Bad news for those who thought that Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale's take on Batman in the pair's Dark Knight trilogy was the definitive live-action version: it seems we can finally put to rest hopes of seeing the star suit up on screen once more. Although rumors of a Justice League film being planned by Warner Bros. and DC Comics refuse to die following the success of Man of Steel (2013), Bale has again spoken on the likelihood of ever returning to play Bruce Wayne.
Expressing the same opinions he has in the past, the star sees Nolan's take on the character as a finished story. From his point of view, the team was lucky enough to tell every chapter of the story they had hoped to, and with the trilogy now finished, it should stay finished. Meaning his time with the character is over.
Going solely on facts and quotes - not rumors and gossip - Bale has consistently made it clear that The Dark Knight Rises was his last time playing Batman. The only exception, he claimed, would be Christopher Nolan finding another story to tell; a notion the director has rejected at every turn. Yet with endless money awaiting his return in particular for a Justice League film, some have maintained hopes that a large enough paycheck could lure Bale back to the cowl, even if it was a long shot.
Speaking with EW, Bale made his position as clear as ever. Apparently, time out of the limelight hasn't made the idea of 'undoing' the trilogy's ending any more attractive:
"We were incredibly fortunate to get to make three. That’s enough. Let’s not get greedy...Chris always said he wanted to make it one film at a time. And we ended up sitting there looking at each other, saying ‘We’re about to make the third.’ We never really knew if we were going to get to be there, but if that was how it was going to be, this was where it should end as well.”
Anyone who sought out the deeper themes and undercurrents of trauma in Nolan's trilogy - and how they were resolved in The Dark Knight Rises - can understand Bale's position on letting sleeping dogs lie. In essence, Nolan and Bale told the Batman story they wanted to, with a beginning, a middle and an end. Some blockbuster fans may have taken the closing moments of TDKR as leaving the series open for yet another sequel, but supporting actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt claimed it shouldn't be taken as such.
For reasons that don't need to be explored in-depth, calling on Bruce Wayne to once again sport the cowl and bear the responsibility of a city, a country or planet doesn't just undercut Nolan's ending, but goes completely against the final message of the trilogy as a whole ("Batman could be anybody"). Fans will forever wish that Nolan and Bale had taken advantage of their success and made as many films as possible, but as Bale explains, they knew a legendary trilogy was more than seemed possible in the beginning; with an ending that left fans wanting more, not realizing the series had run out of steam.
Besides delivering what we expect (and to be honest, hope) will be the final word for those demanding Nolan and Bale return for another sequel or spin-off (an idea neither have ever seemed interested in), Bale's sentiments imply that the film's universe is just as separate and complete as his role in it. In other words, all those rumors about WB having Bale and Nolan locked into a Justice League reprisal were baseless. Besides Bale, his on-screen successor also seems as unlikely a solution going forward.
Just because Bale isn't looking to return to the cape and cowl, that doesn't mean a plan isn't in place without him, or that he hasn't already been contacted by WB and been forced to let them down easy. Unfortunately for those who thought the studio was merely being secretive when claiming they're taking their time, all evidence supports that position. To date, Bale claims he has yet to hear anything directly about a DC team-up:
"I have no information, no knowledge about anything. I’ve literally not had a conversation with a living soul. I understand that they may be making a Justice League movie, that’s it... It’s a torch that should be handed from one actor to another. So I enjoy looking forward to what somebody else will come up with.”
This is certainly bad news for all of those who thought that Nolan and Bale's Batman 'got it right' compared to the versions which preceded them, but as we've stated before, a new Batman would be needed for a Justice League universe. With Bale's blessing, perhaps even his supporters will be tempted to look to the future, and which actor will portray Bruce Wayne next. We still don't know if that will be in a reboot film or in Justice League itself, but we're confident that's a question Warner Bros. might already have an answer to.
Just because Bale is hanging up his cape doesn't mean some elements can't be continued, of course; the latest Alfred (Michael Caine), for instance, has stated his interest in portraying the role in another series, and it's hard to see a reason why he couldn't. And with Nolan's continued role with DC's biggest stars, there's no reason to think he may not be attached in a minor capacity. However, only time will.
At least now we can say with certainty that there will be a new Batman in the coming years, and as was the case with Man of Steel, he'll have a lot more riding on his shoulders than the fate of Gotham. If a rebooted Batman film can succeed standing on its own two feet, the prospect of a Justice League team-up, or even a Batman/Superman film first becomes far more promising from the studio's standpoint (that plan has Henry Cavill's blessing, so who are we to doubt it?).
Does this make your hopes for future DC movies soar, or fall flat on their face? Most importantly, does this open the doors between the world of Man of Steel and the heroes around Superman that Nolan's Batman may have kept closed? Share your thoughts in the comments.
We'll keep you updated as more news on either the new Batman or Justice League arrives.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @andrew_dyce.