With The Dark Knight franchise ending and with director Christopher Nolan hammering into everyone’s skulls that he’s not directing anymore Batman films, many people in Gotham, as well as around the world, are wondering one question: so I have to stop eating at Chick-fil-a because they don’t support gay marriage? Wait… Hold on, that’s not it… That’s not the question people are asking. Do they have a Chick-fil-a in Gotham? BACK ON TOPIC… The REAL question is: where does the Batman film franchise go from here? Well, dear readers and followers of The Film Current, I’m here to propose a couple of theories and, or, slash suggestions of where I, myself would like to see the franchise go.
The Justice League of America:
After the massive success of Marvel’s The Avengers, Warner Brothers realized that they were way behind on the DC superhero team-up gimmicks so they announced the development of a Justice League movie to take place a few years after their 2013 Man of Steel release. Whether or not the Nolan produced, Snyder directed reboot of the Superman film franchise will involve any link to other DC Universe superheroes remains to be seen, but I doubt Warner Brothers hasn’t thought of the idea.
For those who are unfamiliar with the Justice League or JLA, I’ll give a short description. The DC Univers, DCU for short, is comprised, like Marvel, of a wide array of superheroes. The JLA, like Marvel’s The Avengers, is a massive crossover of the DCU’s best heroes containing the likes of Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Martian Manhunter, Green Lantern, Aquaman and Green Arrow just to name a few.
All right, was that brief enough? Do you like that picture? Cool, huh? Lets get to where Batman fits into all of this. With Batman’s origin story known by all in the free world, I feel it would be pointless to retell it again. Hell, in the DCU film franchise, Batman doesn’t even need his own film. I imagine that during a fight scene, Superman could be in trouble and, suddenly, Batman shows up to save Superman and their uneasy relationship begins thus spawning the JLA’s origins from there.
If Warner Brothers really wants to take a chance, they can follow the same surprise that Marvel pulled with putting Sam Jackson at the end ofIron Man. Imagine this: Man of Steel is coming to a close. The credits roll to the end and Henry Cavill, who plays Clark Kent in this new iteration, is in his barn at his home in Smallville working on something relating to whatever work country boys do. Diane Lane or Kevin Costner, who play Superman’s Earth parents Martha and Jonathon, come up to Cavill and say, “Ummm, Clark, there’s some really rich fella in a fancy car here to see you.” Clark replies, “A rich guy? Here to see me? Did he give a name?”
“Yeah. He’s from Gotham. His name is Bruce Wayne.”
Screen goes black and the viewers all, simultaneously need new pairs of pants. Now, this is all speculation and I highly doubt this would happen, but if Warner Brothers is smart, they would open up the DCU within film by adding just a mention of Bruce Wayne’s name. From there, you know what’s coming.
Taking a totally different approach, Warner Brothers could go a unique route with the franchise and adapt the Gotham Central comic book series into a live action television show. On what network would this show be airing, you ask? Well, my immediate vote would be AMC because of their track record with shows like Breaking Bad and Mad Men. On top of that, AMC has experience with adapting comic books to the small screen with their hit show The Walking Dead which is premiering its third season soon. I would even vote for HBO, but they might add too much needless sex and violence so I feel AMC would concentrate more on the stories and characters. Yes, that was a knock on HBO.
Where are my manners? What is Gotham Central? Well, Gotham Central is a comic book series that ran from 2003 to 2006 telling the story of the Gotham City Police Department dealing with Batman’s affects on the city and the department, the famous rogues gallery of Batman’s villains and solving crimes of their own. The series, like Nolan’s vision, takes on a very realistic persona with the Batman only appearing in the series on rare occasions. The tagline could be “Batman meets Law & Order or The Killing”.
Back to networks. I did just knock HBO, but in all seriousness, they did produce The Wire so if HBO could put that same finesse into a comic book adaptation, I would totally be on board with it. Plus, I feel like HBO would have a bigger budget to drop on the show if they took it. Then again, I feel like AMC would respect the adaptation and the Batman mythos.
Even though Batman would rarely show up, Gotham Central would be more than fitting filler for audiences until Batman were to hit the big screen again. This approach would be a very different one, but with strong writing and acting, a great depiction of Gotham and just enough appearances by the Batman and his supporting players to keep viewers guessing, the show would be great especially with the right network backing it up.
Batman: Arkham Video Games:
In 2009, the video game company, Rocksteady Studios, released a game called Batman: Arkham Asylum. In this game, Batman, now a seasoned crime fighter, had to battle his rogues gallery after they broke out of Arkham Asylum from a plan hatched by none other than the Joker himself. The game was such a huge success that Rocksteady released a sequel titled Batman: Arkham City which pitted the caped crusader against his rogues gallery again, this time in a sectioned-off part of Gotham that houses the most dangerous of criminals. The video game was highly praised and was even given the label of “Batman simulator” because of its accuracy playing as the character.
