Random Thoughts: On Where To Take Batman From Here
It’s over. The legend ended. A huge chapter in comic book movie history is closed. Christopher Nolan‘s Batman saga is done.
Bryan Singer‘s X-Men and Sam Raimi‘s Spider-Man may have birthed the superhero boom but Nolan legitimized it. For better or worse he changed the whole game, inspiring a trend of “dark and gritty” reboots. But for right now none of that matters. It’s over, it’s done. What we look at now is the future. What’s the next step, the right path to take with Batman?
I won’t claim to know, empirically, what’s best for the franchise but I will chime in and spit ball my own ideas and thoughts on the matter.
First, let me talk about something, perhaps, purely aesthetic. Batman’s costume. Every major cinematic rendition of him so far (Sorry, Adam West) has featured an all black outfit. Let’s change it up a little, go back to basics. Have the suit be grey with the classic black (or dark blue even) cape and cowl. Here’s photographic evidence that it works in real life. As an aside, the fan in me really wants, if only partly, Batman to wear his purple gloves, like the character did way back in the Golden Age.
Secondly, lets look at the time-frame. In 1997, Joel Schumacher all but murdered Batman for Nolan to resurrect him in 2005. That’s 7 years, over the course of which many Batman projects failed to get of the ground. I don’t think history will repeat itself. Rather, I think we’ll see something in the vein of The Amazing Spider-Man, a new take 5 years from now (sans speculation and failed 4th film). And that’s at most. The reason being that time and time again I’ve pointed out (and many others have as well) that Warner Brothers is in dire need of a new source of income. No more Harry Potter, no more Nolan Batman and so far their attempts at franchise launching have faltered (ex. Green Lantern). In truth we’ll have to see how well Man of Steel does next year. If it’s a big hit you might well expect another one before a Batman outing. If not, the higher the chance of Batman being fast-tracked.
Speculation points toward Man of Steel being DC and Warners’ ‘Iron Man‘. A start point for a cohesive universe to bring the heroes together in a Justice League film. Green Lantern was supposed to be that, to a point, but as we know that failed. It’s obvious that they’re looking towards Marvel with envious eyes following the commercial and critical success of The Avengers. It’s not a leap to think that they want a team-up film. Rumors are however that they aren’t willing to put as much groundwork into it as Marvel did. And they might not need to, as they’re big heroes are arguably more recognizable than those that make-up The Avengers. In truth Iron Man wasn’t really in the general consciousness until 2008′s hit film. But Wonder Woman, Batman and Superman. People know them. The lower tier characters, Green Lantern, Flash and such are probably better known than their Marvel equivalents; Thor, Hawkeye and Black Widow. This means they might just get away without a string of set-up films. While cheaper, this will most likely result in a lower quality film than The Avengers.
A Justice League movie would seriously impact the Caped Crusader, as one would assume that DC & WB would want to keep him consistent with his solo movie outings. So for the purpose of this let’s assume that the Justice League movie doesn’t get made. They’ve tried and failed endlessly so that isn’t such a leap to make. We can now move on to where to take the character.
I think that it will be of utmost importance to avoid emulating Nolan as much as possible. I’m not saying paint everything neon, go mega camp and splurge with your Batcredit card. Just tweak the dynamic. But before I muse on how to incorporate the larger Batfamily, I’d like to highlight some solo adventures that could be adapted.
If they choose to just ape Nolan however, please don’t redo the origin story. It’s unnecessary (especially seeing how well it was done in Batman Begins). And by all means use different villains. There’s an amazing rogues gallery to mine before the previous ones get a repeat. And with that I’d like to move on to those adventures.
