“I am Batman” has been said by quite a number of actors out there among thousands and thousands of little costumed boys. In recent news, Ben Affleck has been announced as the next actor to sport the bat-like cowl. Check out this clip from Ben on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon:
Now, before we plow into Ben as Batman, I want to take a moment and explore the previous selections as Batman. Now, in 1943, there were a series of Batman films called serial films. An actor named Lewis Wilson was the first to take on the character that is Batman (lest we not forget Bruce Wayne too). Lewis played Batman for 15 serial chapters, or about a 260 minute presentation. The story line was simple enough, Batman and his sidekick Robin (played by Douglas Croft) battle against a Japanese scientist who plans to turn people into zombie-like creatures. Naturally, Batman and Robin win.
In 1949, another serial film was made, Batman and Robin, which brought in Robert Lowery as the masked vigilante. In this serial, Batman and Robin (Johnny Duncan) face off against The Wizard (not a terribly original name) who uses an electrical doo-hickey to control electronics and just wants to toy with Batman and Robin. Much like the 1943 serial, this was so incredibly low budget that even by film standards in the 1940′s, this was embarrassingly low. On the plus side, it was released on DVD in 2005 just in case you were wondering.
Then we move on to Adam West, the man who played Batman that many fanboys/girls are first familiar with. Adam West played Batman in the television show from ’66-68 and in the movie, Batman: The Movie in 1966. In this, the first major theatrical presentation of the caped crusader, Batman once again with Robin (Burt Ward) set out to commit acts of heroism. Well, to be more specific, to rescue Commodore Schmidlapp (Reginald Denny (NOT the same guy who got beat up in the 1992 LA riots)) however that gets botched and then Batman fights a shark which he causes to explode, yep, explode with Bat-shark repellent. Let all that soak in for a minute. Later he battles the United Underworld consisting of the four most dangerous criminals in all the world; Joker, Penguin, Riddler and Catwoman. Long storyline short, this is a classically hokey comic book movie albeit one of the first. Batman (and Robin) do ultimately save the day just like any friendly neighborhood Batman should.
It took 23 years until Batman appeared in a movie again, and this time Batman took a much darker approach courtesy of director Tim Burton. The actor chosen to be Batman, none other than Beetlejuice himself, Michael Keaton. This selection caused a maelstrom among the film and comic industries alike. Just a few of the lead actor considerations included Alex Baldwin, Emilio Estevez, Kevin Costner, Tom Cruise, Harrison Ford, Michael J Fox, Kurt Russell, Tom Selleck, Kevin Kline and Bruce Willis just to name a few. Personally, I think Michael Keaton was a fantastic choice. What was, dare I say, an even better choice was Jack Nicholson as Joker. But this is about the hero, not the villain. So Batman (1989) brings us a story about a city that is in need of a hero because of the crime syndicate that is over-running the good people of Gotham City. Enter Bruce Wayne as Batman who long story short, defeats the bad guy and wins the day.
Batman Returns was made just a few years later and was the first time an actor played Batman more than just once. Additionally, Tim Burton returned to direct which was a very reluctant choice for Tim. Michael Keaton brought the Batman to life once again alongside Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman and Danny DeVito as Penguin. Penguin and Catwoman partner up to try and bring down Batman but obviously aren’t successful and as it should be, Batman wins the day.
Now, this is where things start to go downhill. The industry powers that be felt that Batman (1989) and Batman Returns were decent enough money makers, so they felt it was time to take Batman/Bruce Wayne to the next mainstream level and casted Val Kilmer as the next to play the legendary hero. Batman Forever was just comical and not in a funny comedian way but a “are you trying to be serious?” kind of way. Chris O’Donnell as Robin/Dick Grayson wasn’t bad, Tommy Lee Jones is awesome in anything especially as Two-Face, and of course super hot at the time comedy giant Jim Carrey played The Riddler. The storyline showcases how Harvey Dent becomes the disfigured Two-Face and Edward Nygma becomes the maniacal Riddler. All the while, Bruce Wayne takes in a young Dick (stop it!) who is determined to take down Two-Face for blowing up his family. In a turn of events, Robin saves Batman at one point. Eventually Two-Face falls and Riddler is sent to Arkham Asylum.
Batman & Robin is where the proverbial feces didn’t just hit the fan, it caused a shock-wave of stink for miles around. First of all, George Clooney was cast as Batman/Bruce Wayne. Now, don’t get me wrong, I really like George Clooney, but absolutley NOT as Batman. It gets worse in case you didn’t already know, but then they go and Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr Freeze which was just horrible and hokey and loaded with so many one liners I wanted to just cry. Now, Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy was actually pretty good, she’s sultry and deceptive, redeeming choice there. At least Chris O’Donnell returned as Robin, but that wasn’t much help. But the nail in the coffin was without a doubt Alicia Silverstone as Batgirl; sure, she’s sexy and nice to look at, but the last thing is, is a super hero. This was an awful movie on so many avenues.
Thankfully there was no attempt to carry on the “franchise” that was Batman of the 90′s. Instead, there was an 8 year gap before the much anticipated, much acclaimed and frankly much loads of awesome that is director & writer Christopher Nolan’s series of Batman films; Batman Begins, The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises. Anyone who is a fan of Batman to even the slightest degree would be hard pressed to say that overall, they did not like this series of Batman films, and I believe it was mostly in part to the brilliant casting of Christian Bale as Batman. This series took away all instances of Batman being hokey, or cheesy, or silly, or really even comical. Instead they brought in an almost realistic approach that felt fantasy and sci-fi yet very organic. Much like Jack being an amazing Joker, Heath Ledger was phenomenal as Joker. Then there is all the support such as Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent/Two-Face, Liam Neeson as Ra’s al Ghul, Cillian Murphy as Scarecrow, Tom Hardy as Bane, Anne Hathaway as Catwoman and of course Morgan Freeman as… who cares, Morgan Freeman is too fantastic to matter what his characters name was.
Now we move on to the reason you chose to read this blog post, Ben Affleck chosen to play Batman in the upcoming yet as of this posting untitled Man of Steel sequel. Aug 22, 2013 is when the comic book world was turned upside down when The Hollywood Reporter announced that Ben would be Batman. This announcement was met with a slew of mixed emotions, most of them laughing hysterically at the premise of the former Marvel character Daredevil star being Batman. Internet memes poking fun; jokes running rampant about Matt Damon as Robin (not true); and sighs of disinterest spreading like a zombie epidemic. But wait, have you seen Argo? Ben can bring it when he needs to, right? Well Ben himself seems to think so. Then came Kevin Smith, the incredibly well respected comic aficionado and very close friend of Ben to announce 5 well worded ways that he totally supports Batfleck. Overall, the announcement that Ben Affleck will play Batman was a shock to an incredible number of people, but I really think that in all seriousness, Ben will do the role respectfully. He will make it his own and bring drama, intensity and charisma that we have not seen before… at least I hope so.