Christopher Nolan

Batman Begins 15th Anniversary

Batman Begins 15th Anniversary
Screen Heroes

 
 
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It’s another anniversary review with a look back at the start of the Nolan trilogy, Batman Begins, on its 15th anniversary! Plus, we discuss the latest news including 30 Rock removing episodes, Cobra Kai moving to Netflix, the passing of Ian Holm and Joel Schumacher, and the report surrounding Michael Keaton’s return to the cowl for Flashpoint!

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Batman Begins 15th Anniversary

Top 10 Batman Incarnations in Film and TV

With Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice hitting the big screen in two days, it’s time to look back at the previous incarnations of the classic DC Comics character, Batman. Batman has been around since his first appearance in Detective Comics #27 in 1939. That’s almost 80 years of the Dark Knight fighting Gotham’s worst. Rather than focus on the various comic book versions of Batman, I’m only going to focus on movies and cartoons to provide my ranking of the best Batman incarnations. I’ll also update this article after I see Batman v Superman to let you know where I think Batfleck ranks.

How am I going to be performing the ranking? Well, I am going to look at several different factors including: personality, detective skills, fighting skills, batsuit, Bruce Wayne style, and tone.


#10 George Clooney from Batman & Robin

Batman - George Clooney

Alright, we all know this story. Clooney even says he’ll give people refunds if they ever meet him on the streets but let’s give him some credit. Considering the writing and directing for this film, he did the best he could and I still think he makes a decent Bruce Wayne. But the bat-nipples, corny one-liners, and bat-credit card were just too much for most people to handle. Even the villains were bad in this one. The style does continue the trend from Batman Forever but takes things up a notch, which is not good in this case. Overall, this Batman is corny, cheesy, not intimidating, clumsy at times, and flat.

#09 Will Arnett from The Lego Movie

I know everyone loves Will Arnett’s Batman but in all seriousness, it’s incredibly over the top and falls into the parody category. Now, this still tops George Clooney. Why? Well, it’s simple. When Arnett’s Batman has a serious moment, it’s better, it’s darker, and it’s more believable as a Batman character. His batsuit is better, his tech is better, and his fighting skills are more impressive. Now, we get no real look at Bruce Wayne, so George has Arnett beat here but in all, Arnett’s Batman is better in every other conceivable way. He even has better villains to fight and he does so without lame fight scenes and credit cards.

#08 Will Friedle as Terry McGinnis in Batman Beyond

I love Batman Beyond and I think it’s a solid cartoon that lives up to the Batman name even without Bruce Wayne under the cowl. I drop Will Friedle’s Terry McGinnis several spots for the simple fact that it’s not Bruce Wayne and a different character all together plus he has to share screen time with an actual Bruce Wayne voiced by Kevin Conroy. You’ll see why that matters later on. McGinnis is a good Batman. He’s tough, skilled, daring, and intimidating against some of the craziest and most powerful villains the Dark Knight ever has to face. He has to put up with some intense super villains with powers most Batman never were aware of. He can even fly. His tech is amazing too. I mean, tell me that his Batmobile is not sexy.

#07 Val Kilmer in Batman Forever

Batman - Val Kilmer

Honestly, I wanted to put Kilmer below Friedle on this list but at the end of the day, at least Kilmer is a Bruce Wayne Batman, for what that’s worth. While the overall film Batman Forever is better than Clooney’s Batman & Robin, I don’t think Kilmer’s Dark Knight is really much better. The batsuit is better, of course. I mean, no bat-nipples certainly helps. In fact, I like the suit design in this film and I even like the batmobile overall. But at the end of the day, Kilmer doesn’t pull off an intimidating Batman, nor does he pull off a very convincing Bruce Wayne. Mostly, his performance is flat and uninteresting, overshadowed by the flamboyant villains in the form of Jim Carrey’s Riddler and Tommy Lee Jones’ Two-Face.

#06 Peter Weller in The Dark Knight Returns 

Batman - Peter Weller

Alright, so I’m a huge Robocop fan (the original of course) and I loved his role in Star Trek: Enterprise episode “Terra Prime”. He’s a solid actor with a killer voice which is perfect for an animated feature. This two-part animated film is based on the Frank Miller graphic novel and depicts a very unique and different Batman character, one that is heavily leveraged in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Peter Weller is responsible for voicing a gigantic, brooding, powerful, brutal Dark Knight who smashes his way through villains with little to no detective work. His batmobile is essentially a tank and he appears to be a one-man army with the tech ready to take on Superman. We don’t get much of a Bruce Wayne in this story and he more or less disregards the detective aspects of the character but Weller is part of a fantastic re-imagining that provides a more adult, darker version of the character. The aspects of the Dark Knight becoming a myth, something of nightmares, is a really cool concept that, in my opinion, has been overlooked in most versions of the character. While many of the iconic Batman themes are left out, the movie certainly impresses and Peter Weller provides a stellar performance that leaves behind an intimidating, intelligent, and scary Batman.

