IT’S UNDENIABLE THAT BATMAN IS THE MOST ICONIC SUPERHERO OF ALL TIME

To date, we’ve seen FIVE cinematic continuities featuring the Caped Crusader, and that’s not counting the many animated and television iterations. Aside from Spider- Man, no other comic book characters have seen that many portrayals across different mediums. Even though Batman has had many faces through the decades, people can’t seem to get tired of him. These actors have had the privilege of playing Bruce Wayne/Batman. Let’s examine the different ways each of them portrays the billionaire orphan turned vigilante.

ADAM WEST

“Nanananana – Batman!”

The Adam West Batman began on TV in 1966 before spreading his wings to the big screen. This version is now probably best known for its catchy theme song. True to the 60’s psychedelic mania, West’s version forewent the comic’s dark tone and leaned heavily on the campy element, making it the most comedic (and meme-worthy) Batman of all time.

MICHAEL KEATON

Michael Keaton assumed The Bat’s mantle in Tim Burton’s Batman (1989) and Batman Returns (1992). His casting was controversial at the time: the lanky and unconventionally handsome Keaton was considered a weird choice to portray the Caped Crusader. Coupled with the fact that he was, at that point, best known as wacky Beetlejuice in Tim Burton’s 1988 movie, the doubt wasn’t entirely unfounded. Nonetheless, he proved them wrong. Keaton imbued his Bruce Wayne with socially awkward energy that made him vulnerable-looking enough nobody would ever confuse him for his alter ego. Yet, his charisma endures long after he quit the franchise. Keaton’s Batman is set to make a long- awaited return in this summer’s The Flash.

VAL KILMER

VAL KILMER

Following Keaton’s departure from the role, Val Kilmer took over for 1995’s Batman Forever. With the actor (and filmmaker) changing, so was the interpretation of Batman. Director Joel Schumacher went for conventionally handsome Kilmer to fashion a more suave, James Bond-esque Bruce Wayne. And ever- charming Kilmer did not disappoint; he embodied the whole flamboyant playboy persona so well. It’s a shame that his Batman is mostly forgotten now, given the tepid reviews of Batman Forever and his abrupt departure after only one film.

GEORGE CLOONEY

GEORGE CLOONEY

Replacing Kilmer who quit after disagreements with Schumacher, Clooney continued the director’s vision of a charming Batman. And who’s got more charm in Hollywood than Clooney? Too bad 1997’s Batman & Robin tanked so badly that it effectively killed the franchise for a while. Clooney’s typical stoic, perfectly measured performance was totally out of step with the campiness of the entire movie that it felt so jarring. It’s a case of mismatched tone and direction.

CHRISTIAN BALE

CHRISTIAN BALE

After an extended hiatus, Christopher Nolan cast a then 30-year-old Bale in his Batman reboot. That made him the youngest actor to ever portray the Dark Knight. Back then, he was best known as the axe-wielding madman Patrick Bateman in 2000’s Psycho.

Once again, fans were skeptical, but it all went away as soon as Batman Begins premiered in 2005. Bale’s Bruce Wayne was perfect for the new millennium: a brooding hero hasking a lot of unresolved trauma. Bale’s trilogy ended up becoming one of the most revered film trilogies of all time; with 2008’s The Dark Knight hailed as a game changer in the industry, prompting the Oscar to change its Best Picture quota and inspiring a whole decade of gritty, uber-serious tentpole films.

BEN AFFLECK

When Zack Snyder began assembling to keep up with MCU’s growing stable of superheroes, Affleck was roped in to play an older Batman, meant as a foil to Henry Cavill’s younger Superman. He got the thankless task of becoming the DCU’s version of Nick Fury: gathering up the superheroes for an eventual team-up movie. Well, we all know how it went down. It’s a pity because Affleck’s take on the character a jaded, grizzled Bruce Wayne was genuinely compelling. However, by all accounts, it appeared like nobody enjoyed the Snyderverse era all that much. Among other things, Affleck himself admitted that his alcoholism worsened during the making of these films. It’s probably best they had another clean slate which brings us to…

ROBERT PATTINSON

If the other Batman casting news were greeted with grumblings, this one was welcomed with loud jeers.
Batman fans were up in arms that their beloved hero was to be played by Edward Cullen.

The majority didn’t realize that Pattinson had spent the back half of his career undoing the teen heartthrob image he’d cultivated from Twilight by taking on arthouse projects like The Lighthouse and Good Time. The result spoke for itself when The Batman came out in 2022. Under Matt Reeves’ deft direction, Pattinson delivered a Bruce Wayne that was at once idealistic, sensitive and full of insecurity. He gave a nuanced portrayal of a young Batman still learning the ropes, perfectly juxtaposing his youthful face with the raging fire beneath.

As long as superheroes still sell, Batman will always get retold again and again. DC is already prepping The Brave and the Bold, another take on Batman that will run parallel with Pattinson’s version.
Whoever ends up receiving the mantle, he certainly has a lot to live up to. Let’s hope it can soar with its own unique interpretation.

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