Face-Off: Batman Begins vs. Man of Steel

Last week's face-off featured an intense battle between Harrison “Get off my plane!” Ford and Gary “Then you die the three of you!” Oldman which I called a tie. You guys struck back with your thoughts and the result was Dr. Jones barely edging out Dracula by a vote or two.

The rest of the month of August has left me uninspired for Face-Off ideas and with the announcement of the BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN movie I wanted to dive into the DC movie universe this week and pit BATMAN BEGINS vs. MAN OF STEEL. Both movies marked the beginning of a new reboot with their respective superheroes and now it’s time to decide which film is just flat out better. It’s important to note that BATMAN BEGINS has been part of two previous Face-Offs, the first vs. BATMAN and the second vs. THE DARK KNIGHT. The Bat in Black is back again and up against the alien son of both Kevin Costner and Russell Crowe so it might not be so easy.
Box Office
There are a total of three Batmovies that made more money in the U.S. than Christopher Nolan’s first foray into Gotham City (luckily none of those films were directed by Batman’s biggest foe: Joel Schumacher). Although BATMAN BEGINS’ total of $206 million (#127 all-time) is nothing to sneeze at, its following two sequels easily doubled what it made and both broke the billion dollar mark worldwide. Maybe if it had added Egghead to its cast of villains that may have made all the difference but as it stands BATMAN BEGINS has its hands full as it goes head-to-head in the box office category against MAN OF STEEL.
MAN OF STEEL currently sits at #57 on the all-time biggest moneymaking films with earnings of $289 million and climbing. These totals crush 2006’s SUPERMAN RETURNS’ earnings which peaked at $200 million. This also makes it the most successful Superman movie of all-time, financially-speaking. Its success worldwide is being felt as well as it sits at #69 all-time with totals of $648 million so far. Having accomplished all this without having Richard Pryor in the cast is pretty impressive and although these totals are laughable compared to what THE DARK KNIGHT and THE DARK KNIGHT RISES earned, it is more than enough to swat BATMAN BEGINS in this category.
Cast & Crew
Acting Gods Michael Caine, Gary Oldman and Morgan Freeman would normally be enough to win this battle against most movies but BATMAN BEGINS spoils us further with Christian Bale, Liam Neeson, Cillian Murphy and Tom Wilkinson. Rounding out this dream cast are Ken Watanabe, Rutger Hauer and Katie Holmes. I don’t even want to start counting the Oscar nominations and wins in this entire group. Finally, Christopher Nolan was responsible for directing and co-writing this epic new beginning of the Batman legend. With a cast and crew as experienced and international as this, it’s no wonder the acting was flawless, the direction was crisp and the writing was fresh and meaningful.
MAN OF STEEL scored some big points for having Kevin Costner in its cast. I’ve always thought he was an underrated actor and I was pleased to see him grace the screen in a meaningful role again. Russell Crowe and Laurence “Don’t call me Larry” Fishburne add some more legitimacy to the production and Diane Lane, Amy Adams and the perfectly cast Michael Shannon round out the group. Henry Cavill did a solid job as Supes but he’s no Christian Bale, on this planet or any other. In this instance, Zach Snyder and Christopher Nolan kind of cancel each other out and it was the same screenwriters for both movies so that’s a draw as well. In the end, the cast of MAN OF STEEL didn’t stand a chance with what BATMAN BEGINS served up so Superman gets his steel ass handed to him in this category.
1) Thomas Wayne: "And why do we fall, Bruce? So we can learn to pick ourselves up."

2) Bruce Wayne: "Gotham isn't beyond saving."

3) Henri Ducard: "Your compassion is a weakness your enemies will not share."

Bruce Wayne: "That's why it's so important. It separates us from them."

4) Jim Gordon: "I never said thank you."

Batman: "And you'll never have to."

Wow. Am I the only one who rewinds that exchange between Gordon and Batman every time I watch the movie? Let’s face it, the script to BATMAN BEGINS is as close to being perfect as you can get and the quotes above are just a few reasons why this is more than just another superhero flick. Now let’s see what that kid from Krypton has to say about this...
1) Jonathan Kent: "You just have to decide what kind of man you want to grow up to be, Clark. Whoever that man is, he's going to change the world."

2) Jor-El: "Goodbye, my son. Our hopes and dreams travel with you."

Lara Lor-Van: "He will be an outcast. They'll kill him."

Jor-El: "How? He'll be a God to them."

3) Martha Kent: [about Jonathan Kent] "He always knew you were meant for great things."

Clark Kent: "I just wish he could have seen it."

Martha Kent: "He saw it coming..."

4) Superman: "Krypton had its chance!"

Although MAN OF STEEL has its fair share of memorable and poignant quotes, they just don’t seem to compare to the lines in BATMAN BEGINS, which seem to stay with you long after you’ve watched the film and have the same effect on you on subsequent viewings. This was the closest race yet but the Dark Knight manages to once again edge out Superman in another category.
Superhero movies need good villains or they can just fizzle right out of the gate. The filmmakers decided to save Batman’s greatest foe, the Joker, for THE DARK KNIGHT but still delivered with a diverse trio of interesting and threatening criminals.

Scarecrow (Dr. Jonathan Crane), mobster Carmine Falcone and the mysterious Ra’s Al Ghul made life very difficult for Batman/Bruce Wayne as he began to experience just how brutal and scary the city of Gotham really is. Of course a villain is only as good as the actor portraying him and Cillian Murphy (Scarecrow), Tom Wilkinson (Falcone) and Liam Neeson (Al Ghul) portrayed these famous foes so realistically that we forgot for a moment that they were born within the pages of a comic book. If all that weren’t enough, Rutger Hauer plays a pretty good asshole in this too.
MAN OF STEEL decided to skip the most well-known foe of Superman’s (Lex Luthor) and went with General Zod who was deliciously played in SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE and SUPERMAN II by the great Terence Stamp. Michael Shannon stepped up to the plate and did a formidable job at playing this interstellar prick that possesses powers that match-up pretty evenly to Superman’s. Unfortunately Zod is the only real threat in this movie and nowhere near as fascinating and multi-dimensional as the numerous villains in BATMAN BEGINS. I suppose a Gene Hackman cameo as Lex Luthor's dad might have helped a little but the verdict is in and Superman loses this category by a pretty wide margin.
Batman Begins
Holy blowout, Batman, I guess this was pretty easy! The only thing MAN OF STEEL seems to have over its challenger are the dollars it earned. BATMAN BEGINS was much better received critically and in my opinion is better suited for repeated viewings than MAN OF STEEL. Add to that a stronger and tighter script, less CGI, no gimmicky 3D option and a better cast and you have a face-off that is pretty one-sided. If this trend continues, Batman won’t even need any kryptonite to clean Superman’s clock in BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN.



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