Tuesday, July 17, 2018
Things To Do

The top 10 Batman actors ever, from Adam West and George Clooney to Will Arnett and Michael Keaton

So many men have inherited Gotham's dark cape and cowl that The Lego Batman Movie doesn't even have the most well-known plastic incarnation of the character.

No, that dubious honor goes to 1997's Batman & Robin, in which director Joel Schumacher unleashed a molded, infamously rubber-nippled suit that George Clooney was forced to live down, in a critical bomb so bad that it plunged the entire franchise into an eight-year deep freeze.

Nothing, though, can kill the cinematic Bat. For nearly 75 years, the Caped Crusader has kept re-emerging on screen, forever luring a new, strong-jawed face into its twisted, villain-rich world.

So where does Will Arnett — who first voiced the breakout toy interpretation in the Dark Knight in 2014's The Lego Movie — rate among the many men who have played Bruce Wayne?

Here are our rankings of the top 10 Bat-men:

10. George Clooney

Warner Bros.

George Clooney as Batman poses with Alicia Silverstone as Batgirl and and Chris O'Donnell as and Robin in 1997's "Batman and Robin."

Before embarking on a career that has yielded eight Oscars nominations (with two wins), Clooney was saddled with a Bat-disaster that was nominated for a whopping 11 Razzie Awards — including "worst screen couple" for Clooney and Chris "Robin" O'Donnell. This high-camp extravaganza lacks even the winking charm of the '60s series. As evil Mr. Freeze (Arnold Schwarzenegger) says: "If I must suffer, humanity will suffer with me." Oh, the humanity, indeed.

9. Lewis Wilson

Just four years after Bob Kane and Bill Finger's character debuted in Detective Comics in 1939, Bruce Wayne made his screen debut in 1943's 15-part serial Batman — in which our hero must battle Dr. Daka, a Japanese mastermind who wields his own death ray (as the racial overtones of the World War II era, 18 months after Pearl Harbor, rear their head). Making his screen debut here at age 23, Wilson faced criticism for his chunky physique and strong Boston accent — setting up a long legacy of Batman actors enduring public drubbings.

8. Robert Lowery

An athletic actor fit for such action films as 1940's The Mark of Zorro, Lowery inherited the cape for 1949's Batman and Robin — setting up a long tradition of performers first donning the dark cowl while in their 30s. Lowery had the requisite physical flair for the heroic role, later becoming better known for Westerns.

7. Val Kilmer

.

Val Kilmer is Batman and Chris O'Donnell is Robin in 1995's "Batman Forever."

Three decades after Adam West went from playing Doc Holliday (in TV's Colt .45) to eventually playing Batman, Kilmer made the identical pivot — taking over the superhero role after director Schumacher liked the actor's turn in Tombstone. But Kilmer — who appeared in the excellent Heat this same year — was a one-and-done after 1995's Batman Forever (despite the high praise of co-creator Bob Kane).

6. Ben Affleck

Clay Enos | Warner Bros. Pictures via AP

Ben Affleck is Batman and Henry Cavill is Superman in a scene from, "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice."

The easy joke here is that "Batfleck" — while playing the Caped Crusader so far in last year's Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad (with Justice League due in November) — has been even a stiffer performer than a piece of Lego plastic. But the truth is that Affleck found some resonance as an older, graying Batman with gravitas — the actor is generally better now at conveying internal conflict than over-emoting — and he was one of the stronger aspects of the much-flawed Dawn of Justice. Yet it will likely be a Batman solo film that ultimately determines how his run on the character is judged.

5. Adam West

Times files

Adam West and Burt Ward star as Batman and Robin in the '60s version of Batman.

It can be harder now to fully appreciate just what West accomplished five decades ago. Many Bat-fans may belittle the high camp of the mid-'60s TV series — which wore thin by its third and final season — but West struck the perfect vocal tone: commanding but warmly amusing, as if his baritone were forever delivering a fourth-wall wink to the audience. That helps explain why West today is so beloved on the geek convention circuit.

4. Kevin Conroy

In much the same way that we relish Mark Hamill's vocal work as the Joker, we hold Conroy's quarter-century of service as the voice of the animated Batman in very high regard. As such, we must rank him above such other worthy Bat-voices as Olan Soule and the shorter-term Rino Romano, Diedrich Bader, Will Friedle and Jeremy Sisto. Still, we can't quite give him the edge over. . .

3. Will Arnett

Andy Kropa | Invision via AP

Will Arnett attends a special screening of "The Lego Batman Movie" at AMC Loews Lincoln Square on Thursday in New York.

Pixar knew from the outset with Toy Story that when voicing plastic, emotionally resonant vocal performances are crucial. And so with the Lego films, Arnett emerged as the ideal Batman, hitting that sweet spot between a gruff and gravely spoof of Christian Bale's half-asthmatic Batman and the wrinkles of winking comedy. As long as Lego Batman lives, Arnett has earned a gig for life.

2. Christian Bale

Ron Phillips | Warner Bros. Pictures via AP

Christian Bale is Batman in this scene from "The Dark Knight Rises."

