We here at Screen Rant recently asked the question, "What Will Batman 3 Be About?" The third installment of Christopher Nolan's Batman franchise is easily one of the most anticipated sequels ever - as evidenced by the HUGE outpouring of reader reaction our article is STILL receiving.
Out of the 350+ comments left by you Batman fans, two clear points of debate raged longest and hardest throughout the thread of discussion. After seeing the sparks of that debate, we thought it only fitting that we should fan it into a brush fire. So, without further ado I now ask:
Should Two-Face and The Joker be brought back for Batman 3?
THE NEW IMPORTANCE OF THE VILLAIN
One of the things I really appreciated about Batman Begins and The Dark Knight was that it was clear with both films that scribes Chris and John Nolan and David S. Goyer all truly understood the character of Batman and the universe that he inhabited. More than that, the writers also had a keen eye for what made all of Batman's supporting characters and (most importantly) the villains in his rogues gallery tick. If I have one criticism of Burton's Batman films, it's that the villains were mainly evil foils for Batman, there more for (wonderful) theatrics rather than any sort of pointed reason.
In Nolan's films, the villains (for the most part) have carried much more dramatic weight. Certainly that's true for The Dark Knight: The Joker wasn't just there for show of a trademark smile (cough, cough), he added actual thematic meaning to the story, as did Harvey/Two-Face. And for that matter, so did Ra's al Ghul in Batman Begins (Bruce Wayne twisted by anger).
There has been some debate about whether Batman 3 should position itself as a direct sequel to The Dark Knight, or perhaps as more of a standalone story, set long after TDK. In either case, if Nolan is at the helm you know that whatever villain(s) go into the script will only be in there if they add weight and meaning to the story. And while it would be a novel kick to see a few new villains rolled out for a flashy sequel, if Batman 3 is to be set directly after Dark Knight then there is still a lot of narrative weight still hanging on both The Joker and Harvey/Two-Face.
So do you bring them back?
Ok, so fans have said it; Nolan has said it; and even Dark Knight star Aaron Eckhart (eventually) said it:
Harvey Dent dies at the end of The Dark Knight. End of story.
However, as many of our readers have pointed out, that "death" marks the end of Harvey Dent's story. Two-Face has a story all his (their?) own to tell.
I'm going to be honest: I've already argued that Batman 3 should bring back Two-Face, so I'm not going to pretend here that I'm not already in favor of that option. TDK did a great job exploring Harvey Dent, what he meant to Gotham and what it meant when he "fell from grace." Nonetheless, I feel like there is still so much to explore in the character of TWO-FACE, and who that character becomes after the last remnants of Harvey Dent are (seemingly) gone.
Seeing Harvey fully transformed into Two-Face would add the kind of weight and hopelessness which (I think we all believe) is going to be a necessary starting point for Batman's character in the next film. Picture it: The Caped Crusader is low. He's hunted. He's alone. He's sacrificed much. Lost so much. He's trying hard to maintain but there is Two-Face, always staring back as a testament to his failure, as morally complicated and conflicted as Batman himself.
Suddenly this character doesn't sound as creatively exhausted as people are claiming, does he?
Another point of convergence in a lot of our reader comments was that any Dark Knight sequel should involve a flat-out war for control of Gotham City. Of those who held such an opinion, a large percentage also thought that B3 should be titled Gotham City for that very reason. If that is the direction the film goes in, then absolutely Two-Face would be an important cornerstone of the story. After all, as a D.A. Harvey Dent knew the entire inner workings of Gotham city's businesses, political network, banking network, legal system, prison system, etc... If there was some kind of epic showdown for Gotham, then Two-Face would be one of the most crucial pieces on the chessboard.
Of course a lot of people have said that B3 should feature the criminal mastermind Black Mask (above), a classic Bat-villain who has recently enjoyed something of a resurgence in the comic books. But I have to ask: why drag us all through yet another villain origin story, just to maneuver said villain into a position (a crime boss connected all over Gotham) that you could fill with a villain the audience already knows and (for the most part) loves? Putting Two-Face into play frees the story up to introduce whatever secondary villains it wants, without having to exhaust a lot of time getting into their origins.
For example: Two-Face could approach Black Mask, The Penguin or whoever, deliver a few expository lines of dialogue to fill us in on who the villain is, and how he/she fits into the scheme of Gotham (based on his knowledge as a D.A.), and bada-bing, bada-boom, we've got a new player in the game, no time wasted.
So where's the down-side of bringing Two-Face back? "Because it's boring?" "Because it's beating a dead horse?"
IMHO, if you truly understand why the character has been so pivotal and important to the Batman universe (I'd rank him #3 behind The Joker and Catwoman), then you should also understand just how much cinematic juice is left in this character. How do you NOT go after that juice when you know you've got an actor (Eckhart) who can truly apply the squeeze? Do people really think performances like his just just come with every Summer Movie Blockbuster?
UPDATE: Here's what Two-Face himself (Aaron Eckhart) has to say on the subject:
MY VOTE: Bring back Two-Face!