Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Who's the Best... Movie Batman?

Doug:  "F) None of the above" is not a choice today, my friends!


NOTE:  After a few comments this morning, I realized that I'd neglected the fact that the Batman: The Animated Series film, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, was a theatrical release.  So, I'm adding an image related to that film, and putting the wonderful voice talents of Kevin Conroy into the mix.


david_b said...

Too easy.

Adam West, followed by Michael Keaton.

Sooooo, I'm stumped ~ Who are those other guys..?

J.A. Morris said...

That's tough, I'm tempted to say "none of the above". I'll go with Adam West, because he succeeded at doing what the movie wanted him to be.
But for the most part, the "serious" Batmen leave me cold. Bale is probably the best of them, but he does that silly "tough guy voice" that sounds ridiculous.

I've always told my friends that in my book, 'Mask Of The Phantasm' is the best Batman movie (it played in theaters briefly). Even though he's not pictured in your post, I'll put Kevin Conroy in 2nd place behind West.

Edo Bosnar said...

Michael Keaton - just because I don't think of West (who is my favorite, otherwise) as a 'movie' Batman.
I remember thinking something to the effect of "are they f-in' kidding?" back when it was announced that Keaton would play Batman, and then being surprised that he wasn't that bad - certainly much better than any of the later guys.

MattComix said...

The true answer is Kevin Conroy who leaves all the rest in the dust.

Keaton made a great Batman, stupid aspects of the script excepted (which no one thought was possible before seeing the movie) and a lousy Bruce Wayne. Whenever the suit was off he was like a more subdued and better dressed version of his character from The Dream Team.

The 89 movie I always say the Batman parts work it's the Tim Burton parts that hurt it.

Bale I enjoyed as Bruce Wayne, much less so as Batman. I thought Begins was ok, I hated Dark Knight, and I have yet to bother with Rises.

Conroys Batman "voice" is better than Keatons but both could pull it off. No one else ever has and that includes Bale. The "SWEAR TO ME!" line just really sounds like a 14 year old trying too hard to be "badass".

david_b said...

Y'know, I've ACTUALLY never seen 'Phantasm', but you folks are right, Kevin Conroy would probably win out. I so dislike the current trend of 'thug violence' in movies, but I choose not to see 'em anyways, so the current franchise is somewhat immaterial to me.

I call the final round of 'Who's Best' for 'Who can do the best Batusi".

By the way, where's Matt Celis..?? I haven't seen his comments of late, really miss his insight.

"Matt, we all MISS you."

Doug said...

Yep, David, Matt's been noticeably absent, as has Humanbelly and Dougie. It was good to hear from William Preston the other day! Chris, ChrisPV, James C., Redartz, Tony, Chuck Wells, Bruce, and many, many others have been more away than here it seems lately. We'd love to have things pick up again.

For all of you regulars, we look forward to each and every day. One of the highlights of my day is Mike from T&T's comments each night around 10:00 CT.

So if it's because of us, if anyone is bored, shoot us something in the Suggestion Box and we'll see what we can do.


david_b said...


Mike's nightly 'T&T Final Analysis' is always a highlight for me as well. I find we cannot 'really' close a day of comments (good/bad/indifferent/well, ok, crickets chirpin') with out his comments.

Consider it a necessary contribution to the overall majestic BAB experience.

(That reminds me, it's time to put my nice Batgirl avatar back up.. )

William Preston said...

Doug, I must have heard you summon me . . .

Is there no love for Val Kilmer? In truth, I have only the vaguest recollection of his performance, but the scene in which, at the circus, he kicks butt, struck me as more Batman-like than much of what I'd seen with Keaton (though I liked Keaton, who I felt captured the character's troubled psyche effectively).

Bale's Batman (as opposed to Bruce) never really worked for me, especially the decision with the voice. And he's barely in the last film.

West is still a joy to watch. His commitment to the role is always on display.

Karen said...

For me, there hasn't been a great live-action Batman yet. I hate the all-black, rubber suit look. And Bale's voice grates like fingernails on a chalkboard. Actually the entire depiction of Batman in the recent films rubs me the wrong way. He's more of a brutish thug than a dark knight detective.

Kevin Conroy's voice acting in the animated series and Justice League cartoon is my favorite version of Batman. He seems to understand the character, and gives him that cool, supremely confident aura that works so perfectly. If someone could capture that on film then they'd be on the right track.

As far as the look, I thought this short film got the look right, can't say much about the acting: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NUdG0VFFNSU

William said...

Oh yeah, Karen, "Batman: Dead End" is one brilliant piece of short film making. I wish to god they would have let those people do the reboot of the Bat franchise. But Hollywood si run by internal politics and stupid men in suits. So unfortunately, thanks to the unfathomable success of the Nolan/Bale films, we'll never get a Batman movie that looks that good, or a Batman that is that well cast on the big screen. No, I'm afraid we are forever doomed to only get a black rubber suit wearing, gravely voiced Batman from now on.

As for today's question-- I saw "Batman: Mask of the Phantasm" in the theater when it came out, so Kevin Conroy get's my vote (by a mile) as the best big screen Batman.

