This editorial must be started with a few things: First, I will not be including Lewis G Wilson, Robert Lowrey, or Adam West. They played Batman before many of us were born, it was a different time where campy jokes were abound, and I simply have never seen two of the three actors in action. Second, I am also not including the voice actors, and while Kevin Conroy is greatness, I can't list him here. Finally, I will try my best to not include the performance of the movie while judging the actor's work. At times this will be impossible, as seen in my pick for #5.
The problem for actors in portraying Batman is the fact that they also have to be Bruce Wayne as well. This can be problematic as the characters are almost a complete opposite from one another. Bruce Wayne is the mask of Batman, and it is very critical to the script for the actor to understand this. Therefore, I used a highly sophisticated algorithm, based on 1st grade arithmetic, to determine the rankings. I like to call this system the "5 Scale", where I give a ranking of 1 through 5 based on the performances of both Bruce Wayne and Batman, and then add them together. The formula based on my mathematics is irrefutable with evidence, and would only be opinion -- of which I would like to hear in the comments below. *smiling*
Let's get started, shall we?
5. George Clooney
Batman: 2 of 5
Bruce Wayne: 2 of 5
Sorry Cloones. You were simply just George Clooney in a mask. I actually watched all 7 movies, between yesterday and today, so I could give an accurate accounting of the roles. Watching Batman & Robin was maybe the most grueling thing I have ever done for the site. It wasn't even the "Batnipples", it was just the fact that he never seemed to get in character. There was not one time in the whole film that I "bought" the fact that he was either Bruce Wayne or Batman. This is another Joel Schumacher epic fail, and Clooney has even joked with him that, "The film was a waste of money." He also said, “Joel Schumacher told me we never made another Batman film because Batman was gay.” Batnipples. It was a different time then, and I doubt he would even mention that comment today.
4. Val Kilmer
Batman: 5 of 5
Bruce Wayne: 1 of 5
Oh ya, I gave Kilmer a 5 for Batman. In all honesty, he may have a slight edge on Christian Bale simply for the fact that I think Kilmer got the Batman voice down better than anyone in a live action depiction. As soon as the film starts, Kilmer interacts with Nicole Kidman's character, he lays down a dark and husky voice, and then when she turns away he vanishes. That is Batman, and he continues with his portrayal for the rest of the film. The only problem is that in this movie we barely even see him as Batman.
In playing Bruce Wayne, he simply is horrible. There is nothing about the character that is compelling to the audience, and at times it seems like he gave up. Perhaps he did. Kilmer signed on to the role without reading the script or even knowing who was directing it. I think he assumed it was going to be Tim Burton, and when he found out it was Joel Schumacher he must have vomited. It has been reported that Kilmer was a total ass to the production staff, argued about everything, and even refused to talk to everyone for two weeks. Some may think he is simply an egotistical idiot, but I disagree. I think he had a vision of Bruce Wayne and Batman, and Schumacher would not let the character come to fruition. Kilmer is a wonderful actor when left to his own designs.
If you think I am crazy, then so is the creator of Batman; Bob Kane. He died in 1998, and was never able to see Christian Bale or Ben Affleck, but he did say that he thought Kilmer did the best job of playing Batman up until that point. (This was before Clooney played him, but I doubt he would have changed his opinion).
3. Ben Affleck
Batman: 4 of 5
Bruce Wayne: 3 of 5
This one is tough to write about. LRM has been on his arse for years now, and his lying and deception about his role in directing The Batman has come under heavy scrutiny. It is difficult to get the "Batfleck" taste off the "bitter receptor" on the back of your tongue. That being said, he did a pretty decent job in actually playing the role.
Affleck has a background in comic love, he is buddies with Kevin Smith (even though they haven't talked in years), and he does seem to genuinely want to do good for the public when it comes to this amazing franchise. There was nothing terrible about his portrayal of Batman or Bruce Wayne, and he actually pulled off an aged Batman quite well. We all are skeptical if he will ever see the screen as The Batman in a solo film, or if he will flee from this role for fear of another Gigili down slide.
All this being said, I was pleased with the outcome of his character. He was no Christian Bale or Michael Keaton -- keep reading -- but I did not get nauseated.
2. Michael Keaton
Batman: 3 of 5
Bruce Wayne: 5 of 5
The best Bruce Wayne to date. In fact, I doubt if anyone will ever come close. Bale is about the best we can hope for to represent this role, and Affleck was Ok'ish. He originated the modern day role, and for two films he was excellent in both roles. We must keep in mind that the original modern day Batman dropped in 1989, when I was 11, and times back then were different in what an audience wanted in a Batman film.
Bruce Wayne is a lover, not a fighter, and the way he courted both Vicki Vale and Selina Kyle holds up even to this day.
The movie, in and of itself, was loaded with talent with Keaton being the third on the list behind Jack Nicholson and Kim Bassinger. Clearly, Keaton has moved on, especially after his success in Birdman, but this may be his one defining role that he can never outlive.
1. Christian Bale
Batman: 5 of 5
Bruce Wayne: 4 of 5
Now we get to the top dog of the Batman genre. After watching Memento, I knew Christopher Nolan had a little greatness in him, and after he took on the directorial role and then Christian Bale was signed, I knew we were in for a treat.
I first remember Bale, as a child actor, in Empire of the Sun. He went on to play wonderful roles in The Fighter (which he won an Oscar for), The Machinist, The Big Short (Which he should have won an Oscar for), and American Psycho. He is a generational actor, and Nolan was lucky that he got him.
Bale plays this role about as well as we can expect, with his only talked about downfall being the Batman growl voice. Even with that, he played the role almost perfectly. It took a score of years after the first Keaton Batman role to get something this entrenching, and I expect double that amount before we can compare his performance to another. However, he still only received 9 out of 10 on my ratings, so I know the future is out there.
Well, there you have it. I would love to know if you liked my ratings or if you disagree. Who is the best Batman? Who is the best Bruce Wayne? Will Bale's performance ever be beaten? Speak your mind.