#05 Bruce Greenwood in Young Justice 

Batman - Young Justice

While a significantly more minor character than the other Dark Knight incarnations on this list, Bruce Greenwood still stands out each time his character is on screen. This Batman, though animated, is mysterious, confident, a little cocky, and definitely prepared for just about anything. I think Greenwood’s voice also lends itself well to the cowl. It’s a rich voice with dark tones and when working with animation, voice is everything. The overall design of this incarnation is solid too. The grey suit has some cuts that provide a somewhat armored look while keeping the classic yellow utility belt. I think the cowl is awesome too. The ears are tall but not too tall.

#04 Adam West in Batman 

Batman - Adam West Batmobile

Alright, so if you have never seen Adam West’s 1966 film or the TV series, just stop reading and go watch it. I’ll wait. Now, this version is no Dark Knight. It’s cheesy, corny, way over the top, and plain silly most of the time but West does something nearly all other incarnations simply leave out, detective work. Remember, Batman started in Detective Comics. He’s a detective first, a fighter second. Over the decades, he’s become meaner, tougher, and more overpowered, but Adam West portrayed Batman as a detective first with fun and imaginative ways of stopping bad guys, like bat-shark repellent. In my opinion, no live action or animated version of the character ever pulled off the same or better level of detective work and for that alone, I bump West up to #4. Aside from that, he provided a very family and child-friendly version of the character that included many of the classic characters such as Robin, Batgirl, and a slew of villains. Additionally, tell me that his batmobile isn’t just the coolest car.

#03 Christian Bale in The Dark Knight Trilogy 

Batman - Christian Bale

Christopher Nolan set out to provide a hyper-realistic version of the Dark Knight, even naming two of the films with the moniker and having the whole trilogy leverage the name. Bale does a solid job, making a decent Bruce and hero, but what sells it is everything around him. The suit, the tumbler, the bat-pod, the gadgets, they are all explained in somewhat realistic ways that provide a sense of possibility to what is going on. All-in-all this version of Batman seems to be the most likely to actually ever happen, aside from the entire plot of The Dark Knight Rises, of course. The addition of Freeman’s Fox character to provide explanations for where the cool stuff comes from really helps fill in the gaps that no other version really cared to focus on. Bale does a good job showcasing the inner battle of the character, constantly fighting himself over where the line should be, how far is too far, and his performance in The Dark Knight still stands as one of the greatest superhero films to date.

#02 Michael Keaton in Batman and Batman Returns

Batman - Michael Keaton

How can you overlook the first actor to play a serious version of Batman on the big screen? Keaton helped bring a solid comic book version of the character to life, with the help of Tim Burton. The suit looks like it hopped off the pages of a comic book and as impractical as it and Keaton’s batmobile were, they were visually spot on. Tim Burton’s style provided a solid dark and creepy tone to both films and brought the franchise to a more adult level. Keaton does a good Bruce Wayne but a better Batman. His voice is one of the best out there, perhaps only second to my #1 spot. He had to put up with some great bad guys in the Joker, Catwoman, and the Penguin. His gadgets were fun but not overused and unlike Bale’s Dark Knight, this version had an actual batcave through both films.

#01 Kevin Conroy in various animated incarnations

Batman - The Animated Series

Is anyone really surprised that Conroy sits high at the top of my list? No one has played the character more. He voiced Batman in over 20 different projects through the end of 2015 between TV and film and is slated to return with Mark Hamill this year for an animated version of the classic graphic novel, The Killing Joke. He’s had to play several different versions of the same character and each time, he brings it. He is incredibly convincing with a voice that can only be Batman’s. He’s tough, mysterious, confident, intelligent, daring, and scary at times. He pulls off the work of everyone else on this list and some. If you watch animated DC Comics films, you know that his consistency brought to the character has been a cornerstone for DC Comics’ success in the industry for over 20 years. At the end of the day, just look at Batman: The Animated Series and the Justice League cartoons. He even plays old Bruce perfectly in Batman Beyond. Oh and while I’m not looking at video games for this ranking, if my explanation isn’t enough for you, remember that he voices the character in 11 different video games including the entire Arkham trilogy

Notes:

There are several one-off animated films featuring the Batman character that I have not seen. My list focuses on everything I have seen. If someone did not make the list, it is quite possible I have missed that particular animated film. For example, I have not seen Batman: Year One with Ben McKenzie voicing the character.

Please come back on Friday, March 25th to see where I think Ben Affleck’s Batman from Batman v Superman lands.

What do you think of my ranking? Comment below!

Top 10 Batman Incarnations in Film and TV

What Makes A Bad Movie?

