In the last month or so, there have been rumblings that Batman Begins and The Dark Knight director Chris Nolan might not return to finish off the bat-trilogy many had assumed he would be a part of until the end. Nolan himself has said in the past that it would take one hell of a strong story and excellent script to lure him back to Gotham City after the crowning achievement (and arduous labor) that was The Dark Knight.
David S. Goyer, story writer of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, has been a little more glib about the progress of Batman 3 (as it’s being called), telling a crowd at Comic-Con that “Bat-musings” were currently in the works.
As writers wrack their brains, and directors question if there is any creative juice left in the tank, and all this drama unfolds before the inevitable and unstoppable release of the next Bat-sequel, I find myself wondering: At this point, is the plot of Batman 3 really that much of a mystery?
BATMAN BEGINS / BATMAN: YEAR ONE
If viewers haven’t yet put the pieces together, some of the core storylines for Nolan’s Batman films have each found their inspiration in a famous Batman comic book storyline. Much of Batman Begins‘ take on Bruce Wayne’s early attempts to become the caped crusader was inspired by Frank Miller (Sin City, 300) and David Mazzucchelli’s “Year One” storyline, which first appeared in the pages of DC Comics’ Batman series (issues #404-407) in 1987. A re-imagining of Batman’s formative year, “Year One” was so popular that it was later reissued as the graphic novel Batman: Year One, which is still one of the most popular and enduring Batman stories to date.
Besides borrowing the “Bruce Wayne becoming Batman” storyline from Year One, Batman Begins similarly highlighted Carmine Falcone’s reign as crime-king of Gotham; Batman and (then) Lt. Gordon’s tenuous initial relationship; Gordon’s struggle to be a good cop in a corrupt department; and of course, the scene where Batman evades police by using a sonic transmitter in his boot to summon an army of bats.
Of course, Batman Begins had to also provide moviegoers with blockbuster thrills like a high speed rooftop chase and a (tacked-on?) third-act showdown with Ra’s al Ghul – but strip these big-budget spectacles away and much of what is left is purely Miller’s Year One. And, IMHO, Nolan’s film was better for the borrowing.
THE DARK KNIGHT / THE LONG HALLOWEEN
Almost a decade after Frank Miller envisioned The Dark Knight’s early days, Jeph Loeb (Heroes) and artist Tim Sale decided to jump back into the Year One sandbox with a new installment of early Batman called The Long Halloween. Published between 1996 and 1997, The Long Halloween picked up right where Year One left off (starting to get the picture?), as Batman, Commissioner Gordon and a new “golden boy” D.A. known as Harvey Dent tried to eradicate the last remnants of the Falcone crime family. All goes well until a mysterious serial killer known as “Holiday” starts picking off members off the mob on each and every major holiday of the year. Like Year One, The Long Halloween was reissued as a graphic novel and is still one of most popular Batman stories there is.
While the whole “Holiday Killer” plotline might’ve been jettisoned, you surely recognize the Batman / Gordon / Harvey Dent triangle as the underlying basis for The Dark Knight. Other echoes of Long Halloween that made it into Nolan’s bat-sequel: the character of underboss Sal Maroni (Eric Roberts); the notion of “escalation” (i.e., Batman inspiring costumed villains); Harvey Dent maimed into Two-Face as punishment for going after the mob; that (tacked-on?) third act where Two-Face seeks vengeance on Batman and Gordon; and of course, the whole “I believe in Harvey Dent” slogan, which is the chilling (and revealing) final line of The Long Halloween.
Now, before I get lambasted: David S. Goyer and Chris and Jonathan Nolan all did exemplary jobs re-fitting the storylines of Year One and The Long Halloween for two awesome blockbuster films. No doubt, no argument. However, it’s undeniable that a considerable amounts of both Batman Begins and The Dark Knight had been envisioned (tested and proven) long before the filmmakers sat down to hammer out those scripts. The Nolans and Goyer simply recognized good storytelling when they saw it and decided to build on a strong foundation.
So now, we again find ourselves faced with the question: What should Batman 3 be about?
Well, lucky for us all, the answer, as they say, is written:
BATMAN 3 / DARK VICTORY
Published between 1999 and 2000, Batman: Dark Victory was Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s sequel to The Long Halloween, making it (unofficially) the third volume of the Batman: Year One trilogy.
The story of Dark Victory finds Batman one year after the events of The Long Halloween, probably in the third or fourth year of his career as a masked crime fighter. After the fall of Harvey Dent, Batman has become a something of a loner, distancing himself from Gordon and anyone else who might also have their lives torn apart like Dent did. Meanwhile, in Gotham City, the final remnants of the Falcone/Maroni crime families huddle together to defend their shrinking empire against the wave of “costumes” that have invaded Gotham’s underworld. Following Two-Face’s lead, the costume villains band together to go to war with the mob, the police and the Batman, trying to stake their claim as Gotham’s new criminal fraternity.
