I’ve always had a positive outlook on upcoming comic-to-film projects; if you could hop into a Delorean with a flux capacitor and go back to the year 2007 you’d find a slightly skinnier version of me eagerly anticipating Spider-Man 3. If you were to meet a Doctor from the planet Gallifrey and he took you on a ride in the TARDIS way back to 2006 you’d meet an even skinnier version of me who couldn’t wait for X-Men: The Last Stand. Fall through the cracks of time way back to 2003 and you’d come across a skinny kid with who could barely stand the wait for Ang Lee’s Hulk. Go back in time to 2004 using Time Displacement Equipment and you’d arrive completely naked and unarmed while a younger, thinner version of myself would see you and run the other way all the while knowing deep down in his nerdy heart that the Catwoman movie…was going to suck epically.
My point is, I’m forever an optimist when it comes to all the movies I’m even the tiniest bit interested in, and I almost always have faith in the filmmakers and their abilities to produce something that won’t be a complete letdown, or an abomination…oh, and I used to be skinnier…and there is no conceivable way a Catwoman movie directed by a guy named Pitof would be anything but offensive to anyone who wasn’t deaf and/or blind. I think you guys get the point, so I’ll move on.
Rebooting is all the rage these days, and to tell you the truth I was pretty much onboard. Who wouldn’t argue that something new needed to happen to the Batman franchise after the abysmal Batman and Robin? After Batman redeemed himself with Batman Begins , other film franchises joined the frenzy, and now we have reboots for every genre almost, comic-to-films, horror movies, Sci-Fi pictures, and even romantic comedies. Today, however I’m not quite on board with the idea of rebooting, I think it’s become a very lazy storytelling tactic and Hollywood thinks it will magically erase all the problems by taking the characters in a different direction and casting different actors to play the parts. Some movies benefit from a breath of fresh air, and I won’t deny it; however do we really need to reboot The Crow? I say nay, Readers, I say nay.
But despite my opinion, and the opinion of pretty much everyone else I know, Warner Bros. is saying that after Christopher Nolan is done with the next Batman movie, The Dark Knight Rises, Warner Bros. is going to reboot the franchise with different writers, different actors, a different spin on the character, and most likely a new take on the origin story. Is it necessary? No, not really. It’s not like Christian Bale is too old to suit up and fight crime. It’s not as if someone like David Goyer and Jonathan Nolan can’t come up with a fourth Batman story, right? It’s also highly unlikely Warner Bros. doesn’t have the amount of money to bind Director Christopher Nolan to the Batman franchise for another 100 years. Yeah, I know everyone probably wants to move on and do other things, and that’s cool, but the term ‘reboot’ means everything that happened before has little to no relevance pertaining to the new movies. As much as we hate it, the plan is to reboot Batman regardless of the popularity Nolan’s take has garnered.
But as you probably gathered from the title of my article, I’ve found some silver linings in that dark cloud of despair. Riddle me this (See what I did there?) What is the most critically acclaimed Superhero video game ever according to Guinness? If you guessed Superman 64 then I hate you, please die. If you guessed Batman: Arkham Asylum we can be friends and frolic in a nerdy meadow of awesome (platonically, of course). Yes, Batman: Arkham Asylum was very popular because it blended the best parts of being Batman; gadgets, detective skills, and the ability to kick bad guys in the face while wearing a cape and cowl. I love the game, and I haven’t talked to anyone who has ever hated it, but enough about the game play, my favorite part was the look and atmosphere of the game.
