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The Golden Age of comic book movie flops: Part Three

Updated on August 28, 2013

The conclusion of my three-part series on the worst portrayal of comic book characters on the big screen. This time, the Batman franchise is under scrutiny.

Christian Bale as Batman

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Christian Bale – “chain-smoking” Batman

I’m sure this first one will raise some eyebrows, given the popularity of Christopher Nolan’s Batman. I will tackle The Dark Knight Rises in a future blog, but for now Christian Bale is on the hot seat. The thing with Christian Bale is that his Bruce Wayne isn’t horrible. I don’t think it’s perfect by any means, but he has made this list solely for Wayne’s alter ego. The way that Bale voices Batman is not the gritty, deep voice of Batman, but one that makes me cringe every time I hear it. Batman sounds like he is dying of emphysema after a long life of chain-smoking. It is beyond terrible. I have to say that the best Batman to date was Michael Keaton. Still not a perfect Bruce Wayne, but something magical happened when he donned the costume. If there are future Batman movies, the casting pros should really try to get back to that when casting the Great Detective.

The comic book Two-Face

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Tommy Lee Jones – Harvey Dent / Two-face

First it was Billy Dee Williams (who should technically also be on this list). Then Tommy Lee Jones in Batman Forever. Then Aaron Eckhart. The Batman movies go through Harvey Dents as much they go through Batmans. I thought we were stuck with terrible Harvey Dents. Then came Aaron Eckhart and boy, was he awesome. He deserved to continue on in the series more than most. But it seems in the world of Batman, the prize for an amazing performance is you get yourself killed. Makes sense after all; one wouldn’t want to keep too many good actors around for the franchise.

After viewing Aaron Eckhart in action, Tommy Lee Jones became all the more laughable. Harvey Dent is a serious guy, and when he becomes Two-Face he gets downright dangerous. Yet Tommy Lee Jones felt it was a comical character, as if it came from a Bugs Bunny cartoons and not the dark streets of Gotham. Or maybe he thought he was playing The Joker. Facial mutilation, after all, can become quite confusing. Chemical waste, acid in the face…it’s all the same in the end, right? Whatever the reason, Jones was a terrible choice for Two-Face, starring in a terrible movie with a terrible director. He was headed for disaster from the word go.

Must've been cold in the Batcave

The entire cast of Batman & Robin

Arguably one of the worst comic book movies of all time, Batman & Robin is a carnival of childish sets, a script that is 90% one-liners, and nipples on the Batsuit, Robin-suit and Batgirl suit. There were enough butt and groin shots to last a lifetime. Had the actors even bothered to try, they would not be on the list, but the movie is made worse by acting attempts that should have rendered all of the actors ineligible for acting jobs for the next fifty years. Even Joel Schumacher apologized for the film in the special features section of the DVD. It didn’t help. Here we go with the breakdown.

George Clooney – Bruce Wayne / Batman

There was nothing appealing when George Clooney played the caped crusader in Batman & Robin. Clooney didn’t even bother to disguise his voice when he wore the costume. His Bruce Wayne seemed to be the same as every other character he has ever played. His method of playing Wayne was cheeky and campy, versus the anguished Wayne we know and love. Batman is one of the darkest superheroes out there, yet Clooney turned him into a joke. And then there were the one-liners, delivered in a manner that told audiences he really didn’t care about the movie or character in the least. He just wanted a payday. At some point, when your character flashes a Batman credit card, the actor himself should have heard his losing dignity alarm go off. Apparently, Clooney pushed the snooze button on that one.

Batman & Robin movie poster

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Chris O’Donnell – Dick Grayson / Robin

Chris O'Donnell added to the list of bad performances in Batman & Robin as Captian Obvious...I mean, Dick Grayson / Robin. Consider this dialogue:

Batman: “Poison Ivy. Why would she help Freeze escape?”
Robin: “Well, she’s definitely evil.”

