On Batman Day, Tom Jolliffe delves back through the Caped Crusader’s films and TV so far to pick the best of the best in the ultimate Batman film…
Lets say you’re putting together a Batman film, and you’ve got to piece together a cast and crew of the best from the film and TV incarnations in existence. Okay, lets say I do it…well this is would be the resultant groupings if everyone was around and available and all at the prime age still.
The Best Bat/Bruce?
Many will have grown up watching Adam West somewhat easily scaling tall buildings and wisecracking. Then more recently Christian Bale went dark with the role. He had the benefit of being in an excellent group of films of course but…he’s no Michael Keaton. Unexpectedly, and unconventionally good. Keaton didn’t possess the physicality of the others, but still felt imposing in the suit, and the occasional fire of unpredictable energy, that Keaton had become known for, added a firecracker element to his Bruce.
Well come on. This one is easy, and I say that in full acknowledgement that Batman’s most electrifying villain has had so many memorable turns. The only weak link really, was Jared Leto’s version. You need the Clown Prince, and given carte blanche to dip into the beyond, I’m bringing back Heath Ledger.
Lets not overload things either. One more, and we’ll have Catwoman to offer that duality of friend/foe forever bubbling. Again, the TV show had great versions, but the Catwoman for me is Halle…no I jest…it’s Michelle Pfieffer. Purrrfection.
Robin’s back baby! Why not? Dick Grayson returns. That splits us to a narrow race really, between Burt Ward and…no…it’s a one man race all the way (sorry Chris). Burt’s the Boy Wonder.
Commissioner Gordon is also a pretty easy choice of one. He’s always there, making up the numbers. As a character he’s a much needed cog. After all, who else will turn on the bat signal? Gary Oldman is Gordon.
Alfred…this is tough. Many a good version and Michael Caine was given great license to inject a lot of gravitas and pathos into the character…BUT…he still felt so unshakably Michael Caine, as Caine always does. So for me…Alfred is Michael Gough. As the Burton/Schumacher choice he always evoked great warmth and felt almost unshakably Alfred. His persona didn’t overpower that character.
The Car (And Other Assorted Vehicles):
Now…whilst the TV show car looks a little lame these days, I still love it. None have ever been what you’d call practical of course. For me, it’s Burtons version, and probably that of the first film. The same goes for the Burton Batwing.
The Love Interest:
Now of course Pfeiffer can come into this as Selena Kyle. However I want my Bruce batting them away with a stick. Plus I need an excuse to get Kim Basinger on board because I love her so…particularly as Vicki Vale.
Joel Schum…No. Christopher Nolan. He may have grounded the comic material, not injecting it with the vibrancy you got from Tim Burton, however, Nolan a master constructor of narrative, hit the most brilliant comic book peak ever in The Dark Knight.
Very tough choice and maybe choice of director and subsequent tone would affect that, but I’m in fantasy mode here and they’ll all do as I say. Danny Elfman has probably never been better than his early collaborations with Tim Burton, and that first Batman film in particular is iconic. Hans Zimmer was excellent, and loud…but the comical majesty and eccentric bombast of a young Elfman was something to behold.
The Visual Style:
Now…do you go for colourful camp of 60’s psychedelia in the TV show? Do you go for the Heat inspired visuals of The Dark Knight? Do you go for whatever the hell Joel Schumacher was going for in Batman & Robin? Even the maligned Zack Snyder made a good looking film, which had aspects of both Nolan and Burton, and his own inimitable style (for better or worse).
For me, you go for the Neo-Retro, gothic visuals of Tim Burton. It perfectly blended the stylistics of comic books and graphic novels. Burton’s two films looked magnificent. Fully embracing the fact that Batman, like most comic book heroes are pure fantasy, and a bit silly. Whilst Nolan took everything deadly serious, he was probably the only director capable of successfully doing such a grounded, gritty film based on a comic book hero.
Every good film needs good merch. That can be toys, tie-in comics, bags, underwear, whatever…Burton’s films reigned supreme here too. There were some great action figures and toys and there were also some great games on 8 and 16-bit…
So there we have it. That would be my ultimate Batman film. Agree/disagree? Let us know in the comments below or on our Twitter page @flickeringmyth…
Tom Jolliffe is an award winning screenwriter and passionate cinephile. He has several features due out on DVD/VOD in 2019/2020 and a number of shorts hitting festivals. Find more info at the best personal site you’ll ever see here.