It's still hard to believe, comic book fans: not only will Man of Steel 2 include a brand new Batman, but screenwriter David S. Goyer let it slip that the dark knight and Superman will meet as opponents, not partners. While that announcement may have guaranteed Warner Bros. as much, if not more anticipation and buzz for their sequel than they enjoyed with Man of Steel, it also opened the door to brand new rumors and gossip surrounding potential casting.
Since the cat was let out of the bag, word has arrived that director Zack Snyder and Goyer are not looking to 'reboot' Batman in the traditional sense, but want to cast an older, more experienced Bruce Wayne to counter Cavill's Kent. It was only a matter of time before rumors of a shortlist surfaced, with names now ranging from downright ridiculous to... fairly believable.
The early list of names being circulated around the studio comes courtesy of THR, although the sources themselves claim that Snyder is a long way from beginning the casting process. But the call for an aging Batman has apparently already brought Josh Brolin (Gangster Squad) to the forefront - among others.
While Brolin's career has certainly seen a surge of activity in recent years, it seems highly unlikely for Snyder to cast a Batman who is only a few years younger than his on-screen Super-father, Russell Crowe. However, even if Snyder may be looking for a Batman close to forty, an actor pushing fifty is a long shot (even if Brolin's Bruce Wayne being introduced to Diane Lane's 'Martha Kent' would be interesting for... several reasons).
Unfortunately, most of the names tossed out (admittedly nothing more than rumors at this point) easily fall into the 'too famous,' 'too unproven,' or 'been there done that' categories. Whether it's Joe Manganiello (who previously pursued a role as Superman and remains hopeful for Batman), Matthew Goode (who worked with Snyder on Watchmen) or Max Martini (most recently seen as part of a father-son team in Pacific Rim), the rumored actors fail to grab our attention; not only are their resumes somewhat sparse, they're unsurprising.
Taking a quick look at the trend in superhero casting - Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth and now Chris Pratt on the Marvel side, Henry Cavill for Warner Bros. - implies that studiosare after actors who won't break the bank for lengthy contracts, and directors are after leading men who aren't (yet) well-known to North American audiences. In other words, not Ryan Gosling, who fails to fit any of the criteria for the new Dark Knight (older, rougher) yet continues to crop up in any fan discussion.
Yet in today's film industry, casting an iconic hero like Batman seems to go against the studio's usual rules to follow for building a blockbuster. He lacks star power to attract an audience? That's fine, he's playing Batman, in a Superman movie. Not in fighting shape? We'll have him hit the gym and be unrecognizable.
All the director needs is an actor who sells the part, and while finding a proven-yet-unknown actor who passed his 'heartthrob years' long ago may be a challenge, a few can certainly be found (if not in America, then abroad).
It's no surprise, then, to see our top pick for the next Batman Richard Armitage among those being discussed. As a seasoned British actor with his size and relative anonymity among American audiences (and currently sitting at the age of 41), he's one name we'd list among real contenders. He's currently in the process of turning heads as Thorin Oakenshield in Peter Jackson's Hobbit Trilogy; next seen in The Desolation of Smaug (2013) alongside yet another of our Batman contenders, Luke Evans.
Having recently been signed to star in the upcoming reboot of The Crow, both Evans and Armitage are talented leading men who are not only being turned to as cornerstones of movie franchises, but remain relatively unknown to mass audiences. Both are young and physcially fit enough to pull off action convincingly, with the looks to make both the slick Bruce Wayne and grizzled Batman seem believable.
That being said, it's unclear whether size and muscle mass is required to sell Batman as the fearsome protector of Gotham City. While Brolin and other aging actors may be able to throw a strong punch, Man of Steel proved that a hero who relies solely on strength may not captivate audiences in an extended fight sequence. Perhaps a thinner, leaner, faster martial artist would be more faithful to the Batman mythology than someone who's simply 'big.'
Since Batman's strength is dwarfed next to the likes of Henry Cavill's Superman, wouldn't it be better to cast an actor who was noticably smaller than Cavill? These are all questions that Snyder, Goyer and executive producer Christopher Nolan will have to ask themselves, but with a script still a long way from being completed, it is far too soon for any actor - let alone some of the most famous stars in the world - to have an inside track.
We'll keep you updated as the production progresses, but for now, we'd recommend every casting detail be taken with a grain of salt. At least until Snyder and Goyer know what the movie will be about, if nothing else.
Which of these names are you most hopeful to see land the part? Do you share our skepticism over the casting of a bonafide movie star, or think it's a wise move for the sequel? Sound off in the comments.
Man of Steel 2/Batman vs. Superman will be released sometime in 2015.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @andrew_dyce.