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Colin Farrell Vs. Danny DeVito: Here's Who Played The Better Penguin

With "The Batman," audiences see new takes on classic characters who have been around for decades. In the latest iteration, Riddler (Paul Dano) is a serial killer who leaves puzzles and ciphers at the scenes of his crimes. Batman (Robert Pattinson) is still a dark creature of the night, but when he's in his Bruce Wayne persona, he's more of an emo loner than a billionaire playboy, as we've seen in previous versions. And, of course, we have the newest version of the villain mastermind known as Penguin (Colin Farrell). 

Penguin, a.k.a. Oswald Cobblepot, is one of Batman's oldest foes, created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger, making his debut in 1941. He's regularly given Batman trouble, whether it's in the pages of a comic or on another property like "Batman: The Animated Series." However, the best-known version of the character prior to Farrell's take was arguably Danny DeVito's take in 1992's "Batman Returns." He's one of the scariest foes to ever appear in a superhero movie, becoming downright disturbing with scenes like Penguin biting the nose off of an image consultant. 

Colin Farrell's take on the character doesn't go to those extremes, but he's perfectly scary in his own right. It's enough to beg the question: which iteration is the superior Penguin?

Colin Farrell's Penguin still needs time to evolve

Penguin's more of a secondary villain in "The Batman," taking a backseat to the serial killer tendencies of Riddler. He's the owner of the Iceberg Lounge, a club that hosts the seediest of Gotham's clientele. He doesn't necessarily cause Batman too much trouble, but it's clear he's up to no good while working.

It seemed to be a common consensus among critics that while Colin Farrell's transformation into Penguin was impressive, it left something to desire. Charlotte O'Sullivan of The Evening Standard wrote, "Colin Farrell as the schlubby, whip-smart gangster Oswald Cobblepot, patiently waiting for the chance to make his mark. Cobblepot, evolving into the Penguin but not yet fully-fledged, gets lots of funny lines." Similar sentiments were echoed in the review posted on Fanboys of the Universe, "An unrecognizable Colin Farrell appears in a smaller role as The Penguin, here imagined as a minor crime boss. While Farrell does a great job in the role, he doesn't really get a ton to do and is only a minor influence on the plot."

It's easy to get overwhelmed by Colin Farrell's transformation. He doesn't look anything like himself in the role, but given that he only appears in a few scenes, it's easy for him to get overshadowed by everything else going on in the plot. 

Danny DeVito's Penguin scarred people's childhoods

Meanwhile, you'd have a hard time convincing anyone that Danny DeVito's take on the character wasn't fully fleshed-out. Whereas Colin Farrell's version of the character is more to the background, Danny DeVito is front and center, and with a grotesque appearance, the audience has no choice but to pay full attention to him any time he's on-screen.

For starters, he's closer to his comic book iteration, where he actually hangs out with a bunch of penguins. But it's his appearance and demeanor that really made him stand out to fans all these years later. His very presence is enough to fill viewers with dread, as Justin Clark of Slant Magazine sums up well, "A scene of the Penguin simply acting out the creature comforts of being mayor takes on a disgusting Cronenbergesque quality as the character, blood and raw fish dripping from his mouth, imagining a woman seducing him in the after hours of City Hall."

Colin Farrell's take on the character seems downright tame in comparison, and it's perhaps for this reason why DeVito's take edges him out on the Penguin leaderboard.

Danny DeVito's grossness can't be topped

We'll see more of Colin Farrell's Penguin in the future. The character's already been confirmed to appear in a future HBO Max original series where he'll reprise his villainous role in a fuller capacity. Perhaps when this show comes out, our opinion will change on who's truly the superior Penguin. But when comparing the character's portrayal in "The Batman" versus "Batman Returns," it's a no-brainer.

Danny DeVito's performance was truly one-of-a-kind. It elevated the film beyond another mere superhero story into downright horror territory as he's positively disgusting throughout the movie's runtime. He makes a lasting impression, and to truly top everything off, he kind of does look like a Penguin as opposed to a stout guy with some scars on his face. 

Granted, DeVito gets more to do in "Batman Returns" as a full-blown antagonist as opposed to a secondary character in "The Batman." Still, we doubt Farrell's performance will haunt anyone's dreams for a while. Watching DeVito is more than enough to keep you awake at night.