Feature: Where Should the BATMAN Franchise Go Now?

PrintE-mail Written by Stuart Mulrain

Christopher Nolan’s Bat-trilogy closer The Dark Knight Rises has hit DVD/Blu-Ray shelves and, even as you read this, plans are under way to reboot the franchise again with a new take on Batman on film.

Rebooting Batman is nothing new. The comics have been doing it for years, switching from dark and heavy to, well, darkish and lighter. The animated series have done the same, as have the movies, and while there is no denying that Nolan’s trilogy is probably the closest we’ve had to the Batman of the comics so far, it is still a long way away from the character of the comics.

Unless DC/Warner Bros. are planning to have a couple of different big screen versions of Batman running at the same time, the smart money will be on Batman being re-introduced as part of the Justice League film in 2015 before being given his own solo film again. Now is the time to start thinking about what kind of Batman we need to see on the big screen next. After all, Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy is a tough act to follow.

There was an article on this very site recently that made the case for realism not belonging in comic book movies. The key thing to remember, before trying to “ground” a comic book movie, is that comic book heroes in their very origins are ridiculous, that is their appeal and that is something that should be embraced and represented respectfully in their big screen adaptations. The key to the success of any Batman reboot is going to be in embracing the ridiculousness of the character.

Now before you think I’ve completely lost my mind, let me make it clear that I’m not saying we should return to the Joel Schumacher era. Nobody above the age of 8 wants that, but Nolan’s Batman – no matter how close to the comics he is or not – is a tough act to follow and the best way to avoid the pitfalls of doing so would be to reinvent Batman’s onscreen persona and respectfully embrace his ridiculousness.

At the end of the day, what we really want to see is the comic book up there on the screen, outlandish bits and all, and there are a couple of simple things that need to be done to achieve that.

In the trailer for Batman Begins, there was a brief clip of Batman, seemingly, swinging through the streets of Gotham. This got me more excited about the film than any other bit of the trailer as I thought I was finally going to get to see the Batman of the comic, armed with just a Batarang and line, swinging through the Gotham night the way Batman does. Unfortunately when I watched the film, this turned out to be the bit where Batman is being pulled along by the train.

But how great would it be to see Batman running over rooftops, throwing out a Batarang and line and swinging out into the night? Of course this in itself is a slightly ridiculous thing in principle, but you have to admit it would look good on film. Yes, Nolan does have Batman jumping off of buildings and swinging through the night, but it’s not the same as the comics, and that’s what I want to see.

But that’s just the first, admittedly small, element of the Batman comic that needs to be realised on screen. The biggest problem for me, as a comic book fan, with Nolan’s Batman films is that there was no real sense of Batman being around long enough to really make any difference. Let’s be generous and assume there was 6 months to a year in the events between Begins and Dark Knight, Batman only fought crime for about a year/a year and a half before retiring for 8 years and then returning for a few weeks (taking out the time Bane had him locked in a cell).

We need to see Batman fighting the smaller crimes as well as the main villain of the film. And I mean standalone crimes, not crimes connected to the bigger plot of the film. Batman patrols Gotham fighting crime, let’s see that on film, rather than him just coming when the signal calls him or following up leads. By doing this you will get much more of a feeling of Batman doing more and being around for a longer period of time. Or is the criminal union in Gotham really so good that only one criminal is committing a crime at once?

We can then open the door for more of the villains from Batman’s rogue’s gallery to appear in the films and I don’t just mean by throwing them together in a forced team up. We all know that The Joker, Bane and maybe even Two-Face could carry a movie as the main villain, but The Riddler would be a great side villain instead of a films main bad guy. The Penguin would be great as a mob boss operating in the background. There could even be a place for the more over-the-top villains such as Killer Croc and maybe even Man-Bat.

With the right planning, you could even incorporate Robin back into the franchise (think a male, less foul mouthed Hit-Girl from Kick-Ass and you would be on to something) and then other members of the Bat-Family. If you plan it out like Marvel have planned out their Avengers Initiative you will then have the potential to spin it out into some great Bat spin-offs to expand on the characters and provide longevity to your franchise that could run for years in the style of the Bond franchise, but with characters that branch off into their own films.

Just leave Bat-Mite on the comic book pages!

Finally, with Batman coming back as part of the Justice League he will already be an established figure in the film, so it’s unlikely we’ll see his training, but there is always the temptation to cover it via flashback in a solo Batman film. Don’t. Nolan’s Batman Begins nailed that story and any attempt to recreate it again, no matter how you change it (and why would you?) would just draw unwanted comparisons. Let’s spend our valuable screen time giving us some Bat stuff we’ve never seen before.

So in closing, the time has come to stop trying to work out how Batman would operate in the real world (he’d be dead in a week!) and just bring his comic book world with him to the screen. Like George Clooney said during his time under the cowl; if Batman was operating in a real world city like New York, nobody would even notice him. If you do it well enough, nobody is going to care about the implausibility of what your character is doing.

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+1 #2 Mark Higginson 2012-12-09 18:05
I agree whole heartedly with this article. With Robin being established at the end of Dark Knight Rises, and Wayne Manor being out of use, there is space for a new man to become Batman, with the new Robin's help, keeping the franchise as is. Perhaps that is where the next Batman movie should go, with the refinements as mentioned in this article. It may not be the way the comic side did it, but unless Bruce Wayne comes back, I can't see it going any other way.
+1 #1 paul carey 2012-12-06 17:04
Absolutely! I agree 100%. What I'd like to see is Batman being the world's greatest detective, and actually working things out like Sherlock Holmes. Also being a master of disguise, again like Holmes. I want to see Clay-face and Man-Bat and Scarface. And Ras Al Ghul as an immortal, rising from the Lazarus pit.

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