Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Is Christian Bale "Replaceable" As Batman?

I take this rumor about Christian Bale's "Terminator Salvation" co-star Sam Worthington replacing him in the Batman movies with a grain of salt.* But it *does* bring up an interesting question: is Bale "replaceable" as Batman in the current franchise?

I don't see Bale as inextricably linked to the Batman character as Christopher Reeve was to Superman. In fact, I'd almost argue that Reeve was pretty irreplaceable as Superman, though both Dean Cain & Tom Welling have done really great interpretations of the character.

Now, I can buy Bale being an iconic "Young Bruce Wayne." But as Batman, it's so-so for me. Bale's iconic movie, as far as I'm concerned, is really "American Psycho," though thankfully he hasn't gotten pigeonholed as Patrick Bateman (though one might argue that the actor has played his fair share of psychopathic roles since, and that even Bruce Wayne is a bit unhinged).

Michael Keaton was my favorite Batman, but even then, was he an *iconic* Batman?

At the moment, I think there is still only one true iconic performance of Batman that has stood the test of time:

*EDIT: However, given Bale's recent issues with his temper, plus the fact that he might want to move on and do other things, it's not *that* crazy to think that replacements might be floated around for Batman. But this has happened to Tobey Maguire with Spider-Man as well. So who knows?


  1. I would be very sad to see Bale replaced, though I agree that Bale is not the iconic Batman. His voice as Batman has always bugged me but he plays Bruce Wayne so perfectly and I just love Christian Bale as a rule so, even if it is time to move on, he will probably always be my favorite Batman.

  2. Adam West, baby! I's also a Keaton shipper.

    I think Batman, because of the basic mystique, can be interchangeable. I mean, you've got some that make a good Bruce or a good Bats, but rarely both together. Batman can be done like Bond, a new actior every generation or so. It comes down to the character, not so much the actor. If the character is done right, then that's when the actor succeeds.

    Personally, I'd love a new Bats. Bale is extremely meh. And the Bat voice...ugh. I love that Youtube video of the Joker interrogation that makes fun of it, 'cause it's true.

  3. Anonymous11:40 AM

    Bale is replaceable, sadly. I think his Batman movies were great, but there is nothing about Bale that connected me to HIS interpretation. Which is interesting, because I didn't really realize it until now. As in most Nolan movies, story comes first over character, so that's probably the issue.

    However, I'd hate to see Gary Oldman go as Gordon. His is the best interpretation of the venerable police officer yet put to film.

  4. I loved Bale as Batman in "Begins" but not as much in "The Dark Knight," but I also don't think "TDK" was that great. I think Bale would be difficult to replace as Batman because regardless, he nailed Batman. He got it right in "Begins" was a little too over the top in "TDK" and has the opportunity to really put out the definitive Batman in a third film. He is certainly my favorite Batman and Bruce Wayne because he plays the role with the right amount of psychotic balance.

    I agree with the point about Superman and Christopher Reeve always being tied to the role, regardless of solid interpretations like Welling and Cain. However, I also think Brandon Routh is the perfect Superman because he does indeed look and sound like Reeve and has the ability to make the role his. Here's hoping Routh returns when WB gets their act together.

  5. Not a fan of Bale as Batman....especially with his idiotic "Cookie Monster Voice" when he's Batman. His "Prozac Bruce Wayne" does nothing for me, either.

  6. "However, I'd hate to see Gary Oldman go as Gordon."

    sklabah- I agree. Oldman is a spot-on Gordon!

  7. Anonymous12:06 PM

    I think ultimately anyone is replaceable as Batman because, let's face it, the costume is the real star. At least to the average non-geek movie-goer.

    Keaton was my favorite though. Out of all the Batmen (even Bale) I think he came off as the most genuinely psychologically haunted. Everyone else just plays him as a video game bad-ass. Keaton gave him the most humanity. His Bruce Wayne was actually more interesting than Batman. I can't say that for the rest.

  8. Bale was great in Batman Begins and if there was only this movie out right now, I would've said he was irreplaceable.

    Unfortunately, "The Dark Knight" really ruined it for me. Batman in that movie wasn't really there and I saw how much Bale could be replaced.

    I don't mind Reeves being replaced, maybe it's because of my age but he's not ingrained as Superman in my mind. Brandon Routh was really good though(the opposite of the movie).

  9. Yeah, I think it's just the studio playing with his head.

    That said, I have a greater appreciation for Adam West now that I'm older. I *hated* him as a teenager, but now...I can't imagine the Bat mythos without him. He really fit the time, and hell, he was actually convincing as both Bruce AND as a campy Batman.

