Blog: Batman v. Batman – Anthony picks the best live-action Dark Knight

The Story Geeks blogger Anthony Holdier responds with an additional perspective to the same topic discussed in this week’s podcast – who’s the best live-action Batman. Want to share your own take? Join the conversation in The Story Geeks Facebook group!

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We’re singin’ a one-note song on the Story Geeks blog this week: you’re about to hear three more reasons why the Batfleck is the Bestfleck.

(Initially, I thought about trying to make up three reasons to defend George Clooney’s take…but even my ability for snark and sarcasm fizzled out at that idea.)

And, like others have said, I’m fully on board with two caveats: 1) the best Batman series is Nolan’s trilogy (for reasons that we’ve all covered), and 2) the truly best Batman is Kevin Conroy (or, possibly, Tim Daly’s Superman pretending to be Conroy’s Batman in that one episode where Supes teams up with Robin, but that’s a deep cut for a joke that probably only four readers will appreciate).

Anyway, here’s my defense of Ben Affleck as the best LIVE-ACTION Batman:

1. He sells both sides of the character.

We can have a similar conversation about Spider-Man (and, at some point, we probably will!) and I’ll say the same thing: the best actor in the spandex is different than the best actor out of the spandex is different than the best actor in both. With Spidey, it’s Garfield-Maguire-Holland; with Batman, it’s Keaton-Bale-Affleck.

And that’s not just some loose “process of elimination” kind of reasoning here – ruling out Keaton on account of his un-Wayne-like facial expressions or Bale thanks to that voice – Affleck genuinely sells both the affable playboy (who is equal parts suave and coy) and the grizzled vigilante (who takes care of business knocking heads).  I could get pretentious here and wax eloquently about his capacity to infuse the character with a rich palette of moral pathos, both in moments of levity and weight…or I could just say he knocked it out the park – I completely bought both sides of his portrayal, whether he was wearing the mask or not.

2. He’s the only one to really treat Bruce like the mask.

This follows from my last point; in recent years, many Batman writers have played with the idea (and, yes, Christopher Nolan wove the concept deep into the fabric of his trilogy) that the Batman side of the persona is the ‘primary’ perspective, leaving ‘Bruce Wayne’ as the ‘mask’ he wears sometimes during the day. Despite how much the Bale adaptation tried to adapt this concept to the screen, it was almost too heavy-handed in its forcefulness; much like Bale’s Bat-voice, it just came off as campy (and not in the lovable-Adam-West sense of the term).

I could buy Bale’s smarmy rich-boy routine – if it weren’t offset by the wildly different character he becomes while wearing the mask. By contrast, Affleck’s Batman genuinely seems both more comfortable in the Kevlar suit while remaining sanguine in a tuxedo; maybe Bale’s still hovering in the shadow of Patrick Bateman for me, but his version of Bruce Wayne was almost too powerful to be real. Instead, watching Affleck’s Wayne meeting Clark at the party (provided we ignore Eisenluthor) felt like watching the calculating Batman play-acting his role with talent. He was personable, but still calculating. 

I have to admit – I was surprised, too, to see how well Affleck pulled off the character (and on his own merits – not just via features of the script, set, or cast). I was skeptical when he first got the role, but I’m happy to now admit that I was completely wrong.

3. He has the single best Batman fight scene in any movie, period.

Obviously, I’m talking about his rescue of Martha Kent in BvS. Does this really need explanation?

There are many Batman actors, with many different strengths; Kevin Conroy’s still the best, but I’m lamenting the early loss of the Batfleck.