The jury is finally out on Zack Snyder’s “Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice,” and the word is, as everyone pretty much knows by now, mostly dreadful. While I didn’t personally find ‘Dawn of Justice’ as mind-bogglingly terrible as some critics, it’s hard to deny that the film ultimately misses more than a few big opportunities. In particular, I was disappointed by the film’s seeming disinterest in the character of Alfred Pennyworth, whom we all know as Batman’s most trusted confidante and butler since his dark childhood years. (Spoiler alert) Alfred’s barely in ‘Dawn of Justice,’ and when he is, he’s mostly seen chilling in Wayne Manor and guiding his fascistic vigilante master from the control room.
Of course, British actor Jeremy Irons plays this film’s Alfred with all the panache and class that he’s famous for. Mr. Irons is the latest in a long line of marvelous actors who’ve played the role, dating all the way back to William Austin’s Alfred in the 1943 “Batman” serial. A new video essay courtesy of Slate takes a loving look at the man who keeps Bruce Wayne grounded, and also at the many actors who’ve tackled the role: everyone from Alan Napier, who embodied Pennyworth on the great “Batman” television program, to Michael Gough, who was on board from the Burton years into the regrettable Schumacher period. Of course there’s also Michael Caine, who lent his Alfred a sort of bruised, gentle pathos that befitted Christopher Nolan’s considerably more grounded take on the Batman character.
In any case, it’s a fun bit of trivia for “Batman” fans, and may prove to be valuable viewing before you head out to see ‘Dawn of Justice’ this weekend. It would’ve been nice to see an actor of Mr. Irons’ caliber do more than just chide his master, but hopefully he’ll be given more to do in the forthcoming “Justice League” that will open next year. Check out Slate’s video salute to Alfred Pennyworth below. “Dawn of Justice” opens in theatres nationwide today.