Where next for Batman on the big screen?

Feature James Hunt 29 Aug 2012 - 06:54

Which comic book stories would give Batman the best entry route back to the movies? Here are some suggestions...

There are big spoilers for The Dark Knight Rises in this article.

Now that Christopher Nolan's Bat-trilogy has been laid to rest, there's an air of uncertainty around where the next cinematic outing for the character will come from. Clearly, after the success and acclaim of Nolan's trilogy, the last thing anyone wants to see is Batman put out to pasture for an extended period - but how can you follow such a tour de force?

There are several obvious directions Warner could take the franchise, but Nolan's interpretation has proven so towering and wide-reaching that establishing a new face for Batman will be a tough job. A Robin spin-off starring JGL seems overly fanciful, and it wouldn't really be Batman, would it? Another origin adaptation (like The Amazing Spider-Man) would cover ground that Nolan has extensively explored, and carries such a high risk of boring audiences that it'd be foolish to seriously entertain the idea.

So what stories could Warner do instead? Despite the character's wealth of tried-and-tested material, this is a surprisingly difficult question to answer - not least because Nolan cannily incorporated the plot beats and central concepts from almost all of the best Batman stories across his trilogy. From Knightfall to The Killing Joke, from No Man's Land to Year One and, of course, from The Dark Knight Returns, Nolan stripped them all for their key parts. There's nothing left for whoever comes next!

Well, almost nothing. We have some suggestions…

Batman: The Long Halloween


Nolan's Batman was many things. A billionaire. A genius. An actual ninja. But there was one thing that Christopher Nolan's Batman wasn't, and that's the world's greatest detective. Not only did JGL spend most of The Dark Knight Rises doing the detective work that Batman would traditionally undertake, when Bats finally gets his hands on Bane his plan to figure out who has the bomb trigger is to repeatedly punch him in the face and shout "where is the trigger?" – hardly foolproof. Sherlock Holmes would be embarrassed by such amateur work.

Moving away from Nolan's interpretation of Batman, we could see a version of the character slightly more interested in the details. The Long Halloween is a great long-form detective story (written by Jeph Loeb in his prime) which pits Batman against the mob, and sees him come face to face with a selection of psychopaths as he attempts to uncover the identity of the serial killer Holiday.

An adaptation of The Long Halloween would be able to ramp up the tension without making the stakes impossibly high, as Nolan's films frequently did. It'd mean a Batman movie with a distinctly different flavour, more along the lines of a James Bond or Jason Bourne action thriller than a superhero action blockbuster. And most of all, it'd take Batman back to his roots as a street-level pulp detective who combines wits with fists, rather than spends all of his time in a prototype stealth helicopter.

And, hey, if you do The Long Halloween, you've instantly got a sequel possibility available in Batman: Dark Victory. Which brings us to our next suggestion…

Robin: Year One

Alright, now, hang on a second. We all know that many people who don't read comics think Robin is stupid, and over the years, he's proven a gift for comedians who want to make some lazy jokes about homosexuality. But hold up a second. Nolan's Trilogy was dark, to the point where Batman ended up as a crippled, near-suicidal recluse who eventually needed someone – Catwoman, in this case – to give him a reason to leave the shadows behind and remember to live a little.

In many ways, that's Robin's role in the comics. He's not just a capable partner for Batman, he's a way to counterbalance the grimness that being Batman entails. As long as Robin's with him (or, at least, waiting in the Batcave for him to return) Bruce Wayne can't run off on suicide missions. He's got a tangible, very personal responsibility to come back alive.

Done properly, there's no reason that Robin couldn't be a legitimate co-star in a Batman film, and we don't mean in the Chris O'Donnell role as a wise-cracking tool. Dick Grayson's origin is a strong one that hasn't been properly adapted to film, and it reflects Batman's own, giving moviemakers a legitimate reason to revisit that event for the new continuity. What's more, the story of Batman accepting Robin would mirror a doubtlessly sceptical audience's.

And if you don't think it can work, just ask yourself: who was the coolest character in Kick-Ass. Was it the Batman analogue, who burnt to death tied to a chair? Or was it the Robin analogue, who ended the film by defeating an entire family of mobsters several times her own age? Exactly.

World's Finest

It's looking pretty certain that the next time Batman appears on screen, it'll be in a JLA film. But forget that for a minute. A Superman/Batman film would be a much better way for Warner Bros to bring its most recognisable names together – because let's face it, who wants to see Aquaman and Wonder Woman chilling out together when they could have similar scenes with Superman and Batman?

