Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Cinematic Evolution of Batman

                From the advent of the Batman comic books in May 1939, this caped crusader has taken over the big screen through the decades. Originally created by Bob Kane, Bruce Wayne was orphaned as a child, as he watched the brutal murder of his parents by a mugger.  He was then raised by his butler, Alfred Pennyworth and left with a fortune beyond anyone’s wildest dreams.  When Gotham City becomes filled with crime and villains, Wayne takes on an alter ego and becomes the Batman, looking to restore justice and peace.

 Several actors have had the utmost honor of portraying Batman, each bringing their own personality to it.  Interpretations change, depending on the plot of the film, the super villains being juxtaposed with the hero, and the directors piecing it together.  Some actors and films have been more successful than others.

Adam West.  The 1966 film that preluded the television series on TV Land, West brings a whimsical interpretation of Batman. Filmed in the style of the comic book, all the camera angles focused on villains are on a slant.  Plus, the colors stand out and we cannot help but feel the comics come to life.  West is a fun Batman as he parades around with Robin getting rid of bombs.  The slapstick humor throughout is light and fun.  The transition from comic book right to the film and television series, however ushered in a desire for a darker Batman, one to be taken seriously.  Hence…

Michael Keaton. From 1989 to 1992, Michael Keaton came to the forefront to take on the challenge of resurrecting the Batman.  In these two films directed by Tim Burton and starring alongside Michelle Pfeiffer, Danny DeVito and Jack Nicholson in these films, he moved away from just playing Batman as the main focus.  Keaton was able to bring in the playboy millionaire side of Bruce Wayne into play.  As important as the hero himself is, the hero cannot exist without the balance of having a secret identity.  His performance of Batman was pretty stellar as well and this phase in Batman’s evolution was important.  It turned West’s almost dopey Batman into a sophisticate extraordinaire.

Val Kilmer.  There isn’t too much reason to even mention this actor.  His portrayal in the 1995 film “Batman Forever” was terrible.  The film itself was god-awful, too.  Tommy Lee Jones and Jim Carrey co-starred in this picture as the villains Two-Face and the Joker.  They parade around Gotham City in attempt to drain the brains of the citizens.  This movie had very little to offer for audiences.  It was a feast for the eyes with bright colors and unique cinematography, along with a killer soundtrack.  Kilmer’s performance does Bruce Wayne justice, but does very little for Batman.

George Clooney.  1997 marked the year for the fourth Batman film in the 1990’s, this time with George Clooney as our hero.  Clooney has been good for only the playboy aspect of Bruce Wayne.  No one is as suave as him, after all.  He wasn’t a very effective Batman.  Chris O’Donnell costarred with Clooney as Robin, this being the first time since the 1960’s.  The film is two hours of dumb show as the super pair try to stop Bane, Mr. Freeze and Poison Ivy from destroying Gotham City with ice and plants.  “Batman and Robin” also attempts to work on the chemistry between superhero and sidekick, but unfortunately fails to do so. It was anything but well-received by critics, and wasn’t taken seriously for something that was trying to go for that kind of tone.  Clooney himself had said, “I think we might have killed the franchise" and called it "a waste of money."

Christian Bale.  The most recent of the Batman films, Bale has brought a darker side to Batman.  Christopher Nolan’s film trilogy has brought in millions of dollars in the box office, teaming together all-star casts for each film.  This series of films focuses on the backstory of Batman, leading up to what he became.  Audiences learn about his past, and the mysterious air that Bale gives off is perfect for what Nolan is trying to convey.  Bale has achieved the greatest balance between playboy Bruce Wayne and stealthy Batman.  His suave appearance makes it so, along with the grace he uses in his bat suit.  He brings a distinct scratchy voice to his interpretation, which is a great contrast against the soft-spoken Bruce Wayne.

NOW, Ben Affleck.  In the “Man of Steel Sequel,” Superman is teaming up with Batman.  However, Christian Bale has opted out of this film in order to avoid being branded as Batman eternally.  This past August, Affleck has been announced as the next caped crusader.  He will be a subpar Bruce Wayne, but when it comes time to put on the bat suit he will be too awkward, as far as physique goes.  Especially in comparison to Henry Cavill, the current Superman whom he will be costarring with.

As far as I'm concerned, Michael Fasbender, Ryan Gosling or Jake Gyllenhaal should have been chosen to play Batman.  They would have been good as Bruce Wayne and as Batman.  Although the focus of the film will be Superman, and Batman will be more or less a sidekick for all the happenings on screen, that shouldn’t distract us from who Batman is played by.  Don’t get me wrong;  Affleck is a great actor.  I loved him in “Good Will Hunting” twenty years ago, and thought he was swell in “Argo.”  However, he shouldn’t be parading around at Batman at this point in his career.

Originally when Michael Keaton had been chosen to play Batman, hundreds of thousands of disgruntled Batgeeks had written letters to Warner Bros. Studios, complaining about this decision.  Ben Affleck, you have been warned.  Unless you can surprise us as an adequate disposition of both Bruce Wayne and Batman, prepare yourself for disapproval from fanboys and critics alike.

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