Batman Before And After: How The Batsuit Can Change Or Ruin Careers
So, I’m pretty sure you guys already know and are possibly tired of hearing that Ben Affleck will be Batman in the sequel to Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel. About a fifth of the Internet’s content since the announcement has been people either bitching about the decision, or championing it. (See our own debate between Katey and Eric here.) Regardless of whether it’s a “good” or a “bad” choice, casting Affleck was definitely an interesting choice, as were each of those chosen to take the role before him. Let’s take a look back at those previous actors that donned the cowl, and how the role figured into their careers.
Michael Keaton – Tim Burton’s Batman and Batman Returns Before Batman: Throughout the late 1970s and early 1980s, Keaton rose to stardom in a variety of comedies that proved his worth as the everyman who could deliver lines with biting wit and pull off any physical comedy with aplomb. He co-starred with Jim Belushi in the short-lived series Working Stiffs, he starred in Ron Howard’s Gung Ho and Night Shift, and he absolutely killed it in Amy Heckerling’s 1930s throwback Johnny Dangerously. (Not that it’s hard to look amazing next to Joe Piscopo.) Even in something like Mr. Mom, it’s Keaton’s performance that saves what otherwise would have been a tepid commercial comedy.
When Tim Burton cast him for his macabre 1988 comedy Beetlejuice, it seemed like an odd pick, but ended up being one of the better decisions of Burton’s career. The bizarre and over-the-top antics combined with that gravelly voice make it one of Keaton’s most memorable roles, even though he’s only on screen for a little over 17 minutes. And it’s this performance that gave Burton the confidence that Keaton would be perfect as another costumed character of the night.
As Batman: While it was of course a shock to see Keaton replace the warm smiles with a brooding blankness, his performance as both the Bat and Bruce Wayne stunned the naysaying masses, rendering their previous complaints useless. In both of Burton’s films, Keaton turns out what are arguably the two of the best dramatic performances of his career, causing people to forget the slapsticky 1960s TV show and returning their attention to the comic franchise that spawned the character. It would be quite a while before we got another Batman that could realistically answer the question “Why so serious?”
After Batman: It’s a shame that so much of Keaton’s later career was spent in lackluster thrillers like Desperate Measures and White Noise, although his directorial debut The Merry Gentleman, which he also starred in, was enjoyable enough. Appearances in Jackie Brown and The Other Guys prove that Keaton is still very much in control of his comedic talents, so I can’t wait to see him in Alejandro González Iñárritu’s upcoming ensemble comedy Birdman, even if it means having to watch him in the Robocop reboot and the Need for Speed video game adaptation too.
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