Instead of trying to out-Avenger The Avengers, Warner should just pair up Batman and Superman in a kind of mismatched-buddy action film, like Lethal Weapon, or K-9 (ahem). The two have vastly different methods and philosophies, but they ultimately pursue the same goal: justice. Batman and Superman are the two most popular superheroes of all time, so put them in the same film and you could expect Avengers box-office numbers - but with the added bonus that you've only had to pay two lead actors!

Imagine the moments you could get. Batman figuring out Superman's secret identity with his detective skills. Superman using his own powers to unmask Batman. The classic Hero Versus Hero misunderstanding fight scene. And, of course, Lex Luthor being thrown in an Arkham Asylum cell opposite the Joker. Don't pretend your fanboy/fangirl buttons aren't being pushed.

Of course, despite the rumours of a film in development, it's not entirely likely to happen, if only because if a bad film tanks it could hobble both franchises. But if it did work, it'd be a far better way to introduce a DC Cinematic Universe than kicking off with a JLA film would. Please, do us all a favour and save Aquaman for the sequel?

So, those are just three ways you could do a Batman film without resorting to the origin (again) or touching the stories that Nolan has already had his fingers all over. Of course, this isn't an exhaustive list, so if you think you've got a better idea, you know where the comments box is…

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Disqus - noscript

Why couldn't JPL run with the Halloween story, he's already shown he is primarily a detective and not as violently physical as Bruce Wayne, he could either be Robin, or better Nightwing, (a Batman successor anyway)

I meant JGL.

Kingdom Come would be a fantastic JLA movie. On a side note I always thought it would be cool if they tied several storylines together to form one movie. Kinda liiike Batman/ Spawn vs Predator.

Actually, I think putting Batman out to pasture for an extended period is totally what I'd like to see. Leave the (film going) audience wanting more and give it a rest for a while.

Leave Bats alone for a decade minimum.
New superman trilogy (as long as done well!) and wonder women film will keep us happy for that time. Also chuck in some low budget interesting minor character films.
I would love to see a low budget, hyper violent Nightwing film. And you know who should direct, Tarantino! He's done his marital arts film, his war film. Just about to release his western. He's a man that likes experimenting with genres so why not a superhero film?

I reckon a new live action TV series is the way to go.

They need to leave Batman off the big screen for a bit, anything they do will simply be compared to Nolan's films (and most likely be found wanting)... But this is Hollywood and Warnre Bros don't have too many big franchises

A lot of the long Halloween was used in The Dark night. So that one might not work so well

Knight i mean haha

I agree with some of the comments on here. It is time to hang up Batman for a couple of yrs and let Nolan's triumph settle. DC are so intent on setting up their 'Universe' for their other characters they dont seem to understand yet that Nolan has given them a perfect Universe already to expand the DC canon and bring in others. Yes. Im talking about a JGL NIGHTWING movie. U can take the more 'ivestigating' aspect of Batman and put it into Nightwing but still keep alot of the tech and, more importantly, the Nolan Universe. For me its a 100% no brainer direction thatr WB would be foolish not to explore. NIGHTWING IS THE WAY FORWARD.

Am I the only one who was disappointed with Nolan's Batman?
The so called Dark Knight turned into a sad recluse tortured by moral hang-ups just took all the Dark out of him. Don't get me wrong the films are good, better than previous cheese and camp, but the Bat is just sad and lost. Its a shame.
To me, the Dark Knight should have been just that. A terrifying, merciless revenge monster with a high tech arsenal who doesn't use guns, - because he prefers to feel the crunch of bones under his fists. All the character juxtaposition can be left to Bruce Wayne. A proper billionaire not a Howard Hughes.
Anyway its too late now. Warner or whoever it may be will have to wait for everyone to forget the broken hero who slunk away to have a normal life.

Batman vs Predator!!

Seriously, the only movie I want to see Batman in for the next 10 years is a Batman/Superman teamup.

ugh! Please no! Nolan's films were joyless exercises in stripping a character down to his most feral nature. You can't even say his gadgets demonstrated his intelligence as it was all invented by Fox's R&D dept. There was nothing to root for in Bruce's character, you just had to sit there and watch things unfold around him. Very badly handled.

I want a new Batman as soon as possible to erase the bad taste in my mouth left by TDKR. Nolan did what every studio in the past has done to comic book heroes and bastardised the character beyond recognition to fit into what they think a particular demographic wants, namely grim and gritty blockbuster action.

why dont they carry on with the gotham being cut off from the mainland like in no mans land, needing a new batman and other vigilantes to rise up etc

I think they should do the new batman movies in the arkham game style. It combines the best elements of all the characters, while have that "batman" style. It's dark but not Nolan series dark meaning he would fit into a universe of other heroes. It develops the parts that were not developed in Nolan's series like being the detective and the comic book history. I also hope they don't do the origin again, just jump on with him already being batman and develop background through small flashbacks and run ins with foes like Ras Al Ghul.

