Top 3 Portrayals of Batman

It is no secret there have been some great portrayals of Batman. From the ’60s television show all the way to the current incarnation in the DCEU, Batman fans have been given some great Batman performances. All and any incarnation of Batman has been considered for my list. Without further ado, here are my three favorite portrayals of Batman and why.

 

Keaton Batman

Honorable Mention: Michael Keaton

His unique portrayal of Batman and Bruce Wayne in the 1989 breakout hit, Batman, has endured in Batman legend much like the film itself. The accomplishment he and director Tim Burton had with Batman and Batman Returns was groundbreaking in terms of bringing the IP of Batman to the big-screen for the first time and distancing itself from the campy, comedy version on television in the 1960s. Despite the backlash at first for his casting, Keaton became a solid Batman and fans definitely missed him after he left the role following Batman Returns. Although a fan favorite of the older generation of fans, he just misses out on cracking the top three – but that is in no way a knock on him.

 

Bale Batman.jpg

3) Christian Bale

“Where is she?” What makes Christian Bale’s portrayal of Batman stand out is not just the hoarse and coarse voice, but how incredibly successful he and the re-invigorated Batman franchise were coming off years away from the disaster of Batman and Robin. Bale brought a troubled and lost soul in Bruce Wayne onto screen with compassion in private in addition to a sly, humorous persona in public to highlight the contrast and duality of the character. He brought to life a grounded realism in the role to match the tone of the franchise set in place by acclaimed director, Christopher Nolan. It also helps that Bale was Batman in what might be perhaps not just the best Batman movie ever made, but the best comic-book movie of all-time in The Dark Knight and an underrated movie in Batman Begins. I do understand the counter-argument about Bale being a product of greatness around him – such as the strong cast around him, particularly Heath Ledger’s Joker, Hans Zimmer’s soundtrack, and great material in the script – but Bale delivered solid performances in the role and that is what makes him rise into the #3 spot.

 

BTAS 2

2) Kevin Conroy

Conroy is the king of Batman in terms of the longest tenured portrayal of the character. He has been voicing the character in animation since 1993 (to put that into perspective, that’s when I was born). He is mostly known, however, for his voiceover work in Batman: The Animated Series that ran from 1992-1995. His dark, mysterious, and powerful voice has lended gravitas to the role ever since. He has also done voiceover work for other Batman films, shows, and video games, such as Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, Justice League Unlimited, Injustice: Gods Among Us, and Batman: Arkham City. He is 62 years old and continues to voice the character in upcoming projects. Now that is true talent and dedication!

 

Batman picture

1) Ben Affleck

This might be a controversial pick for the best portrayal of Batman and Bruce Wayne. I was about to bump him down to #2 after his performance in Justice League, but he is just too good in the role to downgrade out of the #1 slot. He is the real-life version of the character brought to life straight out of the comics and animated shows and films. Affleck delivered a darker, cynical, and cerebral Batman and Bruce Wayne in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (and has the best costume/suit). It was a different approach to the character that challenged the iconography of Batman and his mythology by having Affleck portraying not only a darker and more violent Batman, but the oldest Batman we’ve ever seen on screen (and drawing inspiration from The Dark Knight Returns graphic novel) to contrast with Henry Cavill’s Superman – led by visionary director, Zack Snyder. Affleck displays a full cycle in his story-arc. He begins fully immersed in cynicism and makes it all the way back to becoming more inspirational and like he has been portrayed in the past. Affleck is Batman and Bruce Wayne brought to life and it is a shame we are no longer getting his take on a solo Batman film.

Batman - 1966-1968

Do you agree with my list or do you completely disagree with my list? More importantly, who is your favorite Batman? Let me know in the comments! Catch me on twitter @darynkirscht16

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2 thoughts on “Top 3 Portrayals of Batman

  1. I disagree with you. I haven’t thought of my top three, but I’ll give you a quick take… after I give my reason for disagreeing with your list.

    Batman is fully defined by his relationship with the Joker. No other hero is as intimately intertwined with his archenemy as Batman and Joker.

    Who is Batman? A man seeking revenge for a loss that he can never avenge. That hole will always be there. The butterfly effect of losing his parents could never be settled, because there are a thousand paths he could have taken since that fateful night. This continual Howling at the Moon every night in the streets of Gotham pushes Batman to the brink many times. However, what makes us love Batman is that he always takes the noble path and has integrity. He does this most likely because he’s extremely wealthy, and all things being said and done, he can go home at night and he’s still Bruce Wayne. Bruce can retreat to his civil persona, shaped by the teachings of his father (a pillar of the Gotham community).

