The next age of Batman is about to begin, with all signs pointing to Robert Pattinson as the new Bruce Wayne. Ben Affleck stepping down as Batman before getting a movie of his own means fans won't get the detective story he had hoped to tell. But director Matt Reeves' upcoming stand-alone film, The Batman, could still pursue the same goal--with Pattinson more than equipped to finally play the 'world's greatest detective.'
From colorful and campy to dark and gritty, comic fans have seen at least TEN major iterations of Batman grace the silver screen. We’ve seen spectacular highs in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, and astonishing lows in Joel Schumacher’s Bat-nipple-suited, neon fever dreams. The detective aspect of Batman’s character was touched upon in Dawn of Justice, but has yet to be properly adapted to film--and it’s about time that changed. Luckily for fans, The Batman movie reboot is finally looking to make it happen. With word that Reeves intends to tell an authentic detective Batman story, fans can't help but daydream about the classic arcs and mysteries that could shape this new movie.
It wasn't easy, but we've narrowed it down to 5 Batman Detective Stories We Want To See adapted to film.
5. The Long Halloween
Who doesn’t love a good serial killer thriller? Even though homicidal lunacy is nothing new to Gotham City, the events of Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale's seminal work on The Long Halloween takes serial killing to a whole new level. Beginning one fateful Halloween night, The Holiday Killer truly earns their name by committing a brutal murder on every major holiday for an entire year. Between stopping the mob from taking over the city and trying his best to track down Holiday, Batman finds himself stretched a bit thin. With his back up against the wall, Batman decides to enter into a pact with Jim Gordon and District Attorney Harvey Dent to stop these vicious killings, even if it means bending the rules (sound familiar?).
Even though some themes and imagery from The Long Halloween were used as inspiration for 2008’s The Dark Knight, the bulk of the plot and characters were largely omitted. While we’re trying to avoid rehashing the Batman stories we’ve already seen, we also believe there’s a treasure trove of untapped material to mine from this classic story, with all the parts needed to create the perfect pulpy, noir, and decidedly mature Batman tale.
It’s one thing to try and stop a murderer from killing civilians, but another thing entirely to thwart a killer who has a deep personal vendetta against you--and Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee's 2002 Hush brings exactly that. In a masterfully coordinated display of subterfuge, the trenchcoat-ed and bandaged villain "Hush" surreptitiously does everything in their power to ruin Bruce Wayne’s life. As the story leads readers through a treacherous maze of psychological warfare, the reader and Batman alike are constantly left guessing as to who this malevolent masked killer really is. Who they really could be.
Though Hush largely relies on the greater pantheon of DC heroes and villains to tell its story, it's possible for key aspects of it to be used to break down the Bat on the big screen like we’ve never seen before. And if fans can’t wait to get their Hush fix in live action form, you’re in luck! On July 20th, 2019, Batman: Hush is set to be released as DC’s latest foray into the realm animated movies. We'll see if the new adaptation helps to move the needle.
3. The Court of Owls
What if it’s not just one person trying to kill you, but an entire secret society of aristocratic maniacs instead? Not only was Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo's Court of Owls the first Batman arc to take place during The New 52 era, but it was one of the few undisputed gems to come out of the divisive reboot as well. Throughout the events of the run, it comes to light that an ancient cabal of wealthy criminals has been shaping the fate of Gotham from the shadows for hundreds of years. This revelation shakes both Batman and Bruce Wayne to his very core, especially after finding out that The Court may have also had secret ties to the Waynes from the beginning. By taking Batman’s perception of Gotham and flipping it on its head, fans are treated to a rare sight: a truly vulnerable, and self-doubting Bruce Wayne.
From The Manchurian Candidate to The Winter Soldier, the grand conspiracy is a film noir trope for a good reason. It’s our protagonist against the world... and who doesn’t love a good underdog story? Watching Batman investigate and uncover this clandestine crime syndicate truly pushes his deductive skills to their limits, as he seeks the truth even if it kills him. What more could we possibly want from The World’s Greatest Detective?
2. Batman The Animated Series, 'Heart of Ice'
When ranking the best overall depictions of the Dark Knight, Batman: The Animated Series sits undisputedly near, if not at the very top of the list. So it’s no surprise that one of the greatest Batman stories of all time should come out of the iconic series. Written by Paul Dini in 1992, the Emmy winning episode "Heart of Ice" is equal parts a Batman story as it is a Mr. Freeze story. While 1997‘s Batman and Robin gave us Arnold Schwarzenegger's pun-tacular rendition of Mr. Freeze, "Heart of Ice" delivers a hauntingly tragic character whose commitment to his cause is only rivalled by the man trying to stop him. What unfolds is the origin of Victor Fries as he goes to any length to save his terminally ill but cryogenically frozen wife Nora, with Batman simultaneously doing everything in his power to save Victor from himself.
We’ve seen Batman be a badass ninja and we’ve seen him fight alien gods. Having him use his genius level intellect to ultimately save a man on the brink of losing his humanity? That's as good a superhero story as any we can think of and that’s exactly why "Heart of Ice" could be a truly captivating film adaptation. If Pattinson is a sign that a younger Batman is the studio's preference, then casting a younger Freeze would take a tired villain into completely new territory, as well.
1. Batman: Arkham Asylum
One could argue that video game developer Rocksteady’s Arkham Asylum franchise is a direct continuation of the spirit of Batman the Animated Series. With both Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill reprising their legendary performances as Batman and Joker respectively, the original Batman: Arkham Asylum still stands as one of the best comic book video games of all time. With all that in mind, we ask fans to imagine how mind-meltingly-awesome a film adaptation could be! On a night like any other, Batman is taking the Joker into Arkham after a recent escape.
Things are going according to plan until The Clown Prince of Crime surprisingly outwits The Bat, and takes over the entire asylum. Unleashing hundreds of psychotic inmates in addition to the majority of Batman’s famous rogues gallery, Bruce must use his brain and his brawn to make it out alive by sunrise. It’s Die Hard with Batman. Dredd with the Dark Knight. The Raid with Bruce Wayne.
Hyperbole aside, the entire affair is a brilliant cat and mouse game that sees Joker use the lethal environment of an overthrown Arkham to push Batman's detective skills to the brink. Batman not only needs to get out with his life intact, but also deduce how this nightmare came to be in the first place. If the stars align to give fans a series of films directed by Matt Reeves, it's hard to imagine a better beginning, or send-off than dropping Batman into Arkham Asylum with nothing but his wits, his butler, and a ticking clock.
Those are the detective stories that seem the most ready for adaptation to film, but if Robert Pattinson and Matt Reeves seem like the perfect team for a different comic take, be sure to let us know your own picks in the comments!
- The Batman (2021) release date: Jun 25, 2021
- Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) (2020) release date: Feb 07, 2020
- Joker (2019) release date: Oct 04, 2019
- Wonder Woman 1984 (2020) release date: Jun 05, 2020
- The Suicide Squad (2021) release date: Aug 06, 2021