This year saw the conclusion of one of the most successful and epic film franchises in history, Christopher Nolan's adaptation of the popular comic book character, Batman. And while Nolan's films were noted specifically for their ability to take fantastical characters and situations and imbue them with a gritty sense of realism, comics are still most at home in a world of fantasy and spectacle where monsters are real and super powers exist.
And so, while it certainly won't be for all the fans, especially given its family friendly nature, the epic scale stage show, Batman Live!, on an arena tour swinging through the American Airlines Center, puts the flash, spectacle, and a little bit of camp, back in the Caped Crusader.
Live is a good introductory course for novices and children above everything. The story traces the origins of how Bruce Wayne became Batman (George Tuvey), how Dick Grayson became Robin (Kamran Darabi-Ford) and presents a greatest hits of the Dynamic Duo's infamous rogues gallery, led by none other than the Joker (Mark Frost) himself.
Beyond the base level story, what's truly exceptional about the show is its use of acrobatics and wire work. It's a big budget production on a truly grand scale, highlighted by arguably the best part of the show, the 105-foot-wide backing video board. And to that end, the production employs circus trained acrobats doing a bunch of highly choreographed fighting and exciting aerial work. Fans of the books will know how important the circus setting is to the various intersecting storylines of Batman, and writer Allan Heinberg knows that, setting much of the action at a circus.
The acting is much like the costumes, hilariously over the top. But, in a gigantic arena atmosphere there's at least some need to play things bigger. Add that in with the comic book origins and Live ends up being probably the most honest real world adaptation of the classic conception of the comic book. Naturally, Batman particularly has broken from the campy nature of comics for much of his history, and fans of the Miller or Loeb and Sale books almost certainly will be left wanting.
But this show, co-directed by Anthony van Laast and James Powell, isn't really for them either, not unless they enjoy acrobatics and live special effects. This show is really for families, and to that end, it's incredibly successful and the children in the audience were quite enamored with the show. The neat thing is, though, so were the adults. It's really a visual treat. Forgive the generalization, but it really is style over substance. Which is just fine.
And yet, the appeal isn't nearly as niche as it may seem. The effect of this show is that inner feeling of childlike glee. Even for someone whose never been into comic books, this show will spark that sense of wonder. Thus, it's no surprise that they call Robin, a character specifically meant to be a surrogate for kids, the Boy Wonder.