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: