It's out! Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice hit theatres yesterday and, despite mixed reception, is raking in millions of dollars worldwide. I found the movie thoroughly enjoyable (although a little dis-jointed) and Ben Affleck's Batman stood out for me. Having seen Affleck in action, I thought it only fair to rank him among the other great actors who have donned the cowl of the caped crusader. So here we go! Can Ben Affleck top the others?
*Mild Spoilers in some areas
8. Lewis Wilson
I must confess that I haven't seen the full 1943 Batman serial, so I can only judge on what I have seen. Lewis Wilson was the first ever actor to portray Batman on-screen. Like the comics at the time, the serial and Wilson's portrayal mirrored the dark themes. Due to tight budgeting however, the Batmobile was relatively non-existent, Batman drove a standard black vehicle. Wilson will be remembered for his contribution to the Batman legacy, specifically for being the first ever actor to portray the Caped Crusader.
7. Robert Lowery
I remember watching the 1949 Batman & Robin serial about ten years ago. I found it thrilling, and the score is excellent. Perhaps influencing the later Batman TV series, the 1949 serial relied heavily on the find out next time formula. Lowery's Batman shared many similarities with Wilson's - with the exception of straighter ears and a bigger chest emblem, the outfits were relatively the same.
6. George Clooney
To say that Batman & Robin is an acquired taste would be putting it mildly. George Clooney donned the Batsuit (and the bat-nipples) in 1997's Batman & Robin, which put the final nail in the coffin of the Batman franchise - a franchise that began with the unforgettable Burton-era. Clooney's Batman came under fire for several reasons - mainly because he came across as George Clooney in a Batman suit. The script and direction, mixed with Clooney and Schwarzenegger's pun filled Mr.Freeze, Batman & Robin was what the earlier Batman TV series wishes it had the budget to become. But this was not the 1960's - it was 1997 and the people wanted more of the dark world that Burton had created. Clooney's career never particularly suffered, but all the actors who portray the Dark Knight usually put their Batman performance at the top of their resume - Clooney is the only one who will likely not. He himself acknowledges that he almost destroyed the character. However, there are a few redeeming factors - the movie doesn't take itself to seriously and is a lot easier to follow than some of the others. Moreover, Clooney's Bruce Wayne is not as damaged or tortured as Bale's and Keaton's.
5. Val Kilmer
The first of Joel Schumacher's Batman films, Forever saw Val Kilmer take over the role from Michael Keaton. Despite a somewhat noticeably lighter take than Burton's films, Forever is still an enjoyable movie. Kilmer is a better Batman than he is Bruce Wayne, though the film lacks a little continuity from the first two instalments. Forever has some great action sequences, and a killer re-invigorated score that it's sequel lacks. Though he's no Keaton, Kilmer is a decent Batman and much better than his successor Clooney.
4. Ben Affleck
I struggled with this decision, and here's why: I think Ben Affleck has the potential to be the greatest live-action Batman, but I don't think he was given the opportunity to reach that potential in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. What we did see was great, Affleck adapted to the role beautifully. For the first time, we saw the rugged, vicious, older Batman of The Dark Knight Returns. The suit was magnificent and Affleck's Wayne was scarred from his past. What I did like about this version is that Wayne made no apologies for his mental scarring, or made no attempts to change it like Kilmer's Wayne did in Forever. This Batman is vicious and he even kills - a risky move on Snyder's part that paid off. His first appearance in the film is perfection - it was almost as if it had been taken straight from a comic book. Affleck's Bat-voice is also great. Ask me again when we see the solo Batman film. A great debut for Affleck, but for him to take the Batman crown, I'll need a little more than what we were given here.
3. Adam West
Adam West may not be the first actor to portray Batman, but he brought the character to life. West's Batman may be a far cry from the Dark Knight but, despite what people may prefer or say, I don't think everyone realises the magnitude of what West did for the Batman mythology. During the 1960's, the Batman comics were not very popular and were nearing cancellation. Once the TV series debuted on ABC, the popularity of the character sky-rocketed and the series ultimately saved the character. If it weren't for West's portrayal, there may not have been a Batman today. West's Batman POW'ed and ZAP'ed his way from the TV screens and onto the silver screen in a full length feature film, mirroring the sarcastic tone of the series. West's Batman is not meant to be taken seriously, as he accurately mirrored the Batman from the comics at the time. The television series and feature film are timeless and should be enjoyed over and over. To this day, Adam West remains as one of my top favourite Batmen.
2. Christian Bale
Christian Bale first donned the cowl in Batman Begins back in 2005. This movie not only spawned a trilogy of great films, but ultimately redeemed the Batman franchise after the bombing of Batman & Robin. Christopher Nolan's trilogy (all three films starred Bale) was arguably the first attempt at a realistic, less comic book version of a superhero - no metahumans existed, no villain of the week format. All three films focused around largely complex storylines. Bale was a magnificent Batman but he was also a good Bruce Wayne. Arguably the most memorable thing about Bale's performances as Batman was the voice disguise that he used. Bale defined Batman for a new generation, similar to what Adam West had done decades earlier, and for many he still remains as the ultimate Batman.
1. Michael Keaton
To this day, Keaton's version of Batman had yet to be topped. Perhaps the most influential version of Batman to date, Keaton's portrayal is the first time that Batman was truly feared. Up to a point, the character of Batman had largely been associated with Adam West and the 60's TV series, which was great, but it was time for a new direction for the caped crusader. Keaton's portrayal of Batman is responsible for giving the Batman franchise the dark and bleak tone that is still associated with the character. Keaton and his films heavily influenced the Emmy winning Batman The Animated Series and one could argue that it also influenced The Batman and even the Nolan films. Affleck's Batman borrows elements of Keaton's Batman too. Although Forever and Batman & Robin allegedly take place in the same universe as the Burton-verse, one can only dream about all the possibilites that we never got to see because Warner Bros were too scared to continue down the dark path with the character. Despite this, Burton gave us two scarily good Batman movies with Keaton, who to this day remains the all time greatest live-action Batman.
So there you have it! Ben Affleck has made a dent in the Batman rankings but only time will tell if he can top Keaton. One things for certain, Affleck still has some work to do to get there!