Warner Bros. made a huge gamble when they decided to adapt the much-loved Batman series for the big screen. Sure, they’d been developing a Batman film for many years, but now that the world was finally ready for a Dark Knight, they decided to go all in and bet the whole franchise on one film. Unfortunately, things didn’t turn out quite as they’d planned. While the original 1989 Batman was an instant success, striking a chord with audiences around the world and establishing the modern superhero genre, the following years weren’t so kind to the masked vigilante. A string of underwhelming films and lackluster sales figures made it clear that audiences had shifted their attention to other genres and franchises, leaving the once-mighty Batman to languish. Then, in an unexpected turn of events, 2019 saw the arrival of arguably the best Batman film yet. Suddenly, it was clear: maybe, just maybe, Warner Bros. had made the correct call all those years ago, and maybe, just maybe, the Dark Knight is once again worth a bet.
The Making Of Batman (2019)
The first details on the making of Batman (2019) emerged in early 2018, when journalists were granted an exclusive look at the production. Set to hit theaters on June 25th, 2019, the film will see James Gunn (Guardians Of The Galaxy) step in to direct a screenplay he penned with Eric Thomas (The Damned United). The news that a solo Batman film was in the works wasn’t exactly a huge shock. We’d been hearing about it for years. Ever since Warner Bros. acquired the film and TV rights to the character back in 2006, they’ve been trying to make it into a movie. They even briefly attached a director (Joe Johnston) and screenwriter (Paul Dano) to the project back in 2010, but the timing never seemed right, and the project fell through.
A History Of Comic Book Adaptations
It’s probably safe to say that the vast majority of Batman fans are more than aware of how many films and TV shows the character has been featured in over the years. Since his debut in 1939, the Caped Crusader has appeared in well over 300 films and TV shows, with countless other comic books and graphic novels featuring the character gracing bookshelves around the world. But what is often overlooked is just how many of Batman’s adventures were turned into motion pictures and television shows, and just how many of them failed. It’s highly unlikely that any series in cinematic history has received as much hate as the Batman franchise. People seem to forget that the Dark Knight’s adventures were, for the most part, created for youthful audiences, and as such, were not always suited for grown-ups. While many of the characters can be found amusing or charming in books or comics, when it comes to film adaptations, most just don’t work. Here are the the (extremely) worst films based on comics/creative works.
The original ’60s Batman television series was an early casualty of the home video era. Released in the late ’70s and early ’80s, it was only available in poor quality that made it hard for many to become invested in the characters. It was only a matter of time before movies started adapting the stories for the big screen, and the first of these to be released was Batman, which hit theaters in February 1966. Based on the popular tv series, the film featured Michael Keaton as the Caped Crusader, and was directed by Burt Kennedy, the same man behind the camera for the series. Despite receiving mostly positive reviews at the time of its release, the film was a box office bomb. It earned less than $3 million against its $7 million budget, and was widely considered a box office failure. It currently holds a 16% rating on RottenTomatoes.com, with many critics panning it for its cheesy special effects and campy humor.
Batman: Mask Of The Phantasm (1994):
A year after disappointing results with Batman (1966), Warner Bros. released a sequel titled Batman: Mask Of The Phantasm. This time around, the studio opted for a different approach. Instead of adapting an existing story and characters, they decided to take a crack at creating a whole new world for the Dark Knight to explore. To that end, they partnered with Silicon Valley billionaire and Napster founder Bernard Loomis, and set about enlisting the help of comic book writers, artists, and designers to bring the Caped Crusader’s world to life on the big screen. As a result of their efforts, the film turned out to be one of the better of the many Batman films, if not the best. Directed by Rodney Peña and starring Alicia Silverstone, the film scored rave reviews and was a commercial success, earning more than $50 million against its $30 million budget.
The success of Batman: Mask Of The Phantasm encouraged Warner Bros. to make another superhero movie, this time centered around the Fantastic Four. As a result, they released the highly anticipated Fantastic Four on August 24, 1994. Though it was generally well-received by critics and fans, the mixed bag of reviews for the film led to disappointing earnings of $48 million against its $125 million budget. While the film hasn’t aged well, it still manages to pull in about $13 million on YouTube alone. (The Incredible Hulk) The film’s biggest weaknesses are poor plotting and writing, awful pacing, and a villain (Doctor Doom) who is more hype than substance.
Batman & Robin (1997):
After two successful outings as the title character in Mask Of The Phantasm and Batman Forever, Michael Keaton decided to don the cowl one more time. In 1997, he teamed up with his Val Kilmer to headline Batman & Robin, an attempt to give the superhero franchise a comedic spin. Despite featuring one of the biggest names in Hollywood, it was yet another box office bomb, earning just $60 million against its $125 million budget. The combination of Keaton and Kilmer’s serious acting styles didn’t gel well on screen, and the film was eventually panned by critics. At the time of its release, it held a 17% rating on RottenTomatoes.com. Audiences, however, seemed to like it, and it wound up being one of Warner Bros.’ most profitable films. It currently holds a 52% rating on the movie review site.
After a three-year hiatus, Keaton returned as Batman for The Batman (2019). While many expected the actor to team up with fellow comedian Kevin Hart for a comedy outing like Batman & Robin, Keaton chose to tackle the iconic comic book character solo for the first time ever. The filmmaker is no stranger to playing a superhero; he previously starred as Marvel Comics’ Ironman in Tony Stark’s Ironman 3 (2013) and the title character in Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2017). But aside from acting, Keaton is also well-aware that he’s one of the best stunt performers of all time. So when it came time to tackle Batman’s incredible stunts for The Batman, the director knew just who to call.
Batman Returns (1992):
The year 1992 was a pretty big one for Batman fans. Not only did they get to witness the release of director Tim Burton’s second installment in the Batman series, but it also turned out to be the series’ final outing. In February of that year, the studio behind the Batman franchise, Warner Bros., filed for bankruptcy, and then proceeded to cancel the rest of the plans they had for the character. Since then, there hasn’t been a single theatrical release or TV show adaptation of Batman. The character’s future, both in comics and film, is currently up in the air.
Batman Beyond (1999):
The last film on our list is an adaptation of the final chapter of the Batman Beyond comic book series. Set in a dystopian future, where computers have taken the place of human beings as servants, Batman Beyond was originally released in May 1999 to mixed reviews. Critics claimed that it took too many liberties with the source material and that the adaptation sacrificed some of the book’s charm for the sake of making it more “filmable.” Still, the film was a commercial success, earning over $100 million against its $40 million budget.
Despite the critical and commercial disappointment of Batman Beyond, it was followed by two more animated features that would go on to become box office duds. The first, Batman: Mask Of The Phantasm, was released in 2000 and cost over $100 million to make. Like its predecessor, it was also panned by critics, earning a 7% rating on RottenTomatoes.com. The second movie, Batman: Race Against Time, came out the next year and also underperformed, managing to pull in just $37 million at the box office despite costing over $50 million to produce. (The film’s marketing budget was allegedly $15 million.)