After Marvel Studios illustrated the prosperity of a shared cinematic universe, several other studios have been rushing to catch up. The most noteworthy "rival" for Disney/Marvel is Warner Bros./DC, who recently unveiled their slate of films that will debut between 2016 and 2020 and will give moviegoers a series of Justice League movies.
Many fans celebrated the announcement by saying "finally," as in it was about time WB did something with the library of DC Comics characters they have at their disposal. One of the reasons Marvel got such a head-start on their rival is most likely the fact that Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight trilogy was its own standalone creation, meaning Christian Bale's Bruce Wayne was the only hero in his world and couldn't crossover with other superheroes.
The Dark Knight Rises ended Nolan's take on the Caped Crusader in 2012, and with the filmmaker stepping away and concluding his story, it gave the studio an opportunity to start fresh. As they look to build upon the universe established in Man of Steel, new incarnations of classic Batman characters like the the Joker, Harley Quinn, and Mr. Wayne himself will be appearing on the big screen in the next couple of years.
But before Ben Affleck came on board for Zack Snyder's Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, there were several persisting rumors that Bale would stay involved and reprise is role. While we now know that the actor was never approached for the film, Bale has copped to feeling jealous of Affleck after the casting choice was revealed. So does the Oscar-winner think his version of Batman would have (or should have) fit in with WB's larger plan? Not necessarily.
While promoting Exodus: Gods and Kings, Bale spoke with IGN about his feelings on the Dark Knight series. In the interview, he says that his iteration could have "kept on going and going and going," but Nolan made the right choice when he decided to end it where he did. He also appeared quite adamant when he expressed his thoughts on the standalone nature of his trilogy:
"Ours doesn't belong in any other version at all. It was appropriate to leave at the right time."
By now, most viewers - even those who are die-hard supporters of Nolan's series - have made peace with the fact that Bale's time is over and are looking forward to seeing Affleck portray a battle-weary, hardened older Batman. From one viewpoint, it's easy to see why there were so many who wanted to see Bale come back. The Dark Knight trilogy was a cultural phenomenon and made Batman a viable property in Hollywood again. In several people's eyes, WB already had a winning version of the character (one that grossed $2.5 billion worldwide) that would have been great to see again.
However, Bale does speak the truth when he talks about the appropriateness of pulling the plug on the Bruce Wayne moviegoers came to know and love from 2005-2012. As fun as it would be to see him share the screen with Henry Cavill and Gal Gadot, it would have raised numerous continuity issues within the film's world and limited what the studio could do moving forward. With a clean slate, we're able to see acclaimed actors like Jared Leto and Jeremy Irons provide new spins on familiar characters, instead of potentially stretching something out that has arguably run its course.
In the end, all parties will most likely benefit from WB starting anew. Filmmakers who take on DC properties will have the artistic freedom to make their own creative choices with Affleck's version (instead of meshing it with what came before), and Bale, who sounds like he was really ready to move on, can pursue other acting jobs and entertain moviegoers with his chameleon-like abilities in a variety of roles. The legacy of the Dark Knight trilogy will never be in question. It's best if we all look ahead.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice will be in theaters March 25, 2016.
Follow Chris on Twitter @ChrisAgar90.