If the sheer variety of Batman depictions onscreen in recent years has left you a little confused, you’re not alone. Few characters have been subjected to so many interpretations in so little time. In an effort to highlight the differences, a video from BatMashUps focuses on a line of dialogue that is no less essential than the batsuit itself: “I’m Batman.” Three syllables might not seem like much of a foundation for comparison, but The Many Voices of Batman shows just how much these two simple words can reveal about the character. The video simply repeats a clip of Michael Keaton in Tim Burton’s Batman, replacing the two key words each time. Without the suitable visual aids – George Clooney’s notorious bat-nipples, for example – something is clearly missing from each performance, but the voices still capture the essence of these interpretations.
The first surprise is that both Michael Keaton and Christian Bale seem to be downplaying their signature voice traits (breathy and husky respectively). Bale’s delivery has none of the Clint Eastwood-isms that fans have come to know and sometimes hate in The Dark Knight Trilogy. As for Val Kilmer, you’d never guess that he only played the character once, as his voice has a confident authority. The same cannot be said for George Clooney, who strangely emphasizes the word “bat.” This sounds more like bragging – Clooney may have still been adapting to his newfound stature – than the casual intimidation the character is known for.
Given the younger demographic reached by the character’s animated incarnations, it’s not surprising that several of the actors from these entries (Diedrich Baker, Rino Romano, Kevin Conroy) sound more child-like, innocent, and upbeat. The major exception is the late Olan Soule, who brought a vaguely Germanic quality to his performance in Super Friends. He sounds more like a villain from The Rocky & Bullwinkle Show than a superhero, but his voice makes quite an impression.
While Soule’s performance goes back to the ’70s, the most striking voice goes back even further. As you might have guessed, the winner is Adam West, whose performance is appropriately odd given his show’s absurdist approach. Rather than intimidate or impress, he seems content to simply clarify a moment of mistaken identity. But there’s no mistaking West’s voice, which you should have no trouble identifying, even without that ludicrous batsuit.