Our young Dick Grayson has much wisdom to dispel, if only it wasn’t completely covered in idiocracy. O’Donnell made no attempts to help the poor writing with his acting. The sad thing is, he was not the worst actor in the movie. They were all just so bad that even some small attempt at acting is better than the others. The relationship between Grayson and Wayne was virtually non-existent. I felt no connection between the two, let alone enough connection to make them fight about trusting each other and being a family. It takes more than bad writing to make two characters seem thrown together at the last minute. Even with bad writing, had the actors made an attempt at a relationship it would have been better.

Alicia Silverstone – Barbara Wilson / Batgirl

Alicia Silverstone has two acting faces: confused and more confused. Or maybe one of them was constipated. Whatever the case, Batgirl had no business whatsoever being in the film, let alone writing her as Alfred’s long-lost niece. Changing Barbara Gordon’s last name to Wilson does not make it okay to take such liberties with the character. Even if they felt that Batgirl absolutely had to be in the movie, Silverstone should have been the last person on their list. My only explanation is that she was the only person in all of Hollywood that was available. Let’s also not forget that the fact Uncle Alfred designed her Batgirl costume is super creeeeeeepy.

Poison Ivy minus the foliage

Uma Thurman – Dr. Pamela Isley / Poison Ivy

Looking back on the performance of Uma Thurman in Batman & Robin, I suddenly realize where Halle Berry got her acting cues for Catwoman. Though the always gorgeous Thurman should have made an ideal Poison Ivy, she ruined it with a terrible performance. Thurman’s acting was so subpar that an elementary school drama production has better actors than her. She slurs out her lines in an attempt to be sultry. Instead she sounds almost drunk. This is the Poison Ivy you pick up in a bar at last call. It wasn’t just her acting, but the costuming as well. Her hair was styled with two horns that almost looked like bunny ears and almost all of her costuming was missing the trademark Poison Ivy foliage. Let’s just say, as evil as Poison Ivy is, even she didn’t deserve this treatment.

Arnold Schwarzenegger – Dr. Victor Fries / Mr. Freeze

In Batman & Robin, we learned that Mr. Freeze was Austrian. Surprise! Arnold is the king of one-liners and he didn’t disappoint us. If you ever wanted to know how many puns there are for ice, just watch this movie and learn. In fact, I have seen several drinking games for Batman & Robin that include this very topic on Mr. Freeze.

With his acting in terrible shape, the character himself was just as bad. Mr. Freeze is one of those villains that has a sad story as to how he became who he is today. He is a tragic villain. The problem with that tragedy is that it can come across badly on film if overacted. Instead of subtlety, Arnold goes from crazy to sad to sad crazy and back to crazy in no time at all. He almost seems to be suffering from multiple personality disorder, rather than a rough life. I truly did not care one bit for his problems with the wife during this movie, nor did I care about him. I just wanted the torturous movie to end.

Who do you think was the best movie version Batman

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    • profile image

      rmcmillen 4 years ago

      ok.... now its gone......... curse you hubpages!!! lol

    • profile image

      rmcmillen 4 years ago

      does anyone else see a link where I typed "BONUS!" ............. cause I didn't do that....... hub pages has been doing that a half a dozen times in the last week!

    • profile image

      rmcmillen 4 years ago

      Indeed....... and if it's a comicbook movie? BONUS! write about it on a cinematic basis and again on a basis of myself being a total nerd..... its a win-win-win situation!

    • Angie Martin profile image
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      Angie Martin 4 years ago from Frazier Park, California

      Think of it this way, as long as they keep making bad movies, we'll keep having something to write about! It's a sad trade-off, really, but I guess there's a silver lining in everything!

    • profile image

      rmcmillen 4 years ago

      sad, but true.... now as time passes I suppose my next job is to just wait to see how badly they will continue to screw up this great opportunity.

      On an unrelated note, thanks for the follow!

    • Angie Martin profile image
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      Angie Martin 4 years ago from Frazier Park, California

      Wait...Affleck is really going to be Batman! Oh no, I thought that was a bad dream! :( I'll go check out your hub!

