I think this is where most of us grew up and remembered Batman. Some of us will be through the 1960's TV show. Others will remember the Batman: The Movie. I personally remember the movie as I went to see it at the movies. This was the first time for me that Batman seemed so realistic. I did not care about reviews or what other people thought about the movie. I loved it because Batman was alive!!!
Batman Movie (1943)
I am not sure that many people will know about this movie. This was a 15-chapter serial film by Columbia Pictures. It starred Lewis Wilson (Batman) and Douglas Croft (Robin). The film is known for introducing the Batcave (named The Bat's Cave) and for giving us the Alfred (William Austin) that we know and love today. The movie depicted Alfred as being a slimmer fellow with a thin moustache and the comics adopted that look after this movie. In the comics, he was clean shaven and chubbier.
Batman (1943) - Trailer
Of course, by today's standards this was poor acting but it gave us the seed of what we would grow and love today.
Batman and Robin (1949)
This movie was another 15-chapter serial movie by once again Columbia Pictures. This movie build on the previous iteration. This time Batman and Robin fight the Wizard.
Batman and Robin - Introduction
Batman TV Series (1966 - 1968)
This series starred Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward as his trusted sidekick Robin "The Boy Wonder". This series lasted only 3 years but it has made a lasting impact on its viewers. Until this day, this series still plays in syndication and Adam West still makes the rounds of conventions for his portrayal of Batman.
The series was very comic book like. From the catchy opening theme to the Crash, Bang, Boom on the screen when they would fight. It did not take itself too seriously. That is what makes this TV show so great. It was not state of the art, but it was entertaining. I am not sure a TV show like this would fly in today's day and age.
Batman TV Series - Fight Scenes
Then for whatever reason, the interest in this character died down. There were a few movie studios that wanted to work on Batman, but it seemed that it never worked out. Many scripts were written but never materialized.
This movie was directed by Tim Burton. He was given the reins of this operations way before the move was released. In 1986 he jumped on board this project. Like any project this movie had its share of critics, even before the movie came out.
Today we know Michael Keaton as a great actor. He has won awards and I think that he could play in anything if given the chance. Back then, this was not the case. Until Batman, he was playing more comedic roles such as Night Shift (1982), Johnny Dangerously (1984) and Beetlejuice (1988). I do admit that when thinking of Batman, you do not think of him first.
The casting ack Nicholson was not easy. He had strict restrictions for the film that included a film schedule. All in all, this was a great choice. He is one of the actors that best portrayed The Joker.
Needless to say, that this movie was a success on all fronts and the franchise did not look back. There were numerous sequels that came after this one. Different Batman's were cast such as Val Kilmer and George Clooney. Not one of these movies ever had the spirit of the first Tim Burton movie.
Dark Knight Trilogy
After a series of disappointments at the box office, Warner Brothers wanted to start the series again. So, they opted for the Dark Knight Series. Unbelievably it is actually darker than the original Batman movie. It starred Cristian Bale as Batman. There were 3 movies made in all: Batman Begins (2005), The Dark Knight (2008) and The Dark Knight Rises (2012).
This franchise brought us a psychotic joker played by the late Heath Ledger. In my opinion, this is the only Joker that rivals Jack Nicholson's version. It also gave us Bain which was portrayed for the first time on the big screen. The great story telling and dark tone made this refreshing. It brought enthusiasm to the series again and they are hoping this will carry to the Justice League and new Batman movies.
Batman Begins (Trailer)
So after years of being absent from TV (other than comics) Warner Brothers thought that it would be a good idea to tell the story of Gotham when Batman (Bruce Wayne) when he was a child. This would be the pre-Batman days.
So far it is doing ok for itself and is in its 3rd season.
I am not going to talk much about the new Batman movies as they have not been released yet. Batman vs, Superman was a disappointment but most critics say that Batman was the best part. There will be a Justice League movie franchise starting in the next few years. They would like to rival Marvel's success with The Avengers
As you can see, there have been gems and there have been duds. To be honest other than the string of 3 or 4 movies after Batman (1989), the rest are not that bad.
I love doing these types of articles because I learn so much. I did not know about the movies in the 1940's and I would like to watch them now just to see. Not sure if they are available but I will try to find them.
As for the movie and TV franchises, Batman has a rich story. Yes, it has been retold thousands of time but there are various stories and villains where we have not even seen. The Dark Knight was a great example. It told the story in a new light and people loved it. I think if they stick to the darker tones of the series, it will continue to succeed for generations to come.
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