Yep, I’ve decided that I am going there. Today I want to talk about the caped crusader, Batman! He has been around just about as long as Superman, with just as many if not more incarnations. Everyone has their favorite. But what if we could blend those versions to make a “perfect” version?
Today I am going to compare the old TV series, The Tim Burton/Joel Schumacher Movies, and the Chris Nolan movies. Now, many people may be asking why I would include the 60’s TV series. Well, I grew up with it in re-runs and love it. And it does have some stuff to offer as we will see. The bigger question may be, how can you ignore The Animated Series? I never watched it, and while I understand it was very well done and that Kevin Conroy was fantastic as Batman I am keeping this limited to the live action stuff (that Iâ€™ve seen).Finally, I am lumping the Schumacher films into the Tim Burton category even though itâ€™s two very different directors so I can discuss all the movies but let’s forget Val Kilmer and especially George Clooney as Batman ever happened.They both sucked, end of story.
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Now I imagine many will disagree with the choices below, just remember that this all in good fun. If you disagree that’s cool, I respect your opinion.
Adam West really left a special mark on the character in that TV series. It worked because West played it straight, and let the goofiness be in the situation and maybe the villains. If you know comics from that time period you know this is the Batman which was in comics then. His portrayal made the character become a phenomenon, everyone loved Batman! Â But Michael Keaton was the one who really nailed the character. This was the Batman we always wanted to see in the movies, dark and serious and he did not disappoint. In fact, he surprised many with how good he was as the character! I was glad to see the movies also remember Batman was a detective, something so many versions forget. Finally, we have Christian Bale. The real discussion on him will come in the next section,but suffice to say he was not the best Batman. They got some stuff right, like how Batman was mean to be a symbol for the citizens of Gotham. But many things hurt his portrayal like the dumb costume and even dumber speaking voice. When I saw Batman Begins I kept waiting for the real Batman to appear, I am dead serious. He grew on me in the other two films but it still never really felt like Batman. So the perfect Batman in this case is simple.
Bruce Wayne-Nolan Films
While I give Adam West credit for fleshing out Batman and making him the pop icon he would become when the series was on, his Bruce Wayne was just sooo boring. There was nothing interesting about him and since it was a campy series we never got into the emotional depth in the character. Oh, oncein awhile but not really. Micheal Keaton was kind of the same; his Bruce just never resonated with me either except for two scenes in the first movie. One is when he puts roses where his parents died, that was played perfectly, and the other in his discussion with Vicki Vale in the Batcave. Christian Bale was perfect as Bruce Wayne, which makes sense since the Nolan films were more about Wayne than they were Batman, thatâ€™s what really set them apart from the previous films. We see Wayne’s journey through those three films and it’s given a satisfying conclusion. My mindset for the Nolan films is that this is not the comic book Batman I grew up with, it’s a version of that world more focused of Bruce Wayne. If you expect the comic book Batman, man are you going to be disappointed.Now that will be a bad thing later, but for now itâ€™s a positive. With Bale we got all sides of Wayne from the happy go lucky socialite to the tortured soul within.True Batman Forever explored Bruce’s past a little it was nowhere to be seen in Batman Returns which was just a big fail.