However, if I had a gun to my head and had to pick one of the live action actors, I guess I'd have to go with Keaton. Man, that is really sad that Hollywood is so freaking incompetent that they can't properly cast an iconic character like Batman. So bad that it comes down to picking "Mr. Mom" as the best onscreen version.

Anonymous said...

I feel conflicted.

I don't want to choose, but I don't want to contribute to the fewer comments by not commenting!

I guess I'd pick Keaton, though I really dislike all the Batman movies. (the best thing about any of the Batman movies was Ledger's Joker)

I love the animated Batman, but I can't in good conscience pick Conroy, because despite having a lot of respect for voice acting it just isn't the same as embodying the character.

- Mr.Oyola

William said...

You know what ticks me off the most about all of the live action Batman movies? It's the fact that not one of them ever gave Batman's classic look a chance. Not even close.

It seems they just assumed that Batman had to wear all black rubber armor or "regular" people wouldn't go see the movie. That's just more narrow minded Hollywood thinking.

I guarantee you that if Batman had looked in "Batman Begins" like he did in "Dead End", the new franchise would have been just as successful, if not more so. Plus, why can't they get the right actor to play the part? It doesn't seem like it would be all that difficult to do. For example, back in 1989, when the first Batman film came out, I think that Alec Baldwin would have made a perfect Bruce Wayne and Batman.

MattComix said...

Actually Karen I agree with you. At least with the Keaton suit they were able to get that Adams/Aparo type of silhouette and it didn't have a bunch of techno bits (or nipples). Bale's costume looks like Snake Eyes attending the annual GI JOE Halloween party.

I don't know if many of you remember the very first promo art for Batman Year One but in that pic you had Mazzuchelli's Batman with the classic coloring. The effect was like taking the Adam West costume and refining it into something more "authentic".

This is something they did with Christopher Reeve in the movie Superman costume. Rather than being ashamed of the classic costume they made it work by making it well, shooting it well and making sure they had the right guy to put it on. Reeve may have been less ripped than a Garcia Lopez cover but he still looked like we walked off the page. I would love to see a Batman (as well as many other superhero movies) be bold enough to do that.

david_b said...


Excellent points. Bravo.

Kudo's again to Mr. Reeves' portrayal..:

No 'face behind a mask', no body armor, just pure hero.

Garett said...

Dead End looks very good! Thanks for the link Karen.

Here's a vid that recaps all the Batman movies, for comparison:

I like Bale as Bruce Wayne, don't like the Batman voice or thuggish approach. Thought he was very dumb in his fight with Bane--he had shark repellent back in '66, but no Bane repellent?? Or at least some intelligence to his actions. I liked only the second Nolan movie, quite a bit due to Ledger's performance.

I liked Kilmer, who was just coming off a great performance in Tombstone. Tommy Lee Jones was annoying in Batman Forever, but I'd like to have seen more Kilmer as Batman. He had a sort of introspective quality.

West was great for the fun '60s Batman, but I think if that's all we had, it wouldn't be satisfying. Who can bring the Aparo/Adams Batman to the big screen? I didn't like Keaton or Clooney--didn't see the mind of Batman in either of them.

Yeah William, Baldwin at that time certainly would've looked the part of Bruce Wayne.

Anonymous said...

A thought on the Batman movies of the late '80s, early '90s. I think the casting of these movies reminded me a lot of what I've heard said about the '60s TV series. That is, that being a part of Batman was "IN" for the hollywood elite. So you had a lot of A-listers lining up to play heroes AND villains - Keaton, Clooney, Nicholson, Pfieffer, Devito, Jones, Carrey, Arnold... The better comic book movies, while they may have had a heavy hitter or two to lend some credibility (Brando), benefited from casting relative unknowns. Downey would be an exception but the likes of Reeve, MacGuire, Jackman, Hemsworth, Evans, etc., while some were not totally unknown, certainly were not big stars when they got their first comic book part.


Anonymous said...

Oh... I guess I didn't answer the question. I think I agree with a lot of the sentiment expressed already - "He hasn't been cast yet."

Oh again...Doug said you can't pick none of the above...twist my arm...Keaton.


William Preston said...


I agree that the Batman Nolan gave us isn't the "dark detective" we all respect. The second of those movies did work that angle--working with the police to trap the Joker, reconstructing the bullet, researching criminals, figuring out how to get the guy back from Taiwan--more than the other films. The third one, while it satisfied me thematically, made terrible use of its main character, and Batman never did anything especially bright.

MattComix said...

Tommy Lee Jones could have made for an excellent Harvey Dent but instead they had him doing an impersonation of Nicholson's Joker.

Even right down to giving his scarred side nearly the same grin.

Karen said...

William, I still felt the little detective work done in number two was not enough -and so much of it seemed to rely on more on gadgets than actual brain power.

