Film - Batman’s Rogues Gallery (Part 1)

Batfleck

This is what happens when some of the team start discussing Batman. We get Batman’s Rogues Gallery, A Dream Casting from David Ames ...

There are few comic book characters who have the staying power and ultimate fan base of Bill Finger and Bob Kane’s iconic Batman. For myself, Batman was always my favourite comic personality. He was strong, resourceful, and above all else incredibly intelligent. He was also so incredibly dark that all of my teenage angst perfectly aligned with Batman’s removed, cynical personality.

My love first began as a five year-old watching the Batman ’66 series when it played through syndication. At that point I had no idea what was going on but it was colorful, had hilarious puns (puns that a five year-old could understand), and ultimately showed good triumphing over the forces of evil.

The next incarnation of the character that struck a chord with me was the amazing, Emmy Award winning Batman: The Animated Series. What Bruce Timm and Eric Radomski developed grew into a piece of art that was exciting, fun, and incredibly deep. Much like the X-Men animated series of the ‘90s, Batman: The Animated Series never shied away from the dark, humanistic qualities of its storylines. Case and point would be “Heart of Ice,” the heartbreaking fourteenth episode of Season One, in which we learn about Mr. Freeze and his unbelievably gut-wrenching relationship with his wife. From the animated series, I became an avid reader of the comics, loving everything from Alan Moore’s epic The Killing Joke to Frank Miller’s inspired The Dark Knight Returns to Grant Morrison’s Arkham Asylum to Jeph Loeb’s Hush and many in between. I love all of the past Batman stories and I could rank my favourites (maybe in a subsequent article) but I must make a special note of my favourite Batman author: Scott Snyder. His take on the Dark Knight was more of a borderline horror story which appealed to me on a number of levels and his complexity and writing prowess are next to unmatched. The Court of Owls is, in my opinion, a modern masterpiece.


The movies came and went and I loved all of them. 1989’s Batman was fun but surprisingly dark for its time and Jack Nicholson was incredible as the Joker. 1992’s Batman Returns went to an even darker place, pitting the Dark Knight against a wonderfully cast Danny DeVito as the Penguin and a sexy Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman. 1995’s Batman Forever saw the first switch in casting from Michael Keaton’s Batman to Val Kilmer. I personally thought that Kilmer was a great Bruce Wayne but fell flat as Batman. Still, Chris O’Donnell as Robin (not a terrible choice although he is much older than he should be), Jim Carrey as an over-the-top comic version of the Riddler (a role I actually enjoyed him in for the most part), and a much more ridiculously expressive Tommy Lee Jones as Two-Face (some moments are great, some are cringe-worthy at best). Even the loathed and unforgivable Batman and Robin (1997) had a few bright spots. I felt that although George Clooney had what it took to make an excellent Batman/Bruce Wayne, the writing, acting and direction were all so bad that the movie became what it was: a joke.

It would be almost a decade before 2005’s Batman Begins would bring redemption to the failing franchise. Christopher Nolan, who doesn’t make bad movies (i.e.: Momento, The Prestige, Inception, Interstellar), created a dark and gritty world in which Batman was actually realistic and believable. Christian Bale, death-metal voice aside, was a brilliant cast, as was Michael Caine’s Alfred Pennyworth, Gary Oldman’s Jim Gordon, and Morgan Freeman’s Lucius Fox. Cillian Murphy does a great job of portraying Dr. Jonathan Crane/Scarecrow and lastly, Liam Neeson played a wonderful Ra’s al Guhl. Next came 2008’s masterpiece, The Dark Knight, which saw Heath Ledger create a Joker that was both incredible and disturbing and deserved every ounce of praise that it garnered. Sadly his death over shadowed another brilliant performance in Aaron Eckhart’s Harvey Dent/Two-Face. Nolan’s last entrance into the Batman universe was 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises which, while not without some MAJOR flaws, was a decent entrance and saw a performance that I loved: Tom Hardy as Bane. Nolan and Hardy took a juiced up Luchador and turned him into a criminal mastermind with nuance and subtlety that made him an amazing villain. Add the sexy and underappreciated Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle/Catwoman and we are given a movie that, while not without faults, still is utterly watchable.

The last instalment of the Batman film franchise was 2016’s Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice. People lampooned the film and with good reason: it was so unnaturally dark that it was hard to identify with anyone and it was so large in scope and scale that almost everything was short-sighted to fit into the film. I will say that, despite those flaws, Ben Affleck may be my favourite onscreen Batman. While he may have killed people (a point that I really did have a problem with), he looked and felt like Frank Miller’s Batman and that, to me, was enough.

Sorry I droned on so long. I love the Dark Knight with all of his past and his character flaws and his legacy. I especially enjoy that fact that unlike any other comic book character ever, his rogue’s gallery includes a lot of great, three-dimensional and well-developed characters. The Batman rogue’s gallery contains some of the greatest comic characters in comic history and I have gone far too overboard in casting twenty-nine of the best Batman villains. Enjoy and if you have any arguments, suggestions, comments, feel free to leave them in the comments! [Since we couldn't shut him up, we split it up into THREE articles! The other two are coming tomorrow and Wednesday - Ed]

THE ROGUES' GALLERY

Anarky

Anarky has seen many interpretations in the Batman universe but for the purposes of this casting, I am going to use my favorite version from the Batman: Arkham Origins video game. This Anarky isn’t necessarily a straight-up villain as much as a misguided domestic terrorist of sorts. He is a young genius and prodigy who espouses the tenants of anti-corruption and fights the government whom he feels is corrupted and greedy. I needed a character who was young and could play an intelligent and nuanced character but could also have the range to go from reserved and intelligent to unhinged and angry.



