Everyone’s favourite caped crusader, Batman, has been with us since his debut in the 27th issue of the comic book Detective Comics on March 30, 1939. Created by artist Bob Kane and writer Bill Finger, Batman is perhaps the most popular “superhero” of them all. Maybe it is due to his humanity and lack of “superpowers”. Maybe it is because of its gallery of great villains. Whatever the case, his popularity has driven the Caped Crusader to the big screen on many occasions, resulting in great appreciation from its audience and fantastic box office returns.
Batman – The Early Years
The first onscreen outing goes all the way back to 1943, with a 15-part black and white just called Batman, starring Lewis Wilson as Batman (1943) and Douglas Croft as Robin. The film was notable for introducing the Bat Cave and changing the way Alfred looked, which influenced the comics going forward.
Batman returned in 1949 with another 15 part serial called Batman and Robin (1949), this time starring Robert Lowery and Johnny Duncan as the Dynamic Duo. However, these early forays were serials shown before major films and were easily forgotten.
Batman – The 60s
The Batman’s first real big-screen adventure was in 1966, during the height of the popularity of the Batman TV series. We saw the release of Batman: The Movie (1966), starring Adam West as Bruce Wayne / Batman and Burt Ward as Dick Grayson / Robin, as well as Lee Meriwether as Catwoman, Cesar Romero as the Joker, Burgess Meredith as the Penguin and Frank Gorshin as the Riddler. Remembered mostly as a camp affair, it is still a tremendous and beloved film that brought the character to a whole generation of impressionable youngsters.
Batman – The Tim Burton Years
After waning popularity in the 70s, there was a renaissance in the Batman character through new graphic novels in the 1980s and in 1986, Warner Brothers hired Tim Burton to produce a new film. The result was Batman (1989), a dark gothic tale inspired by the vision first created in 1939. With Michael Keaton as The Batman and Jack Nicholson as The Joker, the film was a critical and box office success, grossing over $400 million and setting the standard from what was to be expected from the superhero film genre.
In 1992, Burton returned with the fantastic Batman Returns (1992), taking the franchise in an even darker direction, with Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman and Danny DeVito as The Penguin. However, it did make less than the original and Warner were concerned with how dark this “kids” film was. This led to Tim Burton walking away from Warner Brothers who hired Joel Schumacher for the next film.
Batman – The Joel Schumacher Years
Batman Forever (1995) was the next film to be released, starring Val Kilmer as Batman, as Keaton left due to disagreements about the script. In addition, Chris O’Donnell was introduced as Robin, Jim Carrey starred as The Riddler, while Tommy Lee Jones starred as Two-Face. The film made its money at the box office but came in for criticism surrounding the CGI, design, script and tone.
Following this was Batman & Robin (1997). Because of scheduling conflicts with The Saint (1997), Val Kilmer did not return and was replaced by George Clooney whilst Chris O’Donnell reprised his role as Robin. Arnold Schwarzenegger joined as Mr Freeze, while Uma Thurman played Poison Ivy, Alicia Silverstone played Batgirl, and Robert Swenson played Bane.
This film was a turkey and is considered one of the worst movies ever made. It disappointed at the box office, was critically panned and caused Warner Brothers to cancel the next film that was planned, Batman Unchained. Batman & Robin is also the lowest-grossing live-action Batman film to date.
Batman – The Christopher Nolan Years
After all of the disappointment, Warner Brothers wanted to reboot the franchise and take it in a new direction. So, in 2003, they hired filmmaker Christopher Nolan. It was a left-field choice as Nolan had only directed two major films up to this point, Memento (2000) and Insomnia (2002), that, despite being a brilliant director, were smaller projects and the opposite of the big budget movies that the Batman films were known for.
The gamble paid off, however. In 2005, Batman Begins (2005) was released, with Christian Bale picking up the ‘Bat’-on, playing Bruce Wayne and his crime fighting alter-ego. He was joined by Michael Caine, Liam Neeson, Katie Holmes, Gary Oldman, Cillian Murphy, Tom Wilkinson, Rutger Hauer, Ken Watanabe, and Morgan Freeman in supporting roles.
This film rebooted the franchise, telling the origin story of Bruce Wayne, from his childhood and the death of his parents to his journey to becoming Batman and his subsequent fight to stop Ra’s al Ghul and the Scarecrow from plunging Gotham City into chaos. The film focussed more on the characters than the previous efforts which provided a new way of looking at a familiar story. It was a box office success grossing $411 million worldwide and was lauded critically. It had not hit the same financial highs as the first Burton film, but it turned the corner and gave the fans more gripping Batman content.
What followed was the biggest surprise and not just one of the greatest comic book films of all time, but arguably one of the greatest films of all time. The Dark Knight (2008) was released to tremendous excitement and praise. The story of the Batman vs The Joker, teased at the end of the first film, was brought to the screen in cinematic glory, with the amazing, award-winning performance from Heath Ledger as the Joker. Be sure to check out our analysis of the chase sequence from the film here.
The film is considered one of the best films of that decade and received critical acclaim for its screenplay, visual style, musical score, stunts, mature themes, performances, cinematography, action sequences and direction. During its theatrical run, the film also set numerous records with over $1 billion in revenue worldwide. It became the fourth-highest-grossing film at the time and the highest-grossing film of 2008. It also set the record for highest-grossing domestic opening with $158 million, a record it held for three years.
In 2020, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”, becoming only the second superhero film after Superman (1978) to earn the honour.
The Nolan trilogy was completed in 2012 with The Dark Knight Rises (2012), the closing chapter of Bale’s story as the Dark Knight Detective as he battles with Bane, played by Tom Hardy, for the future of Gotham City. Although it was not as critically praised as The Dark Knight, the film was still highly regarded as a fitting end to the trilogy and again grossed over $1 billion worldwide.
In the space of 7 years, Batman had become a cinematic and cultural phenomenon for the 21st century. But the Dark Knight trilogy was over, and knowing that studios love to make money from their big characters, the question on everyone’s mind was, what next for Batman. Well, that is where our timeline begins….
A timeline to the release of Batman (2022)
Affleck and Geoff Johns were expected to turn in a draft by October 2015
The first draft of Affleck’s standalone Batman movie was complete.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
No script, no director?
Check out our extensive article on Zack Snyder’s Justice league here.
Robert Pattinson in the bat suit is revealed
“Warner Bros. has a multiverse where they’re exploring different ways to use the character…We don’t get involved in that. Matt is interested in pushing this character to his emotional depths and shaking him to his core.“
The rating is for “strong violent and disturbing content, drug content, strong language, and some suggestive material.”
Jeffery Wright on The Late Show
“We have to get into what made him the man he is. And also, it will pick up where [THE BATMAN] finished off I think. I think it’ll pick up a little short time after the last frame of this film. We’ll get to go on a little kind of left turn off to the world of Oz and how he’s beginning to kind of dream of filling a potential power vacuum that may exist.“
Big box office takings for The Batman
As of March 15th 2022, the film had grossed $479.2 million worldwide.
Greg and Dave go to see The Batman
Deleted Joker Scene Released
Be sure to check out our thoughts on The Batman this Friday in More Movies Weekly 42.
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