With the casting of Ben Affleck (Batfleck) as the new Dark Knight of the DC cinematic universe, I wanted to take a moment and concentrate on something that, in my opinion, is not discussed enough: Batman’s voice.
As any true Batman fan would tell you, the greatest Batman voice has only once graced the big screen. That would be the illustrious Kevin Conroy, in the Animated Feature Batman: Mask of the Phantasm. Luckily for us, he also spent the better part of the nineties, early two-thousands and even to this day playing the Bat on the Emmy award winning Batman the Animated Series (BTAS), Justice League, Justice League Unlimited and countless DC animated features and video games. The gravelly tones of his Bat-voice have been a fan favorite for as long as I can remember. To me, it’s so well done that when I hear the voice, I don't hear an actor, I hear Batman. It’s something that is tough to describe. It’s like the voice of Darth Vader. Iconic, universally understood, and to any fan of the work DC was doing with their animated universe during the 90’s it’s the same thing for Kevin Conroy’s Batman. He IS Batman. In fact, Kevin’s voice may have been single largest influence on my Bat-fandom today. Growing up I was exposed to some of the best superhero television ever been made. Many people will tell you that BTAS was a major influence on the modern Batman we see now in film and even in the comics. Kevin Conroy was one of the first, if not THE first, to use two different voices for Bruce Wayne and Batman. He saw that Batman as the true man and that Bruce Wayne, the billionaire playboy, was the mask. Something that many creators have touched on since.
Of course there has been some great Batman voice work over the years other than Mr. Conroy’s. The work of Peter Weller, who of course played Robocop, jumps to mind. He did an amazing job bringing to life the work of Frank Miller in the two part animated feature of the infamous Dark Knight Returns. The Bruce Greenwood Batman voice is another favorite of mine. He appeared in both the animated feature Batman: Under the Red Hood as well Young Justice, a short lived but well-loved animated series on CN. Of course you can’t forget the current people playing the part. Roger Craig Smith is putting on the cowl for the new Arkham Origins, taking over for Kevin Conroy no less, and Anthony Ruivivar who is playing Batman on the current animated series, Beware the Batman. There’s so many great takes on the voice that it’s hard to imagine that someone can do it any differently than its already been done. Especially in live action, where Christian Bale’s infamous voice can be very polarizing (to put it lightly) among fans.
That takes us into the “what might be”. Now that we know Ben Affleck, of Daredevil fame, will be putting on the Batsuit for the sequel to Man of Steel (speaking of polarizing fans) we can start speculating on how they might go about doing the voice. Here are my suggestions on how to do it right this time:
1. Use a voice changer
Anyone who watches Arrow on the CW is aware of how they mask Oliver Queens’s voice. They make a point of giving his voice changing machine a close up before he uses it every time, so it’s hard to miss. But what I’m driving at here is that for a billionaire vigilante, who is overly concerned with protecting his identity, to only rely on his own, albeit probably well trained voice as his only means of audio camouflage seems a bit low tech. He has the means to construct his own stealth jet but can't use a voice changer? On the filmmaking side of things, the use of a voice changer allows for considerably more creative freedom. Without having to rely on some type of creative choice made early in production by the actor you can now, in post-production, make Batman's voice as menacing as you like. It’s also easy for an audience to accept Batman having a built in voice changer in his cowl. I mean he had sonar goggles in The Dark Knight. Batman using yet another gadget just makes sense for his character, it's what he does.
2. Use his Daredevil voice
We all know daredevil wasn’t very good. But take it from my friend and co-host, Jeremy that a director’s cut is considerably better. That aside, that films failures weren’t all on the shoulders of the leading man. In fact, one of the few things he did do well was implement a convincing superhero voice. It was gruff and tough and most importantly, it didn’t sound silly. So go back and take a look at the director’s cut of Daredevil. If for no other reason than to get some perspective as to what to expect from our new Batman.
3. Use a new voice
On the other hand, Ben Affleck is much older than he was when Daredevil came out, which opens up the possibility for something entirely new. Of course I’d prefer the voice changer solution but maybe Batfleck has something up his sleeve. Snyder might actually prefer he use his real voice. This might not be such a bad idea. I have faith that the people at WB are smart enough to know to stay WAY wide of what Mr. Bale was doing voice-wise.
4. Dub Batman's voice
The most unlikely possibility (I'd say 1 and a million chance here) is they dub a veteran talented voice actor (Kevin Conroy perhaps!?) over Ben's acting. Of course the most obvious issue here is that the general public has an expectation as to what type of voice is coming out of Mr. Affleck’s mouth. The technical and logistic issues of doing this aside, it would just be too jarring for audiences to have a dubbed voice for such a well-known star. As I said earlier, I'm a huge fan of what Kevin Conroy can do with Batman’s voice and would love to hear him again on the big screen. Unfortunately this is such a long shot I can’t possibly get excited for this.
Well, there you have it folks. There are some ideas on how to get the voice right for now on. But what do you think? Let me know what ideas you have for Batman’s voice. Follow me on twitter @julius_m89 and of course @towerbablecast for all things Batman and more.