Ever since his appearance in issue #27 of Detective Comics, Batman has surfaced in a number of Hollywood adaptations, some laughable (Batman and Robin) some campy (the 1960's rendition), some downright awesome (Christopher Nolan's reworking of the Caped Crusader's chronicles). Voiced by Kevin Conroy in various animated series, Batman has withstood the test of time as DC Comics' premier figure, one who could rival Superman with his everyman appeal. Listed below are the five men who have played the Batman over the years, just in time for tonight's premiere of The Dark Knight.
5. Adam West
Nothing says onomatopoeia like a 1960's Batman fight sequence. In a series that brought you painted on eyebrows, the stylish red Bat Phone, and the Batusi, Adam West gave campiness a whole new meaning with his portrayal of the fearless knight of Gotham City, a character who seemingly took great pleasure in lecturing his 'gee-whillickers' sidekick, Robin. It's amazing the crap you tolerated as a child; watching this series now makes me cringe with every pun West delivers, not to mention those god-awful capers involving the Riddler.
Two words: nipple suit. Clooney's undertaking as Batman was so dreadful, not even an Academy Award nomination (Syriana), three Ocean films, or a touching timepiece (Three Kings) could rid our minds of the disaster that was Batman and Robin. There's a reason this film and portrayal has been bashed in numerous posts these past few days: Schwarzenegger's Mr. Freeze (he actually delivered the line, "Ice to see you!"), Bruce Wayne's puzzling use of a Bat Credit Card, and the use of too many damn villains made for a deliciously putrid addition to the Batman series, worthy of all the jeers they deserve. If you thought Spiderman 3 was unwatchable, you need to feast your eyes on this steaming pile of feces, a movie that nearly killed the franchise with its juvenile appeal and awkward tribute to the cheesy series that preceded it thirty years ago. Clooney, throughout the course of this dungfest, played Batman like nobody else could, by overacting from one tedious scene to the next. I imagine Batman and Robin would be the in-flight movie on a first-class trip to hell.
3. Val Kilmer
Kilmer's role as Batman was truly underrated, as he compensated for the uneven acting of Nicole Kidman and Tommy Lee Jones's pointless turn as Two Face. It was a pleasure to watch Bruce Wayne as he took Dick Grayson (who would later become Robin) under his wing, showing him the true meaning of fortifying oneself as Gotham's vigilante force. Although Batman Forever set the tone for the technicolor glaze that became Joel Schumacher's calling card in the two Batman films he directed, the movie, broadened by Kilmer's presence as Wayne, wasn't half bad. Even so, Forever started an ugly trend: using Batman for its commercial allure, going so far as to borrow U2 (during their glamorously strange Pop days) for use on the film's soundtrack.
2. Michael Keaton
Although diminutive in size and better associated with silly roles like Beetlejuice and Mr. Mom, Michael Keaton played one hell of a Batman. In fact, Keaton was far more believable as the Dark Knight than he ever was playing the enigmatic Bruce Wayne. Tim Burton's stab at directing the Batman series was dark and intruding, a look into Batman that brought moviegoers to the cinema in droves. Essentially, Keaton's portrayal of Batman was all about pleasing the women, as Wayne tickled the fancy of leading females Kim Basinger and Michelle Pfeiffer, flirtations worthy of a cold shower (like when Catwoman straight up licked Batman's face. Grrrrroooowl).
1. Christian Bale
The man who was made for the role of the Dark Knight, Mr. Christian Bale. For those of you not up on Bale, observe his body of work (The Machinist, American Psycho, The Prestige, 3:10 to Yuma, Rescue Dawn, etc.) and take pleasure in the superb actor he is. His balance in playing both Wayne and Batman (although splendid at Batman, Keaton's role as Wayne often times left something to be desired) is what made Batman Begins so startlingly good in the first place. Bale made Wayne extremely cool (his banter with cohorts Alfred and Lucius is priceless) and Batman a mystery to be unfolded. Just as Harrison Ford is Indiana Jones, moviegoers everywhere can take solace knowing that Christian Bale will be playing Batman yet again after The Dark Knight processes through the theater this summer. While we still wait for a sequel to Superman Returns and the slow death of the Spiderman series, Christopher Nolan's Batman will continue to impress with films that speak to the true nature of who Batman is and has yet to be.