I believe that the true “star” of the live-action Batman movies is not always the Dark Knight himself, who has had the show stolen from him by the likes of Michelle Pfeiffer’s iconic Catwoman portrayal in Batman Returns and, especially, Heath Ledger’s Academy Award-winning performance as The Joker in The Dark Knight. Then again, there are also plenty of Batman movie side characters who have not quite received the attention that they deserve. I thought I would take the opportunity to give them their long-awaited moment under the Batsignal and explain why they should be recognized as some of the best things about the best Batman movies — starting with one of Gotham’s sharpest reporters.
Alexander Knox (Batman)
Even within the world of Tim Burton’s groundbreaking blockbuster, Alexander Knox (Robert Wuhl) receives no respect from his colleagues at the Gotham Gazette until Vicki Vale (Kim Basinger) comes along, proving he is not the only one taking rumors of a nocturnal vigilante seriously. That being said, he might have been a great help to Michael Keaton’s Bruce Wayne when his alter ego was unfairly catching heat from the press in 1992’s Batman Returns — let alone an effective comic relief — had Wuhl reprised his 1989 Batman cast role. At least his brief cameo in the Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover event gave him some form of a return.
Bob The Goon (Batman)
When you think of the best Batman movie villains so far, does Bob from Batman ’89 ever come to mind? It is clear to me why this criminal — played by Jack Nicholson’s real life friend, Tracey Walter — is appointed Joker’s “Number One guy,” from his pursuit of the Caped Crusader in one of the best Batman movie chase sequeces to the comically tragic end to his story, when Joker lets off some steam by shooting him dead before requesting “a minute or two alone.” Yet, despite his crucial contribution to these memorable scenes, I rarely see the character acknowledged as anything more than just another goon.
Max Schreck (Batman Returns)
Another character from the Tim Burton movies whose importance as a villain often seems ignored gets is Max Schreck — one of Oscar winner Christopher Walken’s most underrated, yet definitively goofy, roles. Even next to Danny DeVito’s nightmarish depiction of the Penguin, the ruthless industrialist is the one Batman Returns character I fear the most, and not just because of that menacing look in his eyes. As the one who shamelessly tried to kill Selina Kyle, helped Oswald Cobblepot achieve power, and tried to siphon Gotham’s energy with a power planet scheme, he is Batman’s true archenemy during this volatile Christmas season, as far as I am concerned.
Sugar And Spice (Batman Forever)
Considering its stacked A-list cast and distractingly vivacious production design, I guess I can understand why people often seem to forget Drew Barrymore is in 1995’s Batman Forever as Two-Face’s (Tommy Lee Jones) more innocent girlfriend, Sugar. That being said, when compared to Debi Mazar’s role as Spice — who possesses the darker side of Harvey Dent’s conflicted heart — the E.T. star and talk show host’s performance might be more memorable. However, I think neither of these lurid lovers really get the love they deserve in Joel Schumacher’s DC movie debut.
Ms. B. Haven (Batman & Robin)
Schumacher’s second trip to Gotham also involved a gimmicky love interest for one of its main antagonists in the form of Ms. B. Haven. I must say, her name alone has me reconsidering my feelings about Akiva Goldsmith’s script for the widely reviled Batman & Robin.
However — despite her willingness to dress in summer clothes in Mr. Freeze’s heavily refrigerated headquarters to attract his attention — Arnold Schwarzenegger’s cartoonish baddie keeps giving her the “cold shoulder,” still longing for his ailing, cryogenically comatose bride (Vendela Kirsebom). If it makes her feel any better, Vivica A. Fox’s scenery-chewing, minutes-long performance certainly warms my heart.
Gossip Gerty (Batman Forever, Batman & Robin)
A character of the Schumacher era one might think of as a pervasively bizarre and ultimately unnecessary addition to the franchise is the nosy Gotham reporter known as Gossip Gerty. However, did you know that the woman playing her in Batman Forever and Batman & Robin is Bob Kane’s widow, Elizabeth Sanders? When you discover that juicy detail, it kind of makes you appreciate the one-time soap opera star’s boisterous enthusiasm and pristine dedication to the performance, does it not?
Jonathan Crane (The Dark Knight Trilogy)
Lead Oppenheimer cast member Cillian Murphy must be Christopher Nolan’s good luck charm. This would explain why — after the Irish actor auditioned for the lead of 2005’s Batman Begins — he instead cast him as Dr. Jonathan Crane and brought him back for the two sequels.
His dazzling performance as a Scarecrow who is more grounded, yet still even creepier, than his comic book counterpart made his cameos in The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises celebratory highlights. Even then, I think Crane’s importance to franchise is still overshadowed by its primary antagonists (Liam Neeson's Ra's, Heath Ledger's Joker, etc.), essentially making him the Max Schreck of the Dark Knight Trilogy.
Detective Anna Ramirez (The Dark Knight)
Even counting Gary Oldman’s Jim Gordon (who has stretched the truth before), Gotham City is a hard to place to find a truly trustworthy cop, like Anna Ramirez (Monique Gabriela Curnen). In fact, Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) sought to take advantage of her reputation, forcing her to help lure Gordon’s family into a trap, yet that is just about the most explicit and oft-cited example in The Dark Knight of her prominence in the GCPD.
I imagine her character might have been more widely recognized if she was given the name of a DC character she is often compared to: Renee Montoya. Said detective would make her live-action film debut in Birds of Prey, as played by Rosie Perez.
Officer Martinez (The Batman)
Another overlooked GCPD officer from the movies is Martinez, who — despite admiring Robert Pattinson’s Bruce Wayne — is initially disapproving of Batman’s involvement in the case of the Riddler (Paul Dano). However, when he finally comes to understand the vigilante’s intentions and treat him more fairly, he unwittingly lets him in on a clue regarding the killer’s cataclysmic plan when identifying his murder weapon as a carpet tucker — info credited to his uncle, an installer.
I hope that Gil Perez-Abraham returns for Matt Reeves’ upcoming sequel, The Batman Part II. Then, we could continue to see this formerly adversarial relationship grow into a stronger alliance.
With more upcoming Batman movies on the horizon, I am sure we are bound to meet plenty more Gothamites on the big screen. Hopefully, they come to be more widely appreciated than these characters have been thus far.