Every time a new actor is set to don the mask of the caped crusader, fans get divisive. While supporters create novel-length Twitter threads defending the casting, opposers frantically share change.org petitions. Robert Pattinson’s The Batman, releasing tomorrow (March 4), has also braved all this and more before finding its way to theatres. And if early reviews are to be believed, Pattinson has managed to appease both critics and fans — something that has proved near impossible since the Christopher Nolan era.
Robert Pattinson-starrer, 'The Batman', releases tomorrow (March 4)WB
So, before you head for the theatre, check out My Kolkata’s list of the best on-screen iterations of the character.
Adam West’s Batman from ‘Batman’ TV series
The fact that Adam West’s portrayal of the Dark Knight can’t be taken too seriously is precisely what makes it unique. The actor embraced the campy spin to this dark character, and even rechristened himself as the ‘Bright Knight’. Apart from the iconic theme and spandex, his meme-fodder dance moves are perhaps the most defining aspect of his portrayal. West didn’t try to be dark, but joined in on the joke, which is what differentiates him from the scores of failed ‘fun’ representations (we’re looking at you, Clooney!).
Michael Keaton’s Batman from ‘Batman’
Given his then-comic persona, Keaton received just as much opposition as Pattinson did when he was first cast. But his dark and gritty performance – owing a great deal to director Tim Burton’s vision – revived the character on the big screen after a string of failed live-action outings. Not only did Keaton ace every part of playing the hero (his Batsuit was one of the first to truly inspire fear), but was also exemplary as billionaire Bruce Wayne, bringing a lot of nuance to the conflicted man behind the mask. We can’t wait to see which version of Batman Keaton plays next in The Flash and Batgirl.
Kevin Conroy’s Batman from ‘Batman: The Animated Series’
The phrase ‘bringing a comic book to life’ was quite possibly coined for Batman: The Animated Series. The show brought a complexity to Batman with mature themes that were then alien to earlier cartoon portrayals. Through its 85-episode run, it also built villains with compelling backstories, who not only challenged our hero, but also brought him to breaking point — a conflict central to the character in the comics. The noir aesthetics of Gotham, coupled with Burton-esque dark tones and Kevin Conroy’s voice acting, gave the protagonist a feeling of suffocation, which provides new layers to the narrative even when rewatched today.
Will Friedle and Kevin Conroy’s Batmen from ‘Batman Beyond’
Batman Beyond managed to borrow the best bits of The Animated Series while still telling a fresh story. The show is a masterpiece in exploring not just one, but two Batmen. It follows Terry McGinnis (Will Friedle) as a 16-year-old Batman, who tries to balance a life of crime-fighting with the woes of a normal teenager, in parallel with a 70-year-old Bruce Wayne (Kevin Conroy), who deals with the toll being the Batman has taken on his mind and body. Despite the different arcs, it still manages to tell a compelling and interwoven tale of two heroes broken in their own right and traumatised by their past.
Christian Bale’s Batman from ‘The Dark Knight’ trilogy
Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy didn’t just revolutionise the character, but also set a benchmark for superhero films. Everything, from Bale’s suits and his terrifying voice to his mentally wounded Bruce Wayne, has become iconic. The actor also brought a vulnerability to the character by making him more human and highlighting the cost that comes from making hard choices. The most defining part of his Batman is perhaps best summed up by Inspector Gordon in the last lines of Dark Knight: “Because he's the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now… He's not our hero. He's a silent guardian, a watchful protector. A dark knight.”
Ben Affleck’s Batman from ‘Batman v Superman’ and ‘Justice League’
If Bale’s Batman was grappling with the cost of being a hero, Affleck’s Batman has already paid the price. Despite the critical panning, ‘Batfleck’ was an interesting take on the vigilante, who has lost his inner light after years of fighting crime and is so hopeless that he is willing to break the one rule that sets him apart. Batfleck’s anger and motivation gave us the character’s best fight scenes (apart from him using guns) and would have made for a great solo film. Unfortunately, Affleck’s version had the curse of existing in a film that studios wanted but fans didn’t.
Will Arnett’s Batman from ‘The Lego Batman Movie’
Will Arnett’s Batman from the LEGO movies aces the best bits of the character, mocks the worst and is the closest thing to a film made by fans on a studio budget. Arnett manages to perfectly balance the vigilante’s commitment to justice with the sheer absurdity of his ideals — creating comedy gold. This take on Batman neither immerses itself in overly dark tones, nor becomes an embarrassing caricature of his idiosyncrasies, acting as a true tribute to the character we love.