How to be creative without being original: the case of Batman movies

10:34 AM

One of the problems with contemporary culture is the importance placed on originality. Many writers and artists strive to create something deemed original and when they can’t they take the easy way out, the pessimistic: “there’s nothing left to create, everything has been done already”.

Now, of course there’s nothing new to create. But that shouldn’t be an excuse for lame art, should it?

Take Batman Forever for example.

I never noticed this before but there’s a scene in Batman Forever which is incredibly similar to one in The Dark Knight. The general outline of both scenes is this: the villain wants to destroy Batman by playing with his real identity. The villain takes the woman Bruce Wayne loves and the man Batman depends on and puts them in mortal danger. One of them will die, it's up to Batman (or Bruce Wayne) to decide who to save.

Now, look at the different results achieved but Joel Schumacher and Christopher Nolan.

Click on the image to view to scene or click here. You'll go to Youtube, but I'll be here waiting ;)

The initial predicament is practically the same and yet the two scenes are completely different. For one, the tone is much different. 

The Riddler wears a shiny body suit and acts as if he’s a game show host, offering some comic relief to a tense moment. The scene is also made lighter by the fact that Batman doesn't lose his temper and doesn't threat the villains physically, he actually defeats the Riddler in his own game: with a riddle.

Plus, I love the little joke about Jim Carrey when The Riddler says “Was that over the top? I can never tell.” 

The Joker's scene, on the other hand, is much more serious and realistic. The setting is a police station and the witnesses are detectives and not other weird villains. The Joker doesn't use surreal traps like those cylindrical cages, he pragmatically puts the victims on "250 52nd street and Avenue X at Cicero".

The scene is much more tense: not only Batman gets really angry and violent but that doesn't seem to have any effect on the Joker, who says his strength won't get him anywhere. What can he do, then?

But there's an interesting similarity. In both cases it is said that Batman is a "freak". 

We could debate over which scene is better but I would say both of them are incredibly successful in the sense they achieved what they set out to do. Moreover, these are my two favorite Batman movies and I could never choose between them.

The thing is: the story is more or less the same but the results are different. The solutions didn't involve a parody or ironic references.

Movies like these tell me that it is still possible to be creative without necessarily being original. The throwing of the towel that is “there are no more stories to tell” might be just an excuse for bad movies. The scope of human experience may be limited but our ability to explore it is not.

How important is originality? Are both scenes are well made or is Batman Forever over the top?

Image via Tumblr

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  1. I think in Batman forever you don't get so tense like in the dark knight. When I watched Batman forever I knew they wouldn't kill Nicole Kidman. But in dark knight I Was like: "they wouldn't do it.. right? RIGHT!?" and when she died! OOH I was like: "NO THEY DIDN'T". Both movies are really different from each other, but i love both of them too. Great post. xoxo

  2. Exactly! The feelings that the movie's atmosphere produce in us are different in the two movies. And you're right, in TDK, the outcome of that scene is completely unexpected while Batman Forever has a more traditional outcome. xx


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