    • profile image

      rmcmillen 4 years ago

      I can't wait to read your take on Affleck when the time comes.... Lucky for me and my comic book based hub, the time came quickly to touch on this subject.

    • Angie Martin profile image
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      Angie Martin 4 years ago from Frazier Park, California

      Oh my goodness, you are cracking me up now with your description of Bale in the suit! I don't think I will ever watch him the same way again! :)

      Since seeing Batman Begins, I always said that Christian Bale would divide Batman fans, and it seems that he has done just that. There are some die-hards who love him, those that hate him to the point of no return, and still others who are on the fence. Everyone in each of these groups have their own great points about their views, but it is very divisive, when it probably shouldn't be.

      I agree that Michael Keaton was a bit nerdy as Bruce Wayne, but I think that's what appealed to me so much. Instead of being this suave, rich guy, he was more like us viewers. It made it seem as if anyone could have been Batman...well, if they had the money and Alfred, that is. He was very charming, and I think he truly surprised many critics, but definitely not true to the historical Bruce Wayne.

      I definitely agree with you on the DC animated comment!!

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      hlwar 4 years ago

      I must agree with all of your picks and knit-picking. I even agree with you on Christian Bale's Batman to an extent. I, too, think he is a phenomenal actor - I mean, he was a kid in Empire of the Sun and made that a heartbreakingly fantastic film! And his voice as Batman didn't bother me so much as what the suit did for him while he spoke. Has anyone else noticed that his mouth moves in slightly skewed ways when he talks? Well, I noticed, and the bat suit only enunciated it because of the cut - until it was all I noticed in the movie! There are times I'd just start giggling. It's a childish reason but I couldn't help myself. Sorry.

      I like Michael Keaton only because of nostalgia, watching his films while growing up. But I still think there was something rather nerdy about his Bruce Wayne, and the fact he didn't look very "in shape" to be Batman.

      I guess that's why I prefer my DC animated.

    • Angie Martin profile image
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      Angie Martin 4 years ago from Frazier Park, California

      That's why I love these forums... we can have a great conversation about something while still disagreeing! :)

      I do like Bale's Bruce Wayne. I had no qualms with that. I could not stand his voice. Every time he donned the mask, I shuddered. Outside of the voice, he did okay. You're correct in saying that a voice alone shouldn't put him on the list...except we do have Michael Keaton to compare him to. That's what landed him on the list. Bale changed the voice so drastically that it wasn't good. To me, Batman's voice should be gritty and alluring...not raspy as if he just came off a ventilator at the hospital.

      Thank you for your input - I love it when people don't agree with me on something because it gives me pause and makes me think. I also have to say I love that same line...probably one of my favorites out of all the superhero movies. "Let's get nuts!!" :)

    • profile image

      rmcmillen 4 years ago

      I agree wholeheartedly with every last pick in part 1 through 3..........almost.

      I will say you lost me in including Bale's Batman. I think he came closer than anyone in tackling what Bruce Wayne really is... he is not Bruce Wayne with Batman as his alter ego, he is Batman with Bruce Wayne as his alter ego. Wayne may be the real person, but who he is to the public is simply him TRYING to act as a billionaire playboy and what he does as Batman (fighting crime) is what he truly wishes to do as a man, rid the city of the sort of crime that claimed his parents.

      Yet, that's just my thoughts on it.

      As far as the voice goes? I am not CRAZY about the voice, but it doesn't ruin the character so much that he deserves to be in a list such as this.

      I mean.... he had to change the voice somehow, right? I have always, from Keaton (one of my favorite of all time cause...... well... come on.... "YA WANNA GET NUTS?!?! LETS GET NUTS!!!".... makes me smile every time.... love his delivery on some lines... but anyhow) to Clooney, said "Wait...... can no one that knows him recognize his voice? Has no one gone 'You know.... that sort of sounds like Bruce........ but.......... naw, couldn't be him...... or could it?' ".......

      Just don't buy that.... I feel changing the voice in some fashion was a great choice and needed to happen, just not in the way they did..... but still... not sure he belongs in this list with the other stinkers.