    That said, in the movies, Batman is like Bond....he's an archetype and the right actor can play him. I actually wouldn't mind if they recast Alfred, much as I love Michael Caine in the movies....just because I'd love to see someone who actually looks like Alfred in the comics for once. :)

  10. Yep, it would appear that Christian Bale is totally replaceable.

    Heath Ledger however, isn't. and I find that an incredibly interesting juxtuposition.

    Is this possibly telling us something about Batman the character, rather than the actors who have played him?

  11. I liked him as both, but the fact that we've had actors like Keaton in the role show that he's perfectly replaceable.

    Now, he should only keep doing the films if he's interested in it, since otherwise we'll end up with another Superman IV where they already don't care as much about doing the role and they need to be coaxed into it letting them write absurd plots.

  12. Though, I like him in the role. I don't think anyone who plays Batman is irreplacible.For it's pretty much the same deal as it is with James Bond (even though Sean Connery was the best of them).

  13. Anonymous2:36 PM

    "Is this possibly telling us something about Batman the character, rather than the actors who have played him?"

    Indeed! Bats is an archetype. Hell. he's being played by two actors right now...Jackie Earl Haley and that other guy as Nite Owl.

    I could also see someone else as Alfred, though I really do like Caine. I think they should give Anthony Daniels a turn as the stalwart butler/surgeon.

  14. the next batman movie is screwed. there's no chance of them capturing the same lightning in a bottle they had with the dark knight. if you want to reboot the franchise, or take it a crazy direction (like a dark knight returns style old batman) go ahead and do it. if the studio just wants to cash in on a sequel, replacing bale would be a giant mistake. the next movie already has big shoes to fill with its next villain. why would you want to make things worse by replacing the lead character too?

  15. I think it'd take a lot for an exec to change the mix on the goose that laid the golden $533 million in box office gross. Not saying it couldn't happen: just that it'd take a very big deal to make a money guy even think about that jump.

    That said, I'm seeing a lot of Keaton love, here. Surprising to me. I thought he captured Batman reasonably well, but came off like a doofus as Bruce. Kilmer did a better job. Too bad he was hamstrung by a movie that was otherwise horrible.

  16. They're going to have to replace Bale as Batman to get me to go see another Batman film.

  17. Keaton is my favorite too, but yeah-- not the icon. The thing about post-Reeve is that really, everyone is doing an impression of Christopher Reeve doing Superman.

  18. Batman definitely needs the proper writing and direction more than it needs a specific actor as batman.

    Gary Oldman as Gordon ,though... He is spot on the perfect 'Year One style' Jim Gordon. Maybe they could switch Alfreds when the switch Bruces. I like Bale... I hate 'the voice', although... I get it... If I was trying to sound scary, and not like my public billionaire self... I might go with the cookie monster voice myself.

    Think about Batman and how many versions there are and have been. You need never do the same batman for more than a few films in a row, and if you have the writing and direction down, they could all... always be better than anything prior to 'Begins'

  19. Actually I'd have said it the other way.

    For me, Keaton was perfect as the haunted traumatized Bruce, but simply lacked the physical ability to really carry off Batman well.

    Kilmer on the other hand, looked and moved great in the suit but was far too young looking and boyish for Bruce.

    Clooney didn't thrill me either way, but I didn't hate him as Bruce or Bats either. The writing of that film however sucked.

    Bale for me is the best yet, but I do see him as replaceable if need be. Hopefully not though.

  20. Adam West *is* Batman.

  21. See, I totally disagree with everyone here about Keaton. His Batman/Bruce Wayne was hardly the focus of either Burton flick, so he barely made an impression on me. He was passable, I suppose, but lacked any kind of commanding or believable presence. I actually liked Val Kilmer as Batman much more, although his Bat-movie was inferior to the first two.

    Bale has been my favorite of the "serious" Batman. I think he more ably plays the pyschological torments of Bruce Wayne. All we saw of Keaton's inspiration was a quick flashback that actually focused more on the young Jack Napier and his "Did you ever" speech. And then there was Keaton puttering and stammering behind glasses while the movies seemed way more interested Jack Nicholson's Joker and Danny DeVito's Penguin. Burton's heart is always with the freaks, and Batman was just a painfully dull necessity, an accoutrement and and afterthought. An empty costume.

