One of the most successful film and television franchises is the world of Batman.
I was a huge fan of reruns of the Batman television series when I was kid. The series starred Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward as Robin. They brought a tongue-in-cheek campiness to the legendary hero.
The series originally aired three seasons in the 1960s. In addition to West and Ward as the principal characters, Batman the series featured some very memorable reoccurring villains including Cesar Romero as The Joker, Burgess Meredith as The Penguin, Frank Gorshin and John Astin as The Riddler, the luscious Julie Newmar and sultry Eartha Kitt as Catwoman, and Vincent Price as Egghead.
In the late 1980’s and 1990’s Warner Brothers revived the Batman characters on film. Michael Keaton starred as the Dark Knight under the direction of visionary Tim Burton in Batman (1988) and Batman Returns (1992).
Joel Shumacher took over the reigns from Burton with Batman Forever (1995) featuring Val Kilmer in the title role and Batman & Robin (1997) starring George Clooney in the central role.
I have an interesting connection to Batman Forever. When Michael Keaton was still attached to reprise his Batman character, I was auditioned for the role Robin. Keaton is 5’9 -an above average height in the U.S., but by no means tall. I stand 5’11 and had a pretty muscular build. It was deemed that my height and build would overshadow Keaton. Later on, before production began, Keaton left the role and 6-foot Kilmer was brought in to replace him, but by that time the more diminutive Chris O’Donnell had signed to play Robin.
After Batman & Robin, Schumacher was to return in with the film Batman Unchained, but the poor box office performance of Batman & Robin brought a closure to the film franchise.
Fast forward to 2005 when a young, handsome, stellar actor by the name of Christian Bale was hired to breathe new life into the Batman legacy with a reboot – telling the story of the character from its origins. Bale appeared in Batman Begins (2005), The Dark Knight (2008), and The Dark Knight Rises (2012).
After Bale left the role, the decision was made was to age Batman into a more mature character with Ben Affleck playing the role under the direction of Zack Snyder. He starred in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) and Justice League (2017). Affleck also made cameos in Suicide Squad (2016) and Wonder Woman (2016).
So who is the best Batman?
As much as I loved the campy Batman television series, I loved the darkness around the character brought about in most of the films. (Schumacher’s Batman Forever and Batman & Robin were more campy and I don’t think that worked well)
So my favorite Batman has to be Keaton. He redefined the role.
Second on my list of favorites is Adam West. While his take comical, it worked for the television sitcom medium
Third on my list is Bale. While Bale may have detractors because of his reputation as difficult to get along with, the fact is he is an amazing actor and brought something new to the role.
After that it’s a bit of a tossup.
Kilmer and Clooney are both very good actors. They each brought positive and negatives to their Batman performances. To their defense, their scripts were not as strong as what Keaton and Bale had to work with.
I was personally very excited to hear about Affleck begin cast as Batman. However, the material he had to work with was dismally bad. Batman v Superman is almost unwatchable, and while Justice League was far better, it still wasn’t a great script. Overall, I was very disappointed with Affleck’s turn, but that has more to do with the script than his acting.
I would love to see Affleck give the role one more try with better material to work with. But who knows? Lately there have been rumors that Affleck may be replaced by Jake Gyllenhall.
Will the next Batman be the best yet? Only time will tell.
Peace. Love. Trust.