Even though we’re still three months away from the release of Christopher Nolan’s epic-looking Batman Begins sequel The Dark Knight, Bat-fever is already reaching dangerous heights. That low rumble you hear in the distance is actually the sound of thousands of Bat-geeks grinding their teeth in unison. How much ass will Heath Ledger’s Joker kick? How much of Harvey Dent’s evil alter ego will we see before the end of the film? Will they let you into the screening if you show up dressed as Nightwing? The Bat-obsessed nation needs the answers to these burning questions now lest their raging nerd boners explode in a quick, gooey flash of Smilex and Bat Shark Repellent Spray. To these people (myself included), the second to last week of July might as well be ten years in the future.
One fact that can be totally confirmed at this point in time: Michael Keaton, the man who filled the Batsuit beautifully in Tim Burton’s two Caped Crusader flicks, will have no involvement in The Dark Knight. That makes me frown harder than New Coke and CGI Jabba the Hutt. Yeah, it’s a reboot or a retcon or whatever the trendy-ass computer-based term for a new movie based on an old property is called, but come on, guys – Michael Keaton is ace, pure gold all the way. As far as this writer is concerned, the Mr. Mom vet should be in every movie, ever. Imagine how much better Gigli would have been had MK been hovering in the background, just doin’ his kooky thang. He could have single-handedly saved that Hindenburg-sized disaster.
But I digress. Here’s a list of Dark Knight roles Michael Keaton could have – nay, should have – filled: #12: The Joker
Rumors began circulating shortly after Batman Begins that the Keat was being considered for the sequel’s Clown Prince of Crime. Nolan decided to go younger, sleeker, and more Australian, which is fine. It’s his movie. However, it can’t be denied that Keaton’s arched eyebrows and sly, almost demented grin would have looked pretty killer in the villain’s famous whiteface. Could he have played the psychotic jester convincingly, though? Hey, look at Beetlejuice again. Mike was basically doing a Borscht Belt Joker there. Lose the Jackie Mason angle and you’ve got one raw, evil dude. Furthermore, Keaton’s presence as the major bad guy in The Dark Knight would have bridged the generation gap between all us old bastards who were primed for Batman ’89 and all the tadpoles who think Burton’s movies were “totally gay.” Unfortunately, Keaton could probably never play the Joker in anything for one fatal reason: his hair is too curly.
#11: Harvey Dent
M-Keat looks fairly distinguished. If he wasn’t an actor, you might assume he was some kind of politician/public servant fighting to keep our streets safe and clean for the children. Can’t you picture him in a suit and tie giving press conferences and appearing on public television at nine in the morning on a Sunday? “How do I feel about finance reform? Well, ah, sometimes, you know, it helps if you break…it….down. So let’s do that now!” He’d outlaw Sandworms, we know that for a fact. As previously noted, Harvey Dent eventually turns into someone ah-not so nice. A more specific description of this character might be “emotionally tormented everyman transformed by foreign substances” – kind of like the dude Keaton played with aplomb in Clean & Sober. We’ve already been over how Keat would rock as a bad guy, though, so no need to rehash.
#10: Rachel Dawes
This is in no way meant as a slam against Maggie Gyllenhaal. I would like to state for the record that I find her extremely, supremely attractive from head to toe. Furthermore, I really liked her in that thing I saw her in. However, Magpie looks absolutely nothing like the original Rachel Dawes, Katie Holmes, who had to bow out of The Dark Knight because, uh, what? Scheduling conflicts? Is anybody buying that? It’s surely because her husband is fucking crazy and his religion somehow forbids her from participating in any film that doesn’t openly suggest L. Ron Hubbard was our true Lord and Saviour, right? Anyway, if they were gonna go that far away from petite, mousy brunette for the new Rachel Dawes, why not just throw Keaton in a damn dress? I’d love to hear his sexy girl voice. I bet it’s soft and reassuring.
#9: Salvatore Maroni
This is the role they gave Eric Roberts. Seeing his smug ass in the trailer nearly made me vomit. He’s got this look on his face that literally says, “Yeah, I’m in the new Batman movie. How you like them apples, Julia?” I just know he’s gonna be like that the whole time. Keaton’s way more professional than that. Besides, we all saw Johnny Dangerously. We know he can do flashy mobster.
