When Warner Bros. announced last Thursday that Ben Affleck would be playing the role of Batman in the upcoming “Man of Steel” sequel, fans the world over took to the Internet like bats out of hell to express their outrage.
A petition to remove Affleck from the film is already nearing 70,000 signatures and memes showing Matt Damon as Robin are flooding the Internet. Gee willikers guys, the movie doesn’t come out for two years.
In light of the recent casting, we ranked the previous actors in the role of the Caped Crusader. Where Affleck will fall on this list is yet to be determined, but if his previous experience as a superhero is any indication of what’s to come (he played the title role in the 2003 flop “Daredevil”), then the future of Gotham looks very dark indeed.
1. Michael Keaton, “Batman” (1989), “Batman Returns” (1992)
If there’s any reason not to lose it over Affleck donning the mask, it’s Michael Keaton’s casting by Tim Burton in his 1989 portrayal and 1992 sequel. Despite the 50,000 protest letters submitted to the Warner Bros. offices, Keaton performed admirably. An actor known primarily for comedic leads in movies like “Beetlejuce” managed to pull off the first dark and serious Batman through his inventive wit and rich man swagger.
2. Val Kilmer, “Batman Forever” (1995)
Replacing Keaton for the third installment, Val Kilmer’s role as the Dark Knight remains the high point of his career. The film received mixed critical review, but the blame lies with poor direction more than Kilmer’s performance. Burton handed the reigns over to Joel Schumacher, who took the film in a far more goofy and comical direction, indicated by the casting of Jim Carrey as The Riddler. It goes to show that tone and vision are what make a Batman film great — the strong-jawed man behind the mask can only do so much.
3. George Clooney, “Batman & Robin” (1997)
In another potentially solid Batman flick squandered by Schumacher’s jokey direction, George Clooney, who still refers to himself as the man who killed the series, unfortunately inherited the lead role in this train wreck. Don’t be so hard on yourself, George. You were a good option for an aged Batman showing a younger Robin the ropes. It was the terrible dialogue that did this film in.
4. Christian Bale, “Batman Begins” (2005), “The Dark Knight” (2008), “The Dark Knight Rises” (2012)
Many will be surprised — and possibly angered — that Christian Bale would come in so low on the list, but there is a reason he was upstaged by every villain to share the screen with him. Comparing Bale’s Batman voice to a 70-year-old smoker gives him too much credit — he sounds like someone mocking a 70-year-old smoker. Christopher Nolan’s adaptation of the series was the best to date, but Bale’s performance was borderline laughable.
5. Adam West, “Batman” (1966-1968)
There’s no better measurement of how far the superhero genre has come than to compare a modern caper flick to Adam West’s role as Batman in the short-lived TV series. The show will always hold a place in the hearts of many-a 60’s kid, but watching West’s un-toned body chase down baddies alongside Robin is matched in sheer hilarity only by the duo’s preachy interactions (Robin: “You can’t get away from Batman that easy!” Batman: “Easily. Good grammar is essential, Robin.”).