Script written by Michael Wynands
Ben Affleck VS Christian Bale as Batman
A number of actors have donned the cape and cowl over the years, but who’s the greatest Batman of the 21st century? Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’ll be going blow for blow with Ben Affleck and Christian Bale to see who comes up on top as the superior Batman.
For this showdown, note that it isn’t going to be a cinematic crossover fisfight. Instead, we’ll be looking at the various aspects of what makes for a great onscreen Batman to find our victor.
Round 1: Origins
Bruce Wayne’s tragic origin story is well-known to not only comic book lovers, but also the general public, and as such, going into “Batman Begins,” its inclusion felt somewhat unnecessary. Then we saw the film, and we changed our tune. Christopher Nolan not only retold the story of the death of Thomas and Martha Wayne in Crime Alley, but also took a dive deep into Bruce Wayne’s journey to becoming Batman. It was a real character study, the likes of which had never been attempted before on the big screen, and it gave us a look into the psyche, motivations, and evolution of the character from that formative moment forward.
Zack Snyder’s “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” had a lot to accomplish in one film. It had to introduce Wonder Woman, Doomsday, the fallout of Superman’s battle in Metropolis, a convoluted plot, and the introduction of a new Batman. Suffice it to say, it had its work cut out for it. Considering, as already discussed, how well known Batman’s origin story is, they really could have skipped it, but instead, Zack Snyder opted to flex his knack for visual flair with a hyper-stylized retelling of the tragedy in Crime Alley during the opening montage. Superfluous though it might have been, for what it was… it worked.
Zack Snyder deserves credit for revisiting well-trod territory and making it feel fresh again, but his opening credits origin story can’t compete with the film-length character evolution provided by Nolan. This first round is no contest; as far as origin stories are concerned, Bale’s Batman is fully-fleshed out.
WINNER: Bale 1/ Affleck 0
Round 2: The Batsuit
Yes… there are those out there who will never forgive Bale’s Batman for the eggheaded cowl he wore. But let’s try to get past it because really… that was the headgear that this version of Batman needed to survive in the grounded and gritty world created by Nolan. And honestly, when you look at the costumes that came before it, Bale’s Batsuit was a breath of badass fresh air. A cape with purpose, combat-worthy gauntlets, appropriate padding - it managed to be realistic and functional while still coming together to make the character look menacing and imposing. Also… the Bat logo was perfect. This was the ideal, stealthy armor for a real world Batman.
Comic book fans had long been asking to see a live-action take of Batman in his classic gray suit - or at least a modern version of it. And with “Batman v Superman,” Zack Snyder delivered. The dark gray material totally works, and felt like it was ripped from the pages of the comics. For anyone who has ever been disappointed by the slim Batmen of the big screen, this suit delivered the bulk. Unfortunately, Affleck’s Batman, when suited up, sometimes felt bulky to the point of being well… kinda clunky. And then there’s the bat logo. What were they thinking? This thing is just a few angles and pointy bits away from being a square.
There are those out there who are likely to disagree with this controversial choice, but for us, Bale’s batsuit comes out on top. Affleck’s suit photographed well and felt very comic accurate, but that bat logo was a serious letdown, and on screen, the bulkiness of the suit sometimes distracted in ways that Bale’s never did.
WINNER: Bale 2/ Affleck 0
Round 3: Detective Skills
If Bale’s Batman fell short of his comic book counterpart in any one area… it was in his detective skills. Bale’s Batman was not the world’s greatest detective. In fact, he didn’t feel like much of a detective - period. The Caped Crusader’s greatest power is his uncanny knack for deductive reasoning, and while Bale’s Batman was capable of putting together an impressive plan of attack when the time came, he was also caught off-guard far too often. Batman is supposed to be one step ahead, but in the Nolanverse, he always walking into danger and having to punch his way out, rarely connecting the dots until too late. Failing to see Talia for who she really was? That’s not Batman.
Ben Affleck’s Dark Knight similarly fell short of his comic book inspiration, but he undeniably came closer to the level of detective skills we were looking for. Like Bale, this version of Batman had a bad habit of being a little quick to throw punches when he should have been using his head and thinking things through. While his mission to preemptively bring the fight to Superman (rather than just make a contingency plan) felt both short-sighted and out-of-character, the way he went about it was exactly the sort of careful and methodical approach we like to see. This Batman knew the value of going undercover, and had the deductive logic to connect the dots.
Honestly, we’re still waiting to see Batman hit the big screen in a story that allows him to live up to his reputation as the World’s Greatest Detective, but as far as Bale and Affleck are concerned… the latter came closest. Ben Affleck’s Batman takes his first point!
WINNER: Bale 2/ Affleck 1
Round 4: Portrayal of Bruce Wayne
Christian Bale did a really great job portraying a frustrated young Bruce Wayne in “Batman Begins.” As the trilogy progressed, we watched him grow into the classic public Bruce Wayne persona - a playboy and socialite. But while he went through the motions of being Bruce Wayne as the world knew him, there was one big way in which he missed the mark. At least in more recent comics, Bruce Wayne is a likeable public figure - charming and charismatic. He’s a bit cheeky, but also a pillar of the community. Bale as Bruce Wayne was often dislikable in public, failing to strike that careful balance.
Some fans might have been disappointed to see an older and world-weary Bruce Wayne in “Batman v Superman,” but once you got past that, it was really a treat to see such a comic accurate take on the character. From Bruce’s commitment to the people who work for his company and the community, to the contrast between his brooding cave demeanor and public persona, Affleck felt like comic book Bruce Wayne brought to life. Despite not having the best dialogue to work with, Affleck made us believe he was Bruce Wayne, and in “Justice League,” he really became Bruce Wayne, the leader. Of course, his physique and looks certainly didn’t hurt either.
Sorry Bale, but it’s back-to-back points for Batfleck. We’re heading into round 5 with a tie!
WINNER: Bale 2/ Affleck 2
Round 5: Portrayal as Batman
Yes… Bale’s growling gruff Batman voice inspired parodies and a certain amount of mockery. But he also embodied the values, style, shortcomings, and virtues of Batman. Perhaps most importantly, he was fallible and very much human, which is really at the crux of what makes Batman such a special superhero. It’s hard to put succinctly into words, but when Bale’s Batman was on screen… it really felt like the Batman you grew up reading in your comics. He took hits and felt them, he used his tools and quick wits to best his opponents, and he was willing to give every ounce of himself to the mission.
Ben Affleck did a great job bringing Batman to life. His version of the character was grim, brooding, menacing, and downright terrifying when he needed to be. When it came to fighting, he brought a physicality and technicality to Batman’s combat style hereto only seen in video games and animated films. But as great as Ben Affleck’s Batman was in individual moments, he suffered from some truly weak writing and character development. Ben Affleck’s Batman behaved like an Elseworlds Batman from another reality who made rash decisions and was far too cruel and brutal.
Ben Affleck made for a great Batman… but he wasn’t our Batman. Superficial differences and a silly voice aside, Christian Bale’s Batman embodied the spirit of the Caped Crusader, and for that reason, he gets our vote.
WINNER: Bale 3/ Affleck 2
It would seem that Bale’s grounded and thoroughly human Batman comes out on top!
Did we pick the right Batman? Be sure to debate it in the comments and of course, don’t forget to subscribe to WatchMojo for more entertaining versus battles.