#8: Mike Engel
This is the role they gave Brat Pack vet Anthony Michael Hall. Insiders are saying this Engel character will be like Robert Wuhl’s spunky reporter in the ‘89 Batman. Comic relief? The Keat’s got that shit sewn up! Night Shift, Mr. Mom, Gung Ho, The Dream Team…what more proof do you need that Michael Keaton can lay down the funny? He’s the sole reason the Jim Belushi sitcom Working Stiffs lasted more than two episodes! He was even funny in that Shakespeare adaptation they made with Keanu Reeves. Yuks flow like water from MK. Plus, how cute would he be in a little hat with a press card sticking out of it?
#7: Alfred Pennyworth
Who says Bruce Wayne’s loyal butler has to be English? Can’t millionaire playboys have American butlers? Why are the British coming over here and taking all our service jobs? It’s not fair to the thousands of classy, erudite U.S. citizens who look great in white gloves. How about we send a few Long Island girls over to the U.K. to take away some of your precious nanny jobs? How would you like that, England? Not very much, I bet!
#6: Lt. James Gordon
Because you know you wanna see Keaton with a hot porn ‘stache.
#5: The Scarecrow
I realize Dr. Jonathan Crane, alias the Scarecrow, was played quite wonderfully by Cillian Murphy in Batman Begins, but I think a cool story line would be that the bested villain rapidly aged in Arkham Asylum via daily ingestion of his own toxic gasses (the kind he made in his lab, not the kind that come out of his butt, you sickos). You know, the same way twenty year old meth addicts end up looking like senior citizens after a couple years of systematic abuse. Of course, there’s an even bigger difference in general appearance between Michael Keaton and Cillian Murphy than there is between Maggie Gyllenhaal and Katie Holmes. I don’t know how you’d explain that away. Maybe the Scarecrow got some plastic surgery while he was locked up? See, this is why I don’t write movies.
#4: Gotham City Bank Manager
We all know by now the Joker’s first crime in The Dark Knight is a daring bank robbery. Throwing Keaton in there as the bank manager would have made for pretty wild scene. The new Joker gets all up in the old Batman’s grill. They could have had a moment where their eyes lock, and Keat squints like he almost recognizes Clowny Clown Clown. Then the blue dye packs in the money could explode all over the two before the audience has a chance to groan.
#3: Member of Joker’s Gang
How hot would it be if one of those clowns pulled off his mask and it was Keaton? What if every member of the Joker’s entourage was a former Bat-actor? Clooney, Kilmer, O’Donnell, all hidden under cheap dime store Halloween gear. Guaranteed if there was a major reveal like that, more than one person in every theater in the world would shout, “Oh, SNAP!” non-ironically.
#2: Bruce Wayne
Let’s face the music: some of Keaton’s best scenes in the first two Batman movies took place not in his rubbery crime-fighting costume but as dashing millionaire Bruce Wayne. We loved the slightly awkward intensity he brought to Gotham City’s most famous trust fund baby. I could have personally watched an entire Michael Keaton Bruce Wayne spin-off film in which the rich entrepreneur and philanthropist conducts his daily business, taking three hour lunch meetings, placing long distance phone calls, and generally hobnobbing with other well-to-do jerkoffs. It sure was fun watching him trying to describe his secret life to Vicki Vale in the first movie. Maybe what I really want is a special Michael Keaton edition of “The $10,000 Pyramid.” He’d just be decribin’ shit to housewifes and unemployed losers all day. Now that’s entertainment.
#1: Michael Keaton
Yes, Michael Keaton as himself, the ultimate cameo. Here’s how I envision it: the Keat would be sitting on a bench reading a newspaper with a very noticeable Adam West sitting next to him. The new Batman whizzes by on his ridiculous-ass Bat pod. “Damn kids and their razor scooters!” Keaton would say while rustling his paper, not really paying attention to his immediate surroundings. West would raise his finger and open his mouth as if to speak, but then would think better of it. Or maybe he could just do a take to the camera with a look on his face that says, Can you believe this guy? Then we’d pan over past West to show a portly Burt Ward, who would say something like, “Holy inattentive newshound, Batman – I mean, Adam!” Again, solid evidence that proves I suck at writing movies (I’m not exactly great at lists, either).
The Dark Knight hits our screens in July. Without, sadly, Michael Keaton.