The 1927 Yankees. The 1972 Dolphins. The 2008 Clippers.
Okay, I'm kidding about that last one, but you get the idea: Sports fans love to debate the greatest teams of all time. And when the talk turns to All-Star "Dream Teams," things get even more heated. Now, with "The Dark Knight" hitting theaters this Friday, isn't it time moviegoers get in on the action?
With that in mind, and all the decades of caped-crusader interpretations behind us, here is my Batman all-star team. Put these people together, in their primes, and you'd have the ultimate depiction of the prince of Gotham City. Give it a look, and then tell us yours. Let the geek wars begin!
Batman -- It's the ultimate showdown, with several beloved actors going toe-to-toe. And George Clooney. In the end, I give the smallest edge imaginable to Michael Keaton over Christian Bale. There's one simple reason: As a moviegoer, I can project myself onto Keaton's Batman. Tim Burton cast the funnyman because of his every-guy quality, and Mr. Mom was only beginning to scratch the surface of Bruce Wayne when he got dumped. Nolan's goal has always been to make Batman as real as possible, and the thought of him directing a late-80's Keaton seems like a Dark Knight dream team.
The Joker -- In 1989, Jack gave a performance that would define a generation of high-wattage villains. But Heath Ledger has taken it one step further with "The Dark Knight," making him the anarchic, anti-social adversary that every Batman fan will adore (click here to read how the Ledger's tragic death has affected the marketing of "The Dark Knight"). Sorry Caesar Romero, you take the bronze here -- but those purple suits and squirting flowers will always hold a special place in our hearts.
Alfred -- With all due respect to Sir Michael Caine, Alan Napier set a tone for the character that will remain with the franchise forever. Charming, humorous, occasionally heroic and always loyal, the Alfred in the Sixties "Batman" series was no joke.
Two-Face -- Maybe it's because the Joker is so cool that all other villains pale in comparison, but one of my only gripes with "Dark Knight" is that Aaron Eckhart's Two-Face felt less like a homerun, and more like a ground-rule double. And don't get me started on Tommy Lee Jones. For my money, the Harvey Dent in such cartoons as "Batman: The Animated Series" and "The New Batman Adventures" is as good as the character gets, with such plot devices as "Big Bad Harv" and "The Judge." Nolan must agree, as much of Dent's "Dark Knight" origin is the same as in those cartoons.
Commissioner Gordon -- No contest here. Gary Oldman's portrayal of Gotham's non-caped crusader is the heart and soul of the new series, performed brilliantly by one of the world's finest actors. Neil Hamilton from the Sixties show was always good for a laugh, but his being in charge of anything more than a McDonald's Drive-Thru seemed as realistic as Batman's shark repellant.
The Penguin -- Gotta give it to Burgess Meredith, in a squeaker over Danny DeVito's rotund umbrella-wielder. One of the few Sixties-TV-show actors who legitimately brought menace to the series, Meredith's surviving work on "The Twilight Zone" and a handful of movies leaves little doubt that he could have brought a far darker Penguin if someone like Nolan or Burton was behind the camera.
Robin -- This category gets an "incomplete" grade, because aside from the "Nightwing" storylines in the comics, the character has never been effectively realized. If Nolan ever has the guts to cast an intense actor like Ben Foster or Milo Ventimglia as Nightwing in a future film, he could make us forget about Burt Ward and (shudder) Chris O'Donnell in a holy heartbeat.
Chandell -- In my mind, the only evil-twin pianist who will ever torment Batman is Liberace. Rumors abound that Nolan will cast Sean Penn in the next movie as the overly-theatrical evildoer, but I just can't see him in the black-and-gold satin smoking jacket.
Well, those are my choices. Who makes up your Batman All-Star team?