For those of you who haven’t played it, I highly suggest you at least look at some screen shots. The character renders are radically different, but you can easily tell who everyone is still supposed to be. It’s dark and twisted, but what distinguishes the characters and makes them iconic is still very much intact. If the powers that be go ahead and reboot the franchise they’d be stupid if they didn’t explore one of the most successful Batman endeavors, right? Can you imagine a Batman movie that did away with the gritty realism and rules of the Nolan-Verse and gave you an epic battle between Batman and a villain like Mr. Freeze? I’m not talking about a muscle-headed, pun spouting future former governor of California. What I’m talking about is a true threat to Gotham City in the form of a horrific killer with an icy demeanor who we can sympathize with because everything he’s doing he’s doing for his wife. How about a Riddler that isn’t played by a rubber faced comedian, but someone who can pull off a genius whose ego had driven him dangerously over the edge and into a serial killer who leaves clues behind compulsively? What about a Killer Croc and a Solomon Grundy who can fit in seamlessly and believably into this new Batman world.
The proposed reboot would need to be different from Nolan’s take. I say blend the seriousness and the intriguing characters Nolan gave us and mix them in with the dark and gothic fantasy setting that Tim Burton was responsible for back in 89’. While we’re at it let’s, say we take out the strict realism of Nolan’s universe, and tone down some of Burton’s more outrageous ideas from his two movies. Just ignore Joel Schumacher’s movies altogether, please. I think we can all agree that’d definitely be for the best, right? Making a successful Batman movie isn’t hard; all they’d need to do is respect the source material. Look back to the stories that Bob Kane first created; they were dark and mysterious. That goofy late 40’s to 50’s era Batman stuff was only there because comic books had been unfairly written off as something only kids would ever enjoy, so Batman lost his edge and became ‘kid friendly’. These days, most writers and as well as Nolan have tapped into the darker side of Batman and his foes, and guess what? Batman is a huge success. This means something, and should not be ignored by the future franchise.
Tim Burton had the right ideas, he just casted actors who chewed up scenery like the shark from Jaws chewed up Amity Island citizens. The bad guys were so outlandish and over the top that they took over and Batman played second fiddle. Let’s face it; since Batman is a dark and brooding chap (when he’s done right, of course) he’s not going to be the life of any party. What can be done to counter that is to make Bruce Wayne the interesting one. He’s the other side of Batman, and he should be witty, funny, charming, and an all around interesting guy when he’s not wearing the cape and cowl. The villains should be true to the established mythology without being enslaved to it; let’s not have a Penguin that’s needlessly physically deformed, or have the Joker turn out to be Thomas and Martha Wayne’s killer. That’s not who the characters are, or how they fit into Batman’s universe. Don’t follow the comics word by word, but use them as the jumping off point. What Heath Ledger did with the Joker was brilliant, it was something new without betraying the character.
Speaking of the Joker, he’s definitely Batman’s most popular nemesis. Since Nolan has stated several times that Ledger’s death has put the kibosh on any other Joker appearances in his films they can start over and carve out a new take on the Joker. They could make him more like the comics/ Batman: Arkham Asylum and equip him with clown-themed devices. They should find someone who has the ability to play the character without imitating Ledger. Ideally I’d want someone who ends up writing this reboot to look back at Mark Hamill’s work as the animated Joker and say “Yeah! Let’s try that!” and pair him/her with someone who had the acting chops to pull it off, and the thick skin to brush off all the criticism…Because it’s almost scientific law that there will be criticism. Does anyone remember when it was first announced that Heath Ledger would play the Joker? I remember going on various websites and so many people stated they’d boycott it purely based on that fact that it didn’t get any better than Jack Nicholson. I’m pretty sure those fanboys ended up retracting that because The Dark Knight made bank at the box office.
Another one of Nolan’s rules that’s worth mentioning is his refusal to include Robin. I understand that the idea of having a teenage ward become the sidekick of Batman is a bit silly, I do, but Robin has a very important part in the Batman mythos. He’s one of the only things keeping Batman from losing himself to his personal demons. I believe he should be included, and for the love of god he should not be played by a late 20’s year old actor. They should cast someone young, no older than 16 and handle him seriously. The cool and endearing thing about the first Robin (or Dick Grayson if you care enough to make the distinction) is he is exactly like Bruce Wayne in the way that they both watched their parents murdered right before their eyes. Unlike Bruce Wayne, however, Robin kept his optimism. He was what Batman could have become if he hadn’t been driven completely insane with his sense of duty to Gotham City. This opens a world full of storylines, and an eventual lead in to a separate Nightwing franchise, or perhaps even a Teen Titans movie, which I’m all for.