    Who is Joker? The EXACT opposite. No history. No legacy to shape him. No foundations for him to retreat upon. No Bruce Wayne to settle back to and calm his urges. Joker takes revenge at all times, in any way that he wishes. He not only soothes that desire to avenge himself, but he has fun doing it and enjoys it. He does not wrestle with his choices, like Bruce. he does not wrestle with going Dark.

    The extent that Batman can be a “great” batman is measured by how dark his counterpart in the Joker can push him.

    That as my assumption and belief, here are my top three, off the top of my head right now:

    1. Hamill/Conroy. The Arkham games, the Killing Joke. They’ve explored every permutation of the Joker/Batman relationship. They have probably the most material, so it’s kind of a slam dunk here.

    2. Ledger/Bale. Ledger’s belief that Batman was another monster like him, and Batman’s concession that he would have to become the “Monster” and burn the whole forest down is the absolute best tandem of this superhero duo. They drive each other to madness (the first hint coming at the end of Batman Begins, when Gordon hands him the playing card). It culminates with Bale nearly dropping Ledger to his death. That moment is representative of the most centralized point of the yin/yang that Batman and Joker share.

    3. Nicholson/Keaton. I grew up on the Romero/West series, but it violates my belief that the power of Batman is the dark themes that he is challenged with. They were too campy to fit into what I believe makes Batman who he is. Keaton doesn’t get too dark, but Burton’s dark cinematography places him in a seedy Gotham that would challenge any man’s integrity. TBF 1980’s Basinger and Pfeiffer would have made it nearly impossible. So, Keaton is fighting his demons. None of them are as tangible and palpable as Nicholson’s Joker. Nicholson goes on some of the most memorable rampages in Batman’s history. Its pretty campy, but this version of Batman relies on the theory that Joker killed Bruce’s parents. So, yeah they’re intertwined. The relationship isn’t based as much in underlying psychoanalysis, but rather a direct yin/yang. Joker even says “I made you , you gotta say you made me.” It’s the climax of the film.

    Affleck could be tops, if we had a legit batman movie and we saw Robin get killed by a Joker, and we could understand some of the reasons he’s so dark and why he’s lost a bit of his integrity. I say he lost his integrity, because he’s branding people, killing people and as some of your Snyder cut spoilers reveal, he’s still dealing with that fallout. I would love to see a prequel to BvS, here he’s an a Mad Max/Die Hard 2 race to the end against a mad man in a rush to save Robin, or Barbara… and in the end he kills Joker. Then I would like that loss of balance be the reason we see an alcoholic, violent, skeptical Batman in BvS and JL. In other words, having lost his counterpart, in whom was the the definition of his boundaries, now Bruce finds himself lost, and giving into the lesser pleasures of his vengeance. That would be compelling and mind***ing to think that A, he lost Robin despite doing everything, B. He kills the Joker C. he can’t stop now in a downward spiral of violence, excess collateral damage and carelessness…. until he goes on a suicide mission with the JL and they save him in the end.

    Just my two cents. I haven’t thought about it, but your blogs are fun and get me thinking about Batman in different ways. I hope they release that Snyder cut, and maybe we get one more Affleck Batman.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You bring up some excellent points about the internal working of both Batman and the Joker. It is an extremely tough list to make because we have encountered some great Batman actors and movies, but that is part of what makes it fun to do.

      As amazing as Batman and Joker’s relationship has been over the years (The Dark Knight being the pinnacle and best Batman movie), I have a question for you: why does the character of the Joker have to define the quality of the portrayal of Batman? Batman has other great villains and I really liked the idea of pinning Superman and Batman against each other ideologically in BvS. I can definitely understand your point because of the amazing moments Batman and Joker have shared together on-screen and how the Joker is the perfect foil for Batman, but if that is the only character to bring out the best in Batman, then why bother with other characters and films? Do you see what I mean?

      I’m completely on board with you in terms of a Batman prequel movie. I’m very curious to see how exactly Matt Reeves’ Batman will fit into the DCEU (if it will at all). I trust him as a filmmaker. It’s too bad that Affleck decided to opt out of The Batman.

      Like

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