Culture 409px-Michael_Keaton_Cannes

Published on May 3rd, 2013 | by Christopher Jones


Whatever happened to Michael Keaton?

Photo by Georges Biard

When I was 7 years old, I came out of a Best Buy with my parents (presumably after purchasing some beta tapes for our family video camera or a cassette of Dangerous by Michael Jackson) and waiting in the parking lot was a minivan painted with the Batman logo. A guy, who in hindsight was severely underpaid, was handing out Batman t-shirts to an unruly crowd of asshole grade schoolers to promote the now-classic Batman Returns. Try as I might to get my hands on an adult large Batman t-shirt, I kept on getting pushed out of the way by the 4th graders. Disappointed I went home with my growing impatient dad. Surely if I were the real Batman, I would have been able to throw the kids who had exercised their puberty advantage on me, onto the pavement like the nameless henchmen that Batman routinely manhandled. But looking in the mirror at my scrawny, 4 foot tall self, one of life’s many harsh lessons unfolded. I wasn’t Batman — and probably would never be him. Much to my delight last week, I flipped on the TV to watch one of the 12 channels I get on my basic cable package (6 of which are in Spanish, thanks a lot RCN), and I landed on Batman. That’s right. The original, Tim Burton glorious masterpiece, Batman, featuring Michael Keaton as Batman and Jack Nicholson as the Joker. After watching it for a few minutes I realized how naive I was. Not because I thought I could become Batman —  but that my hero, the Batman I knew, Michael Keaton, didn’t look like a super-human crime fighter. He looked more like my middle aged neighbor who I’d see jogging in the morning before work with one of those belts that has extra water bottles on it.

Times have changed since 1989. Movies are much different now

Back when Batman came out, we accepted the film as theatre on the screen. We knew when we saw the Batmobile flying above “Gotham,” it wasn’t real. The movie wasn’t set out to be a documentary — Batman could still be Michael Keaton and we would believe he was the capable of winning any fight. He was mythical, the result of an epic story, designed as allegory for fighting evil with great courage in a time of crisis. There isn’t a single person who saw Michael Keaton as Batman and thought to themselves, “Holy bunny farts! This is a man who could walk down a dark alley and single handedly beat super-villains into super-mush!” It’s Michael Keaton for Chrissake. Hell, even in his prime, Michael Keaton looked like a guy who a couple of teenagers would single out of a crowd, just to rob on the El because he probably wouldn’t fight back. Flash forward to 2012 Batman and we’re greeted with Christian Bale, a man who could, without a doubt, beat the shit out of you:


Seriously. This would be such a short fight
Image from BeSportier

Whereas Michael Keaton in his prime still looked like he did most of his workouts at Curves and not bench-pressing cars and fighting mountain lions like Mr. Bale.

But I digress, what happened to Michael Keaton?

After Batman, Keaton followed with Batman Returns, a film that Danny DeVito got snubbed for an Oscar ten times harder than Gary Sinese. I mean, just fucking watch this and tell me that wasn’t robbery. He also went on to do Kenneth Branaugh’s Adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing to critical acclaim. He was even banging Courtney Cox during this time!

Image from Series-80

But then, Michael Keaton made Multiplicity. A film with tremendous potential — it was directed by Harold Ramis, it starred Andie MacDowell, and most importantly it had Michael Keaton. The film bombed. Roger Ebert gave it 2 ½ stars and said Multiplicity is more of a ground-level comedy, in which we can usually anticipate the problems for Doug and his clones.”

The wheels came off after Multiplicity. Despite what we had thought, Keaton had been making movies, except you never saw any of his last feature films because they were shit. Not just, conceptually sound films with a few minor flaws, but walk-out-of-the-theater-throw-a-bitch-fit-in-the-lobby-and-demand-you-get-your-money-back-or-you’ll-start-taking-goddamn-hostages bad. Besides lending his voice to Toy Story, and let’s face it, the real stars of Toy Story are the animators, not the actors who spend a week recording their voice in sweatpants, he hasn’t done anything noteworthy.

From IMDB:
Desperate Measures, 1998, 5.9/10
Jack Frost, 1998, 4.9/10
A Shot at Glory, 2000, 6.1/10
Hiatus to do bit parts on TV for a few years)
Quicksand, 2003, 5.2/10
First Daughter, 2004, 4.7/10
Herbie Fully Loaded, 2005, 4.6/10
White Noise, 2005, 5.4/10
Game 6, 2005, 5.8/10
Post Grad, 2009, 5.2/10

His 2000’s make Tyler Perry look like Alfred Hitchcock. I’ve never seen an actor play so consistently below the Mendoza line. You would think that one of those films would at least get a 7/10. Even more troubling for us Michael Keatonites, is a recent lawsuit he is currently fighting. The suit argues that during the filming of The Merry Gentleman (6.5/10, IMDB), Keaton slacked at his duties as director and among several faults, left during production to go on a fishing trip, in addition to treating his production company like shit. Say it ain’t so Mike. We thought you were the handsome, folksy friend we wished we had. But the reality is that you’re probably a massive prick who is still high on the success of Batman.

But no matter how much of a douchebag this lawsuit asserts Keaton is, or how many movies he makes that score below 5/10 on IMDB, I’ll always remember Michael Keaton as the one, true Batman. Not the hero we want, but the hero we deserved.

Here’s to you Mr. Keaton, wherever you are.

About the Author

Christopher Jones

Back to Top ↑