We’ve still got a long way to go before we see Ben Affleck as the latest incarnation of the Caped Crusader – at least two years, by our count – but remember back when the casting rumours were doing the rounds, and everyone was speculation on who should be the next guy to stick on the cape and cowl?
The thing is, everyone seems to forget that whoever lands the role will essentially be playing two different characters. As with all good superheroes, there’s a massive difference between the “normal” person and the superhero, with a thin line separating alter-egos from schizophrenia.
So, over the years, we’ve seen a few people take on both the roles of Batman AND Bruce Wayne, but who did it best? Here’s what we think:
ADAM WEST (1966-1968)
Did you think that West was the first one to play Batman? Wrong! Back in 1943, a 23 year old Lewis G Wilson played a Batman who’s villain was a very WWII-era appropriate Japanese spy known as Doctor Daka. Then Robert Lowery played Batman in a 1956 episode of “The Adventures Of Superman”. And THEN it was Adam West. So there!
Batman: Tubby with drawn on eyebrows, this wasn’t exactly a version of the Dark Knight that would strike fear into the hearts of toughened criminals. Still though, he knew his way around a good pun, and could ZONK! and POW! better than just about anyone. 2 out of 5
Bruce Wayne: He had fun playing a rich, debonair lady’s man, which is kind of exactly what Bruce Wayne is SUPPOSED to be. Although he didn’t really smack of being a genius and/or captain of industry. He was more Hugh Hefner than Richard Branson. 3 out of 5
MICHAEL KEATON (1989-1992)
The cries of derision when Beetlejuice landed the role were matched only by the recent outcry of Affleck’s casting, and the late 80s fanboys didn’t have the internet to do all the hard-work for them! Still though, hindsight is 20/20, especially considering Keaton’s foresight to completely avoid Batman Forever once Tim Burton had bailed on the director’s chair.
Batman: Dark, broody, big fan of his utility belt gadgets, not averse to getting really quite violent, and the lack of ability to turn his neck. Yep, that’s a pretty solid Batman right there. Although he did kill quite a few henchmen, which isn’t really in keeping with Batman’s modus operandi. 3 out of 5
Bruce Wayne: Dark, broody, big fan of lavish parties full of attractive women, not averse to getting his way by using his position of power, and the lack of ability to tell who Catwoman is outside of her costume. Yep, that’s a pretty solid Bruce Wayne right there. We got to see more of the business side to Wayne’s life, and he was a big ol’ smarty pants. 5 out of 5
KEVIN CONROY (1992-2014)
Again, not the first person to voice Batman, as Olan Soule provided the voice work for the animated hero from 1968 to 1984, but Conroy is the one we all know and love. Kicking off with “Batman: The Animated Series”, and still voicing Batman and Bruce Wayne all the way up to this year’s video game “Batman: Arkham Knight”, Conroy has been Batman longer than just about anyone else. In the interim, actors such as Peter Weller, William Baldwin and Bruce Greenwood have all voiced Batman, too.
Batman: Between Conroy’s voice work and the different types of animation over the years, it’s fair to say that Conroy’s interpretation of the character has been the most true to how Batman truly is. Scary and physical, but also outstandingly heroic. 5 out of 5
Bruce Wayne: Just the right amount of tortured, and just the right amount of suave and sophisticated. We haven’t seen much of Wayne in Conroy’s latest incarnations – such as Arkham Asylum or City – but the earlier outtings, like in The Animated Series, were pretty impressive. 4 out of 5
VAL KILMER (1995)
Jim Morrison. Doc Holliday. Iceman, for Christ’s sake! This almost, kinda, nearly worked… until the film hit the screens, and new director almost completely forgot about Batman, instead focussing on his bad guys, a cardinal sin that other superhero movies would also go on to make.
Batman: Not great, truth be told. He wasn’t much of a scrapper, got tricked into landing by the bat-signal by Nicole Kidman (she could’ve been Harley Quinn, Batman, ya dope!), and his big pouty lips and come-hither voice made us never quite sure if he was trying to seduce The Riddler and Two Face or not. 1 out of 5
Bruce Wayne: Definitely better than Batman, as again we got to see some of the business side (which is what created The Riddler), as well as some of his genius (which is how we discovered who The Riddler was). However, he did also take a bullet to the head, and would’ve essentially been killed had the villains been so inclined. Also, Bruce Wayne goes to a therapist? As much as he obviously needs it, no. 3 out of 5
GEORGE CLOONEY (1997)
Hot off ER, hot off From Dusk Til Town, and to women all around the world, just hot in general, Clooney probably seemed like a good idea on paper. But the movie made Arnie’s Mr. Freeze the main star, and gave Clooney either (A) nothing to do, or (B) the little he did have to do, was just plain crap. There’s only so good an actor can be when he’s reading lines against Elle McPherson, after all.
Batman: Let’s see here… Nearly every one of his plans go wrong, two really quite defeatable villains do almost ruin Gotham, the nonsense subplot of bickering with Robin, the bat-nipples, the bat-credit card, the puns… Oh God, the puns! 1 out of 5
Bruce Wayne: Considering that George Clooney is about as close as the world has to an ACTUAL Bruce Wayne, this should’ve been a walk in the bat-park. But no. More bickering with Robin, and his idea of being a business man is to donate giant telescopes, which then get used as giant ice guns. And then there’s the puns… Oh God, the puns! 1 out of 5
CHRISTIAN BALE (2005-2012)
Having already played a rich-boy philanthropist with a dark alter ego in American Psycho, it didn’t seem like such a jump from Patrick Bateman to Batman. It proved a hit with audiences, and will be an entire generation’s definitive version of the Dark Knight, no matter how potentially good Affleck might be, Bale is the one he’s going to be compared against.
Batman: Judged on his own merits, Christopher Nolan’s version of Batman is quite good, but he’s certainly not a lot of fun to be around. The gravel pit voice and vicious nature worked to his advantage, but he did get his ass kicked A LOT, and he just didn’t seem to be having any fun. We’re supposed to want to be Batman, not feel sorry for him. 4 out of 5
Bruce Wayne: Handsome, rich, smart (we still don’t fully understand that bullet in the wall thing from The Dark Knight), and a good business man. But far, FAR too tortured for our liking, and again, even when he was dating an entire Russian ballet simultaneously, he just wasn’t having the LOLs that would be inherent with being Bruce Wayne. 3 out of 5
So that’s what we think, but what do you think? And how do you think Ben Affleck will stack up in the dual roles? Let us know in the comments below!