Oh, and a new serial killer known as “The Hangman” starts killing former cops, much in the same vein “The Holiday Killer” did crooks.
Dark Victory didn’t get as warm a reception as Year One or The Long Halloween, but fans still praise it for the way it closes out the storylines first introduced by Frank Miller in Year One. We see Batman finally come into his own as a mature detective/crime fighter; the birth of the lifelong friendship between Batman and Commissioner Gordon; the end of Gotham’s “golden era” of organized crime and the beginning of the age of supervillains; and finally, the resolution of the Harvey-Dent-as-Gotham’s-soul storyline that was also a prominent feature of The Dark Knight.
To state it plain and simple: Dark Victory contains all the necessary ingredients to cook up a tasty Batman 3.
So I know what some of you are probably thinking: You’re already starting in with your objections.
“But Harvey Dent is dead at the end of The Dark Knight,” you say. And you are correct. It’s been reported on several occasions that – despite the ambiguity of the finished film – Nolan intended for Harvey Dent to be deceased at the end of The Dark Knight, making it hard for actor Aaron Eckhart to reprise the role in Batman 3.
I say: screw that. When you can’t go with plan A, you go with plan B.
Because let’s face it: It’s been no secret that plan A for Chris Nolan was to have Heath Ledger reprise his role as The Joker in the next Batman installment – hell, it’s practically forecasted at the end of The Dark Knight when The Joker tells Batman “I feel like we’re destined to do this forever.” And it’s been no secret that Ledger’s death hit Nolan HARD emotionally, no doubt forcing the director to question whether he should continue with the series, sans Heath.
For the rest of us, the issue of Joker/No Joker in Batman 3 basically boils down to the question of whether or not you believe a character outweighs the actor playing him/her. If you believe the character outweighs the actor, then all you need to see in Batman 3 is another talented actor bringing The Joker to life. However, if (like me) you believe that the actor outweighs the character, then seeing The Joker returning for Batman 3 will pretty much be an exercise in listing all the ways this new guy is doing things worse differently than Heath did.
But I digress. Whether or not the Joker returns for Batman 3, I know one thing for sure: when your top starter (Ledger) can’t play in the game, you go to your next best guy. Aaron Eckhart did a hell of a job in The Dark Knight, and though Nolan has insisted his character is dead and gone, we all know how quickly that “fact” could change. I say, if Nolan and Co. are trying to finish off this Bat-trilogy right, why depart from the narrative trilogy they’ve been using as a guideline? Take the applicable elements of Dark Victory – including letting Eckhart off the death-leash for another go as Two-Face – and complete the “realistic” transition from a world of cops and robbers to one of masked heroes and villains.
Of course, there are other narrative threads exclusive to Nolan’s films that need resolution too. Thankfully, I’ve come up with a few suggestions to tie off all the loose ends within the framework of a Dark Victory storyline:
- Honor Thy Father and Mother: After the Joker’s rampage, with a war between mobsters and costumes brewing, Gotham City has become a dangerous place in which to run a company. When Gotham’s wealthy elite start outsourcing their businesses and fleeing the sinking ship, suddenly it falls on Bruce Wayne (not just Batman) to save the day by standing for Gotham the way his parents did before him. This plot thread gives Bale some dramatic weight to work with outside the mask and it also properly ties off the themes of Bruce honoring the Wayne name and the memories of his parents as introduced in Batman Begins.
- Villains, Villains, Everywhere: The beauty of a Dark Victory storyline is that it provides plenty of villains to work with without going all Transformers 2 on you (read: not being able to distinguish anybody). At the core you have Two-Face, but Dark Victory also made wonderful use of Catwoman, who is revealed to have a secret connection to the Falcone crime family. Batman/Bruce needs a new love interest since his last one got blowed up, and Catwoman rumors have already been hovering around Batman 3…Meanwhile, with a mob/costumes war brewing, you get some villains out of Bats’ rogue’s gallery together to form a little crime syndicate – The Penguin, The Riddler, The Clock King (and of course, Scarecrow, one more time!)… Who better to pull off a Batman/Usual Suspects mashup better than Chris Nolan? Did I mention Dark Victory starts off with an awesome breakout from Arkham Asylum? Imagine THAT on film.
I’ll stop there. At this point I’m pretty much just making up my own Batman movie anyway. Regardless of what the story is, I think Screen Rant‘s own Carl Lee has conquered one hurdle facing the next Batman film: what to call it.
Ladies and gents, I present for your consideration: The Caped Crusade.
Let’s hear what you think: should the next Batman film follow the graphic novel blueprint of its predecessors? Or do you think Nolan and Co. should go with a totally new vision? And if you choose the latter: what do YOU think Batman 3 (The Caped Crusade) Should be about?