[NOTE: This post was written prior to the revelation of the Batman vs. Superman movie coming in 2015; however, what we said back then still holds true for how Batman can exist in the same film with Superman. Enjoy! --The Editors]
It's a bittersweet time to be a Batman fan: The Dark Knight Rises is still fresh in memory, and the cinematic future of the brand is uncertain. Though the truth may not be what fans want to hear, facts are facts: Christopher Nolan has finished his 'Dark Knight Trilogy' and confirmed that his time with the character is finally over. With Nolan gone, and Bale claiming to be gone with him, the door is open for a new director and actor to tackle the iconic hero.
Director and star may be finished, but DC and Warner Bros. certainly are not. The Justice League looks to be the next film after Zack Snyder's Man of Steel, and is tasked with both introducing new heroes, and (according to reports) rebooting a new Batman movie franchise. While Nolan loyalists may claim the odds are stacked against the next actor to put on the cape and cowl, we see opportunity.
There are some major elements of the Batman character and comics that Nolan completely avoided, and were largely under-represented in past movies as well. If the next Batman films were to tackle those themes and angles, comic book fans could be in for a treat.
5. The World's Greatest Detective
One major aspect of Bruce Wayne's character that Christopher Nolan's films never truly explored was his intellect and deduction skills, choosing instead to let his fists and willpower lead the way, with Lucius Fox's genius making it possible for him to do so safely. Aside from brief scenes in The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises, Bruce Wayne's detective skills in the Nolanverse begin and end with watching the evening news, not spending hours at a crime scene or behind his Bat-Computer trying to deduce the method to a villain's madness.
But in a Justice League world full of criminal masterminds and super-powered heroes, Batman can't rely solely on his strength. As "The World's Greatest Detective," the Caped Crusader depends on reasoning and mental acuity to see the things others don't; to see weakness where others only see strength. Instead of reacting to the grand plans and attacks of eccentric villains, the next Batman could spend his time on the offensive: tracking, investigating, and confronting evil.
A Batman film that was first and foremost a good mystery/detective story - and an actor who could portray the genius-level detection skills of Bruce Wayne - would be a welcome take on the character we've yet to see.
4. The Master Strategist
As the resident expert in martial arts and military tactics, it makes sense that Batman occupies a leadership role within the Justice League. But his unique morality brings far more than experience to the team. While Flash and Green Lantern (whether played by Ryan Reynolds or not) make jokes at a new enemy being revealed, and Superman remains stoic in the face of overwhelming odds, Batman is thinking. Not just how best to tackle the situation, but what will happen if it all goes wrong. This is the part of the character the Justice League director must do justice to, since Batman's intelligence and willingness to accept the reality of no-win scenarios are what make him relevant among DC's greatest super-powered heroes.
It also opens the door to the kind of moral dilemmas and debate that great ensemble films are made of. Joss Whedon's Avengers showed what's possible when heroes disagree, but ultimately unite; a Batman who thinks innocent lives must be put on the line would take that same premise to a much more serious place. A genius tactician willing to accept hard truths instead of refusing to believe them, would prove vital to any super-team.
3. Bruce Wayne vs. Lex Luthor
There's going to have to be some crossover between the Superman and Batman continuity if the pair are ever going to occupy the same movie universe, and Lex Luthor is without a doubt one of the DC Universe's greatest antagonists. Considering he basically is Bruce Wayne (even if the thought would disgust him), Lex acts as a moral foil to the billionaire genius, each opposing what they deem to be the greatest threat to humanity: for Wayne, the criminal element, and for Luthor, Superman.
Even so, the two entrepreneurs have rarely gone face-to-face, but any attempt by DC to build a movie universe akin to Marvel's would do well to build it around a common foe. It's hard to think of a more recognizable villain that fans would enjoy seeing in more than one franchise - but with the right casting, the economic battle of wits between Metropolis and Gotham's leading men could be just as exciting as a super-powered brawl.
2. The Boy Wonder
This one is always a longshot, dismissed by movie fans as too juvenile, with even Nolan explaining his lack of interest in introducing Robin to his trilogy. It isn't hard to understand why, since merely mentioning the name 'Robin' automatically conjures images of red and green spandex (or worse, Chris O'Donnell in the Joel Schumacher Batman films). But in practice, Batman and an adult Robin working together wouldn't be that much different from Christian Bale and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in TDKR, which offered a unique dynamic to the stereotypical superhero movie. And with an origin story for Batman already told (please, please, don't let there be a re-tread) introducing Robin could scratch the same itch.
As for the exact incarnation of Robin, well, the film's creators have a handful of choices. DC's recently-rebooted New 52 comic book universe features Dick Grayson, Damian Wayne, Tim Drake, and even Jason Todd as in-continuity. Seriously, how many 'Dynamic Duos' are there in the comic book genre? Batman and Robin are a package deal, and if the next creative team is looking to get fans excited for some change, then announcing the return of Robin to a darker, mature setting is a guaranteed way to do it.
1. Striking Fear
Audiences were never meant to be afraid of Christopher Nolan's Batman when onscreen, but a take on the character where the Batman is genuinely terrifying to both criminals and moviegoers would be something completely new, and a true treatment of an antihero. Beginning with Batman Begins, the audience was allowed to see that Bale's Batman was a creation with a purpose: he was trying to be scary. But revealing an imposing figure known to be on the side of justice is not the same as leaving the audience speechless, gripping their armrests when seeing what Bruce Wayne becomes when the cape and cowl are worn.
It's about time movie fans beheld a Batman that they would walk a righteous path just to avoid. Considering that early word on the Justice League film is of a darker tone, a Batman who isn't completely devoid of laughs (Bruce Wayne is a shmoozer, after all) but is downright terrifying when in costume, would be a fantastic mix of mood and entertainment.
What Are Your Ideas?
Christopher Nolan's 'Dark Knight trilogy' has shown what is possible from comic book films, but to claim it's the be-all, end-all of the character's big screen incarnation is selling the source material short.
We've stated our ideas concerning aspects of the Batman universe we've yet to experience on film - but they certainly aren't the only ones. So feel free to share your own thoughts:
- Should the next Batman be more grounded, or less?
- Is a new origin story necessary, or should it be skipped?
- Keep the tone the same, or inject a bit more humor?
- Which villains should appear in the next films?
- Which writers/directors/actors would you like to see involved?
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