13 April 2020 5162 Views

PolitFlix of the Dark Knight: We look at BATMAN and his world, onscreen and off.

by James Murphy

HOLY POLITICAL PODCAST, BATMAN! (Just not ‘wholly’ political)

Talking Bat-Flix. From Lewis Wilson and Adam West to Keaton, Kilmer, Clooney, Bale and Affleck. Looking forward to R-Batz /Bat-inson (Pattinson). 

Points discussed include…

  • THE SOUND HAS GONE FUNNY (Relax; momentary and even John Campea has the same issue sometimes!; at around 00:25: we sort of fix it!). 

Click Below and enjoy..



Show Notes:

Batman was created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger, for DC Comics, in the late 1930s. A cross between Zorro, The Shadow and Dracula of sorts, Batman has become a multi-faceted character, with various iterations on page and onscreen adding to the mythology.

Lewis Wilson: First actor to play Batman onscreen. Father to Michael G Wilson, who produces, along with the lovely Barbara Broccoli, the current Bond movies.

Adam West: Batman of the 1960s TV show and one off movie plus several animated spin-offs. Once considered to play James Bond?

Michael Keaton:

Character Actor and Comedian. Recent career renaissance ranges from (overrated) Birdman to (brilliant) The Founder, via a turn as a Spider-Man baddie/mentor for Marvel.

Keaton excelled in comedy (Beetlejuice, Much Ado About Nothing) and has a portfolio of every-man blue collar workers (Gung Ho!; Mr Mom; Multiplicity) as well as more complex villainy, onscreen (Pacific Heights). So he was not an obvious choice to play Batman.

He was, however, the right choice and remains, to many, definitive. Gatsby with a case of PTSD? You believe this man is bat-mad crazy and scary yet ultimately placid.

Val Kilmer:

Pin up romantic lead. Movie Star. Action Hero. Writer. Poet. Super-cool. Having played Iceman in Top Gun and Doc Holliday in Tombstone, the man was a cult hero in his own right.

Once again, NOT an obvious Batman. But superb at certain aspects. The walk, the money, the suits, the lifestyle. Kilmer IS a personification of the 1990s leading man, action adventure poster boy.

His choreography on Heat (same year as his Batman turn) remains a textbook example of how to handle gun-play onscreen. Val moved on from the franchise after just one turn. But his contribution remains worth a watch.

George Clooney:

CLAIMS he was a bad Batman. Not so. Yes, Batman and Robin is a TERRIBLE film. Camp and fun to a point..just terrible as a film, though. But George was by no means miscast.

His Batman has glimpses of the KIND of professional action heroics he brought to ER and The Peacemaker and he, arguably, has a shot at being a real life Batman (could he even run for President?).

Christian Bale:

Oscar winning chameleon, sadly now infamous for THAT rant on the set of a Terminator film. He can transform into any physical shape and convey any character type. One could argue that he was born to play Batman, given that American Psycho is basically a darker side of Bruce Wayne?

He could certainly manage the action and knew, first hand, what it was like to be a child with the world on your shoulders, growing into an uncertain adulthood (Bale was a child star). Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy hinges on Bale’s brilliance.

Ben Affleck:

By 2013, Ben was famed more as director than actor. There was an outcry on his casting from the usual fan community doubters. But he gave us the definitive physical take on the role. Watching this guy fight is like watching comic book panels come alive.

Sadly, his term was short lived, ending with Justice League, after Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice and a cameo in Suicide Squad. The plan was for Ben to write and direct a Bat-flick (Bat-fleck?) but that will now remain a great missed opportunity /what might have been.

Tim Burton:

Gothic stylist, director of two Batman films. 1989’s Batman saw the relaunch of the mythology onscreen, moving away from the pop art camp of the 60s tv show and more toward the Frank Miller dark, satirical, even fascistic aesthetic. He collaborated with Anton Furst on designing a hellish yet mesmeric Gotham City.

Furst sadly died before a sequel, replaced by Bo Welch, though in any event, Batman Returns was intended to look and feel like a differing film to its predecessor.

To some, it was too ‘dark’, for others, not dark enough. Daniel Waters’ script is political, pertinent and full of black humour. It’s a kind of fairy tale for adults with Grimms Fairy Tale baddies meshing with genuinely moving romance between Batman and Catwoman (Michael Keaton and Michelle Pfeiffer).

Burton had plans for a third film, but Warners (and McDonalds) went more safe and mainstream..

Joel Schumacher:

A safe pair of hands for Warners in the early 90s, Joel seemed ideal to helm Batman. He had commercial clout and knew how to market products; an eye for design and detail and a genius for casting.

The Client had been a hit and helped launch the Grisham adaptations as a kind of franchise (ironically, its aesthetic is mirrored years later in Nolan’s Dark Knight?).

His Batman Forever is produced by Tim Burton, nominally, and shares certain motifs and continuity points. But it is clearly a new design, a soft reboot and a fresh take on the character and tone.

Though flawed and messy, the visuals are stunning and though overcrowded and miscast (Tommy Lee Jones replaced Billy Dee Williams as Harvey Dent /Two Face; Mel Gibson turned it down)..Jim Carrey is hilarious and Kilmer, Kidman and O’Donnell all charming in their way.

The movie was a monster hit (biggest opening of all time back then) so another sequel was inevitable.

