Saturday, July 02, 2005

I was commenting on Batman Begins over on Jack's Blog, and something occurred to me, something that's come up more than once over the years that warrants clarification: the word "believable" vs. the word "realistic."

Often, when I use the former, it gets taken to mean the latter; I'll say that, oh, let's say Batman Returns, was believable, and then I get raked for implying that it could happen in real life.

Not even close to what I mean: yes, "realistic" relates to what could or would happen in real life. When we're talking about superheroes, the word can't even begin to apply. The only thing I've seen close to a realistic superhero story was an issue of The Jam, by Bernie Mireault, about Gordon Kirby, a working class married guy who sneaks out of the apartment at night to patrol Montreal in a modified Sears tracksuit. Once in a while he might break up a fight, but mostly he just listens to music on rooftops while eating sandwiches. In the issue in question, protagonist Gordon Kirby learns the location of a bag of money stashed after a bank heist he just happened to witness, and must decide whether to grab it and keep it.

Still not realistic, in that there's nobody who actually puts on a mask and fights crime in the big city (though wouldn't that make the world a more interesting place?), but apart from that one flight of fancy, perfectly believable.

A work is believable when you can see that it's set down a certain set of rules for itself, and follows those rules. Batman, for all his high-tech bat toys, is still just a guy, and while the movie shows him to be a well-trained and agile guy, he doesn't suddenly start flying, or outrunning bullets.

(Which, on a side note, is something I always appreciated on Batman: The Animated Series; Bats would avoid getting shot by jumping around faster than the bad guys could aim, rather than standing stoically as the hail of bullets miraculously missed him)

Couple that with the fact that Gotham City looks real, like a long-established city gone to seed, rather than Joel Schumacher's fantasyland of neon sewer tunnels. That part was neither realistic nor believable.

Okay, got that off my chest. As you were.

Look, seriously, go, before I start in about people who say "crispy."

Copyright 2004 Rich Bowen

I do not believe you.
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