A Tarantino marital arts film? I'd pay to see that.

While I understand why both Marvel and DC want to have films that tie in together, what's so wrong with one shot, non-franchise stand alone movies. I'm kind of sad that The Dark Knight Returns is being adapted as a straight to DVD movie. I think that it could be a strong film on the big screen. I like the idea of it being animated, then you don't have to try to either attempt to translate the visual style of the book in to a real world setting (which probably wouldn't work too well, it'd come off as kind of goofy, especially the look of the mutants) or just abandon it all together (also a bad idea, as I think that the visual look of the comic is forever tied to the plot and themes). So animation is a good route to go.
Also, it gives you the ability to bring in some of the best creative minds behind the animated version of Batman. Tell me it wouldn't be awesome to have the creators of Batman the Animated Series adapt TDKR as a full length animated feature. Also, you could bring in strong voice talent. To this day when I read TDKR I hear Kevin Conroy as Batman, Mark Hamill as the Joker, and Tim Daly as Superman. Also, I don't recall the names of the actors but whoever did Gordon's and Alfred's voices in the series.
One last thing about the upcoming TDKR movie. From what I've seen, it looks like they're going to try to cram all of it into one movie. Bad, bad bad idea. I think that if it was done for the big screen it could reasonably be done as a trilogy. The first movie would naturally be about Batman's return and culminate with his capture of Two-Face. The second would showcase his first and second encounters with the Mutant leaders and end with the escape of the Joker. The third would be the Batman as fugitive angle, starting out with hime being blamed for the death of the Joker and ending with his one on one with Superman. I'm afraid the DVD movie is going to have to do some serious chopping of these various story lines to get it to a reasonable running time. Either that or its going to have a hectic feel with it jumping from one storyline to the next at a fast pace.

I hate to say it, but the arkham games have pretty strong stories on their own. They could be adapted just as well. And if they did arkham asylum as a movie they have a built in sequel with arkham city.

Dude, have you seriously not seen Kill Bill 1 and 2 at this point?

The only problem with the Long Halloween in the Nolan Universe is that by The Dark Knight Rises, it's pretty much been established that the mob has been thoroughly decimated in Gotham. And the mob is a huge aspect of TLH.
Another potential problem is that TLH relies a great deal on the Rogues Gallery. So you'd have to establish some of the other characters (like Solomon Grundy, the Calendar Man, and the Mad Hatter).
No, I think it best that if someone does TLH that they do it as a stand alone film or at least a part of another film continuity.

Or you can just make a Batman 4, with JGJ being the new Batman, and failing to do so, making old Bruce return from his vacations. I don't think Selina would be with him for much longer anyway. And i don't think he´s dead. Nolan's trilogy didn't really ended things in a way that forbides a sequel. A new arch of stories, or a new trilogy, in the same chronology. That´s fine by me.

I'm partially going with the majority saying I think it's too soon fora live-action theatrical Batman film. I would however support the idea of a theatrically released ANIMATED film. I know that Warner Bros. has gone a slightly different direction with their DCAU films but I'd love if they did a film in the style of Mask of the Phantasm.

Agree the franchise needs a few years off but personally then I'd go off on a tangent - make The Dark Knight Returns properly - older batman, mutants, US geopolitics, vigilantism and violence, iconic imagery and Supes going mano-a-mano with the Caped Crusader! Twenty years ago Nick Nolte would have been ideal but oddly now the mature and meaner George Clooney might do the role the justice

mar·i·tal /ˈmaritl/
Adjective:
Of or relating to marriage or the relations between husband and wife.

If they didn't have the animated version of Dark Knight Returns coming out already I would totally agree with you. But axe GC, he had his chance already.

I like the Long Halloween idea. I think making Batman a detective and setting it in a more unrealistic environment would make it fresh and interesting. I also feel doing a Batman, Superman and possibly Wonder Woman film might be a better place to start instead of jumping into a JLA film.

