Where do we go after The Dark Knight Rises?
With Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy drawing to a close this month, there comes the inevitable question of where the nocturnal billionaire goes next.
As much as you might not want to hear the ‘R’ word used in the same sentence as your favourite superhero franchise, you can bet that Warner Bros have no such qualms. With Spider-Man rebooted just five years after a three movie franchise that netted roughly $800m per film globally, it makes perfect sense for Warner Bros., to ignite a franchise with billion dollar cred.
But where to next? With whom?
Nolan’s Batman films mined a myriad of different elements from the extensive source material. We’re going to explore the possible directions the studio could take the franchise from.
This could take the series in a new direction without completely abandoning a sense of continuity with Nolan’s films (depending on whether he leaves the ending open at all). Batman Beyond (or Batman of the Future in certain territories) told the story of an aging Bruce Wayne whose old cohorts Lucius Fox, Jim Gordon and his ever-dependable butler, Alfred, have all passed on. In this futuristic story of Gotham, Bruce is forced to hang up the cowl and becomes a bitter recluse inside his mansion after suffering a heart attack, before eventually taking on a young subordinate who dons the cowl in his place.
Embittered old bad-arse taking on a young protege to clean up the streets? Yes, we also immediately thought of Clint Eastwood. He could do this movie with his eyes closed. Hell, maybe keep Fox alive and allow Freeman to return as the elderly billionaire’s regular poker buddy. ‘Million Dollar Brucey’?
But who plays the young kid? Which young actor could sell audiences on his ability to beat criminals to a pulp whilst instilling the fear of god in them? Sounds like a certain Driver we know. Ryan Gosling as the young Terry McGinnis? Maybe Brian Cranston ought to play the old curmudgeon, Wayne. He seemed to have perfected that limp in Refn’s Drive (2011) well enough.
Again, this takes place after the timeline of Nolan’s films. No remaking required. Nolan seems to have no problem acting as a producing godfather of sorts these days—what with Warner Bros., handing him the reigns to another of their biggest properties in Man of Steel.
A film inspired by Alan Moore’s graphic novel could see the series shift gears and tread the path of a sadistic psychological thriller. In Moore’s book, the Joker has escaped from Arkham Asylum and the story revolves around his attempts to drive Commissioner Jim Gordon insane—the first such attempt involving the brutal crippling of his daughter, Barbara. It also explores the dichotomy between Batman and Joker, with Bruce desperate to avoid the seemingly inevitable tipping point where one of them is going to kill the other.
David Cronenberg would lend himself well to a darker, more cerebral adaptation such as this. Vincent Cassel would make a fantastic Joker. Frequent Cronenberg collaborator, Viggo Mortensen, could take on a more thoughtful and reluctant Batman who is trying to save the old, tormented Jim Gordon. Gordon himself needs to be sympathetic given that he’s going to be stripped down and tortured for most of the film, and we think George Clooney would fit the bill nicely. Who wouldn’t want to see Clooney have to deal with Joker-level torture for most a of a film?
But hold on! What about the other David? What about Fincher? Fincher would indeed be perfect for a Batman film. But instead of a cerebral thriller such as Moore’s The Killing Joke, one could make a case that Fincher would be even more suited to…
The Long Halloween
Batman is a detective after all, so why shouldn’t we get a Batman film that plays out more like a gritty police procedural mystery? Think Fincher’s Zodiac (2007) with the most debauched of Batman’s rogue’s gallery being investigated as the usual suspects.
The Long Halloween follows Batman and the police in their attempts to uncover a serial murderer whose spree begins on Halloween and who continues to satiate his blood-lust in Gotham with every passing holiday, thus becoming known as ‘The Holiday Killer’. Edward Norton as Bats? There’s a thought.
Just because we don’t want the Batman franchise to regress into the kiddy-fodder of Shumacher’s films, it doesn’t mean we can’t still have some fun. In Arkham Asylum, the insane patients of Arkham Asylum have taken over the facility and are threatening to kill the staff members unless Batman makes an appearance at the request of the Joker. What follows is something akin to a darker version of Alice in Wonderland.
This is a chance to get creative. Would this present an opportunity for Burton to return? Frankly, what better director for the job than Terry Gilliam to navigate us through the perilous funhouse? Bruce Willis seems like a natural fit as a wary Batman to navigate the audience through the nuthouse.
Or maybe the Batman myth should treat Batman as exactly that: a myth to be viewed from the outside. Who says Batman has to be the main character? There are some very interesting characters that populate Gotham. Maybe we could see a movie that documents the early days of Gotham’s original hero in Jim Gordon a la Batman: Year One.
Batman: Year One informed much of Batman Begins, but shifted the focus so that it mostly stayed with Bruce. The book originally focused most of its attention on Jim Gordon in his dealings with corrupt officers and his investigation into Batman himself.
Michael Mann could be tasked with taking us through Gordon’s lonely pursuit of trying to raise a decent family in Gotham, whilst being embroiled in the corruption of Gotham’s police department. Or maybe we see Gordon before family life in his more rambunctious days! Colin Farrell could even return with his dirty Miami Vice ‘stache to play the younger detective. Idris Elba as Batman.
Wherever the series is taken next, let us pray that we never again return to the world of rubber nipples and Batcards.