And speaking of Bale, he was an ideal choice for reviving the franchise in 2005 — uncannily inhabiting the suit like a cinematic Tom Brady to director Chrisopher Nolan's Bill Belichick. Bale weathered blowback for the sometimes near-indecipherable husky rasp of a delivery, yet somehow it worked opposite Nolan's inspired villains, particularly Heath Ledger's immortal Joker. Nolan had to bring Batman back from the cinematic dead without even a wink of comedy; on that count, Bale was a beast.

1. Michael Keaton

Warner Bros. Pictures via AP

Michael Keaton's Batman takes on archenemies Penguin and Catwoman in "Batman Returns."

Would Keaton have even been given a fan's chance in an age of social media? As it was, the criticism was brutal. But director Tim Burton knew in 1989 what so many could not see: Keaton had the rare ability to walk the line between comedy and drama with the deftness of a Wallenda; being a bit under 6 feet tall doesn't much matter if you can pull off the Batsuit; and beneath that cowl, Keaton happened to have the perfect chin for the job. Keaton could have taken it on that chin; instead, he became entirely iconic over two Batman films, and still casts the longest shadow for all big-screen Batmen going forward.

Comments
First look (with video): Universal’s new high-tech fountain shows ends the night at the theme park

First look (with video): Universal’s new high-tech fountain shows ends the night at the theme park

Times Staff WriterVisitors to Universal Studios in Orlando on Monday night got to witness the premiere of the new high-tech, dancing-fountain, cinematic show to end the day in the park in what the show’s creator called "a kiss goodnight." It’s full o...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Kim Walker-Smith talks postpartum depression, women in ministry and more

Kim Walker-Smith talks postpartum depression, women in ministry and more

Kim Walker-Smith, the lead singer for renowned worship band Jesus Culture, felt overwhelmed and dazed following the birth of her second son.She cried without knowing why. She mumbled her words. When her mother suggested postpartum depression as the c...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Grief and wit, heritage and family dynamics collide in ‘Bad Jews’ at American Stage

Grief and wit, heritage and family dynamics collide in ‘Bad Jews’ at American Stage

ST. PETERSBURG — Whatever else he learned at Cornell University and the Juilliard School, playwright Joshua Harmon surely learned family dynamics. His play, Bad Jews, bristles with wit and malevolence dished out by people for whom familiarity breeds ...
Updated: 2 hours ago

Sports on TV/Radio for Tuesday, July 17

TODAYBaseballAll-Star Game8 p.m.Fox; 620-AMCycling, Tour de FranceStage 107:30 a.m.NBCSNLacrosseWorld Championship: Australia vs. Canada7:30 a.m.ESPNUWorld Championship: England vs. United States11 a.m.ESPNUNBA, summer leagueChampionship10 p.m.ESPN...
Updated: 12 hours ago
SoundBytes: Brian Setzer Orchestra, Behemoth, Koo Koo Kanga Roo and more

SoundBytes: Brian Setzer Orchestra, Behemoth, Koo Koo Kanga Roo and more

— After avoiding this marketplace for years, the Brian Setzer Orchestra will bring their wildly popular annual Christmas tour back to Clearwater's Ruth Eckerd Hall on Dec. 5. Tickets are $52.75 and up. Click here for details. (And for a review ...
Published: 07/16/18
Penn and Teller postpone Mahaffey Theater performance due to Teller’s back surgery

Penn and Teller postpone Mahaffey Theater performance due to Teller’s back surgery

Raymond Teller, half of the great magic and comedy duo Penn and Teller, tweeted last week that his recent back surgery "was an even bigger success than I'd expected."Good news for him! But it's still bad news for Tampa Bay fans.While Teller is recove...
Published: 07/16/18
1,100 cookie jars. 2000 Hummels. 23 chamber pots: This Tampa Bay couple collects... well, everything.

1,100 cookie jars. 2000 Hummels. 23 chamber pots: This Tampa Bay couple collects... well, everything.

TAMPA — To be a large, clumsy person in Mary and Dennis Schrader’s house is to feel fear.You tread lightly upstairs, but even so, every step in the room containing row after row of cookie jars brings the sound of ceramic lids rattling on their oh-so-...
Published: 07/16/18
Top things to do in Tampa Bay for July 17

Top things to do in Tampa Bay for July 17

James After 5: Art Speaks: The museum is open from 5 to 8 p.m. every Tuesday, featuring $5 admission. While there, tour the many exhibitions of Western and wildlife art, or find happy hour specials in the Canyon Cafe. 5 p.m., James Museum of Western ...
Published: 07/16/18
‘Honky Tonk Laundry’ starts a summer run at Show Palace in Hudson

‘Honky Tonk Laundry’ starts a summer run at Show Palace in Hudson

HUDSON — If you’re into country, Honky Tonk Laundry, which opens July 21 at the Show Palace Dinner Theatre, might be the ticket. Written by Roger Bean (The Marvelous Wonderettes/Life Could Be a Dream?), this comedy musical features a two-woman cast ...
Published: 07/16/18

Pasco Events starting July 20

21 SaturdayMedicare 101: A SHINE volunteer will answer Medicare questions. 10 a.m. Free. Land O’ Lakes Library, 2818 Collier Parkway, Land O’ Lakes. (813) 929-1214. floridashine.org.22 SundayEssential Oils Workshop: Learn about essential oils and cr...
Published: 07/16/18