With the Dark Knight story done I think they should start up a Batman and Robin trilogy. You can take some ideas from Frank Miller's All-Star Batman and Robin for the first film. Jump in with Batman already doing his thing and hunting for a low-level mob goon before he finds his way to the circus. Hit the Robin intro and mix in some flashbacks to Bruce's past that builds the connection between the two before Bruce takes him in. The first film can get through them becoming the Dynamic Duo and taking down their first villain together. Second movie takes place some years later and Dick is tired of the Robin schtick. They start to drift apart and by the end we can have Dick leaving to take up his own persona. With Dick leaving in the second movie we can bring Nightwing in at the end of it or in the beginning of the third film. Maybe bring in Jason Todd or skip him and jump to Tim Drake as the new Robin in the final film as well. I'm not sure if I would try and give this a definitive ending like Nolan did. If DC wants to build up a new universe I would bring in another Robin to show that the story doesn't end here and there are always more stories to be told....

What, nobody ever thought of The Brave & The Bold? And when do we get the Marvel/DC crossovers?

You've obviously never seen Batman; Dead End.

That would be one incredible film!

Great article. Agree with just about all of it.

Using a Batman reboot for the Justice League film is pretty sneaky idea. Warner Bros. will still have a way to sucker people into paying regardless of how the other DC superhero films end up.

Fans, geeks, etc. will always criticize but end up buying tickets regardless of their opinions.

Whoops. Spell check on iPad can take the blame for that one.
I am sure you all knew what I meant however.
Although a Tarantino romcom would be interesting...

It really does depend on which 'version' of Batman you prefer. Nolans Batman has been the closest interpretation to The Batman I love (in film. I think the recent games are a more satisfying experience for me). If you like other iterations that's fine.
To be fair though, I do think Nolans Batmans films were lacking a tad in the detective prowess.

i really agree! but for me, they should continue nolans batman movie. and having a SUPERMAN AND BATMAN TEAM UP FOR A MOVIE IS MUCH BETTER THAN A JUSTICE LEAGUE MOVIE! they should first introduce the other members before doing a justice league movie! make a FLASH MOVIE, a WONDERWOMAN movie, AQUAMAN movie!

I loved the Nolan films, but whatever they do, I only have just one request - can we have more screen time with Batman next time please?

I think they should still use the same actors, because with somebody else it just wouldn't give the same feel to the movie. They shoud reintroduce batman into the next film somehow and team up with robin, and who knows? They might even have catwoman as an ally too?

The lack of detective prowess is what annoys me about the films though. Instead of being the one tracking down the bad guys he's just reacting and as someone mentioned elsewhere his solution to stopping the bomb is to slap Bane around a bit and expect him to talk! It's just mindless!

I can grudgingly accept that the tone is much close to the Batman I know but without the sense of family from his supporting cast (robin, Nightwing, Red Robin, etc.) then Batman is less of a driven, obsessed hero than he is a raging vigilante. Not my favourite interpretation at all.

At least The Dark Knight Returns will be two animated movies...
BTW Efrem Zimbalist Jr. and Clive Revill voiced Alfred and Bob Hastings voiced Gordon

I would like to see a Batman like the one in New Frontier, more of an enigma in a cloth suit than a armor-powered ninja. Really, the whole JL movie should be New Frontier.

Bring back Michael Keaton as Batman for a Batman Beyond movie.

The Long Halloween on TV as a 12 part mini-series.

Followed up by "Hush" for another 12 episodes.

when Bats finally gets his hands on Bane his plan to figure out who has the bomb trigger is to repeatedly punch him in the face and shout "where is the trigger?"
This sentence was hilarious!

I really enjoyed Batman Begins, I've watched it loads. But the other two I found dissapointing because they didn't feel like Batman to me, and lost that slight gothic edge from the first film. I never once got the impression Mr Wayne was a genius - Mr Fox was the genius in the films - he provided all the hardware at least. And that Batman Voice!! FTLOG
I think the first Burton Batman film was a very good incarnation.
I don't relish the idea of putting bats in any films with any other cross-over heroes or villains, I think there's plenty of leverage in his own world for plenty of stories.
And actually, the Main Joker-Batman Story in Arkham City would make a very decent film. And if they copied some of the style and visuals it wouldn't hurt.
I don't think the Nolan films are terrible, they just feel too rooted in the real world. The Dark Knight could just have easily been Die Hard: 5. And I don't like Mr Ledger's Joker! Mr Nicholson (obviously not anymore!) or Mr Hamil for me please - or someone similar!
The Joker vs Bats is a very intruiging relationship - I reckon there's plenty of steam left in it.
Nightwing is NEVER gonna run - only Geeks know who he is!
Really, if they can get somewhere close to the mood and style of the games - I couldn't care less what they do because that nailed it for me! But obviously we all get to have our own take on the winged crusader - which is the real genius of any long running comic!

