I don’t know if you know this, but Batman’s existence in visual media precedes the “Michael Keaton vs. Christian Bale” debate (soon to become the “Christian Bale vs. Ben Affleck” in debates held by millennials). The Dark Knight has been part of cinema and television since his first appearance on the silver screen in 1943’s craptacular and insanely racist four-hour-long “Batman” serial. Seriously, it’s not worth watching even as a curiosity.
1949’s post-WWII “Batman and Robin” serial excised a lot of the anti-Japanese racism of the prior serial, and even though it might have been exciting at the time, it will surely bore modern audiences to tears with the equivalent of a tedious police procedural that happens to revolve around a detective who wears a thrift store bat suit. Even the “batmobile” in this film is a factory-stock 1949 Mercury Convertible. I guess these old serials are perfect for Batman fans who complain that he doesn’t do much detective work in movies anymore. If you’re curious about it, thankfully the good folks at Rifftrax recently released episodes from the serial with their trademark snarky commentary to dull the pain.
Then comes the 1960s infamous “Batman” movie and TV show, which was campy fun, allowed some legendary character actors to act like buffoons and get paid for it, and ended with Burt Ward bragging about bedding many hot girls simply by telling them that he played Robin on TV. Fast forward to 1989, and Tim Burton’s “Batman” rewrote the rules of blockbuster filmmaking and somehow paved the way toward the refuse pile otherwise known as “Batman & Robin.” Then came Christopher Nolan’s gritty, dark, and all around amazing “The Dark Knight Trilogy.” Finally, Warner Bros. desperately wants you to be pumped about Ben Affleck’s Gravelman version of The Caped Crusader in next year’s not at all ridiculously titled “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”.
If you don’t have the time to watch all versions of The Dark Knight occurring throughout film and TV history, the good folks at the online art magazine MVOD did you a favor and put together a chronological supercut of Batman’s 70-year evolution on the big and small screens. This is a visual tribute that’s cut to —what else— Hans Zimmer’s iconic, bombastic score from “The Dark Knight Trilogy.”
The editing is fast paced and flows fairly well, except for some shots where long lines of dialogue are shown without being heard, which is always awkward in music-based tributes. One final criticism: Where’s the animation? The 1990s “Batman” animated series was great, “Batman: Mask of the Phantasm” is considered to be one of the best Batman films ever made, and the recent straight-to-DVD movies like the spectacular two-part adaptation of Frank Miller’s “The Dark Knight Returns” are more than worthy additions to Batman’s audiovisual history. Perhaps MVOD would want to add “live action only” to their title. You can watch the tribute below.