Gary Collinson discusses the possibilities for the Batman movie franchise after Christopher Nolan makes his Gotham swan song with The Dark Knight Rises…
On July 20th, 2012 director Christopher Nolan will deliver the third and final instalment in his Batman trilogy with the release of The Dark Knight Rises, the highly-anticipated follow-up to Batman Begins (2005) and The Dark Knight (2008). So far the project has been shrouded in secrecy, although we do know that Nolan will be reuniting with Inception’s Tom Hardy (who will portray an as-yet-unnamed villain, with Professor Hugo Strange the favourite), while Christian Bale, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman and Michael Caine will all make their return to Gotham City. Meanwhile Nolan has revealed there will be a female villain (actresses such as Megan Fox, Anne Hathaway, Angelina Jolie, Keira Knightley, Naomi Watts and Rachel Weisz have all been linked to Catwoman, while my money’s on the inclusion of Talia al Ghul) [update 12/01/11 – which according to the Hollywood Reporter looks to be the case, with the aforementioned Hathaway and Knightley joined by Kate Mara, Charlotte Riley and Gemma Arterton in testing for roles], and confirmed that fan favourite The Riddler will not be making an appearance, despite strong fan support for the likes of Johnny Depp and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
Obviously The Dark Knight Rises is going to generate a huge amount of interest as production gets underway this coming April, and if Nolan’s previous efforts are anything to go by the film is likely to be a runaway success when it hits screens next summer. However, assuming Nolan does call it a day (and assuming Warner Bros. don’t change his mind by throwing an enormous pile of cash his way), what does the future hold for the Batman series? Naturally the studio won’t put a multi-billion dollar franchise to bed, and Nolan or not we won’t have seen the last of The Caped Crusader on the big screen. So, let’s take a look at some of the options at Warner Bros.’ disposal…
New sequel, new director, new Batman
They couldn’t make the same mistake twice, could they? The cracks were there for all to see in Joel Schumacher’s Batman Forever (1995) and it took almost a decade to lay the ghost of Batman & Robin (1997) to rest, while Tim Burton’s Batman (1989) and Batman Returns (1992) weren’t a patch on Nolan’s vision of The Caped Crusader. It would take a brave man to follow Nolan (you can almost smell the fan backlash already) and it’s more than likely that Bale will bail if his good buddy isn’t sitting in the director’s chair. Nevertheless both of Schumacher’s camped-up, neon-soaked sequels managed to turn a tidy profit for the studio and one has to wonder how the general movie-going public would react to such a move. Would they care? I’m not so sure, and I’m afraid the Warner execs could feel the same way too.
Batman vs. Superman
Back in 2001 director Wolfgang Petersen was signed up to helm a showdown between DC Comics’ two biggest superheroes, based on a script from Se7en scribe Andrew Kevin Walker that was later rewritten by Akiva Goldsman (I Am Legend). At the time offers were put out to Christian Bale and Josh Hartnett, but the project fell apart when Petersen left to direct Troy (2004). Fast forward a decade and now Christopher Nolan has his hands on both properties, directing The Dark Knight Rises and producing Zack Snyder’s Superman: Man of Steel (2012). Nolan has previously stated that he wouldn’t be interested in bringing the two characters together, but once he’s gone who knows? Perhaps Zack Snyder might fancy his chances, or even screenwriter David S. Goyer (Blade: Trinity)? And should Warner Bros. manage to persuade Nolan to stay on in a producing capacity, would that be enough to secure the services of Christian Bale? Regardless of the talent involved, a Batman vs. Superman movie surely would do huge business and you have to expect the studio execs to be mulling over the idea in the not-too-distant future.
The Justice League
2012 is going to be a big year for superhero films, what with The Avengers squaring off against the latest Batman and Superman movies, and when Joss Whedon’s ensemble gets the cash registers ringing for Marvel there’s a strong likelihood that talk of a Justice League movie will resurface once again. For the uninitiated, Mad Max director George Miller was brought in by Warner Bros. to oversee a $220m motion-capture Justice League movie back in 2007, with the likes of Armie Hammer, D. J. Cotrona and Adam Brody all signed on to star, and while the project ultimately fell apart it has never been officially cancelled. Throw into the mix the upcoming Green Lantern (2011) flick with Ryan Reynolds – not to mention The Flash and Wonder Woman in development for 2013 – and The Justice League certainly starts to look like a strong possibility.
Batman Begins… Again
If Nolan hadn’t opted to reboot the franchise with Batman Begins then a fresh new take on the character would be the obvious way to go. But what purpose would another origin story serve, especially when it was done so well last time around? Out of all the possibilities here this has to be the least likely, unless they opt for some kind of Batman Beyond angle, which quite frankly would be pants. Batman is Bruce Wayne, and we all know the how’s and why’s of his creation inside out by now. If you’re going to go for a reboot, give it a few years at the very least. About twenty should suffice.
The Dark Knight Returns
It’s been rumoured before – apparently Joel Schumacher was looking to cast either Michael Keaton or Clint Eastwood to portray an aging Bruce Wayne back in the late 90s – and Zack Snyder has previously expressed his interest in bringing the seminal comic book series to the screen, having received the blessing of none other than Frank Miller himself. Snyder proved he could do a decent job of adapting classic material with Watchmen (2009) and The Dark Knight Returns would offer Warner Bros. a way of continuing their series (in name, at the very least), while skipping forward a few years will provide a ready made excuse for replacing Christian Bale (and Heath Ledger, for that matter). The Dark Knight Returns is bound to rake in the cash at the box office so the prospects must surely be high…
How do you think Warner Bros. will look to continue the Batman franchise, and who could step as the next Dark Knight? Please feel free to leave your thoughts…
Holy Franchise, Batman! Bringing The Caped Crusader to the Screen:
Part 1: 1940s – 1970s
Part 2: 1980s – 1990s
Part 3: 2000s – Beyond