the story i would like to see and this is coming from a true fan of the comics who read most of them
and that would be to keep the story close to the roots of of where it
left off if u are a true fanboy of the batman storys u would know
this.... when the original batman retired he had no choice his body was broken and after his battle with bane it pretty much left him disabled so he had to pass the mantel down to some one who he trust would continue his work with the same beliefs that he had and with that came the rise
of a new batman but this batman was darker even border line psycho he
broke all the rules that Bruce Wayne would never break he was like a
Frank castle aka(punisher) all of his meetings came with a death
sentence at the end. HIs look even started to changed to a phantom
looking costume he even had run ins with nightwing aka(robin) who didnt agree with his methods in the end gothom city was turned up side down to the point that Bruce Wayne the original batman decided to come out of retirement but how would a half crippled man defeat a younger and stronger batman? thats when batman went really high tec and created a new suit one that looked some what like the original but was maniacal
almost like ironman that would support his half broken back and thats
when the battle starts putting batman against batman old vs new and the
prize for the last man standing would be Gothom City now thats just a
quick sum up of that story but woudnt that be a cool follow up?

the story i would like to see and this is coming from a true fan of the comics who read most of them
and that would be to keep the story close to the roots of of where it
left off if u are a true fanboy of the batman storys u would know
this.... when the original batman retired he had no choice his body was broken and after his battle with bane it pretty much left him disabled so he had to pass the mantel down to some one who he trust would continue his work with the same beliefs that he had and with that came the rise
of a new batman but this batman was darker even border line psycho he
broke all the rules that Bruce Wayne would never break he was like a
Frank castle aka(punisher) all of his meetings came with a death
sentence at the end. HIs look even started to changed to a phantom
looking costume he even had run ins with nightwing aka(robin) who didnt agree with his methods in the end gothom city was turned up side down to the point that Bruce Wayne the original batman decided to come out of retirement but how would a half crippled man defeat a younger and stronger batman? thats when batman went really high tec and created a new suit one that looked some what like the original but was maniacal
almost like ironman that would support his half broken back and thats
when the battle starts putting batman against batman old vs new and the
prize for the last man standing would be Gothom City now thats just a
quick sum up of that story but woudnt that be a cool follow up?

look man its not that Nolan bastardized the Batman story he just made it abit more believable in reality Batman aka(Bruce Wayne) is only human with no super powers. in a comic book u can say let him stop time and fly but in the real world that dose not work and for a man to take that much abuse to his body jumping from roof to roof fighting and taking massive blows to the within time he would find it hard to make it through the day with out popping pain killers just to even get out of bed the proof in that look at mma fighters and wwe and NFL stars i luv that Nolan worked that into the scripted that his body was starting to fail him for the years of abuse his body has Indore and also in reality do u think one man in a dark bat cave could build a fighter jet a monster car all by him self i dont think so lol so Bruce Wayne had to of gotten help along the way to be batman in a comic book u can get away with anything but in the real world if u want people who dont know the story of batman that to believe that its possible for a man to become this type of hero then u would have to go with Nolan script theres a few things i wish he had of put in the movie from the comic Knightfall but im sure there will be more batman movies

I can see what he's gone for in terms of basing it in reality, which is fine. What I'm talking about is the character itself. After TDK I had to force myself to watch TDKR just for the sake of completeness and in the hope something had changed. It hadn't. There was nothing to like about Bruce Wayne. I had some sympathy sure, but as a person I couldn't care less what happened to him. Blake and Gordon on the other hand were much better done. As was the Joker and Two-Face before him.

It's as if after Batman Begins Bruce stopped being a human, but then maybe that's the point. Then ending of TDKR might very well suggest that but again, it's not a Batman/Bruce Wayne I recognise or like.

That is the point Bruce Wayne is no longer Bruce Wayne its now Batman pretending to be a made up Bruce Wayne a womanizing hard partying millionaire bachelor its only at the end where he finds some sort of peace within him self to become the real Bruce Wayne again

I would like to see something along the lines of a Watchmen-esque style Batman film set in the 40's; with self narration (maybe some Sin-City black and white style?); much like the Rorschach sequences, not so much of an emphasis on realism, but with a bigger emphasis on the detective element of Batman. There is a world of possibilities as far as where the storyline could go, and the implementation of characters, as amply discussed here; but I think something along the lines I mentioned, would be really cool.

Well reasoned and well argued. I have no problem with you not liking Nolans work.
Don't worry, I am sure another WB bat relaunch will be along soon (probably sooner than any of us would like).
Until then, you can find me happily playing my Arkham games and rasping 'I'm Batman' at the tele...

as a martial artist loved kill bill w anb 2 but not really a martial arts film mor like a slaughter

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