Supporting Cast-TV Series
Minus Gordon, we’ll get to him. Now you may wonder, what am I thinking? Well the supporting cast in the Burton/Schumacher movies weren’t that great. Alfred comes off more as a kind yet pestering uncle. Robin wasn’t bad in Batman Forever but he was annoying in Batman & Robin.What about Chase in Batman Forever? She was a stock damsel in distress in my opinion. In the Nolan films, Alfred was better but I never really bought Michael Cain as Alfred. Hewas good, but it just never fit. And he does things I don’t think Alfred wouldever do. And Joseph Gordon Levitt was not fleshed out enough to even count here. So why did the series get it right? They had Alfred the way he was originally intended, he watched over the Batcave and helped when needed…but he never crossed the line like the Michael Cain Alfred often did. I mean Alfred quitting like that? Never. And Burt Ward really put his stamp on Robin; this is the version most think of when they think of the character. Heck, in Batman Forever there is even homage to the original character and the annoying way he would say “Holy….clever catchphrase. I will talk more about this when we get to the villains, but the characters in the series are the closest to the comics not some reimagined version that barely resemble the classic characters.And I like that. This was the way Robin was supposed to be, not a tortured teenager but a happy kid leaping around telling jokes and taking some of the darkness away from Batman. And being a dumbass in distress too. As for Batgirl,Alicia Silverstone has nothing on Yvonne Craig. What about Vicki Vale? She was a terrible character, but a great screamer! And as for the Nolan films, Morgan Freeman is always cool but not enough to win here. Touch choice but the TV series wins for having the more likable good guys because they had more time to develop them.
Gordon-Chris Nolan Movies
One thing I hated in the old TV series was Gordon. I mean,what did Batman do to this guy to deserve this admiration? Every episode has Gordon spouting off how lucky they are to have Batman and so on and it was really annoying. So annoying they had to have Chief O’Hara in there as a voice of reason while Gordon kissed Batman’s….ah, never mind. In fact O’Hara was the stronger character of the two, even getting in on the action. But as bad as that was the Burton/Schumacher movies were even worst! Gordon barely appears and almost no mention is made of his relationship to Batman. He’s just…there.Actually Gordon in the first Batman movie wasn’t so bad but it was downhill from there, barely making a cameo in the final one. One thing I 100% give the Nolan movies credit for is what they did with the Commissioner Gordon character. It was said they drove inspiration from the Frank Miller story Batman:Year One and man does it show. Gordon is a complex character and he and Batman have the utmost respect for each other, but they both temper that respect with common sense. Of course having Gary Oldman playing him didn’t hurt. This was my favorite character in the movies and was about as well done as I have ever seen him. Yeah he was shafted a bit in the third film but it was still a lot better than the other versions we’ve seen.
The Joker-Nolan films
I think that it’s a real shame Cesar Romero does not get the respect he deserves for what he did with the Joker. Before the TV show, Joker was nothing. A Batman villain no one except real comic fans knew, in fact he was being watered down and phased out. Then Romero came along, and everyone loved the Joker. He just such an interesting character! How can you not love that crazy laugh? But of course there is more to Joker than that, which is why Jack Nicholson did so well when he recreated the character years later. A lot of what Romero created was there, but Nicholson also explored the sadistic side that will kill without any thought and for no reason. To bad we got to know Joker a little to well, it’s better when he’s a mystery. That brings us to Heath Ledger and one upped them both by giving us a Joker who was a real villain.His Joker isn’t out for fame, money, or anything like that. He is trying toprove a point, which is in a world of order there must always be chaos. He is evil,and even scary, as Ledger’s Joker hit every note perfectly!Â This character deserves an entire article to explore, but for now I will say that as much as I enjoyed Romero and Nicholson,Ledger truly is the one who got the clown prince down by combining the best traits from all the previous versions.
This is the last villain I am keeping out of the main category. Catwoman is a complicated character, is she a thief or a good guy? Does she love Batman or not? It’s not easy to pull off. Julie Newmar was the first to really put the character on the map, and why not she played it great! She did a fantastic job and was one of the best villains on that series. Yeah I know about Eartha Kitt and Lee Meriwether but Newmar wins with her sexy style. But when you compare her to the movies, Michelle Pfeifer has it all over the others. There is a reason a sequel movie was in the works after Batman Returns. She just nailed it from Salinaâ€™s psychological trauma to her lust for Batman. She just took that role and ran with it, really making it her own. So what about Anne Hathaway? She wasn’t bad,but it didn’t really feel like Catwoman. Seriously, you could have named her anything and it would have been the same character. Michelle Pfeifer nailed it,and to me is still the definitive vesion.