For a new Bruce Wayne I’d suggest casting someone in their early to mid-20’s and sign them on to a multiple picture deal so we don’t have a Keaton/Kilmer/Clooney fiasco. They need to keep the same actors onboard as best as they can. Obviously, they’d want someone who has the acting chops to do justice to one of the most popular comic book icons of all time, right? Well, at least I hope they would. Truthfully I liked Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne (I hated his Batman voice though) and I’m sad to see him go, but if they’re going to reboot it they should find someone as talented as Christian Bale, not some pretty face who will appease the Disney Channel zombies. I have a bad feeling the higher-ups will have an attitude towards Batman after Nolan steps down like “Well, there goes the best Batman we’ll ever get, might as well not try and just start spitting these movies out and grab all that cash the franchise will make based on the name alone.” I kind of get the feeling that’s what happened after Tim Burton’s movies. If you’re going to reboot Batman, set out to do something better than anything everyone had done before, it might not pay off, but effort goes a long way.
If they decide to go for a more experimental route, let me reference something that made me a little giddy back at Comic-Con in 2009; during Entertainment Weekly’s panel for visionary directors featuring Kevin Smith, Zach Snyder, and Frank Miller, someone asked Zach Snyder what his dream superhero project would be since he already did 300 and Watchmen, and he answered “Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns.” To which Frank Miller said he’d love for Zach Snyder to make that movie. I envisioned a dark and futuristic world where Batman cursed and bled. I thought of how beautiful Sin City looked and wished they’d make a page-to-screen adaption as faithful to the source material as it possibly could be. My mind began to create a vision of how these two would collaborate on one of my favorite comic book stories of all time, and this could all be a possible route to take after Nolan wraps his story up. For those of you who aren’t familiar with The Dark Knight Returns, think of a future Batman coming out of retirement with a tank cleaning up a dystopian Gotham City and multiply that by a very large quantity of awesome, because no puny description within my abilities would ever be able to do it justice.
Unfortunately, I hear they’re going to do an animated version of The Dark Knight Rises, so I doubt they’ll go in that direction. For those who may have read my Justice League article, you know that I have a lot of ideas on how they should handle that, and while writing this article another one came to mind; this could be an opportunity to establish a new Batman franchise rather than waiting to do a standalone Batman film. The Justice League movie is said to begin production sometime in the coming years, most likely I’m guessing long after Nolan releases The Dark Knight Rises, so I think enough time might pass to map out a plan for Batman and his solo adventures. It’d be like what Marvel Studios did with setting up The Avengers, but in reverse. You’d have a movie that establishes a universe where superheroes co-exist, and then they’d go off on their own and become their own franchises. This could work, I think, and it’d set them far enough away from people accusing them of copying Marvel Studios. The only thing that wouldn’t fit into this idea is Snyder’s insistence that his upcoming Superman: Man of Steel isn’t going to have anything to do with a JLA movie, and that would kind of defeat the purpose of spawning all the new franchises from a Justice League movie.
While I believe it may be too soon to start from scratch with Batman, the opportunities this could give the fans are undeniable. We can finally be given a Batman world that isn’t afraid to go past the realism and give us our favorite bad guys, it would give an acceptable excuse to bring back the Joker for more mayhem and fun, and it’d be a chance to do Robin right. If they reboot Batman, we deserve something that’s new and different without compromising the characters and their development over the years. It’d doable, and hopefully the best of the Batman movies are still on the horizon, only time will tell, and until then keep that Bat-Signal shining brightly in the sky, because eventually we’ll get the movie we need AND deserve, and hopefully it won’t take us a bunch of franchise reboots to get it.
By Anthony Bench
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