Both games were written by Paul Dini, amongst others, who was a head writer during the time of the Batman Animated Series. Dini’s world here is sort of a mix of the animated series and Nolan’s world, but, for the most part, Dini Keeps the more fantastical qualities about many aspects of the Batman mythology. For instance, the villain Killer Croc is a huge, scaly beast, Bane is an enormous man with Venom running through his veins and Poison Ivy controls plants. All of these villains are wildly unrealistic and would never fit into Nolan’s world as they are, but Didi fits them into his quite nicely and he manages to find the right balance between keeping things grounded in reality and going off of the rails a bit.
Now, with all of that being said, I highly doubt that a movie adaptation of a video game would be made unless the public demanded it. The reason why this is even a possibility and that I’m even mentioning it is because the idea of an Arkham Asylum movie was thrown around during the success of Arkham City. The Arkham Asylum video game was actually loosely adapted from the graphic novel, Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth, but I feel, because of the fame of the game, film studios would draw more from that than the comic.
I see a couple of problems with a video game adaptation; the first of these being budget concerns. While movie studios seem to have an endless amount of money to just pour on superhero films, the amount of villains, characters and design that would have to go into making a film like this would be HUGE. Batman’s rogues gallery is at full swing in both of these video games so big name actors and massive amounts of CGI would have to be a must and that could send the cost to make this film skyrocket.
Another problem I see is the public draw. Now, don’t get me wrong, public draw for a Batman film is always going to be huge, but the video game has a very high concept story and not many people are familiar with the games or the Arkham Asylum comic book so asking audiences to adjust to that world coming from Nolan’s films is a stretch.
Nonetheless, while being very difficult to make, with the right people behind the job and perhaps stretching the adaptation into three films shot all at once sort of like the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, it could work, but again, the budget would probably be high and that’s asking a lot for a video game adaptation.
As far as the future of the Batman film franchise, this is my personal pick. With two separate, yet different takes on the Batman already told on film, I find a new story should be told and that’s the story of Terry McGinnis.
Oddly enough, the Batman Beyond story didn’t find its origins in a comic book, rather as a television series produced by Alan Burnett, Paul Dini, Glen Murakami and Bruce Timm. Batman Beyond ran on the WB from January 1999 - December 2001 and the story was told again in comic book form around the same year the television show was released.
Bruce Wayne is old and almost out of the game until he develops a new, technologically advanced suit that he takes out for the first time to fight crime. While testing out these new threads, Wayne has a heart attack and narrowly escapes death. He recovers, but hangs up the cowl for good, never fighting crime as the Batman again. So, like Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises, Wayne lives as a hermit.
Enter the young and vibrant Terry McGinnis: high school student, egotistical, handsome and taken. Terry runs into trouble when he tries to save his girlfriend from a gang who idolizes the late Joker called the Jokerz gang. McGinnis follows one of the gang members all the way out into the edges of Neo-Gotham and stumbles upon Wayne Manor. From there, a series of events occur where McGinnis meets with Wayne, discovers his Batcave and eventually gets to occupy the new suit. McGinnis is pushed into true vigilante justice for Neo-Gotham when his father is killed.
When this show was released, it went into some dark places putting McGinnis through some pretty traumatic experiences and the concept of the whole idea behind Batman Beyond takes cues from Marvel’s Spiderman stories with Terry often juggling school, relationships with family and friends and being the Batman which makes the character all the more intriguing. On top of that, you have an overly-hardened Bruce Wayne with issues of his own that makes for a good study of a veteran crime fighter and how he got to be so alone.
With this world, studios would have to take it slow and develop characters just like in Nolan’s world, but the vision here would have to be a little darker and have a more science fiction type progression. I would say to go with a sleek and futuristic look for Neo-Gotham on the surface, but get really raw when we explore the city’s underbelly. I would even go so far as to suggest an R rating for this film, but with a popular character like Batman, studios wouldn’t go for it.
Another thing to suggest would be the focus on the new suit. This suit is Bruce Wayne’s swan song and Terry’s lifeline. He doesn’t have near the training or detective skills as Wayne so to say the suit is Terry’s cop-out would be an understatement and that could present another conflict in taking on the role of Batman. It’s not just about the suit, but the will that drives the man behind it. Terry’s reliance on the suit can be more of a character study of his more human qualities sort of like Iron Man and Tony Stark. I think a focus on the suit should be a big part of the overall plot.