Sadly: Batman and Robin was rushed out two years later and though Schwarzenegger should have been a great Mr Freeze (or Bane or Azrael) if played like the Terminator, both he and the film become one long pun. Another reboot was inevitable, 8 years later..

Chris Nolan:

Nowadays, he is thought of like some uber fusion of Kubrick, Coppola and Spielberg. But back in 2003, Christopher Nolan was an unknown quantity and indie filmmaker.

Insomnia, Memento and The Following had propelled him to the attentions of the studio bosses and so it was that he was given control of Batman’s fate onscreen.

Cue the only cohesive trilogy in the canon, to date. Nolan went onto produce, in name, anyway, the start of the Justice League series. But he has generally gone to more serious fare (Dunkirk) and still blockbusting yet original content (this year’s TENET).

Zack Snyder:

Visual stylist of 300 and WATCHMEN, Zack was the ideal choice to bring comic book panels to the screen. A lovely family man (his professional and personal partnership with producer wife, Deb, is very touching), Zack was a ‘fan’ of Batman and Superman, in a manner that assorted other directors in the various series’ iterations simply weren’t.

But a strength, overdone, becomes a weakness.  Zack’s enthusiasm for making a perfect Superman film in Man of Steel meant it tried to appeal on too many counts. A dark and gritty reboot that still served as upbeat Superman movie? I love it.

But many were less than enthused and what should have earned a simple sequel instead jumped the Marvel shared universe bandwagon. So we got a very rushed Batman v Superman and Justice League.

Snyder had a vision for a saga but it was cut short. Rumours of a ‘Snyder’ cut for Justice League, abound, still.

Meantime, settle for his live commentary on ‘BVS’.

Robert Pattinson: The Batman in waiting. A truly great young actor. Will he be a good Dark Knight? Time will tell..as it always does. Check out The Lighthouse for a glimpse of this kid’s acting chops..

Kim Basinger:

Oscar winning actress (LA Confidential), made her name mostly in the 1980s by playing sexy femme fatales and /or damsels in distress. Nine and a Half Weeks was her breakout, arguably, though she had played a Bond girl in the non canonical Never Say Never Again.

The role of Vicki Vale is very much of its time; a love story sub-plot (Sean Young was cast but broke her arm, before Kim stepped on board instead). But it’s more effective a part than many give it credit for.

Michelle Pfeiffer:

Timelessly alluring screen siren. Can play anything. Divine cheekbones. Divinely feminine. Scarface got her noticed, via Grease 2 and Married to the Mob.

By the time she appeared in Witches of Eastwick and The Fabulous Baker Boys, the girl was a star in her own right. The role of Catwoman in Batman Returns was sought after by every actress in Hollywood, all of whom had their talons at the ready.

Annette Bening won the role and would have been purr-fect. But she then found herself expecting a baby with Warren Beatty.So Tim recast with Michelle and the rest is celluloid history.

This is a very complex Catwoman. There is a hint of the supernatural (brought back to life by cats) and social comment (at war on men, personified by her nasty boss, played by Christopher Walken).

This girl can wield a whip, cry on cue and switch allegiance in the blink of an eye. Screen filling brilliance. Michelle remains a star, ever beautiful, mesmeric.

Superman Lives:

In the 1990s, Kevin Smith was commissioned by Warners to write a new movie for the Man of Steel. Batman would have made a cameo and it’s rumoured that, had Tim Burton directed as planned, he intended a hyper-light contrast to his dark Gotham, concealing a wider threat.

Michael Keaton might even have returned as Batman in a kind of shared universe long before Marvel went that route.

Jack Nicholson

Heath Ledger 

Joaquin Phoenix

If there is a pantheon of great actors of all time? Jack is in there, alongside the likes of Brando, Olivier, Pacino, Duvall and Downey. He was a huge star by 1988/9; his casting as Joker was obvious.

Think The Shining via Witches of Eastwick and bingo: born to play this part?

Robin Williams, Tim Curry, Willem Dafoe and John Lithgow were mooted but this was Jack’s to decline or accept. He took on the role and a payday that has rarely, if ever been matched.

The deal even gave a cut from sequels, despite those being Joker free until 2008’s The Dark Knight.

Heath Ledger’s take on the villain is more grounded and brutal, visceral and yet probably more comic book accurate. A great talent, Ledger sadly died in the year his turn as Joker was embraced to the tune of a billion dollars at the Box Office. He won a posthumous Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.

Joaquin Phoenix also secured an academy award (in a leading part) for 2019’s eponymous take on the Joker mythology. The film itself is a Scorsese clone coated in comic book lore. But there are a number of sublime scenes with Phoenix, personifying the clown prince of crime at his most pathetic yet powerful and hypnotic best.

Though not slated as yet for a sequel or connection to the Pattinson series on its way, Phoenix will be an impossible act to follow.

Hence they are going for Penguin and Riddler; Colin Farrell and Paul Dano following in the footsteps of Danny DeVito and Jim Carrey, respectively).


Subject to delays in current crisis, THE BATMAN should be out in 2021/22. 

POLITFLIX WILL RETURN WITH A MISSION:IMPOSSIBLE..Should you choose to accept it. Meantime: stay safe, stay well,. stay home!

Thank you for Listening..x


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