Christian Bale Played Batman 3 Times & Here Is What Critics Said about His Portrayal of the Dark Knight

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In the history of live-action adaptations of Batman, a total of nine actors have portrayed the Dark Knight (not including those who’ve only portrayed him as a child and those who’ve portrayed him in TV series and not in movies). Most of them have had at least two stints as the Caped Crusader, with some having more and some having just one stint.

Christian Bale, who is considered to be one of the best live-action Batmans, appeared in a total of three movies – Batman Begins (2005), The Dark Knight (2008), and The Dark Knight Rises (2012) – directed by Christopher Nolan.

How were Christian Bale’s Batman movies perceived by critics?

Batman Begins (2005)

The first installment in the trilogy, Batman Begins, was a huge hit for Nolan. The movie helped reshape the modern superhero movie and set the tone for the whole trilogy, ultimately becoming one of the most influential movies of the 2000s.

James Berardinelli applauded Nolan and Goyer’s work in creating more understanding into “who [Batman] is and what motivates him,” something Berardinelli felt Tim Burton’s film had lacked. Los Angeles Times’ Kenneth Turan, who felt the film began slowly, stated that the “story, psychology and reality, not special effects,” assisted the darkness behind Batman’s arsenal.

The New Yorker’s David Denby did not share Berardinelli and Turan’s opinion. He was unimpressed with the film when comparing it to the two Tim Burton films, and that Christian Bale’s presence was hindered by the “dull earnestness of the screenplay,” the final climax was “cheesy and unexciting,” and that Nolan had resorted to imitating the “fakery” used by other filmmakers when filming action sequences.

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Michael Wilmington of the Chicago Tribune believed Nolan and Goyer managed to “comfortably mix the tormented drama and revenge motifs with light-hearted gags and comic book allusions” and that Nolan takes the series out of the “slam-bang Hollywood jokefests” the franchise had drifted into. 

Comic book scribe and editor Dennis O’Neil stated that he “felt the filmmakers really understood the character they were translating,” citing this film as the best of the live-action Batman films. In contrast, J.R. Jones, from the Chicago Reader, criticized the script and Nolan and David Goyer for not living up to the “hype about exploring Batman’s damaged psyche.” 

Roger Ebert, who gave mixed reviews to the previous films and claimed in his review for Batman Returns that he did not believe noir worked in superhero films, wrote this was “the Batman movie I’ve been waiting for; more correctly, this is the movie I did not realize I was waiting for.” Giving it four out of four stars, he commended the realistic portrayals of the Batman arsenal – the Batsuit, Batcave, Tumbler, and the Batsignal – as well as the focus on “the story and character” with less stress on “high-tech action.”

Film director Tim Burton felt Nolan “captured the real spirit that this kind of movie is supposed to have nowadays. When I did Batman twenty years ago, in 1988 or something, it was a different time in comic book movies. You couldn’t go into that dark side of comics yet. In the last couple of years, that has become acceptable, and Nolan certainly got more to the root of what the Batman comics are about.”

Batman Begins was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Cinematography, but did not win.

The Dark Knight (2008)

Considered to be superior to Batman Begins and the best installment in the trilogy, The Dark Knight is considered to be among the best movies in history. Nolan’s realistic interpretation of the characters and the overall quality of the movie definitely contributed to that status, and there is no doubt that The Dark Knight deserves the praise directed at it.

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times, awarding four out of four stars, described The Dark Knight as a “haunted film that leaps beyond its origins and becomes an engrossing tragedy.” He praised the performances, direction, and writing, saying the film “redefine[s] the possibilities of the comic-book movie.” Ebert stated that the “key performance” is by Heath Ledger.

Peter Travers of Rolling Stone wrote that the film is deeper than its predecessor, with a “deft” script that refuses to scrutinize the Joker with popular psychology, instead pulling the viewer in with an examination of Bruce Wayne’s psyche. Travers praised all the cast, saying each brings his or her “‘A’ game” to the film. Travers says that the filmmakers move the film away from comic book cinema and closer to being a genuine work of art, citing Nolan’s direction and the “gritty reality” of Wally Pfister’s cinematography as helping to create a universe that has something “raw and elemental” at work within it.