With his roles in The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Noah, and Fury, Logan Leerman has both the charisma and the range to pull off Anarky, as well as the good looks to fill the role.

Bane

Bane is a character that was pretty one-note, although badass, in the Batman universe until Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises when he was reinvented. Bane is incredibly intelligent and, by using the drug Venom increases his size and strength by multiples. He is the only character in the Bat universe that can say he has “Broken the Bat.” I needed a character who was both intelligent and physically imposing.


I have a two-fold approach here. I truly enjoyed Tom Hardy’s portrayal of Bane. He had an amazing presence, was very physically impressive, and expressed so much through his eyes that I loved the performance he gave. I even enjoyed the weird accent. BUT for those that are sticklers for recasting, I think that Javier Bardem could make an amazing Bane. We’ve already seen him play amazing and intense villains in Skyfall and No Country for Old Men (One of my favourite onscreen performances by any actor). Plus, his voice fits almost perfectly with the original Luchador version of Bane.  Listen...




Black Mask

Black Mask, also known as Roman Sionis, is a crime lord in Gotham City. He is basically just a hardcore version of the Maroni and Falconi crime families. His name comes from the Black Mask he wears on his face, created from the ebony coffin of his father after Sionis burned down the family home and killed both is father and his mother in the process. I needed someone who had the intimidating qualities of a mob boss but was human enough to fit the bill as well. The actor needed to be strong, imposing, and be able to fly off the handle.


We have already seen Mark Strong play a wonderful mob boss in Kick Ass and he can be convincing as a powerful, otherworldly figure like his role in Sherlock Holmes. He has the demeanor and intimidation factor to be an amazing Black Mask.

Calendar Man

Calendar Man is a villain who, while never really a threat to Batman, offers an interesting addition to the Rogue’s Gallery. He is obsessed with dates and all of his crimes correspond to the specific dates on which they are performed. My favorite inception of the character was in Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s Batman: The Long Halloween in which he plays Hannibal Lecter to Batman’s Clarisse, giving advice and insight to a villain named Holiday’s crimes. This actor needed to be able to portray intelligence while at the same time appearing pathetic.


Pruitt Taylor Vince has played many characters who fit into this mould but his turns in Constantine and Identity show that he could pull off the role wonderfully.

Catwoman

Is there anyone sexier than the sensual, intelligent, and agile jewel thief Selina Kyle/Catwoman. She was originally a supervillain but since the 90’s she has become Batman’s most intense love interest as well a constant, sexy thorn in his side. She helps while at the same time, causing much distress. This actress needs to have the look: sexy, dark hair and eyes, beautiful lips. She must also come across as intelligent and agile and would need to be charismatic.


I have been in love with Emmy Rossum ever since I saw her amazing performance in The Phantom of the Opera. She is beautiful and sexy and intelligent and she has the right body type to play the thief. She has shown her range in Phantom, Dare and Beautiful Creatures but her performance in the US version of Shameless is what made her the perfect casting.

Clayface

Clayface is another of the characters in the Batman universe who has had multiple inceptions. For the purposes of this article, I am casting Cassius Payne, my favorite version of Clayface. He is the child of two previous incarnations of Clayface and is angry and brutal. He is made up of clay and can transform his body into anything or anyone, making him a powerful enemy of the bat. The person portraying this character needed to have an amazing voice as onscreen more than likely he would be mostly CGI.


If there is a person more suited to voicing Clayface than Idris Elba, I haven’t found them. Elba is ALWAYS incredible and should be the next James Bond but that won’t happen because…well…I don’t know. He was great in Beasts of No Nation and Luther and has shown incredible capacity for voice acting with Zootopia and Finding Dory but the real proof is in his terrifying portrayal of Shere Khan in The Jungle Book.

Deadshot

Deadshot, also known as Floyd Lawton, is the greatest and most skilled marksman in the world. He is a hitman and constant thorn in the side of the Batman. He is intelligent and stealthy and recently became more of an antihero than a full-fledged villain, becoming a member of both the Suicide Squad and the Secret Six. This character was recently cast and portrayed by Will Smith. I love Will Smith and think he is an incredible actor but I wasn’t crazy about the casting. I know people will say it is because he is black but that isn’t the case. I just never saw someone like Smith play Deadshot. He just doesn’t feel like Floyd to me. He has the charisma but I think he might actually have too much and may be utterly to likeable.


Instead, I chose an actor who has always played roles similar to Deadshot: Joe Pantoliano. He can be likeable but not too much and instead usually comes across as an asshole. Also, the resemblance of the characters was too much for me to pass up.

Dollmaker

The Dollmaker, also known as Barton Mathis, had a rough life growing up. He would hunt with his father, who would kill and then eat people. Once his father was killed, he went into hiding, and reemerged as a serial killer who, much like Buffalo Bill, makes dolls out of human skin and limbs. This actor needed to be able to come across as creepy beyond belief but still be believable.


There are few actors who can do this well and Steve Buscemi is one of them. He is able to play creepy like his roles in Fargo, Con Air, and Ghost World but can also be intimidating such as his role in Boardwalk Empire. Lastly, he is simply a good actor which can be seen in films such as Reservoir Dogs.

Firefly

As we have seen before, Firefly is a character who has had many different incarnations. My personal favorite is the obsessive former high school teacher, Ted Carson who attempts to burn down anything which may hold him from his ex-girlfriend. This actor needed to be smart but also play obsessive and angry very well.


Is there really another option for this type of actor? If you need a teacher and also someone who can fly off the handle, the only real option is Bryan Cranston.

Part Two tomorrow.