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Andy Serkis Vs. Michael Caine: Here's Who Played The Better Alfred Pennyworth

Within every iteration of the Batman legend, there's been a devoted friend by the Dark Knight's side — one sending sarcastic comments to an elongated earpiece, and serving up meals that rarely get eaten because the fella he hopes to feed is too busy fighting crime. 

Over the past 22 years, we've seen four live-action Alfred Pennyworths come and go in different iterations of the Bat on the big screen. Now, Andy Serkis – the former Gollum and MCU villain – is the latest waistcoat-wearing ally for Gotham's protector in Matt Reeves' "The Batman." But when it comes to helping the last surviving member of the Wayne family seek justice and stop supervillains, how does he hold up against what many deem to be the best Alfred that's ever entered the Batcave?

Michael Caine appeared in all three entries of Nolan's revered "Dark Knight" trilogy, and his Alfred was among the most beloved characters in a perfectly cast saga. Alfred's asides about tangerines, his analysis of the Joker's motives (how many times have you heard the phrase "Some men just want to watch the world burn" in the last decade?) and his amusing criticisms of Bruce's exercise regime made him a welcome supporting star. However, does his title of World's Best Comic Book Movie Butler still hold up, now that Serkis has joined the fray as the latest partner to the iconic superhero? 

Well, here are the most crucial points of each Alfred — ironed, pressed, and waiting to be compared.

Michael Caine is worth every penny as Alfred

Before "Batman Begins" came around, earlier iterations of Alfred on the big screen depicted the prim and proper secret-keeper for Bruce Wayne as ... well, comic relief more than anything. Michael Gough's version was a constant cast member, beginning with Michael Keaton's 1989 film and continuing all the way to George Clooney's bat-bomb in 1997 (which, for its flaws, did give Alfred his biggest role in that particular series). While this Alfred became a lovable familiar face, he was hugely underused, ending most of his conversations with rolled eyes and a comment of "Very good, sir." 

Nolan's interpretation, though — as the director initially pitched it to Caine — depicted the brazen butler as a fleshed-out and invaluable help in a masterfully handled world. This Alfred was a loving father figure to an orphan fighting a good cause, and he wasn't afraid to call his ward out when he made the wrong choices. These are the sort of crucial character elements that demand a high-caliber talent to deliver them, and you really can't get much higher than Michael Caine.

Ditching the prim, proper Pennyworth we'd seen before, Caine's worn-but-welcoming demeanor didn't just make for an outstanding performance, but a template for all that followed. There was genuine love for the boy he'd seen grow up to become Gotham's guardian, and the chemistry between himself and Bale's Bruce Wayne is effortless. Whether Caine's Alfred was helping Bruce research ways to acquire his Batman gear, warning him of the fraught path he finds himself on, or dreaming of unspoken greetings in a hazy future, this Alred never failed, even when he thought he had.

Is there a chance this take on Batman's butler could be topped? "Never." But Serkis gives it his all.

Serkis' Alfred Pennyworth feels short-changed in The Batman

Andy Serkis' Alfred — which leans closer to the colder Jeremy Irons interpretation in the Snyderverse than Caine's warm father figure — undoubtedly feels more hands-on in Bruce's mission to fight the good fight in Gotham City. This Alfred's military past is in the forefront, rather than the background, and he actively involves himself with Bruce's mission (as much as Bruce will allow). Like the Caine version, Serkis' Alfred carries a deep level of concern for the young man he was once tasked with protecting, who is getting pummeled regularly. 

In all these regards, Serkis certainly has some of the essential elements checked off the list for an absolute Alfred. However, there are two setbacks that prevent him from truly challenging Caine for the top spot — the limited screen time he has as Bruce's confidant, and the tense relationship that the two share in this version of the story.

Reeves's first outing with Pattinson's Batman focuses almost exclusively on the titular character. This story is more about the feared vigilante himself, rather than the mask of a billionaire he wears in the day, which has a knock-on effect on Alfred's role. The chemistry between Bruce and Alfred is ice-cold, with the former throwing shots at his guardian from the moment he's introduced, and while this marks an interesting and different take on the interactions between the two characters, it also has the effect of pushing Alfred to the background, even when he has a near-death encounter. When Alfred's life is on the line, Bruce reacts with rage and fear, but the scenes don't feel anywhere near as emotional as the fallouts between Bale's Bruce and Caine's Alfred in the Nolan trilogy. 

Andy Serkis gets served by Michael Caine's Alfred

While one Alfred actor certainly has more films to claim against a brand-new contender, there's no denying that even in Michael Caine's debut as Alfred in "Batman Begins," his character is leagues ahead of the one we get here. Sure, that's not entirely because of Caine — while he's an iconic actor elevating a previously overlooked role, Alfred's place in the script of "Batman Begins" is just far more important than the role he gets in "The Batman" — but when it comes down to it, the amicable father and son relationship between these two characters in the "Dark Knight" trilogy is a standout one, that's hard to beat.

That said, Serkis' Alfred is just getting started. Hopefully, Reeves' subsequent handling of "The Batman" and the loving father figure that's always there, will grow and deepen in future films. With the dust between them settled, and Alfred up and about after dodging a mail bomb, we could get a more substantial exploration into one of the most important alliances in comic book history. Perhaps, we could even see Serkis share Alfred's witty perspective on his ward's way of life and — maybe! — even see Pattinson crack a smile when he hears it.