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Manohla Dargis of The New York Times wrote, “Pitched at the divide between art and industry, poetry and entertainment, it goes darker and deeper than any Hollywood movie of its comic-book kind.” Entertainment Weekly put it on its end-of-the-decade “best-of” list, saying, “Every great hero needs a great villain. And in 2008, Christian Bale’s Batman found him in Heath Ledger’s demented dervish, the Joker.” BBC critic Mark Kermode, in a positive review, said that Ledger is “very, very good” but that Oldman’s turn is “the best performance in the film, by a mile”; Kermode felt Oldman deserved an Oscar nomination.

Emanuel Levy wrote Ledger “throws himself completely” into the role and that the film represents Nolan’s “most accomplished and mature” work and the most technically impressive and resonant of all the Batman films. Levy calls the action sequences some of the most impressive seen in an American film for years and talks of the Hong Kong-set portion of the film as being particularly visually impressive. Levy and Peter Travers conclude that the film is “haunting and visionary,” while Levy goes on to say that The Dark Knight is “nothing short of brilliant.”

On the other hand, David Denby of The New Yorker said that the story is not coherent enough to properly flesh out the disparities. He said the film’s mood is one of “constant climax,” and that it feels rushed and far too long. Denby criticized scenes which he argued to be meaningless or are cut short just as they become interesting. 

The movie was nominated for eight Academy Awards, ultimately winning Best Sound Editing and Best Supporting Actor, posthumously awarded to Heath Ledger for his interpretation of the Joker.

The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

Despite generally positive comments, the final part of the trilogy was not received by the fans – the critics still loved it – as well as its predecessors. The criticisms were directed towards the lack of creativity and the controversial epilogue. However, it is still considered a great movie and a relatively fitting end to the franchise, even if you ask the critics.

The Daily Telegraph granted the film a maximum score of five stars, stating that it is “a superhero film without a superhero,” comparing it with The Godfather Part II and praising Hardy’s performance as well as the film’s intricate plot and narrative. Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times thought the film was “potent, persuasive and hypnotic” and that it was “more than an exceptional superhero movie. It is masterful filmmaking by any standard.” 

IGN gave it a 9 out of 10, noting similarities in tone and theme to Batman Begins over the trilogy’s second installment, The Dark Knight, but also describing Bane as “that bit less interesting to watch” than Ledger’s Joker, despite praising his “menacing voice” and “body language-driven performance”. The Guardian scored the film four out of five stars, calling it a film of “granite, monolithic intensity” yet also calling it a “hammy, portentous affair.”

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film three out of four stars, stating, “the film begins slowly with a murky plot and too many new characters but builds to a sensational climax.” Film critic Richard Roeper gave the film an “A,” calling it “a majestic, gorgeous, brutal and richly satisfying epic” and citing the final scenes of the picture as “the best five minutes of any film this year.” 

CNN’s Tom Charity said the film was a “disappointingly clunky and bombastic conclusion to a superior series” and called it Nolan’s worst film. Anthony Lane of The New Yorker says that the “story is dense, overlong, and studded with references that will make sense only to those intimate with Nolan’s previous excursions into Batmanhood.”

How was Christian Bale received as Batman?

Along with Michael Keaton, Christian Bale is usually perceived as the best live-action Batman. His role in Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy was received with critical acclaim, and the fans were likewise amazed despite the somewhat controversial end to the trilogy. Bale, like Keaton, had it all – the charisma, the interpretation, the depth, and the actual feel of both Bruce Wayne and Batman.

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Nolan did an amazing job in adapting the character for his real-life feel of the movies, and Bale delivered his interpretation of the character. Is the best? We leave that question up to you, but we can help you by stating that you have a relatively easy job since you have to choose between just two – Michael Keaton and Christian Bale.

What did you think of Christian Bale’s Batman? The best ever? Let me know in the comments below!

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