most realistic" superhero?

Originally Posted by Shikamaru View Post
I agree with the OP. Batman is by no means realistic. He is definitely more grounded in reality than other superheroes but that doesn't exactly make him realistic.
I have to disagree but I think it has to do with your definition of realistic. When it comes to art it's not simply saying what is believable or natural...

And I think that with Chris Nolan, a director who explores different facets of reality and for who the definition of fantasy is such that it's realistic (he argues that to us our fantasies are always "real" in some capacity, with Batman that definition is carried out), that precarious balance between the real and surreal is carried out rather well. It's kind of like that opera that Bruce attends in Batman Begins the night his folks died. It's like that show that the young Bruce Wayne went to the night his parents died, the reality we see in the films is an extension of that -- despite the claim by fans that this is all steeped in realism, it isn't -- sure there's a lot of realistic interpretation to the characters but it only serves to make it JUST believable and be JUST beyond what's capture on screen. Nolan mentioned the term hyper-reality during Inception one too many times and it's a fitting word for his take on Gotham: unlike realism which is essentially taking a photograph and capturing every detail as it is, hyper-realism in art is about using those details and giving us a glimpse of something that's essentially IMPOSSIBLE in reality, like a football field being demolished, a man dressed as a bat fighting crime, and an American city stripped of its civil rights and place in the nation. It's that "additional" element that pervades in all of Nolan's films and essentially makes them original: science in Prestige, an "exotic" condition in Memento, the Alaskan day in Insomnia -- things that are just out of the ordinary but still strange enough to stir up speculation. In other words: Modern Myths.

The argument people use to defend Batman happening in real life is absurd. They will say stuff like "Anyone can be Batman if they're rich and do a bit of training around the world!" Not only is that statement false but it shows that these people don't understand what Batman is and what he is capable of.
It's like what I wrote in my post -- with Batman you have a character who is constantly confronted with the Absurd and attempts to rationalise it. First off, what I disagree with in this post is that there has to be a single definition of who Batman is and what he's capable of. I don't think anyone is going too far with their argument if they say "oh sure he can pull this off -- he's got the money" they're being superficial.

You know how people say that no one is perfect? That we all have something we are good at and something we are bad at? That doesn't apply to Batman. He can do everything. Both physically and mentally. Physically, he has the perfect body. If he was in the Olympics, he would win a gold metal in pretty much every single field. A person simply cannot train his/her body to complete perfection. Swimmers train their bodies their whole life so that they could have the perfect body for swimming.
Except he can't. That's been a constant theme throughout his portrayals in everything -- that weakness, that limitation of what he can and cannot do. It's been a major theme behind Miller's Dark Knight Returns, Moore's The Killing Joke, and of course arcs such as Knightfall, NML, etc. Only in JUSTICE LEAGUE do you see him pulling that all-out "Batman > everyone else" bit just because writers are probably too fond of the guy (because they probably related to him more growing up - but more on that in a bit).

Runners train their bodies their whole life so that they could have the perfect body for running. Batman has the perfect body in each field period. No person will ever be able to achieve that and if there is someone who will, it will take them their entire life to do that while Bruce finished his training and was ready to be Batman at the age of 25 in the comics.

That is excluding all the martial arts and mental training Bruce had to go through. Batman knows 127 martial arts styles and has incredible detective, strategic, tactical, and scientific skills. These 3 things (perfect physical body, perfect and all martial arts, perfect mental training) each, IF possible to achieve in the real world by a person (which they're not), would take that person their entire lifetime to achieve that. Bruce achieved something that would take a person at least 3 whole lifetimes to achieve before the age of 40. Even the more realistic versions of Batman - the Frank Miller Year One Batman, Long Halloween Batman, and Chris Nolan Batman - despite being more grounded in reality are still not versions of Batman that can technically happen in the real world.
It's true that the feat is impressive but it isn't so impossible as an agent of the Greek goddesses with a magic lasso, or a space cop who's charting the universe -- it's still just possible to imagine someone excelling in physical and mental human feats in each field if they're driven enough. Polymaths aren't uncommon, and the Renaissance Man, which Bruce and every other superhero heavily draws from thanks to Doc Savage, was in fact someone who existed.