    The Nolan Bat-films actually are primarily about Batman, and go way more into the formative moments of Bruce's life, including his father's influence. And Bale, as the adult Wayne, seems to carry through with that more. Plus, he has a much more physically impressive appearance, such as when he drops and does the push-ups in Batman Begins, and any of the fight scenes. Keaton came off as stiff, inept, and the poor action choreography and even clumsier costume certain didn't help. Bale has an intensity, barely contained during the Wayne scenes, that bursts wide open once he's in the suit. Nolan's overall concept of Batman just gels a lot more for me than Burton's absentee-Bats.

    The voice is kind of annoying, though.

    But... is Bale replaceable? Imminently so. The fact that so many still approve of Keaton's performance show that alternate Batmen are always possible. Unless you're doing the wacky style, in which Adam West is synonymous with the role.

    Heck, West remains the one, true Batman.

    Oh, and the best parts of Brandon Routh's Superman performance were the ones where he practically channelled Christopher Reeve.

  22. Anonymous11:13 PM

    I've never seen Welling as Superman OR Clark Kent.

  23. Keaton, West, even Kilmer and Clooney left distinct imprints on my mind about their interpretations of Batman and/or Bruce Wayne, but not Bale. The concept of Batman totally overshadowed the actor in the suit, and Bale's Bruce Wayne could have been any dude off the street instead of a rich playboy with a dark past and a big secret.

    Plus, that faux gravely voice was grating after a while.

  24. Anonymous1:49 AM

    The only person who isn't replaceable as Batman is Kevin Conroy. No voice has ever come close to matching his depth or range for Bruce or Bats. His Batman could even sing

  25. Keaton is my first pick but, the other movies before the last two are so bad I can't even remember if any acting was any good.

    Bale replaceable? Yes but I am having a hard time thinking of who else really.

    Here is a harder one!
    Is Robert Downey Jr "replaceable" as Iron Man?

  26. Anonymous10:17 AM

    To each his own of course. But Keaton, as an actor, always gave off the vibe that he was fighting to retrain some inner insanity. And I think that worked well for Bruce Wayne. I also like that he had some semblance of a sense of humor. Emotional trauma can manifest itself in many ways aside from the traditional "I'm all sullen and tormented" approach. I think a real life Bruce Wayne would probably have a healthy sense of humor about himself.

  27. I'm Glad someone else has voiced some love for Kevin Conroy - especially considering just how annoying Bale's Batman voice is.

    Absolutely Kevin Conroy should be considered irreplaceable, which is why is should be to Warner Bros. eternal shame that they created a new cartoon without him. :(

  28. Yeah true enough, Conroy is still the definitive Batman on film, counting all mediums.

    Brian, I take it you've never seen the Alex Ross painting of Welling with the spitcurl in the suit? Looks damn impressive to me. At his age, he'd definitely be able to do a decent job especially with his build these days. Now if only they'd WRITE a decent Superman flick...

  29. The Bale hate makes me sad. Weren't people declaring him to be the best Batman ever only a few years ago? Fans are so fickle.

    The voice isn't THAT annoying, except at the end where he's all out of breath. Even then, it's not so bad. The Batman voice I didn't care for was Clooney, because he SOUNDED LIKE GEORGE CLOONEY as both Bruce and as Batman. What the %&#@@??

  30. I don't think he's iconic or anything.Good but not iconic but i'd like to see at least one Bats sttick around for more than 2 movies. Keaton should have stuck it out for a third.

  31. I agree with Hysan. Everyone thought Bale was great as Batman and the ultimate dark, brooding interpretation until The Dark Knight became such a success. Then there was all this Bale hate. It just goes to show you that we love to build people up when they're underdogs and then knock them down (what? because of a 4-minute, secretly recorded tape? or because the screenwriters for Dark Knight didn't give him much to go with?) I love all the revisionist history regarding Keaton as well. Next, are we going to say Clooney was better than Bale? Bale is still the best Batman to me and the studio heads would be bonkers to replace him. He's still got a lot of fans out there who wouldn't be interested in seeing a Batman movie without him.

  32. Holy cow! I forgot all about Kevin Conroy! Actually, he's my pick for Best Batman Ever.

  33. Not me, I'd rank them:

    (Conroy if counting animation)

  34. Jon Hamm, from MAD MEN. That's my vote for a mature, Bruce Wayne.

  35. I would pick kevin conroy too. No one else has the wonderful bruce wayne/batman dichotomy down so perfectly.

  36. Anonymous2:54 PM

    Oh shi~
    Jon Hamm.

    I would hit that.

  37. Actor who played as Batman must know everything about Batman and the Mythology. Bruce Wayne is 6'2" Black Hair and Blue Eyes DAMMIT!!!!

  38. is he replaceable- yes just dont replace the joker for a while