The vogue for backstory



Why is there such a vogue for backstory, for “psychological depth”? Even James Bond – in Skyfall – had to get some. “Why did he become Bond?” “What must have happened to him as a boy?” “What was his relationship with his parents?” Who cares?

Christopher Nolan did it with Batman Begins. With Tim Burton’s Batman we got the backstory about how his parents were murdered. It’s short and it’s self-explanatory.  In Batman Begins we had to have – not more depth to this story, but a more extensive treatment. More screen time “reflecting” on the nature of anger and guilt. We had to be shown the boy’s fear of bats, the reason for it, the fight to overcome it.

Does doing this make a film “darker and more realistic”?

Why do we want realism in a superhero film?

Batman Begins goes far to give it to us.

For example, it tries to give an answer to the question: how did Bruce Wayne have a Batcave built, a Batmobile built, etc, etc, without anyone noticing? Who did the engineering? Who supplied the parts?

Christopher Nolan wanted to answer that question – so we get a scene where Bruce Wayne and Alfred discuss setting up dummy companies to place orders from China, and agree that if they don’t want to raise suspicions they’d better place massive orders. We get a branch of Wayne Enterprises which specialises in military outfits and tanks. We even see Bruce Wayne welding steel into bat shapes.

Does Batman need this? If people didn’t ask the question in previous decades, maybe it was because they didn’t care.

Do we need to have these trappings of authenticity sown into our fantasy stories? 

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