Thursday, July 09, 2009

Who Was the Best Batman?

Geek Dad wonders which actor did the best Batman: Adam West, Michael Keaton, Kevin Conroy, Val Kilmer, George Clooney, or Christian Bale?

That's easy for me to answer: Kevin Conroy. He's the voice actor for Batman in Batman: The Animated Series. Geek Dad says:

I’m sure people will argue that Conroy had an easier job than the others because he was doing voice acting, but anyone who’s done voice acting knows it’s a lot harder than it sounds. Plus, he didn’t get the benefit of getting to wear an awesome costume. And Conroy did a very good job, lending the role the gravitas it needed for the dark mood of the series, without making his Batman a caricature.

Sure, Conroy had certain advantages, but most of the Batman movies have hurt themselves needlessly. Michael Keaton did a good job in the first movie, in spite of his short stature. But the franchise went downhill after that. The writers and directors seemed to think that fancy special effects and stunts were substitutes for a good story with credible dialogue. Cute gadgetry, such as various incarnations of the Batmobile, were used and kept on screen like gaudy product placements. One-liners replaced actual discussions between characters.

And do I need to mention the nipples on the Batman costume? I mean, come'on guys, what were you thinking?

Most of the Batman movies were more like two-hour long trailers than coherent stories. That's why Mask of the Phantasm was, by far, the best Batman movie.

Christian Bale's Batman has been largely unhampered by such counterproductive tricks. Still, like Gavin Richardson in a Sailor Moon costume, he wasn't quite able to pull off the role credibly. It was, for example, obvious that Bale was straining to drop his voice an octave, whereas Conroy did so easily.

And Adam West's Batman, predating Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns, is simply unworthy of consideration.

What do you think? Who was the best Batman?


psychodougie said...

i think i'd agree there john.

i did like the second half of the first of the new christian bale movies, which was also quite similar in feel to the animated series. however the first half was more than painful, and that plus the heath-mania meant i stayed away from the newest.

as far as acting performances go, west's po-faced delivery of his 'shark-repellent spray' line was gold!

Jeff the Baptist said...

I agree completely. Christian Bale is a good actor, but I'm not in love with his Bruce Wayne or Batman. Especially with that voice he tries to effect when he's in the suit. It just makes me want to laugh every time I hear it.

Dark Knight is an incredible movie though and Heath Ledger's take on the Joker is revolutionary. But Mark Hamill's Joker is still the standard I hold actors to because I don't find Ledger's Joker to be as accurate a reflection of the comics.

JD said...

ConroĆ½ is pretty darn good, but I disagree with Jeff on his Joker take. While Hamill has been superb in his voice over (especially considering the other voices he does on that show) Ledger brought to the forefront the psychosis of the Joker portrayed in the Joker graphic novel.

I am concerned about John, though. Next thing you will be telling us is that Tim Daly is the best Superman ever. While Wings was a good show, it is no launch pad for Superman: the animated series.


James R. Rummel said...

I'm going to back John on his Batman choice.

Jeff the Baptist said...

"Ledger brought to the forefront the psychosis of the Joker portrayed in the Joker graphic novel."

There is more to the Joker than just The Killing Joke. The Joker has no definitive back story. The Killing Joke is just one of many proposed versions.

His character varies with the teller and the only constants are his sick sense of humor and warped brilliance. He's been anything from a psychotic clown getting his kicks from killing to Ledger's agent of chaos holding a funhouse mirror up to society. Hamill's portrayal, especially when you include entirety of the animated universe, hits all or most of those notes. Ledger really only hits the one, but he does it really well.

gavin richardson said...

one day i'm going to make that costume work!

Kyle The Opinionated said...

Wow. That was a pick out of left field. Nicely done, and well-reasoned.

If we limit the discussion to the live-action only stuff, Bale probably is the overall winner.

I am still of the opinion that Joel Schumacher should be flogged for his take on Batman, though from the look of those movies, he might actually enjoy a flogging....

truevyne said...

I'M Batman!
Everyone else is jest playas!

John said...

I think that Mark Hammill's Joker was about as hardcore as possible while still being broadcast on afternoon TV.

As for Ledger's...I'd need to watch the movie again and think about it.

No one cackles like Hammill.

Dan Trabue said...

Batman, Conroy, hands down. I don't think you can pull off a live action Batman effectively (and Bale's Batman voice makes me laugh, too).

The Joker, however, goes to Ledger. Wow! What a performance!

Hamill is very good, to be sure, but Ledger was down right frightening and entrancing.

JD said...


I can see your point with Hamill and I will yield.

On a little different note, I do appreciate the last 2 movies because they have stuck to the recent tone of the Batman Universe more so than any others...especially the Year 1 scenarios and, I did like it, The Killing Joke.


Mulliga said...

One reason I liked Conroy was that he performed one of the best "Bruce Wayne" voices I've ever heard - very mellow and nonchalant. The switch from that to Batman was drastic enough that you could believe people couldn't connect the two together.