Towards the end of 2014, I shared a Buzzfeed article on Facebook (link below) that detailed a very special interview with Michael Keaton, which was conducted by Shortlist. In the interview, Keaton was asked if he ever felt “jealous of someone else playing Batman.” Keaton being freaking Michael Keaton gave the best response ever by saying, “No. Do you know why? Because I’m Batman. I’m very secure in that.”
Thank you, Michael Keaton, for finally standing up for me and others who have stood by you as the definitive film Batman. And I’m not being at all facetious with that statement. Tim Burton’s Batman will forever be my favorite Batman film. Why? Not only does Michael Keaton play an awesome Caped Crusader, but Jack Nicholson as The Joker is just brilliant. I know, I know, the movie wasn’t that true to the comic books, and Tim Burton didn’t really know what he was doing when he was making the film, but if you think about it, what Batman movie is truly accurate? And who played Batman best?
In my first Funday Friday, I’m going to explore this concept, while hopefully giving you a laugh. So buckle up, Robin: we’re going on a ride through my favorite on-screen Batmen!
1) Michael Keaton
It’s hard to imagine how a guy who played a shenanigans-evoking dead guy (Beetlejuice) could portray a serious character like Bruce Wayne. What I like about Keaton’s performance is that he makes Wayne and Batman seem so real; in Tim Burton’s Batman and Batman Forever, we see Keaton as a Batman who shows genuine human emotions. He goes through a moral struggle each time he fights The Joker, and he’s realistic in his fighting style. Never doing anything too showy, Keaton’s Batman personifies how a real-life and self-made superhero might be. He also remains dark and mysterious, but highly endearing. Swooping in at the last moment, beating up the bad guys, then leaving the audience with a cheeky smile, Keaton has fun with the role and takes it on as his own persona.
As Bruce Wayne, Keaton flirts with Kim Basinger’s character of Vicky Vale, without swells of string music to accompany their chemistry. Keaton’s Wayne is also tormented by the death of his parents, but he isn’t crippled like Christian Bale’s Batman. He keeps moving forward, never letting tragedy take him over. This to me is one of the most endearing traits to Keaton’s Batman, because in life we are expected to persevere in the face of tragedy. Keaton’s Batman to me is a symbol of perseverance—of how to take a horrible situation and turn it around for the better—taking his anguish as fuel to doing what’s right. In the end, that’s the whole point of Batman in general: he’s a human with flaws who tries to take the worst parts of his life and turns them around to for his benefit and the benefit of others.
2) Christian Bale
As much as I love Michael Keaton, I don’t hate Bale’s Batman. Where Keaton personifies a more palatable Batman from an earlier time in the comic’s history, Bale’s Batman is reminiscent—and loosely based off of—Frank Miller’s gritty rendition of the Caped Crusader. Keaton and Bale are hard to compare because they play two distinct strains of Batman, but they are both really good.
Except for Bale’s Batman voice.
What was the creative thought process in that character trait? “I want to fry my vocal cords so much that the audience will think that I’ve been smoking eight packs of cigarettes.”
Seeing the journey of Bruce Wayne through his training, rearing, and fighting through The Dark Knight film trilogy is actually quite impressive. Bale certainly looks the part of Batman, and he’s definitely the less cartoony of the bunch. But what I like most about this trilogy is how the villains are just as good as bale’s Batman, which makes the tension all the better.
3) George Clooney
I know, I know; I’m getting into touchy territory. Believe me, Batman and Robin is not one of my favorites in Batman filmography. The thought of rubber nipples alone turns me away from watching it. But, I’ve got to admit, Clooney plays a good Bruce Wayne. Not Batman, but Wayne.
Bruce Wayne, in many aspects, is just like Clooney: the eternal bachelor. Hell, Wayne’s fathered more kids than Zeus if you count up all the Batman multiverses, which is why Clooney personifies him so well. He’s the love-them-and-leave-them type of Batman. He’s a cool, suave, Casanova kind of Batman—but he’s not the best. Sorry George.
4) Val Kilmer
Kilmer was one of the most handsome actors (at the time) to play Batman, but the movie was so comical that any attempt from Kilmer to be dark and mysterious was overshadowed by Jim Carrey’s neon orange hair. I honestly can’t remember much of Kilmer’s performance as Batman; to me, it was a cross between Keaton and Clooney, but Kilmer was more reserved and quiet. Real talk, I can’t remember much of Kilmer’s performance because any thought of him as Batman keeps being upstaged by Tommy Lee Jones as Two Face, and Jim Carrey as The Riddler. They were the best part of this movie. I mean, Tommy Lee Jones as Two Face. TOMMY. LEE. JONES.
Kilmer’s Batman isn’t at the bottom of the list because of anything bad, it’s just not memorable. I always forget about it when I think of the Batman movies, and the villains are way more dynamic than the hero. And rubber nipples again on the Bat-suit?? Why????
What do you lovelies think? Who is your favorite on-screen Batman? Leave your comments below!
Dalton, Daniel (2014, December 13). Michael Keaton Just Proved Once And For All That He’s Batman. Retrieved from http://www.buzzfeed.com/danieldalton/the-goddamn-batman?bffb#.woZoARxne0.