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.