Reflections of the Hierophant: Beyond The Dark Knight Rises
It's been a while since I've written anything, but I feel compelled to share my opinion on where we will see Batman go next...
When I was but a mere child, and even bubbles couldn’t hold my attention, one thing could. And that one thing is as true today, as it was then: “Batman,” Tim Burton’s 1989 film, and the closest thing we’d get to a proper interpretation of the iconic Dark Knight for 16 years. While I wasn’t really around to enjoy the rabid adoration the film got when it was released, I loved it just the same. While it isn’t the most traditional ways of doing so, seeing “Batman” was what made me a fan of the comic, and the character in general. Years later, I still enjoy the movie (with all of its flaws), and am an even bigger fan of the character.
With that being said, I’d also like to let it be known that I am a Nolanite, as fans of Christopher Nolan have been called (some will argue that only the Christopher Nolan zealots are called Nolanites, but I have seen people who have merely defended, with good argument, his Nolanverse films, “insulted” with said moniker). I’m not going to say that his Nolanverse isn’t flawed, because it does have a few, but it is the best interpretation of Batman we’ve seen. It is apparent that his term with the Batman character is coming to an end. This begs the question, “Where will Batman go?” Well, I’ve given a fair bit of thought to this, and I’ve come up with some decent (IMO) ideas on it.
I’ve heard a load of names tossed around on Wish Lists, like Bryan Singer, Matthew Vaughn, and even J.J. Abrams, but this one is a pretty hard subject for me to decide on since it really depends on the direction the studio wants to go in. My bet would be that the powers-that-be at WB will want to go in the direction that has garnered them a bat cave filled with money, which is Nolan’s gritty, more realistic take on Gotham City. For that, if I were one of the powers at WB, I’d put the money towards David Fincher (which is a name I’ve yet to hear when my fellow CBMers write editorials like this). Even as I write this, I am preparing myself for the inevitable “Alien 3” comments. Let me put a stop to those now by saying that David Fincher has yet to direct a bad film since “Alien 3” (which I concur with Fincher that the producers didn’t afford him the proper trust needed for a film of this magnitude). His style is remarkably similar to the “Nolanverse,” and would be the natural choice.
There is also the choice that WB would go with something sticking closer to the source material, which would make the choice for a director much harder… but not impossible. If the direction goes with something more akin to the comic books, then Zack Snyder is our man. All of his films (including the 2004 remake, “Dawn of the Dead”) have a very distinctive comic book feel to them, and he has proven (to me, at least) that he can churn out good a great CBM.
If WB decides to take a break from the present-day Batman, a “Batman Beyond” movie could be just the ticket. The person best-equipped to make a great “Batman Beyond” film would be Matthew Vaughn. While his style does seem to skew more toward the gritty side of the scale, it’s his incredible balance of that grittiness with vibrant colors that wins him my vote. The cartoon was very dark, but made great use of colors where it was needed, particularly reds. Personally, I do think a break from Batman in his present form is where WB should head, and a film based on the Batman of Tomorrow would be refreshing for everyone.
Two names a lot of people have tossed-about have been Bryan Singer and J.J. Abrams. In my opinion, J.J. Abrams would be a piss-poor choice. He’s never struck me as the brilliant director/writer that everyone touts him to be. He’s average at best, and got lucky with one semi-original idea. Bryan Singer is…complicated. The first two X-Films were good, but not great, which is what WB has come to expect of their Midas. Also, they gave him a chance with one of their former golden boys, in the form of “Superman Returns.” Now, while Singer shouldn’t be weighted with all of the blame for this film (the movie should never have been a continuation of the legendary Donner Superman films), he is. He’d make an OK Batman movie, but nothing worth writing home about.
Another name I’ve a lot is Darren Aronofsky. To that I reply: ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND?!?! Don’t get me wrong, because I love Aronofsky. He’s easily one of the best directors in Hollywood today, but he always puts such a unique twist on films that I find it very hard to see the Batman fanboys seeing it as a “unique twist,” but rather a raping of their iconic hero. Aronofsky is better suited to tackle his own movies where he doesn’t have to deal with such a well-established world and rabid fans sending death threats his way. And, while I’m on the subject, most thought it was a brilliant choice to give him the reins to “The Wolverine,” I thought it was best for everybody when he stepped down.
When it comes to a writer, I’m not very concerned with what direction the film will take. A good writer should be able to write a cohesive story. With that, my first pick would have to go to Jonathan Nolan. I do realize that his brother, Christopher Nolan, will be leaving the franchise after “The Dark Knight Rises,” but why should that automatically mean that the younger Nolan leaves with him (if he has indeed stated he too wouldn’t return, feel free to correct me)? Nolan is a great writer, and I’m willing to bet he could writer a great Batman flick without the help of his brother.
Another writer that could really do interesting things with a new Batman movie, especially if the current incarnation is continued, is Aaron Sorkin. Now, I know that I said that a good writer could write any genre, but I’m not sure that Sorkin could write a captivating “Batman Beyond.” So, I’d let him take a shot at the present-day Batman, because that type of dramatic world is where he shines. But, who do I think could write a great “Batman Beyond” movie that would hold the attention of the general movie-going audience? Kevin Smith… Please, put away your pitchforks, douse your torches, and hold the hate-filled comments until you read my reasoning.
