The much anticipated animated LEGO Batman movie comes to theaters on Friday, February 10, and features Will Arnett voicing the DC super hero. It is a reprisal role from The LEGO Movie and is very much a self-centered person.
“It’s fun to take an iconic figure like Batman and play with the rules that have always been in place for him, to keep it consistent in terms of his being good at what he does and having that bravado and machismo, but play up his flaws and make him a little goofier without entirely losing his cool. That’s the kind of license we took originally, and then expanded on that to really get down to what makes Batman tick,” said Arnett in a press release for the movie.
When you compare LEGO Batman to the original image featured on the pages of Detective Comics in 1939, you see that Batman has changed a lot over the years. Created by Bob Crane, Batman began as a very dark character who showed little remorse for killing criminals. By the time Robin joined him in 1940, he began to become a little softer. The two worked together much like Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, since Batman was a detective after all.
Lewis Wilson was the first actor to portray the caped crusader on screen in 1943, and at just 23 years of age, he was also the youngest. Robert Lowery played Batman with John Duncan serving as Robin in a series of serial films in 1949.
One of the most iconic versions of Batman was portrayed by Adam West who appeared alongside Burt Ward (as Robin) in 20th Century Fox’ Batman. The TV series ran from 1966-1969 on ABC and also had its own theatrical movie. This Batman was overly polite and would never compromise his “good guy” image. The show was widely popular and it’s personality carried over in the comic pages as well. After the show, West and Ward would resume portraying the dynamic duo many more times through various TV cartoon series and special appearances. The two appeared in two Legends of the Superheroes TV specials by Hanna-Barbera in 1979, they appeared as themselves recounting the events while making the TV series in the made-for-TV movie, Back to the Batcave in 2003, and just last year lent their voices to animated versions of their iconic 1966 characters in the home video, Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders.
After the live action Batman series, the Batman and Robin characters were shown in a variety of TV cartoon series, created by Filmation and Hanna-Barbera. In the 1970s, the dynamic duo worked mostly with Superman, Wonder Woman and Aquaman in the various version of the Superfriends series.
Batman came back to the big screen in 1989, with a much darker tone with a film by Tim Burton. This Batman was played by Michael Keaton whose Bruce Wayne counterpart was less serious than the dark knight who now was decked out in all black instead of grey and blue. Keaton reprised his role for the 1992 sequel, Batman Returns.
It was also during this time that Batman returned to having his own cartoon series again, starting with Batman: The Animated Series in 1992. It too had a similar dark tone, which many parents at the time wondered if it was too serious for kids to watch. Different versions of the animated character soon followed.
Neither Michael Keaton nor Tim Burton returned for the third film in the series, Batman Forever. Director Joel Schumacher wanted a lighter tone for his 1995 Batman feature, which starred Val Kilmer and Chris O’Donnell as Robin. Although Kilmer clashed with Schumacher, who described Kilmer as “childish and impossible,” he was a big hit with Bob Kane who said that he felt Kilmer gave the best interpretation of the character up to that time.
For Schumacher’s follow up in 1997, Batman and Robin, Kilmer was replaced with George Clooney. The colorful and campy spectacle did not set well with fans or critics alike and it is reported the Clooney stated after filming, “I think we just killed the franchise.”
Christopher Nolan was responsible for bringing one of the most likable versions of Batman to the big screen in 2005’s Batman Begins that starred Christian Bale. Even Tim Burton and Michael Keaton approved. Two more successful films followed in 2008’s The Dark Knight and 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises. Ironically, Bale had auditioned for the role of Robin for Batman Forever, but the lost the role to O’Donnell.
In 2014, FOX began airing Gotham, a Batman TV series without a Batman. The show features a young Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) but focuses more on the James Gordon character. Despite the fact that Gotham is a TV show, it is probably the most dark and violent version of the Batman universe.
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In 2016, Ben Affleck donned the cowl and black cape in the sequel to 2013’s Man of Steel in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Though panned by critics and fans alike, the film did well for box office sales and most critics claimed that Affleck’s portrayal of the Dark Knight was the best thing about the movie. He appeared again briefly in Suicide Squad (also in 2016), will appear in the upcoming Justice League movie coming this summer and is expected to return in an upcoming Batman stand-alone film too.
Finally, NBC just premiered a new TV series where Batman is mentioned, but never seen, in Powerless. It is a workplace comedy where workers create new products to help citizens and superheroes alike, fight off the bad guys. Wayne Securities is run by Van Wayne, Bruce’s lesser known cousin.
Which brings us back to LEGO Batman. No word if any of the other “Bat-Men” will be making an appearance in the new animated film, but if they did, which one would you like to see?
[Featured Image by: Warner Bros.]