Hollywood Journalist Decries Warner Bros. BATMAN Casting … 25 Years Ago

1989 Batman logo
Credit: Warner Bros.

Earlier Friday Newsarama took a look back at some of the ‘Internets’ extreme reactions to the casting of Heath Ledger as the Joker for 2008’s The Dark Knight, and as it turns out, Warner Bros. is probably well practiced in weathering media outrage over Batman casting news.

Unearthed in the aftermath of Thursday evening’s casting of Ben Affleck as Batman in the Superman/Batman Man of Steel sequel is this article from the L.A. Times archive reacting to the … yes, of course… casting of Michael Keaton in Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman.

Credit: Warner Bros.

“Mr. Mom as Batman?” reads the headline.

“So Michael Keaton has been cast as Batman/Bruce Wayne,” writes journalist Allan B. Rothstein. “He might have made a good Joker, but his comic style, which he seems unable to shake (but can amplify), has doomed this promised ‘serious’ treatment of Bob Kane's character to the same tired, boring level of artificial ‘camp’ that made the TV series a hit yet simultaneously doomed it to an early cancellation.

Dude, that’s two “doomeds” in one sentence.

“The Sam Hamm script that director Tim Burton is filming has many blunders, but does treat the characters basically seriously,” Rothstein later continues. “Obviously, in casting Keaton, Burton is rejecting this approach altogether and going after a manic comedy.”

“Batman has been a popular character for almost five decades--not because he is a figure of comedy, but precisely because he is not, especially in the last couple of years. By ignoring this, by casting a clown as Batman, Warner Bros. and Burton have defecated on the history of Batman and on the hopes of those who appreciate the character and his potential.”

“Doomed” and “defecated.” This was true Internet pioneering.

All good-natured ribbing in hindsight aside, to be fair Rothstein finished with one idea that would probably still be embraced today.

“Better they should have filmed Frank Miller's ‘Batman: The Dark Knight Returns,’ he concluded. “But that would have required courage, taste and imagination.”

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