McGinnis as Batman accumulates his own rogues gallery and like Wayne’s, some of them are pretty crazy, but I recommend that studios take the plunge with these villains. I think the overall feel of the film should be the most sci-fi take on Batman that has ever been tapped into, but not as cartoonish as Burton’s take, as campy as Schumacher’s or as realistic as Nolan’s.
Oddly enough, a Batman Beyond film was in development around the year 2000, but with the studios working more towards Batman Begins, the project was scrapped in 2001 due to a number of things, but mostly budget concerns. However, in today’s CGI heavy, 3D obsessed movie making world, a film like Batman Beyond would definitely fit, even it it is a bit high concept. The idea of Bruce Wayne taking on the role of a mentor at such an old age presents a good story and treating this Batman story as a cross between Spiderman and Iron Man would work.
Episodic James Bond Route:
A weird segment title, I know, but this direction for the Batman franchise would be the weirdest yet most ambitious in my opinion. See, back when the first James Bond film, Dr. No, released in 1962, Sean Connery was cast as the British agent. I’m sure studios worked out some kind of deal with the actor and signed him on for a number of pictures, but in 1969, something crazy happened. The actor playing James Bond was replaced by George Lazenby. Now, actors have been replaced before and the character of Bruce Wayne is no exception, but this happened way back in the 60’s. The point is from there, James Bond has been played by 6 different actors and almost every film has had a sort of episodic structure as if it’s a TV show, but the episodes have super high budgets and they’re shot on film and released in theatres.
Not many Bond films have something to do with the previous. The villains are different, the love interests are different and the overall story is different. On top of that, almost every Bond film has a different set of writers and a different director so the films, while still retaining the character’s overall essence, are visually different and some have different tones altogether. The Daniel Craig era of Bond films are a lot more raw and realistic than the more campy and comedic Roger Moore films.
So what’s the difference between this Batman film franchise direction as opposed to what Burton started in 1989? Not much really. In essence, studios would be rebooting or “resetting” Burton’s Batman films. Bruce Wayne in Burton’s Batman films was played by Michael Keaton then Schumacher took over and cast Val Kilmer and then George Clooney as Batman. This same formula could continue, just with a better cast than Clooney as Batman…
Now, before everyone goes in an uproar, just hear me out. Just like the earlier Bond films had a campy nature to them, I think earlier Batman films took that same route so I believe that form of telling Batman is over especially with Nolan’s films taking over. Basically, we would be following the same formula as the James Bond films: episodic movie making. No trilogies or continuations of the same story besides recurring characters and some plot lines, but other than that, nothing further.
Sure, every third or fourth movie, the actor playing Batman would be replaced and some films would have different writers and directors, but, for the most part, the idea would be to retain that same Batman aura. On top of that, various film makers would get a chance to literally adapt certain comic book storylines like Batman: Dark Victory and Batman: Hush just to name a couple. Some stories could continue and some would wrap up all in one film.
With this route, we could get numerous unique visions of Batman and that whole world. Imagine dealing with the Joker again, but this time we get a more animated, yet deeply disturbing take when actor Matt Smith takes the role of Doctor Who fame. The Joker along with his sidekick Harley Quinn, played by Kristen Bell, high jacks the airwaves and internet to brainwash Gotham citizens into laughing to death or something crazy. The director, Joe Cornish, would give an overall comedic sensibility to the Joker’s schemes while still bringing us to those dark places like in his film Attack the Block. A more youthful Batman played by Domnhall Gleeson (look him up, cut his hair and dye it brown) along with his sidekick, a female Robin played by Elle Fanning, would foil the Joker’s plans ending with the Clown Prince of Crime back behind bars or in a padded room deep within Arkham Asylum.
Okay, I know that sounds quite far-fetched and the casting may be hard to swallow, but you get the picture. We’re looking at a completely different take here. Make some Batman films like TV episodes and follow the same formula as the James Bond film franchise. While the studios will probably never take a chance on something as risky as this, the idea is still a somewhat valid one.
Or we could always pick up from where we left off… Your choice…
Those are my suggestions, people and its all theory and speculation at this point, but as for right now, I firmly believe that the Batman film franchise should be left alone for at least a good ten years. I know, I know. Ten years sounds like a long time, but this franchise needs to rest and breathe. In the mean time, for the hardcore fans, there’s always the comic books, but for those who don’t read the comics, I would suggest the Batman cartoons and animated films to fill that void because even though they’re animated, it’s still Batman and they’re all still good, quality stories.
Make no mistake, though, Batman will return to the silver screen in some form whether it’s in the year 2039 or standing next to Superman in a JLA movie. Batman is a staple in American society and the films are no less so we’ll see Batman again someday.