The rumors surrounding the on-again, off-again development of a Justice League movie just won't stop surfacing. If Zack Snyder's Man of Steel (2013) is more of a success than a failure, we should all expect them to gain momentum, as well. Yet even then, the place of Batman in the assembled team-up remains in flux.
After recent rumors claimed that Christian Bale, Christopher Nolan, and Zack Snyder were all on board for Justice League, another unconfirmed report suggests that's not the case. While Nolan may be willing to executive produce Justice League, Christian Bale may not be interested, and Warner Bros. could be going a different direction. What does this mean for the prospects of Justice League going toe-to-toe with The Avengers 2 in 2015?
Before we delve into the 'Nolan-yes, Bale-no' rumor coming from CBM's alleged (though unnamed) sources, it's worth pointing out a few things - we love getting excited about possible casting, returning characters, and speculating over what might be, but getting hopes up is never our intention. It goes without saying that any and all rumors should be taken with a massive grain of salt, especially when plenty of 'rumors' on this subject are in essence just one of a handful of directions WB and DC Comics could take.
For starters, there is absolutely no reason to think that Warner Bros. wouldn't approach Christopher Nolan to executive produce any DC superhero film, especially if Man of Steel lives up to the early reviews. As one of the most marketable and recognizable names in both casual and hardcore movie fan circles, Nolan being attached to a project leads many to believe that he's 'in charge' of the movie's story and style (a fact that Snyder, the director of fan-favorite films like 300 and Watchmen is no doubt thankful for).
If Nolan is willing to produce just about any Warner Bros. movie, it's hard to think they'd turn him down. And given the origins of Man of Steel's story stemming from David S. Goyer and Nolan's conversations on the set of their Batman films, it's likely they've got a few ideas concerning the League to throw around by now. If Snyder's work pays off, then attaching him to a Man of Steel sequel - with Goyer writing the script - is also a no-brainer. Which is why that's also been rumored to be the case of late.
Given all that common sense, it's safe to say we'd be surprised if Nolan isn't part of the production team for a Justice League film, providing he's not otherwise occupied. If Snyder earns his place as the steward of Superman, it also stands to reason he'd have a large part to play in any movie featuring him, as would Goyer. But it bears repeating: this is still early days for any future movie plans.
With all of this in mind, CBM's source at Warner Bros. reporting that Nolan will produce Justice League, along with Deb Snyder and Zack Snyder, who may also direct, shouldn't knock anyone out of their chair. What may come as a surprise given recent fan enthusiasm is that according to the same source, "if Bale is coming back and Goyer is penning, it's news to Warner Bros."
Considering the scriptwriter is in question - with reports that a script from Will Beall (Gangster Squad) may have been scrapped - we're not even sure there is a set plan in place. So if Goyer is possibly only consulting, or re-writing Beall's script, it certainly makes Warner Bros.' signing with Beall for a brand new deal seem like less of a contradiction. But the news concerning Christian Bale is certainly worth more attention.
According to the source, Bale has moved on and will not return, and Warner Bros. is going in a different direction with a new version of the character. How much this surprises you depends largely on how much you think Christian Bale's past comments regarding a future as Batman were motivated by money, and and how much was driven by a genuine commitment to not playing the role again.
Nolan hasn't minced words in the past, making it clear that his and David S. Goyer's Batman story was built around Bruce Wayne's mission, and was told in three parts - a beginning, a middle, and an end:
"To me, for that mission to succeed, it has to end, so this is the ending for me, and as I say, the open-ended elements are all to do with the thematic idea that Batman was not important as a man, he’s more than that. He’s a symbol, and the symbol lives on.”
Besides being a tacit admission that another actor in the role of Batman wouldn't conflict with the themes, those sentiments were largely repeated by Bale, now an Oscar-winning actor with any number of roles to choose from. But again, he's stated that he won't be returning more times than we can count, so until he signs on, there's no reason to think that the circumstances have changed his opinion.
On the other hand, we can completely understand Warner Bros.' possible interest in looking for not just another actor, but a completely new version of Batman (since a rebooted Batman in JL has been the rumor for some time). If a new take on the Dark Knight is in the cards, we've already laid out our plan for a more fitting version, and even a few actors who could play it.
The bottom line: if Nolan wants to executive produce Justice League, he probably will. If he lands the job, then Goyer is likely to be brought in to write in some capacity. Snyder will likely have some input given his (potential) success with Man of Steel, and if his direction is one of the most complimented aspects, he's as likely to helm Justice League as anyone else.
So until we hear differently - along with some compelling evidence to support it - we're going to be awaiting official details (assuming a Man of Steel trilogy and Batman reboot doesn't happen first). We would suggest you do the same, but excitement over possibilities is definitely fair game.
Man of Steel will be in theaters on June 14, 2013.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @andrew_dyce.