daniel cohen begins his series in anticipation of the release of the dark knight rises…
One month from today, the most anticipated movie of all-time (not counting the Phantom Menace) opens in movie theaters…the Dark Knight Rises. I can’t speak for everyone, but I can’t handle waiting for this film to come out any longer. The trailers. The posters. The TV ads. This has been pure torture. I can’t eat. I can’t sleep. And even when I go to the bathroom, I’m hearing that weird chant that is present throughout all the trailers. If anything, I need this movie to come out just so I can move on with my life. But to ease the pain of waiting for this film, I thought I’d make this month BATMAN MONTH! That’s right…an entire month devoted to everyone’s favorite superhero. Once a week, I’ll be posting a new Batman related article, culminating in my actual review of the Dark Knight Rises. So in the words of Bane… “Let the games begin!”
How can I not kick it off with a Pop 5 version of Best Batman Villains? There are a lot of superheroes out there, but I don’t think you’ll find anyone on the planet who will argue that Batman doesn’t have the best rogues’ gallery. His 12th ranked villain is probably better than most heroes’ primary villain. And while my #1 choice isn’t exactly a shocker, I’m sure the rest of my list will be up for debate. I leave out a couple big names. But enough of the malarkey…Here are my top 5 favorite Batman baddies:
(Warning: Batman Begins and the Dark Knight spoilers abound)
Honorable Mention: Ra’s Al Ghul
Out of all of Batman’s villains, Ra’s certainly has the highest of aspirations. I think wanting to destroy the world and re-make it as your own qualifies you as a major super villain. Let’s also give props to the guy for living over 600 years via Lazarus pit. His respect and admiration for Batman, and the fact that he wants the Dark Knight to succeed him in his new world also makes Ra’s an intriguing antagonist for Bruce Wayne. And even though the super natural elements aren’t present in Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins, I love Liam Neeson’s performance. While Ra’s may miss out on my top 5, it’s no knock to be considered the sixth best Batman villain.
-While I’m sure most would have Two-Face higher on the list, I think the reason he comes in at #5 is ironically because of the Dark Knight. With the exception of my #4 villain, Two-Face definitely owns the title of most tragic Batman villain. Harvey Dent was the ultimate symbol of hope for Gotham City until he was horribly scarred. But the thing with Two-Face is that he can only be tragic for so long. I never saw Two-Face in the elite class with some of Batman’s other adversaries because of this. That’s why the Dark Knight is brilliant for killing him off so quickly. After his initial ark, he’s just not that interesting anymore. But make no mistake…his origin story is legendary, and that’s why he makes the list.
Quintessential Portrayal: Aaron Eckhart’s performance in the Dark Knight
4) Mr. Freeze
-Yea, I know what you’re thinking: You mean the guy Arnold Schwarzenegger played in 1997’s Batman & Robin, and who had all the ice puns? THAT’S NOT MR. FREEZE! I’d go ape shit for a serious live action portrayal of Mr. Freeze. This guy truly is Batman’s most heartbreaking villain. And we can credit the brilliant 90’s animated series for re-inventing the character. When Dr. Victor Fries’ wife is diagnosed with an incurable disease, Fries puts her in a cryogenic sleep until he can find a cure. Long story short, his project gets shut down by some jackass business tycoon at Wayne Enterprises, and in the process, not only does Fries lose his wife, but he endures a terrible accident in which his core temperature must remain at sub-zero temperature, in essence, no longer able to feel anything…cold as ice. He vows to take vengeance out on the world that left him out in the cold. Now that’s a villain! The funny thing is that his origin was recently changed in DC Comics’ New 52. While interesting, I still prefer the animated series version. All I know is that this character would have made for a fascinating Nolan villain, but it was never going to happen.
Quintessential Portrayal: The animated series episode “Heart of Ice”
-I’m not just saying this because he’s the main villain in the Dark Knight Rises, but Bane is the man who broke Batman’s back. What else is there to say? Bane is the intellectual equal and physical superior to Batman: a cool calculating tactician who is obsessed with taking down Batman just to prove he’s better. And while the new movie doesn’t appear to incorporate his addiction to a super powered steroid known as ‘venom,’ I’m salivating for Tom Hardy’s performance. In the Knightfall comic storyline, Bane gave us one of the most shocking and gut-wrenching moments in comic book history, and now it looks like he’s going to do more of the same, but in movie form.
Quintessential Portrayal: The Knightfall comic storyline
2) The Riddler
-While I appreciate Jim Carrey’s energetic and zany performance as the Riddler in 1995’s Batman Forever, I’ve been waiting my whole life for a serious live action attempt at this character. We were all convinced this was the villain for Nolan’s third Batman film, but it didn’t happen. With Batman being re-booted after Nolan’s series ends, I have no doubt this character will get his due, but I do want to touch on why I love the Riddler so much as a villain. More than any other Batman villain, he embraces his gimmicks and namesake the most. This guy is absolutely obsessed with riddles. Going back to Knightfall once again, there’s a moment where the Riddler is planning a big crime spree, but it never happens due to the fact that he can’t stop planning…now that’s interesting. There’s also a great moment in the animated series episode “Riddler’s Reform,” in which Batman escapes from a locked down toy store set to explode, and the Riddler is raving like a mad man back at Arkham Asylum because he can’t figure out how Batman got out. But the greatest Riddler moment of all time is at the end of the Hush comic storyline. It’s a moment that sums up the character perfectly, and shows just how nuts he truly is. I wouldn’t dare spoil it.
Quintessential Portrayal: The end of the Hush comic storyline
1) The Joker
-Not only is he Batman’s greatest villain, but with the exception of maybe Darth Vader, he’s probably the greatest villain of all time period. I’m not going to elaborate too much here. We all know what this character represents, and what makes him so iconic. And as great as Jack Nicholson’s portrayal was in 1989’s Batman, and as perfect as Mark Hamill’s voice is in the animated series, we all know the man who took this character to new lengths I didn’t even know were possible.
Quintessential Portrayal: Heath Ledger’s performance in the Dark Knight
Next week on Batman Month – Lost Picture Show: Batman Returns. Same bat time, same bat channel…