Back in 1989, when the Tim Burton directed Batman debuted, the Caped Crusader was risky business. Most of America still thought of Batman as the delightfully campy character played by Adam West in the ABC television series (1966-1969). The success of the 1989 film established the darker version of the character that only comic book fans had really known up to that point. Including the 1989 film, audiences have been treated to ten live-action film appearances for Batman, some animated films, and a host of television and video game appearances. We live in a new Golden Age of Batman and we are quite used to the vagaries of changes in the franchise.
With the newest film, The Batman, about to debut, the Nerd Factor advises these things to watch out for:
The Riddler: The strength of Frank Gorshin’s performance in the 1966 television series lifted the Prince of Puzzlers up from relative Bat-villain obscurity into the A-list of Batman’s gallery of rogues. There is a particular challenge to using this villain though. The Riddler gives away clues, an egotistic and seemingly self-defeating strategy that is not always convincing to audiences. Jim Carrey manically overplayed the villain in Batman Forever (1997). Trailers for this new film suggest that the newest Riddler, played by Paul Dano, with be a much more sinister and lethal foe than he has ever been before. Will this lethal trickster be the Riddler that audiences have been looking for?
The Penguin: Watching the trailers, one would be hard pressed to recognize Colin Farrell in the newest incarnation of this baddie. In 1992’s Batman Returns, director Tim Burton radically altered the Penguin into a kind of monstrous outcast. This movie appears to be returning the Penguin to his more familiar role as an organized crime boss and influence peddler. Hopefully, this movie’s brooding and serious tone will not get rid of the Penguin’s signature weapon. The Penguin is not the Penguin without a trick umbrella. Accept no substitutes.
The Catwoman: Zoë Kravitz will become the seventh actor to portray the character in a live-action form. Trailers for the movie suggest the character’s requisite combination of criminality and sexuality. Time will tell if Kravitz rises to the perfection of Michelle Pfeiffer and Julie Newmar or crashes to the depths of Halle Berry in the role.
The Batmobile: The Batman offers the triumphant return of the hard top sports car version of the Batmobile. Movie audiences have always seen Batman’s ride as a massive vehicle, part car and part urban assault vehicle/tank. The new Batmobile harkens back to the comics of the early 1970s and a time when the Batman drove Batmobiles that were souped up Chevy Corvettes or Ford Mustangs with bat decals on them. No matter what happens with this film, the Batmobile is already a triumph.
The Alfred: There have been many cinematic Alfreds over the years. Michael Gough, Michael Caine, and Jeremy Irons have played the combination of kindly caretaker and surrogate parent. Now it is Andy Serkis’ chance to step into the role and he as a noticeably different demeanor. While Alfred Pennyworth is the world’s greatest butler, he also has a military background. Serkis looks like he wants to roll up his sleeves and take out a few baddies himself.
The Batman/The Bruce Wayne: The biggest mystery is up in the air. Just how will Robert Pattinson do as the latest Batman is up in the air. Pattinson will no doubt rise about sparkly vampire stereotyping. However, there is something almost sickly about this Bruce Wayne in the trailer. Going into this new film, the official Nerd Factor position on this casting is a little worried but not Ben Affleck worried.