In honor of The Dark Knight Rises being released this week, I’ve decided to take a look back at Batman in film. Of course animated shows like “The Batman”, “Batman The Brave and The Bold,” and the animated series in the seventies showcased the world’s greatest detective, but which actor has portrayed him the best throughout the years? Let’s take a look.
“Batman” first took to the screen in 1943, and was portrayed by Lewis Wilson. Not many people today have seen this incarnation (myself included), but it broke ground for the character making it on film. His costume look like a bad pair of pajamas today, but for its time, this was stunning. The look of Alfred in the comics actually changed to match this version from what originally had been an overweight butler to the thin version we all know and love today.
Six years later, another 15 chapter series was made starring Robert Lowery. This time it was called “Batman And Robin,” and though this didn’t feature any of the hero’s popular rogues either, Vicki Vale was a prominent character alongside Robin making his debut. Batman’s chest logo was slightly different, and his ears resembled more like Devil horns than the traditional look, but at least this guy made it onto dvd years later.
Decades later, Adam West brought Batman to the screen in a campy series and movie. They even did a reuinion movie a few years back. Pretty much all of Batman’s classic rogues gallery made it this time, as well as Batgirl. Sure, it may have been cheesy, but it was highly addictive to watch and safe for kids. If it weren’t for Adam West, Batman might not have quite the allure that he has today. This show is what really brought attention to the character.
A couple more decades passed and we were given an entirely unseen version of the character. Michael Keaton portrayed him in 1989’s “Batman,” and again reprised the role in 1992’s “Batman Returns”. This defined the character as we know him today and included the villains: Joker, Penguin and Catwoman.
For the next film, “Batman Forever,” his predecessor did not want to reprise the role, so Val Kilmer took over the suit. Gotham city took on a more colorful tone, and some of the campiness was reintroduced to make it a little less over the top dark. Robin, The Riddler and Two Face were introduced to this version.
After one film, he bailed and George Clooney took over the role in “Batman and Robin.” Even with Poison Ivy, Mr. Freeze, Bane and Batgirl being introduced, the dialogue and character changes upset enough fans to make this one of the most hated films of all time. Still, Clooney had a decent look and brought the hard jawed characteristic back to the character. There was also another two sequels in the works. “Batman Triumphant” would have brought the scarecrow and harley quinn around, as well as Jack Nicholson back as the Joker, but that was thrown out the window when the fourth one failed miserably. There would have then been a “Batman: Dark Knight,” that would have seen Clooney solo again as Batman tried to prove his innocence. Apparently Man-Bat would have been the only villain, making the city believe it was the hero commiting the crimes. Clooney was supposed to be involved with both of these films which never saw the light of day.
During the time of these four movies, and beyond we were lucky enough to have another animated series. I’m only including Kevin Conroy in this because he has defined the perfect voice of Batman and Bruce Wayne for over two decades now. It began with “Batman The Animated Series” went on to other animated DC Universe projects and recently he has done the voice for the “Arkham Asylum” video games.
Many fan films have been created over the years, and actor Clark Bartram was chosen by a lot of people to portray a buffer looking Batman for any hollywood movie in the works. Of course, he never was taken seriously by film makers, but he starred in the “Batman: Dead End” and “World’s Finest” short indy films. You can watch these on Youtube and other online sources.
Finally, we come to the current Batman. Christian Bale has portrayed the character in “Batman Begins,” “The Dark Knight,” and “The Dark Knight Rises”. Ra’s Al Ghul, The Scarecrow, Joker, Two-Face, Catwoman, Bane, and even a brief cameo by Mr. Zsaszz came into this much darker and realistic version. Bale has taken his batvoice to a whole new level, but has also upped the stakes with his portrayal of badassery.
All in all, it is a difficult choice for myself. Michael Keaton is personally my favorite interpretation of the character, but cannot deny the awesomeness of Bale, Conroy, and yes Adam West. Remember, there have been many different shades of Batman in comics over the years, so even the campy things can’t be ruled out. Who is your favorite Batman? Vote below, and feel free to discuss.