While it’s true that Kevin Smith isn’t the greatest director (he’s even stated that himself on several occasions), the man can definitely write. Yes, it’s true that his films lack the action one would expect in a decent Batman flick, but the stories and the dialogue (a particular specialty) are good, sometimes even great (this would be why he would write the overall story, while someone better qualified writes the action scenes). Add to that his turn with Batman in the comics (Cacophony and The Widening Gyre) and his extensive knowledge and love of Batman (and all things comic-related), and we’ll get an extraordinary “Batman Beyond” film, one that fanboys deserve. Now… resume your mob justice…
This is possibly the most important piece to a successful Batman film. Without a proper actor to take-up the mantle of Bruce Wayne/Batman, the movie will fall apart. I’ve put a lot of thought into this subject, more than either of the preceding or following subjects. Since we all know that Christian Bale won’t return to the film, we can just take him out of the running. There are so many great actors who have all been FanCasted to death for the role of Batman, but I’ve narrowed it down to just 3.
The direction WB is likely to go with, will be the tried and true version. For the gritty and dark version we are sure to get, I’ve got to go with Dexter Morgan himself, Michael C. Hall. While I would definitely love to see him in the role of The Riddler, I believe he would make a great and believable Bruce Wayne and Batman. I don’t think any real argument can be made against his acting abilities, as he’s proven himself on “Dexter” and “Six Feet Under.” He’s got precisely the right amount of intensity required for our Dark Knight, as well as the looks and charisma to play the Billionaire Playboy. As far as a not-so-gritty version goes, the choice should be clear: Liev Schreiber.
Schreiber is truly an underrated actor, but always puts out excellent performances. Hell, he even owned in “Phantoms.” A true-to-the-source Batman needs intensity, but definitely needs to pull-back a bit, as well as be able to become a bit lighter at times. I think the best example would be Schreiber’s Sabretooth from “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.”
I am positive that we probably won’t see a “Batman Beyond” movie anytime in the foreseeable future. But, I’m equally positive that it would be a great success if WB were to pull the trigger. It was such a vibrant and colorful show, while being just as dark and gritty as any other version of Batman we’ve seen. I think its unique style would be welcomed by audiences everywhere. But, as stated above, without a proper leading man, it will fall like Saigon. The actor who is the best fit for Terry McGinnis would have to be Zac Efron. I know I’m going to be flooded with “That ‘High School Musical’ queer?!?!” comments, but hear me out. I was, at one point, on that bandwagon. But then I watched “17 Again.” He was so great in that movie, and is what made that movie bearable. So, I decided to give him a chance, as all of you should. He’s a great actor who has a bright future.
Now, again, this will depend on the overall direction of the movie. The version I’m sure we’ll see won’t be able to bring in villains like Man-Bat or Clayface into the mix, but are definitely villains I’d love to see on the big screen sooner, rather than later. They aren’t out of the realm of possibility though… if WB goes with something more friendly to fanboys. But, I think we are far more likely to see a member of the rogues gallery similar to Riddler, who deserves a proper chance (I liked Carrey’s over-the-top performance, but Riddler it was not), or even Killer Croc if he’s done like he was in Joker. Personally, I think Nygma fits much better into the Nolanverse than Killer Croc, but I didn’t really think Bane could be done in Nolan’s Bat-Flicks (which looks like I’ll be proven wrong again). I’d also like to see Scarecrow be the main villain. There is so much potential with the character, but it feels like he hasn’t really been given the respect he deserves. Not to mention, I’d love to see Cillian Murphy portray the character brilliantly again. It was such a chilling performance.
But, on the chance that WB gets a wild hair to create a “Batman Beyond” film, there’s really only one way to go with it. I think the main villain would have to be Derek Powers, with a threat from The Jokerz. Obviously, the first would be an origin story, but we would see him become Blight towards the end of the movie. After that, there are some great possibilities. I have a feeling WB would still try to keep this as real as possible, so a lot of the villains would fall apart. But, we can hope they can take their cue from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and allow some of the more fantastical characters with great explanations as to how they came to be.
As I’ve stated above, I think it’s likely we’ll see WB stick to what they know works. Don‘t get me wrong, that‘s all well and good, but everything runs its course eventually. But, if this is their course, it begs the question: Will they reboot the series? I fear they might, but I think they’ve proven themselves smart. They could stay the course, and just “James Bond It” (like Kevin Feige has stated he’d like to do for the role of Iron Man). They already did it with Rachel Dawes, which worked out brilliantly. So, while I have my fears they might revert to old habits, my gut says they’ll continue down the trail Christopher Nolan has started for them.
But, what if the Nolans have written “The Dark Knight Rises” to completely destroy any chance at a Batman in this universe? I’ve read/heard plenty of times that this is definitely the end of the trilogy, so this seems like a real possibility. Would we see a reboot, or the fan-favorite “Batman Beyond”? Again, I’m going to have to say this is not a reality. We’ve seen plenty of times, in any number of movies, characters who have died in incredibly finalizing ways, only to be brought back again… and again… and again.
We’ve also got to think of another possibility: What if Christopher Nolan isn’t finished with the Nolanverse? What if he is just ending the story of Batman? With recent reports saying that Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s John Blake will become Azrael by the end of the movie, there is a very real chance that we could be seeing a “Sword of Azrael” film when the dust settles. Nolan is notorious for being very secretive, and very careful with his wording. Maybe “The Dark Knight Rises” isn’t intended to close the book on the “Nolanverse,” but to start the next chapter…
As usual, leave your thoughts below and feel free to contact me with any topic you’d like to hear me sound-off on, a Fancast you would like to see me do, or a film you are curious about thoughts on…
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