It has been 25 years since Michael Keaton first put on the cape and cowl as the brooding Caped Crusader in director Tim Burton’s ‘Batman’. Now, the actor comes full circle — sort of? — in his new film ‘Birdman’, where he plays an actor known for playing a superhero, and is trying to make a comeback. That also happened to Adam West, Keaton’s predecessor, who played a comical Caped Crusader on ABC’s ‘Batman’ from 1966 to 1968. However, West has been typecast for being ‘Batman Forever’, where Val Kilmer succeeded Keaton as the brooding but humorous Caped Crusader in director Joel Schumacher’s 1995 summer blockbuster that was also produced by Burton.
And speaking of Tim Burton, in his interview with Entertainment Weekly (EW), Keaton expresses in being Batman again if Burton came back on as director. The two followed up ‘Batman’ with 1992’s ‘Batman Returns’, which was a box office hit yet received mixed reviews and controversy in terms of the sequel’s darker undertones and bittersweet ending. The highlight of ‘Batman Returns’, though, is the chemistry between Keaton and Michelle Pfieffer due to their characters’ struggles with their split personalities. On the one hand, Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle are lovers. But, on the other hand, Batman and Catwoman are enemies, which is why they’re such as a tragic story.
After ‘Batman Forever’, George Clooney made a ‘wardrobe malfunction’ with 1997’s ‘Batman & Robin’, where the now campy Caped Crusader had a Bat-suit with ‘bat nipples’. The film was a critical and commercial disappointment, as George hailed for years that he ruined the Batman franchise. Well, almost, as Christopher and Jonathan Nolan rebooted — and resurrected — ‘The Dark Knight’ as a worldwide billion-dollar trilogy from 2005 to 2012 with Christian Bale as Gotham City billionaire Bruce Wayne, who sought the means to fight injustice as an incorrupt symbol against those who preys on the fearful.
In the 1960s, there were three Bs: suave superspy James Bond, the Beatles, and Batman. Where Richard Donner and Christopher Reeve began with 1978’s ‘Superman’, Tim Burton and Michael Keaton continued with ‘Batman’ a decade later and beyond. In the 9/11 era, there were four Bs: James Bond, ’24’s Jack Bauer, amnesiac assassin Jason Bourne, and Batman — action heroes fighting the war on terrorism.
Now, Ben Affleck takes up the mantle of being Batman in director Zach Snyder’s ‘Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice’ with Henry Cavill suiting back up as the Man of Steel.
In the early 1990s, CBS had a late-night programming block called “Crimetime After Primetime”, which included shows such as ‘Dark Justice’, which lasted from 1991 to 1993, about Nicholas “Nick” Marshall, who spent years working his way up as a cop, a prosecutor, and now a judge. Sadly, his faith in the criminal justice system ended when his family was killed by a car bomb that was meant for him. Knowing that ‘justice may be blind, but it can see in the dark’, Marshall moonlights as a motorcycle-riding vigilante and decides to form the ‘Night Watchmen’: bringing dark justice against criminals who’ve gotten off on legal technicalities.
You can say that the protagonist of ‘Dark Justice’ is similar to Batman, as well as blind attorney Matt Murdock and his ‘Man Without Fear’ alter-ego Daredevil, where Affleck played the latter in a 2003 movie that had yielded a so-so response among critics and moviegoers despite hitting number-one at the box office and reaching past the $100-million mark.
Still, in a recent interview with National Public Radio (NPR), Ben hopes that ‘Batman v. Superman’ won’t be another ‘Daredevil’, of which he regrets doing. Nevertheless, the film introduced Ben to future wife Jennifer Garner, who played Matt Murdock’s love interest — and Daredevil’s nemesis — Elektra, a role she reprise in a spin-off that was released in the winter of 2005, a few months before ‘Batman Begins’.
‘Birdman’ starring Michael Keaton comes out next Friday, while ‘Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice’ is scheduled for release on March 25, 2016.
Whether it is Michael Keaton, Christian Bale, Val Kilmer, or Ben Affleck, one thing is certain: Batman has no limits.