If it goes back to his wealth it's simply that he's had the luxury to devote his time to the development of his skills instead of looking after an income for his survival. This is a guy who doesn't have a family, is extremely devoted to his cause to the point of psychosis, and has the means and the motive to do what he wants to. So based on those, since we're talking about feats that's possible by ordinary humans, the fact that this polymath is doing something extraordinary is because he's also led an out-of-the-ordinary life: any hopes for normalcy died with his parents.

The Bruce Wayne story, if it asks anything, asks the readers to have more faith in human will and human potential. technically it can happen, but it's not necessary that it does for it to be "realistic."

Everything I said so far excludes the first point the OP made, which is the technology behind Batman, which is not available in the real world at the moment.
And yet most of the science fiction stuff that we see is possible to imagine in the real-world; unlike Iron Tech Armour, you can imagine the tumbler to exist.

The reason why many people believe Batman can happen in real life, even though he can't, is due to the psychology behind Batman. Bruce is so determined and motivated to reach physical and mental perfection that we, as the readers/viewers (depending on the medium), buy it that a man can become something as larger-than-life such as Batman. However, that is simply not the case. If you think about it, Batman is almost in the same league as Captain America in terms of physical abilities. It's just that Marvel is a more realistic universe than DC is and due to that, they couldn't have a man like Steve Rogers reach physical perfection with just physical training so they brought in science fiction and had him injected with the Super Soldier serum but since DC's universe is less grounded in reality so they didn't have to do that with Batman.
But you're moving the argument away from that psychological reality and using a physical-example for it. The larger-than-life "symbol" of Batman is another aspect to the story, it's the part that elevates ordinary individuals to extraordinary status or reputation -- an urban legend of sorts, which at least with Batman is still anchored by some form of rational answer instead of being purely fantastical: Mr. Freeze has an ice-gun, but he's freezing his wife through "cryogenics;" the Joker has chalk-white skin and a ghostly-smile but it's due to "a chemical-accident;" the Penguin is this deformed enemy but he's "born that way." They struggled to ground this in the realm of make-belief, where it's just believable.

As for Captain America -- well again, how is an unspecified super-serum more believable than someone who uses cutting-edge tech and a life-time of physical training to appear superhuman? It's still the same thing. The Marvel Universe is not more realistic, it's simply more science fictional, and today people are still more trusting towards science so you're saying they're more "realistic." Like Radiation being used as a sort of magic power-giver; you can argue that it isn't being realistic but the point is it's been used for versimilitude, which brings me to--

As for for how relatable he is, Batman is one of the least relatable characters in the DC universe. Guys like Superman and Flash may have incredible powers but at the end of the day, they are Clark Kent and Barry Allen, two ordinary citizens living in Metropolis and Central City respectively that struggle with women, taxes, jobs, etc. while Bruce Wayne is a rich man unstable (to a degree) and completely obsessed with eradicating crime completely and is not afraid to push people away or to give his life away in order to achieve that.
Again, it depends on your definition of what is relatable and not. For one thing, the reason Bruce is more relatable is because the stories written about him has characterised him more; essentially speaking he's just as relatable as those other guys you mention. The difference is that 1) Bruce isn't superpowered so his struggles are more apparent to us, and 2) to insist that because Clark Kent and Barry Allen struggle with normal problems is discrediting the idea that even Bruce Wayne has had to struggle with them. They just weren't financial and apparent like it is with Peter Parker. Bruce's struggle to atone for something, that sense of guilt, mad drive towards a goal, these are all very, very palpable aspects of human character -- and pushing people away? I'm sorry but I can personally relate to that. And I'm sure I'm not the only one. Feeling "left-out" and "not normal" ? That's what Pete feels as a geek right? Well guess what other guy faces the same thing? At the end of the day you can even make a case that the utter isolation and alienation that Bruce Wayne is portrayed in reflects a sort of Modernist human condition where we're all struggling alone with our hopes for a better world.

The only other character who faced that was Clark Kent.

What I love about these characters is that at the end of the day they can be portrayed in so many brilliant ways but what really matters is that in essence what they're doing is encouraging speculation. For Bruce Wayne, the question he raises is this: how far can you go if you're really driven? What's the limit of human potential?

And THAT's what makes him a "realistic superhero."


THE JUSTICE BULLETIN published some of my thematic analysis on the symbolism in Nolan's superhero saga.
I call it Heroic Archetypes. You can read the parts on Batman Begins in the following links:
(pt 1; pt 2; pt 3; pt 4; pt 5; pt 6; pt 7)

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