2016: The year in which America’s Bicentennial Babies (myself included) and many of the readers of this site turn 40.
Forty is a milestone age, one that inescapably brings a person to the plateau that both society as well as biology and the constant, merciless flow of linear time to which it adheres consider to be “middle age”.
However, there’s a silver lining for us Spirit of ’76 kids, one that may go well with the silver we may be finding in our hair these days, and that is this: we are still younger than the current cinematic Batman.
The Cinematic Batman Theory of Youth is the simple scientific belief that says this: if you’re younger than the big-screen Batman that will be coming soon to a theater near you, then you’re still not that old.
That’s right, if you’re younger than current movie Batman, you’re still relatively young. Even if you’re close in age, you’re not his peer, and you wouldn’t be even if you were the same age, because the Batman is peerless. You’ll never be as smart, as strong, as fast, as tough, as dedicated, and the list could go on for quite awhile. But… if you’re younger than the current motion picture Caped Crusader, you’re still young because he is the goddamn Batman and you are still a goddamn kid.
You’re not “Batman old” until you start forgetting your pants.
Why does the live-action human portrayal of Batman in film (and the character himself) matter so much in regard to considering youth and aging? It is because Batman is the ultimate grown-up. He stopped being a child the moment he saw his parents murdered. Even among superheroes and other literary immortals, most of whom are forever stuck in an eternal early-to-mid-thirties years-of-age existence, he has the oldest soul. He is the quintessential example of putting away childish things, figuring out who you are and then becoming that person with an intense, singular focus.
Other iconic characters like Batman that will also be represented, rebooted and relaunched in film franchises until the end of time do not come close to Batman when it comes to being the supreme representation of adulthood. Even fellow giants of the multiplex and, most importantly, fellow orphans, Superman and James Bond can not compare.
By winning the cosmic adoption lottery and being found by people as decent as the Kents, Kal-El was able to have a childhood. His earnest belief in the human spirit that he keeps in his heart as an adult is a remnant of that love his adopted parents gave him. Superman’s inherently good nature give him an undeniably childlike quality. While he certainly is not childish in the sense of being immature or selfish, his optimism is definitely and enviably childlike. When you’re older than the actor playing Superman, it should feel apropos because during your own journey to adulthood you probably began to live your life with a level of cynicism and world weariness that the Last Son of Krypton does not.
Speaking of immaturity and selfishness, we have Mr. Bond. Like Batman, 007 is very, very good at what he does. However, Bond’s ego and his willingness to indulge his vices, both on and off the clock, is pure petulance, it is the angry young man who lost his parents rejecting discipline and self control. One might mistakenly think Bond a stoic who has coldly buried his feelings or can endure pain without complaint, but that is not accurate, the man constantly anesthetizes himself with alcohol, sex and, depending on your interpretation of his psyche, maybe even the violence that accompanies his job. When you reach an age when you’re older than the guy playing James Bond, do not fret, you’ve probably been living your life far more responsibly than he does his for quite awhile.
While Superman represents an admirable childlike quality and Bond represents some less than wholesome attributes of youth, the reason why Batman is a Chiroptera of a different color is because he represents not only adulthood itself, but the fleetingness of childhood. If you’re older than the Batman, the optimum adult, the boy who’s childhood ended far too soon in an alleyway as his parents bled out before his eyes, then surely, without question, your childhood has ended, as well. Even if you’ve known and accepted that for a long time, it is not always pleasant to dwell on.
So… let’s not.
Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice opens March 25th (but, seriously, really the 24th, they way they do it, now) and by all accounts will feature a Batman in his early to mid-40’s that will be played by Ben Affleck, born August 15, 1972.
We really dodged the age-bullet with the Batfleck casting, right? If Thomas and Martha could dodge bullets so well, you wouldn’t even be reading this! It seemed like such a sure thing that Bale was going to be the last Cinematic Batman that was older than us, and Ben is even older than he is. Such a wonderful time to be alive. It’s unlikely that we’ll get a live-action adaptation of The Dark Knight Returns featuring a 50+ aged Batman anytime soon, especially with Snyder seemingly borrowing so many beats from it for Dawn of Justice, but, whatever, let’s not look a gift bat in the mouth. We’re still younger than the current Cinematic Batman.
@Brock626 writes, works and lives with his wife in Northern Virginia and is the goddamn Batman of feeding feral cats. Thanks to the inspiration of Batfleck, he is embracing the grey in his temples and has been unsuccessfully looking for an off-the-rack black suit vest that actually fits him ever since that footage of Bruce Wayne in the Battle of Metropolis hit the internet.