With Warner Bros. and DC Comics gearing up to unleash their first superhero-based cinematic universe, fans from all over the spectrum of devotion to the publisher’s characters have their ideas on how that world should be presented on the big screen. Some likely believe that the path to greatness lies solely in the comics and nowhere else, while others may want to see the comics provide a loose road map of sorts toward how the shared characters are depicted. Some will also likely want gritty realism, while others still want to see a return to a purer form of flamboyant fantasy.

So, where does the promised land lie in regards to further translating the DC Comics Universe to film on an ongoing basis? Oddly enough, it may lie in one adaptation that seemed to take the best lessons from both the expansive wold of the comics, and the gritty, street-level world of Nolan’s films, and it all started with a journey into the madhouse.

 

The Batman: Arkham Games and Why They’re a Great Template for the Movies

Licensed video games almost always suck. In August of 2009, just over a year after The Dark Knight was indelibly burned onto the retinas and minds of comics fans and movie lovers, Eidos Interactive and Rocksteady Studios released Batman: Arkham Asylum on an unsuspecting public, and proved to both hardcore and casual gamers alike that licensed games didn’t have to suck. As a matter of fact, they can be pretty great.

Featuring a story written by respected Batman animation and comics writer Paul Dini, as well as the voice talents of Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill, and Arleen Sorkin as Batman, the Joker, and Harley Quinn respectively, Arkham Asylum was — and is — one of the best, most pure Batman experiences anyone can have. An engaging narrative, some mindbending effects, engaging gameplay dynamics and solidly spooky presentation all combined into one of the absolute best games of the last game console generation.

How did developer Rocksteady follow this game up? By doing the impossible: making a better one. 2011’s Batman: Arkham City improved on practically all of the already finely tuned gameplay elements of the first game, but opened up the story and game elements to a wider portion of Gotham City. A spin-off prequel game in the form of Batman: Arkham Origins was developed by another house, but was still largely enjoyed by telling a solid story in its own right.

Then, this year, Rocksteady returned and brought the new power of consoles like the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 with it, by releasing Batman: Arkham Knight. Featuring an even more ambitious story, all of the excellent open-world elements, and now the ability to get behind the wheel of the Batmobile, Arkhm Knight is the definitive Batman experience, easily.

 

So, What Does This Have to Do With The Movies?

One of the primary reasons that the Arkham games rank as some of the best adapted comics stories of our generation is the fact that they’re so uncompromising. Designers at Rocksteady and WB Games Montreal were able to take the best elements of what made Batman’s world work in media adaptations like the Christopher Nolan films and the classic 90’s animated series, and combine that with the characters and capabilities of the comics.

The world of the games has a generally gritty, rugged quality to it, but it also allows for characters that a filmmaker like Nolan likely would’ve been reticent to include in his films, like Mr. Freeze, Man-Bat, Firefly, or Killer Croc. Still, when you see those characters in some of the best moments from the series’ four main games, they’re incredibly dynamic, and automatically make you pause the game, dry your hands from the sweat that just collected in your palms, and make you prepare for one hell of a fight.

Here are just five examples of this uncompromising level of adaptation provided by the Arkham games, that filmmakers would be wise to take notice of.

 

1) Arkham Asylum: Batman’s Mind vs. the Scarecrow’s Fear Toxin

Often singled out by critics as some of the most engaging and terrifying moments of the first game, the sequences pitting Batman against the Scarecrow as he’s hallucinating due to Dr. Crane’s fear toxin still prove to be some of the best examples of the Dark Knight facing off against the fear-obsessed villain. While Batman Begins likely opened up the possibilities in peoples’ minds for the potential of Scarecrow’s ability to affect his victims, Arkham Asylum tore off the leash, pushing players and Batman himself into a very dark place that forces him to fight with his sheer force of will.

 

2) Arkham City: Facing Off Against Freeze

A character likely done a huge amount of disservice by his sole portrayal on the silver screen in 1997, comics fans and animated series fans know better: Mr. Freeze is one of the most interesting, conflicted, and formidable foes that Batman has ever had to face. By using the seminal animated episode “Heart of Ice” as a prime inspiration — helped by the fact that the game’s story and the writer of that incredible episode are one and the same — Arkham City presents the emotional realism and the fanciful technology and affliction that defines Freeze in a manner that’s unflinching, and very rewarding. Not to mention the fact that it leads to an incredible boss fight.

 

3) Arkham City: The Demon’s Head

Although Liam Neeson’s performance as Ra’s al Ghul in Batman Begins was an excellent component of that film, some comics fans were probably left a little wanting as far as seeing the full-on, semi-immortal supervillain that’s been plaguing Batman since the 1970’s. In Arkham City, by applying a layer of semi-realism over something as fanciful as a Lazarus Pit, we were given an uncompromising vision of the real Ra’s al Ghul: a man as maniacal as he is deadly. Some see Ra’s as the true arch enemy of Batman, even over the Joker, and appearances like the one in Arkham City help give credence as to why.

 

4) Arkham Origins: World’s Greatest Detective vs. World’s Deadliest Assassin

A mainstay of the DC Comics Universe, Slade Wilson, aka Deathstroke, is one of the deadliest villains to face off against the heroes of the Justice League, the Teen Titans, the Outsiders, and more. While more general audiences are starting to learn exactly how dangerous he is due to his appearances in shows like “Arrow,” his appearance in Batman: Arkham Origins was a pretty solid statement on just how much of a threat he can pose to a hero…even if he doesn’t quite match up to Batman in this go-around.

 

5) Arkham Knight: Batman and Robin, Together Again

For reasons I don’t really understand, there’s an entire sect of Batman fandom that can’t abide the existence of Robin. Or, as a friend of mine recently put it, “people who think they really like Batman don’t like Robin.” Like it or not, though, the Boy Wonder is one of the most important elements of Batman’s legacy, and over the course of the next few movies, I hope we see Robin fight crime alongside the Dark Knight. How might that look cool, without betraying the sense of darkness that Batman is known for? Well, I think Arkham Knight kind of nailed it.

So, these are just five examples out of hundreds that exist in the whole Arkham game series how the filmmakers of new, DC Comics-based films can have their cake and eat it, too: you can embrace the powers, the flamboyance, and the craziness inherent with certain characters, but you can also lay a layer of grit and hard-edged bad assery on top of that. Chances are that if they’re orchestrated with care, these moments and characters will be given a new life on the screen while also making the DC Comics-based movies both visually “real,” and true to the timeless icons these films will be based on.

What do you think? Leave a comment below, and we’ll see you right back here with a new Comics on Film next week.

Article source: http://www.movies.com/movie-news/batman-arkham-game-movies/19287?wssac=164&wssaffid=news