Taking out the two I already talked about, I will argue that the TV series had the better villains. How? First of all, Batman has the coolest rogueâ€™s gallery of anyone. Some may say Flash was better, but they were more silly. You felt like they could have their own sitcom. But the versions of the villains we got in the Burton/Schumacher films were kind of bad. Penguin was just…weird. Honestly, Burgess Meredith owns that character! I don’t mind a reimagining but at least stay true to the character! Riddler was played for laughs by Jim Cary and he did a decent job in the start before mugging for most of the film. Frank Gorshin made that character his own and there is no way to top it. I loved his laugh!Â Two-Face was awful in the Schumacher film, and while Poison Ivy was decent do we need to talk about Mr.Freeze? The Nolan films were a little better. It was nice to see Ras Al Ghul and Scarecrow, even if they were both underused, Two-Face was great in DK but was also underused, and while Bane was better in DKR than Batman & Robin,he still gets screwed in the end when it turns out he is not the real bad guy. Â Talia would have been a neat twist if they had established her a little better! The villains on the TV show were just fantastic, staying true to the comic books and being a heck of a lot of fun to watch. Fans loved it when the standard villains would returns, and embraced the new one’s that popped up. Why were they so memorable? Because the actors who portrayed them enjoyed the heck out of the roles. Â Â By the way I did exclude Catwoman and Joker but finding a pic without them was impossible.
Bat Gadgets & Batmobile-TV Series
What would Batman be without his cool gadgets? In the Nolan films he had….what did he have in the Nolan films? Besides that motorbike and those bat shaped throwing things. The Burton/Schumacher films were a lot better. Batman had a batarang, the grappling hook and….the grappling hook. Was there anything else? Ok he did a have flying vehicle too. Â Yeah the TV show really got the bat gadgets down. The utility belt was filled with anything and everything, they used the batrope to climb buildings, Batboat, Batcopter, the awesome stuff in the Batcave and let’s be honest it was the coolest Batmobile of them all! Oh sure it’s a bit retro today, but that car was freaking cool! The one in the Burton films was a bit clunky, and the tumbler thing in the Nolan film was awful! Was it a car or a tank? I hated it. Sometimes no matter how much you modernize something, the classic is still the best! Â Or maybe I am just prejudiced because I once saw the car live at an auto show.
Action & Mythology-Burton/Schumacher
Now is where I will get a lot of disagreement I imagine. The Batman TV series was perfect for the 60’s, but it is real dated today. Oh sure it’s still fun to watch, but still really silly. I mean were those fight scenes for real (zap! Pow! Bam!)? As for the mythology, the show did get some stuff right, for instance we do get mention of Bruce’s parents being killed, but they also played it safe in many ways (never having the villains kill was lame, and why was Batman out in broad daylight?). The Nolan Films, as I noted, were more the story of Bruce Wayne than Batman. And did we need to see every little thing that caused him to become Batman? Heck in DKR Batman feels like he is hardly in it. These films are more character pieces than comic book movies. Now donâ€™t get me wrong the Nolan films are great, but I want to see the Batman I grew up with in the comics. That is the Burton/Schumacher films for better or worst. They hit the right Â notes with the mythology, showing Bruce as brooding and alone but without going into to much detail. And the action was better, but I will be fair and say there was a lot of pointless action in those movies to. Despite the flaws, this was the Batman I wanted to see, and in fact the first movie brought me to the Batman comics that I had been neglecting to that point. I love these movies and enjoy watching them overe and over. Are they perfect? No but they are a heck of a lot of fun. There is nothing wrong with the other two versions, The Dark Knight is a fantastic film and the 60â€™s Batman movie a real guilty pleasure, but to me Michael Keaton and “Batman” will always be the ideal version.
As I said, this was all for fun. Feel free to disagree. Batman is one of the most enduring characters in the world, and I hope he will continue to endure for a very long time.