Batman has seen countless iterations over his 75 years since his creation by Bob Kane and Bill Finger. We’ve seen him in comic books, TV shows, movies and cartoons. He’s been in blue, gray, black, silver and white. Despite, or more likely because of, all of these variations there is still much heated debate about which Batman is better. I think the most heated over the last few years, with Nolan’s interpretation, is which movie Batman is better and let’s face it, there are only two that need to be mentioned in such a debate. While Adam West deserves credit for his version of Batman, which was pretty well done for the early days of the franchise, the modern image of the Dark Knight belongs to the two gentlemen we’ve come here to talk about.
Now, for full disclosure I’ll say right now that Michael Keaton’s is the version of Batman that I personally like best. Whether it be how I view the actor personally, his body of work, or just plain nostalgia, he’s the one for me. That said, I won’t debate anyone on why he’s better than Bale’s version. It’s just my personal opinion, and the reason I won’t defend it is, I believe the debate is pointless. That’s right my fellow geeks, there are far more important debates to be had, like who would win in a fight between Wolverine and Bane (Wolverine, claws down). Also all references to Keaton’s Batman do not include the second film which shall remain nameless and unwatched for all time.
When debating the two different actors, and their version of Batman, you are really debating to very distinct and valid versions of the character. Michael Keaton brings us the lighter version, a little humor (without the camp), and the sort of Batman we expect if we grew up in the 80s and 90s. He was the more traditional Batman from the main comic title. We saw a serious Batman played against the Joker, brought to glorious life by Jack Nicholson, and even against his other self, Bruce Wayne. I think that’s one of the things I liked most about Keaton’s Batman, was his Bruce Wayne. He was serious, but not nearly as serious as Bale’s, with just a touch of…well touched. He wasn’t quite right in the head, just off enough to be convincing as someone who lost their parents and later decides to dress up as a bat to stop crime. He also brought a little more humor to Bruce, which offset the dark seriousness of his alter ego.
For Bale’s version, we see a darker and much more serious Bruce Wayne and Batman. It’s more reminiscent of the Legends of the Dark Knight series that ran during the early 90s (I know, it started in 89 but I read it late). Bale’s Wayne is brooding, except when putting on a show for the public. His Batman is still more ‘stable’ but is much more grim than the one we saw in the past. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t dislike the new movies at all. I don’t think they lived up to the hype, but they were great films, and a great success for all involved. It was just more of a look into what Batman would be like in the real world as opposed to the comic world of Gotham City. To me, this Batman was a little too dark, but I can certainly see the appeal. The tech, effects, and story were great, but maybe I’m just getting old.
So, anyway, you can argue which version of Batman you personally like, but in the end they are both Batman. They are both good, and they both appeal to different people. I think we can also agree that they both share one great quality, neither of them had nipples on their armor.