Perhaps it’s best to start with the most current one. Since DC universe reboot (The New 52), a man by the name of Scott Snyder (we’ll be seeing more of him later) has been writing the main Batman book (imaginatively titled, Batman) and his work has been some of the most riveting stuff seen in comics for years. He’s introduced what’s called the Court of Owls, a secret society that has shaped and controlled Gotham for hundreds of years. All without Batman knowing about it. To him that is a huge slap to the face because he has always been utterly convinced that he knows every nook and cranny of what he calls “his city”. The story arc so far has chronicled how the Court has gotten a leg up on Batman, who’s been pushed to the brink, if not over it. Snyder puts Batman through absolute hell, straining his resolve and physical stamina. At their disposal the Court has a legion of highly trained assassins, called Talons. With such an interesting and capable foe, it’s easy to see how this could make for a good feature film. Especially when things kick into high gear and Batman has to stop the Talons from performing a series of political assassinations across the city overnight. In the comic the rest of the Batcrew chimed in to help but it could be pulled off without including them. As an aside I thoroughly recommend reading Snyder’s run from Issue #1, it’s of an almost unheard of level of quality and it takes the Batman character in very interesting directions, adding to the mythos in meaningful ways.
A surefire way to differentiate the new Batman from Nolan’s would be to add the Batfamily to the mix. Nolan never wanted anything to do with them and they weren’t really done justice in Schumacher’s films.
What I’d like to see most here would be Death in the Family leading into Under the Red Hood. Batman would have to face, not only, the failure having his protegee brutally beaten and killed at the hands of his nemesis, The Joker, but also said protegee returning as a murderous vigilante. Batman if he broke his one rule, as The Joker in The Dark Knight egged him on about, if you will. Jason Todd, the Robin in this story, is a fascinating character and his tragic arc is ripe for movie treatment. Especially if they’re willing to go with something less grounded than Nolan’s work, which they should really.
Personally, I’d love it if they made Dick Grayson Batman. He has a totally different feel and would be an interesting avenue to explore. Better yet, add the young Damian Wayne to the mix as Robin. Take a Hit-Girl-esque approach, their around the same age and both violently inclined, and voila! Totally different Batman with a unique spin. Batman & Robin, before DC’s universe reboot, was a fantastic comic book, largely written by Grant Morrison, that explored the new dynamic between Dick and Damian. The balance is changed, with Batman now being the more acrobatic fighter and Robin being more of a brute. The fact that Dick is taking on the mantle from Damian’s father also creates interesting tension. However, it’s debatable how WB could reach this point. Should they build up to it with a series or just start off with the new team right off the bat. With the Batman mythos so heavily ingrained in the zeitgeist, the latter just might work. The radical change might also turn heads and get more people into theater seats to find out what’s up with the new Batman.
The aforementioned Scott Snyder also wrote terrific story arcs which featured Dick as Batman. Black Mirror is one where Commissioner Gordon’s son turns out to be a murderous sociopath. That would give Batman plenty of chances to be a detective, as well as him having a very personal stake in how things turn out. Gates of Gotham is another one, a mini-series that chronicles the parallel story of the founding of Gotham and Batman attempt to stop a mad bomber with ties to those who founded the city. Again, there’s the possibility for it to be very different from the stories we’ve seen on film before and not relying on previously used villains.
It could also be interesting for them to take Batman into the future and go the Batman Beyond route. The high-tech take on the Bat is a favorite among many fans after the brief but very good Cartoon Network show. Again, that puts a different person in the cape, or sci-fi gliderwings, and cowl, so that’s sure to pique some interests. Seeing Bruce Wayne as an old, grumpy man could also provide a new avenue to interesting exploration of the character.
Of course if they make a Justice League movie most of these could still be done with relative ease, or held for the next round of rebooting (it will happen eventually). But really, only time will tell. We will get another Batman movie, that’s a fact. Something so popular and potentially lucrative doesn’t lie dormant for long in the land of Hollywood. And with me basically calling out every major avenue the property can take, one of these is bound to be the one they go with, or at least one that they pull inspiration from. That’s what you get when you throw everything at the wall. At least I’ll get the chance to say I was right, though that does have the air of a jinx about it.
Oh, and the dream is of course to get Nolan and the gang back in 30-40 years and to have them do The Dark Knight Returns.
In any case, thank you, Christopher Nolan. You were the hero we deserved and the one we needed.