While Comic-Con attendees will likely have to wait until next year’s San Diego Comic-Con for another exclusive glimpse at Batman V Superman that hasn’t stopped the Caped Crusader from being a regular topic of conversation at New York Comic-Con 2014. The Dark Knight will be featured in his own 75th anniversary panel tomorrow (from the time of this writing) but after only two days, three Batmen have already taken the stage at the annual East Coast geek gathering – as George Clooney, Adam West, and now Michael Keaton have all made appearances.
Clooney, in particular, drew attention while promoting Disney’s upcoming sci-fi film, Tomorrowland, when he outright apologized for Batman and Robin (as well as those infamous Bat-nipples). Reaction online was pretty forgiving, as most fans blame director Joel Schumacher (and/or Warner Bros.) for ruining Batman – not Clooney. Many even consider the film as a mixed blessing – since it paved the way for Christopher Nolan to reboot the character in Batman Begins. Still, while Clooney may look back at the cape and cowl with regret, Keaton remains satisfied with his portrayal of Gotham’s hero.
Speaking during the Birdman panel, Keaton reflected on how playing Batman informed his portrayal of a washed-up superhero actor in Alejandro González Iñárritu’s upcoming meta-comic book drama – outright stating that he remains proud of his work in the Batsuit:
Having played Batman and being very proud of playing Batman. I never back off that. The idea was bold, interesting, and cool when Tim made it. I didn’t really put it together, Edward did [a superhero movie] too. I just go to work.
On top of being “very proud“, Keaton also recalled how he first came to be associated with Batman – claiming that he never thought he’d actually get the part because his take on the fan-favorite character was very different from the comics:
When I took the original, I was unfamiliar with comic books. I wasn’t a comic book reader. [Reading the script he thought], this isn’t the way that I see the character but am glad to read it. Then I met Tim the next day, I’m saying [Batman] is this and this, and he was nodding in agreement. So I asked, are they going to make this? Tim said, “I don’t know. Let’s find out.”
While the Nolan films certainly set a new benchmark for Batman on the big screen, many fans still have fond memories of Keaton’s iteration. Looking back, it’s easy to see why the actor was skeptical that they’d be able to make their Batman film – given that the character was (and still is) one of DC’s most popular characters. Burton definitely brought his own unique style to the property – which would go on to make $250 million (on $35 million budget) at the domestic box office and lay the foundation for three sequels.
Two years ago, the influential filmmaker joked that his movies were “Batman on Ice” compared to what Nolan had done but, as Keaton indicates, there’s still plenty of reason to be proud of Batman and Batman Returns. The two Schumacher sequels (Batman Forever as well as Batman and Robin) remain the bane of many Bat-fans but Burton’s films were a staple for kids (and comic book fans) at the time. Neither movie shied away from the darker aspects of the titular hero or his villains – making entertaining use of Batman’s tools and vehicles while also telling impactful character stories.
Both The Joker (Jack Nicholson) and The Penguin (Danny DeVito) proved to be memorable antagonists that balanced comic book reverence with big screen adaptation – all while providing developed arcs of their own. After all, the best Caped Crusader stories spend significant time exploring their villains – so that they can reflect aspects of Bruce Wayne/Batman as well as the twisted sandbox of Gotham City. Without question, there were some quirky moments in Burton’s Batman films but they told great stories (and didn’t simply throw villains in just for the sake of marketing/toys).
To that end, Keaton was a smart choice for Burton’s Batman. A capable actor who could sell Bruce Wayne’s outward charm (and internal darkness) – along with heroic antics under the cowl. Now, the question remains, will Ben Affleck be just as proud of his Batman in twenty-five years?
Batman V Superman arrives in theaters on March 25th, 2016 with Justice League set to follow some time in the future.
Birdman hits theaters on October 17th, 2014.
Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for any future updates on Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, as well as movie, TV, and gaming news.