Now that Christopher Nolan is finished with Batman for good (so he says), Warner Bros. and DC will soon be handing off the franchise of their most popular character to a new director and creative team. So, we here at the league had a discussion about some of the things we hope to see in this inevitable reboot:
5.) Ditch The Black Rubber Costume
We’ve now sat through seven Batman films with our hero buried under thick black rubber that rendered him all but immobile. We’ve watched him lumber around awkwardly, unable to turn his head or make quick, smooth reactions in deadly situations. The bulky black suits just don’t lend themselves to jumping, diving, rolling, kicking, dodging, or any of the acrobatic moves Batman has performed in comic books and animation for over 70 years.
Let’s explore a new visual aesthetic for Batman, perhaps one that hearkens back to his classic grey and blue color scheme, something that’s fabric-based and allows for complete free-range of movement. Take Captain America’s costume in The Avengers, for instance. There was no unnecessary bulk at all hindering Chris Evans’ motions; it was a practical, functional battle suit that the audience believed he could move freely in. Artist Gary Frank recently designed a costume for an updated re-telling of Batman’s origin called Earth One that looked functional and dramatic at the same time. Something like this could be perfect for Batman’s next big screen look:
4.) Let’s See Batman As A Detective!
There is a reason why Batman is referred to as “The Dark Knight Detective,” and that the flagship title he has been the star of since 1939 is called Detective Comics. It’s because Bruce Wayne spent years learning the art of crime solving from the best deductive minds around the world during his training. If you commit a crime in Gotham, you’d better not leave a trace of your existence and have at least five backup plans, because if you screw up even in the most minute way, Batman will find you.
So far none of the seven modern Batman films have explored this side of the caped crusader beyond a superficial level, choosing instead to focus on the mythic and physical aspects of the character. So now that a reboot of the franchise is inevitable, how about putting Batman’s legendary sleuthing skills to the forefront of the new films? Give The Dark Knight an elaborate mystery to solve, constructed by a fiendish criminal mastermind that challenges Batman’s intellect and is full of twists and turns for the audience. The only problem with this approach would be Hollywood’s reluctance to eschew spectacle in favor of something more cerebral. In today’s blockbuster climate, where bombast and explosions rule, they might feel the audience is too inattentive or stupid to embrace a summer blockbuster that makes them *gasp* think![divider]
3.) How About A Bit More Of The Outlandish Stuff?
Christopher Nolan attempted to ground his films in a gritty, real-world environment, which meant that any villains or supporting characters that had outlandish costumes, physical mutations, super-powers, or any sort of supernatural ability were right out. But all of these types of characters play big roles in the Batman universe, existing right alongside “normal” human characters like Commissioner Gordon or the Joker.
So whoever takes the reigns of the Batman films should probably build a universe that incorporates the serious approach to the characters and tone, but also allows room for a man who shoots people with a freeze ray, a woman who can control and communicate with plant life, a living ventriloquist dummy, or a sentient mass of clay that can shape shift into any form. Get creative with Gotham again! It might be a good idea to bring back some of the gothic elements to the city’s architecture – not as much as the Burton films and certainly none of the insane neon-splashed stuff in the Schumacher films – but a happy medium somewhere in between the Burton/Nolan designs.[divider]
2.) Give Us A Great Robin Story
Robin is still a hugely popular character in the Batman mythos, so it’s utterly perplexing why Joel Schumacher botched his character so badly in Batman Forever and Batman & Robin, and why Christopher Nolan felt he was too silly to be included in “The Dark Knight” trilogy as anything more than a brief nod and wink to the fans at the very end of the saga. But Robin can absolutely work in a film – and work very well – if handled properly.
People love Robin – he’s a dynamic, bright, and fun character that juxtaposes perfectly against Batman’s myopic resolve and sometimes overwhelming darkness. The key to Robin is that you’ve got to make him much younger than Batman. Chris O’ Donnel was laughably unbelievable as an 18 year-old, and 18 was already far too old for an orphan to become a ward of a wealthy 30-year-old billionaire anyway. Robin should be a kid, no more than 15 years old. This allows for a much bigger emotional impact when his parents are killed in front of him (a tragedy that mirror’s Batman’s own, and is a huge element of their relationship), and strong age-gap interactions with Batman.
Robin’s origin could be worked into a film where Batman is already established (please, NO MORE BATMAN ORIGINS!), and is dealing with a villain heavily connected to Robin (Mob Boss Tony Zucco or Two-Face), or even better, the film could just kick off with Batman and Robin’s crime-fighting partnership already operating at a high level. Do we really need any more origin stories? Make Batman and Robin’s origin story a five-minute pre-credit sequence: Bruce Wayne’s parents died, he went away for years to train and became Batman. Dick Grayson’s parents died, he was taken in by Bruce Wayne and trained to be Robin and now they fight bad guys together. Bam. Done. On with the movie![divider]
1.) Get Another Auteur To Direct
This is probably the most important factor of them all when it comes to The Dark Knight’s new cinematic adventures. While we all want to see Batman go in a different direction from the Nolan films, that certainly doesn’t mean we can allow his legacy to fall into the hands of a hack studio hand like Brett Ratner or Paul W.S. Anderson. The franchise cannot be allowed to revert back into neon-lit, rubber-nippled camp, or empty Summer spectacle. Like Nolan and Tim Burton before him, Batman deserves a director with vision, style, and technical acumen; someone with a great creative mind that can contribute to the screenwriting process and preserve the mythical aspects of The Dark Knight for the next generation.