Michael Keaton Batman
source, youtube screenshot https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3YzCX8Eg6Uc

Michael Keaton was Batman. He was the first man to become The Dark Knight in the modern era. The formerly comedic actor led Tim Burton’s two forays into the DC universe. However, the next two films featured other actors playing the caped crusader. Why didn’t Keaton want to return? Clashing visions with director Joel Schumacher. 

Via People

“And one of the reasons I couldn’t do it was—and you know, he’s a nice enough man, he’s passed away, so I wouldn’t speak ill of him even if he were alive—he, at one point, after more than a couple of meetings where I kept trying to rationalize doing it and hopefully talking him into saying I think we don’t want to go in this direction, I think we should go in this direction. And he wasn’t going to budge.”

Schumacher’s vision was definitely different than Burton’s.

While Burton himself admitted to never reading the comics, Schumacher was steeped in the lore of the Detective comics.

And the difference shows. While the first two movies focused more on Bruce Wayne’s brooding and emotional grappling with the role of being Batman, Schumacher’s over-the-top camp fests harkened back to the comics and the classic TV series.

Schumacher’s focus on the Rogue’s Gallery certainly took the focus off Bruce Wayne.

One wonders what had happened if Keaton stuck around. His career sort of stalled after the Batman films. I think he made the right decision for himself and the character though. 

The DEFINITIVE Batman Rankings – Where Does Michael Keaton Rank?

While we are on the subject, and since you asked. Here is the DEFINITIVE list of the best Batmans (Batmen?)

Dishonorable Mention: Christian Bale

Bale is a generational talent who played a great Bruce Wayne, however, the Batman voice did not do it for me. There’s a reason why everyone talks about the villains in the Nolan trilogy versus Bale’s Batman.

Honorable Mention: Val Kilmer

A perpetually slept-on talent, Kilmer’s Bruce Wayne is overshadowed by overwriting and the over-the-top performances of Tommy Lee Jones and Jim Carrey as the villains. 

5. Michael Keaton
A stand-up comic by trade, Keaton had the timing and comedic chops to make Tim Burton’s idea of Batman really work.

4. Robert Pattinson

“Hunter are you crazy? The movie isn’t out yet.” I know, but let me explain. We’ve only ever seen the brooding middle-aged Batman (Bale doesn’t count no one believed that dude was in his 20s). An underlooked part of the Batman lore is that there was a time when Bruce Wayne sucked at being Batman when he was just some emotional snot-nosed kid who didn’t understand what he needed to do. Pattinson is a phenomenal actor, and just from the trailers, it is easy to see he will play a broody, emotional Bruce Wayne that finally tells a worthy origin story.

3. George Clooney

Yes I know, Batman & Robin pretty much killed comic book movies forever, and OMG THE SUIT NIPPLES. But George Clooney plays a playboy better than anyone (real missed opportunity for him never to do Great Gatsby) and he was what the franchise needed at the time. I know the script was bad and the camp was completely missed in the 90s when gritty reality or straight positivity played strongest. I think if anyone deserves another shot at the cowl, it is George Clooney.

2. Adam West

The original Batman television series is so much fun to watch. It is cheesy and creative and doesn’t try to take itself so seriously (something superhero movies do far too often nowadays). In the absurd world of the television series, Adam West’s Batman always felt grounded.

1. Kevin Conroy

I know what you’re saying, “Who is Kevin Conroy?” Well, let me enlighten you. Kevin Conroy has been Batman longer than anyone. He is THE voice of Bruce Wayne/ Batman in most of DC’s animated works. From Batman: The Animated Series to the incredible Justice League and Justice League Unlimted to the acclaimed Arkham video game series, Conroy was the steady strong baritone who to me will always be BATMAN. On a related note, if you really want to see comic stories come to life, watch the Justice League Unlimited series. The writing is really good and the “Project Cadmus” storyline is frankly better than most Marvel or DC movies.

Who was your favorite Batman? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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