The caped crusader! The Dark Knight! The man in tights! Bob Kane’s Batman has faced many transformations. From the camp and classic 1960’s ‘straight out of the comic book’ portrayal by Adam West to the brooding and dark Christopher Nolan latter day version; we’ve seen Gotham’s finest hero in a number of guises. But who is the best Bruce Wayne of the bunch?
Adam West – Batman TV Series
Holy priceless collection of Etruscan snoods, Batman! Adam West’s jerky delivery, shiny cape and fabulous tights brought the colourful comic-book series to life in 1966. However, all the THWACKS, WHOOSHES and KERPLUNKS in the world couldn’t give an edge to one of the darkest super-heroes of all time.
Val Kilmer – Batman Forever
With Joel Schumacher at the helm and Val Kilmer in the mask, the bat-mobile and the famous bat-suit may have been slicker but the action was no less camp. Kilmer’s Batman was probably a little more conventionally handsome yet was slated as ‘wooden’ by critics. More of an American hero than the ruthless vigilante and world-hardened and vengeful fellow we’ve grown to love, Kilmer was okay and should be given some amount of credit for taking on two villains at a time – The Riddler and Two-Face, respectively – although he was flanked by both Robin Nicole Kidman at the time. So that’s kind of cheating…
Michael Keaton – Batman and Batman Returns
Despite facing criticism as being ‘wrongly’ cast from fans, Keaton’s performance as the caped crusader is certainly one of the most popular. Tim Burton’s dark and gothic Batman interpretations allowed Keaton to portray playboy Bruce Wayne as the obsessive and brooding man he had become in the DC comics by the 1980’s thanks to Frank Miller. Although many argued that he was not as ‘suave and handsome’ as the role demanded, Keaton was harder and more serious than West, though perhaps a little more comedic and believable than pretty-boy Kilmer.
George Clooney – Batman and Robin
A furore of homoerotic undertones, heightened campness and swooning from middle-aged women was left in the wake of George Clooney’s attempt at playing the Dark Knight in 1997. Facing Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze and Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy this deliriously silly effort saw heart-throb Clooney shmoozing it up as Bruce Wayne and failing to remember that he is a SUPER HERO as Batman. Clooney’s more light-hearted attempt introduced the infamous ‘nipple’ bat-suit, which can never be a good thing.
Christian Bale – Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises
In homage to the later comics by Frank Miller, Christopher Nolan wanted a more sinister and edgy Batman for his trilogy. As a result, intense Welsh actor Christian Bale was cast and blew everyone away. Set in an alternative reality we see Bale’s Batman grow from the son of a rich family – who then witnesses his parents murder – to an arsey playboy and eventually to a heavily trained and extremely vengeful fighting machine. Bale’s Batman delves deeper and darker than any other of his predecessors but unfortunately he loses points for the ridiculous husky voice.
The Verdict: Michael Keaton has that balance of moody millionaire in a mask coupled with a self-deprecating sense of humour. A bounder and a cad, Keaton’s Batman is the right amount of cool and camp.