I prefer a Batman who does most of his work with his mind, but maybe I'm in the minority. I suppose in these solo movies, where it's just Batman and there aren't any super-powered characters around, the film-makers may feel the need to emphasize his martial arts skills. But I think if they ever do make a Justice League movie, one way for Batman to standout when surrounded by a ton of super-powered folks is to show how he's always got everything figured out. He's always a step ahead, knows the next move and wins because of it. Because otherwise, the idea of a non-powered guy, no matter how good he is at karate or what have you, fighting Darkseid or other super-powered foes, is going to be kind of ridiculous.

Rip Jagger said...

I give the to Christian Bale. His Batman, his Bruce Wayne seemed the most complete.

But I have to say that I've always thought that Val Kilmer's turn as Batman is often overlooked because he's buried in such a turkey of a movie. His movie is too goofy for words, but his Batman is not bad at all.

The weakest to me is a surprise, as if you'd ask me out of the blue I'd have though George Clooney would've done a better job. His Batman just sort of sits there, not much pizzazz.

Michael Keaton was a real breakthrough, I liked it a lot at the time, but nowadays when I see him, I don't buy it so much.

Adam West is awesome, but he's always Adam West to me, that galoot who is a dandy Bruce Wayne, but not a credible Batman, not really.

Rip Off

Kid said...

I feel strangely compelled to say Adam West - so, having done that, I'd next have to say Michael Keaton, who did a great job in the '89 movie. Bale does make a good Bruce Wayne 'though.

Redartz said...

Tom- good point about the relative star power in past comic book portrayals. Reeve was great, and Hugh Jackman just owns Wolverine. Indeed, I'm grateful to those X-men films for the exposure (and subsequent roles) they provided to such a fine actor.

As for Batman, I'd have to go with Keaton. With the caveat that all those films strike me as about a character called Batman, but not The Batman. Do love the portrayals in TAS (yes, not the same thing).

Doug- nice to be missed; nicer by far to be part of this terrific community. Workload has eased and I hope to be by more frequently. As for boredom? I say thee Nay! This remains the most consistently interesting, friendly and entertaining site I know...

Anonymous said...

To Doug & David - *sniff, tears up* ..... aw, shucks, guys, thanks for the love!

I know Matt's busy with his own blog. Some of the other commentators just drifted away.... hope we see them again soon.

In my opinion, Conroy wins for best Batman voice; Bale looks visually the best Bruce Wayne but worst Batman voice; both he and Michael Keaton are in a tie for best cinematic Batman. I still remember when Keaton was announced as the actor to portray Batman. Many critics thought Tim Burton's film would be a camp comedy like Adam West's TV series when Keaton was cast, given his comedic turns in films like Beetlejuice. I'm sure Keaton surprised many people with his performance.

- Mike 'voice like Barry White' from Trinidad & Tobago.

William Preston said...


(Post power outage . . . )

I think there's a way to make the "detective" elements fit with the fighting--which is how the comic worked. That is, Batman was smart about his fights, resourceful. There was also a grace to his fighting. Nolan's Batman was hampered by the heavy costume--he was never going to look graceful--and by Nolan's failure to direct good fight scenes (in every one of the movies, they're choppily edited and stiffly choreographed), but the way he fought in the third movie--losing lamely, then coming back and doing basically the same thing--was an embarrassment.

ChrisPV said...

Well, speak of the devil and he shall appear! Been neck deep in grad school work and haven't been able to do much of, well, anything else really. Hopefully I can be around more again!

For me, it's all Conroy. I fully get the difference between embodying and voicing a character, but as far as I'm concerned he is the take on the character. Basically whenever I'm reading a Batman comic, if I can't make the words on the page come out in Conroy's voice, then that Batman is ill-written.

If we're going to get strictly live action, I really like Bale because I feel like he does the best job of actually having a Bruce Wayne. Keaton gives it his all, but at the end of the day he's really just playing Generic Tim Burton Protagonist #43 (Who Happens To Dress As A Bat). The minute I became old enough to think about it, I wrote him off completely simply for that asinine sleeping while hanging upside down thing. I couldn't take him seriously after that.

Even in comparison to SWEAR TO ME!

Mike said...


Of course on the day I'm jam packed busy I miss a Batman post ... ugh ... But, as one of the resident batfans lingering around these posts, I felt I should say something, although rather late and for that I apologize.

Pretty much everything that I would have said has been said by others. I once again find myself more in Karen's opinion the most ... the animations starring Kevin Conroy's talents are the best by far -- Batman:TAS is definitive Batman lore. I am using those cartoons to introduce my young son to the true version of Batman and Robin. O'neil and Adams comics will come later.

I've recently re-watched the first Keaton movie and although there are several things in it that annoy this batfan, overall its pretty good. The rest of those series of movies are awful. The Bale movies are good and kind of touch on all aspects of the Batman character over the years ... but they are obviously "over the top". And Adam West is terrific too, but they are also "over the top" in the opposite direction.

Final Note: If you haven't seen "Mask of the Phantasm" do yourself a favor and check it out, pronto! On the big screen back in the day it was awesome. And while you're at it, rent "Batman: Year One" with it ... it is probably the most faithful comic adaptions I've ever seen.

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