Professed Batman-fanatic Josefine Bersztal ponders the future of the Caped Crusader and just what kind of expectations come with such an iconic role.
With Justice League, Spiderman: Homecoming, and Thor: Ragnorak all coming to the cinema within the next calendar month, the silver-screen’s romance with superhero movies has shown no signs of stopping in 2017. Rather than audiences turning away due to over-saturation of the same origin stories they have seen countless times before, the battle between Marvel and DC only seems to get bigger and bigger as the classical heroes are reinvented every few years. And whilst Marvel’s recent slew of movies have received generally positive reviews, DC’s Batman has had more of a roller coaster experience in movie theatres as of late.
2016 marked the sixth actor to portray the iconic character on the big screen and, despite (to express it gently) the flop of Batman V Superman, Warner Bros have decided to give Ben Affleck his own spin-off Batman film. News surrounding the Batffleck project (as it’s affectionately known) have recently taken a negative turn with rumours going around that Affleck no longer wants to don the cowl as the famed Caped Crusader. In the wake of this potential split, a lot of speculations has begun regarding a prospective successor, rearing that age-old question within audiences’ minds of what exactly does it takes for an actor to be a successful Batman?
Before Affleck’s latest rendition brought brooding and bulky to the forefront of Bruce Wayne’s personality, there had been numerous portrayals of the notorious hero of Gotham, some more celebrated than others…
Adam West kicked off the life of Batman on the big screen in Batman: The Movie during the 60s, with a sort of, compared to today’s adaptions, playful charm to the character.
Roughly 20 years later Tim Burton gives us a much darker rendition with Michael Keaton as the masked hero in Batman, and Batman Returns. Keaton’s turn was so memorable that he later went on to be cast in Birdman in a role that satirised his post-Batman fame.
After Keaton’s portrayal came the I’d-rather-forget-they-ever-existed-films of the Batman franchise, otherwise known as Batman Forever and Batman and Robin, starring Val Kilmer and George Clooney respectively in the eponymous role.
What followed ten years later down the line was what I would consider a masterpiece on so many levels. Director Christopher Nolan revived Batman in his more sombre and realistic Batman trilogy, containing not only Christian Bale as the epitome of the Dark Knight himself, but also providing audience members with Heath Ledger’s unforgettable performance the Joker.
Being the confessed Nolan fanatic that I am, I must admit that I am a teeny tiny bit biased on the matter, being strongly of the opinion that no-one can encapsualte Batman the way Bale was able to. So, perhaps the end of the Batffleck affair is simply an indication that it’s time for Wayne to hang up the cape and close down the Batcave for good.
Let’s face it though: production companies rarely want to stop at the top, especially when nostalgia is the biggest money maker in the movie industry, and besides I wouldn’t want to live in a world without reboots of old favourites that you can either condemn or adore. The Bat’s life will inevitably be a long one, despite certain abysmal adaptions doing their best to put the franchise in its grave. So then, what of Bruce Wayne’s future? Is there an actor out there who can take on the mantle as a monumental crowd pleaser audience in the ilk of Keaton and Bale, or can we just expect more of Clooney’s and Kilmer’s goofy iterations?
Reminiscing about the old adaptions of Gotham’s protagonist, a lot of the poorer versions of the character have not been due to a mismatch in the actor playing the hero, but rather a lack in a script-writer and director as proficient as Nolan or Burton.
So to answer the question on who should be passed the bat-on (ha-ha) is not a question about an actor, or even an actress, but rather one about the writer, director, producer, and team behind the construction a new Dark Knight. To let the words of Mr Wayne himself answer the question; ‘it is not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me.’ There is a lot more to Batman than just the man underneath the mask.