A few nights ago, I was watching Mallrats with some of the writers for The Grid. As the movie ended and the credits rolled, one of us remarked, “That was a good movie!” From another came the response, “No, it wasn’t.” Mind you, both people in question enjoyed the movie. So why was it not a good movie? Was it a bad movie? An opinion on what is a good movie and a bad movie varies from person to person. However, there is a phenomenon of bad movies getting far more attention than they should, whereas good movies tend to be box office flops that may eventually gain a cult following on a home video release. Before analyzing this phenomenon, it is important that one must first define a bad movie.

What Is A Bad Movie?

Tokyo Drift, bad movie in a good franchise?

Han sees something in his protege. Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures.

A bad movie is simply defined as a movie with very little redeeming qualities. The plot is poor, the acting is poor, the characters are poor, everything is poor. There might be more than one attribute that was good about this movie, but, otherwise, this movie is bad… Allow us to look at an example, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift.

This film suffered from a plethora of problems. First, the main character was not likable. He was young, arrogant, and the audience very much wanted him to lose his races. Second, the plot was ill-contrived. In this movie, the main character, a high school student no less, is sent to live with his father in Japan after having one too many criminal incidents involving driving (racing, in particular). Once there, he goes straight to the streets of Tokyo to race again. Not only is this a poor excuse to land in Tokyo, but this film sees almost no development from the main character. All in all, Tokyo Drift was a bad movie in all of these aspects and a flop at the box office. It nearly spelled certain doom for the franchise despite having one redeeming factor, Han.

Han was a street-smart racer who helped our main character learn how to drift and race in Tokyo. His character was clearly popular with someone (producers, writers, or audiences) because he appeared in the next three Fast and the Furious sequels. However, despite Han’s presence, Tokyo Drift is our definition of a terrible movie.

What Is A Good Movie?

Defining a good movie is much trickier than defining a bad movie. A good movie often depends on the person. Many people would consider Clerks and Mallrats to be good movies, but the Academy Awards would never offer such movies a nomination. So what is a good movie? Is it box office numbers? Is it plot? Is it acting? There are movies that have all of these attributes that never get noticed for an Academy Award outside of visual effects, best costumes, or set designs (superhero movies, for example). Well, then, is it a movie that wins awards? Lincoln was nominated for a lot of awards but was still hated by quite a few people.

My definition of a good movie may vary from others’ definitions, but it is necessary to pursue such a venture to avoid confusion. A good movie is a movie that forces one to think beyond just being entertained. It has a compelling plot, relatable, and round characters (those are characters who change throughout the movie). Sometimes, good supplemental features (albeit music, cinematography, set design, costumes, etc.) can also help a movie, but these aren’t always necessary to make a good movie.

Momento's Leonard - not a bad movie

Leonard takes pictures to help him “remember” his past. Photo courtesy Newmarket Films.

An example of a good movie would be one of Christopher Nolan’s early films, Memento. MINOR SPOILERS TO FOLLOW OF SAID MOVIE! This movie follows Leonard (played by Guy Pearce) as he tries to find the man who murdered his wife. However, with any Nolan film, there is a twist. Leonard no longer has the ability to form long-term memories. Instead, he can only remember things for about fifteen minutes. The film takes advantage of this by giving us the story backward. We start at the end of the movie and then gradually, within varying increments, make our way to the beginning. We see people take advantage of Leonard and, even more incrementally, we find out the truth about Leonard’s past and what he does to deal with it.

So why is this a good movie? This movie forces us to think about our past mistakes and the measures we would take to numb ourselves to the pain of our actions. In short, this is a movie that forces us to think beyond our entertainment.

The Fun Movie

Not all movies are so cerebrally deep. But does that make them bad movies? Well, these movies still draw audiences and continue to pump out sequels. Clearly, they’re doing something right. These are the action movies, the romantic comedies, and summer blockbusters. These include films like The Fast and the Furious movies, which have struck to a formula of fast cars, girls, and likable characters (with the exception of Tokyo Drift). They also include the mindless explosions of the Transformers franchise, which, for reasons beyond myself, continue to draw large crowds.

Clerks - bad movie, good movie, or just a fun movie?

Clerks is often considered the epitome of the ’90s. Photo courtesy Miramax Films.

However, the fun movie is not always an action movie or a summer blockbuster. I mentioned Clerks and Mallrats, which are satirical and entertaining movie comedies of ’90s culture. In the case of Clerks, it has elements of our definition of a good movie, with the character of Dante trying to figure out what he really wants in life.

Fun movies have their place and can often be the most hotly debated between being good and bad among moviegoers.

In Conclusion…

So when you get into a debate with a friend over whether a movie is good or bad, remember that there are also fun movies. Fun movies are most often mindless. These movies make people forget about their problems, can sometimes be deep, but are most functional as just a form of entertainment. For some reason, your friend may like that movie that you absolutely abhor. Be open to their opinion and keep in mind that you probably like fun movies for reasons your own friends can hardly fathom.

What makes your list of bad, good, or fun movies? Comment below and let us know if your definitions vary.

 

What Makes A Bad Movie?