With his first screen appearance in 1943, Batman has been around for a long time and seen many iterations. He’s been everything from semi-comical or downright parody (Adam West) all the way to brooding and as dark as the night sky his bat signal is shone brightly against.
From Adam West to Christian Bale to now Robert Pattinson, each actor who has tackled the DC Comics character has brought their own flare to the screen. In honor of the 30th anniversary of Tim Burton‘s “Batman”, lets talk favorite “Batmans” and “Bruce Waynes.” Not overlooking or forgetting West’s TV portrayal and Kevin Conroy‘s vocal performance, let’s fast forward to the movie depictions.
In 1989, Michael Keaton set the tone for the modern-day depiction of Batman and Bruce Wayne in Tim Burton’s “Batman.” Keaton’s masked crusader was stoic, and serious with an undercurrent of rage. Although not the public’s first choice to don the suit because of his comedic background, Keaton really nailed the role. It didn’t hurt that he had Burton at the helm and the scary, amazing Jack Nicholson as the Joker to play against. Keaton donned the mask one more time in 1992’s “Batman Returns.”
Next up to play Gotham’s protector was Val Kilmer in Joel Schumacher‘s 1995 over-the-top “Batman Forever.” Keaton was a hard act to follow and Kilmer fell short of putting his own stamp on the Batman and Bruce Wayne characters. Kilmer’s performance was somewhat bland and uninspired and his Bruce Wayne often came across as bored. His flat and nearly unmemorable performance only warranted one film in the franchise before it was rebooted two years later.
Following in Kilmer’s footsteps, George Clooney was next up to don the mask in 1997’s “Batman & Robin.” Taking the role in a slightly more comedic direction, but not altogether intentionally, Clooney was suave and charismatic as the rich and successful Bruce Wayne. He made putting on the cape look fun, unfortunately, his performance was overshadowed by the over-the-top (but not in a good way) film and cast of characters.
Leaving a somewhat bad taste in fans’ mouths, it was another eight years before the franchise was rebooted and Christian Bale made the two characters his own. Starting with 2005’s “Batman Begins,” the first in Christopher Nolan‘s “Dark Knight” trilogy, Bale brought vulnerability to the ultra-rich yet tragic Bruce Wayne. From the debonair look to the iconic voice, coupled with the great character arc and meaty storyline, Bale really made the role his own and gave some career-defining performances.
After Nolan’s super-successful trilogy, Ben Affleck stepped into the leather suit in Zack Snyder‘s “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.” Affleck’s Batman came across as trying too hard and his Bruce Wayne was hard to grow attached to. He portrayed the characters as bordering on psychosis and just burnt-out and tired, somewhat of a reflection of how audiences were with the franchise in general at this point.
Whether giving a great performance or just a mediocre one, the Batman franchise has a storied history filled with memorable (both good and bad) scenes and performances. And with Robert Pattison stepping into the role in 2021, we’re anxious to see how he owns the Batman and Bruce Wayne roles and makes them his own.