Why it’s right to reboot Batman after The Dark Knight Rises

Warner Bros is taking a lot of flak for revealing it’ll be rebooting Batman once Christopher Nolan has finished with The Dark Knight Rises. But what else was it supposed to do, argues Simon…?

I find myself a bit conflicted writing these words, because my natural predisposition is not favourable towards the policy of Hollywood reboots. Too often, a reboot is used to concrete over the mistakes made with a movie franchise, as if the studio concerned is looking for us to give it a blank slate. It’s a cynical practice, and while it’s worked in the past in a few cases, the vast majority of times, the reboot is a straight business ploy.

But just occasionally, it’s surely an appropriate way of dealing with the end of one story, and the start of another.

Yesterday, it was revealed that once Christopher Nolan is done and dusted with The Dark Knight Rises, which he’s set to start shooting in the next month or two, he’ll be taking a producer role (as will Emma Thomas) on the next Batman movie. And that next Batman movie will be a reboot.

For some reason, this news seemed to cause the Internet to melt down a bit for a while. And I’m a little puzzled as to how strong the feeling against the move was, and why. Because what exactly is Warner Bros supposed to do here?

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Firstly, it’s little secret that The Dark Knight Rises wraps up the story arcs that Christopher Nolan has woven into his two Batman films to date. In effect, we’re led to believe that he will be concluding his story. After that (and again, the man himself hasn’t totally confirmed this), he’s leaving Gotham City behind, at least as a director.

So, if Nolan doesn’t want to do a fourth Batman movie (and the best answer Warner Bros would be hoping for would be that Nolan would change his mind, surely), then what other options are there?

Option one is to leave the Batman franchise dormant for a while, but that’s never going to happen in a blockbuster-driven world. I do agree, to a point, with the criticisms that we could use some original ideas rather than rebooted franchises, but the problem is that summer tentpole movies are so expensive that it pays to follow a franchise.

It’s a little bit of our fault, too. If we didn’t pay to see all of the sequels and prequels, Hollywood wouldn’t make them. That much is sure. However, we can only go and see what’s put in front of us.

Personally, though, I don’t want to see the Batman franchise lying dormant. I love the idea of a new Batman film every three years, and accepting that Warner Bros is unlikely to repeat the Joel Schumacher mistake, is it a bad thing that it’s going to be rebooted under another director’s stewardship?

Because the next option is that in comes another director, who picks up where Nolan has left Gotham City, and doesn’t reboot. Instead, they try to follow directly on, in some way, from The Dark Knight Rises. And that, surely, is heading for a mighty fall.

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Christopher Nolan, most would agree, has been an inspired choice for the Bat-chair, and has redefined the Batman movies in his own way. For the next person to come in and pretend to be Christopher Nolan? Well, it’s not going to work, is it?

Instead, the reboot option here is actually logical and it’s what the comics (the source material, after all) have managed to do time and time again. Let’s not forget that when Christopher Nolan came in, we’d had four major Batman movies already, under two different directors. Granted, the franchise was very much in the doldrums, but even if you look back at the heritage of the character across other media, Nolan tried to find new things to say about the Dark Knight, and find an approach that felt fresh. That’s in spite of the fact that the character himself is over 50 years old, with thousands of pages of comic books exploring pretty much every facet of him.

So, I say bring someone else in, and let them approach Batman in a different way. I’d love a new three-film arc Batman story, under a capable director, to take the character back to his detective roots, for instance, something the movies have very rarely tackled. Or why not be really bold, and head towards the aged Batman we see in The Dark Knight Returns? That would be unlikely, but quite possibly brilliant, whether Nolan was involved or not.

Also, could Darren Aronofsky come back in to revive his plan to tackle Batman: Year One? There’s a thought.

And this is the thing: there are so many angles by which you can tackle Batman that, while Nolan’s are set to be the definitive films for a long time, it doesn’t mean that another director can’t tell a strong story well, too. It just means the bar has been set very high.

The crucial factor will be the choice of director, and Warner Bros needs to be genuinely bold, here. It’s likely that the presence of Christopher Nolan as producer on the next Batman movie post-The Dark Knight Rises will be mainly ceremonial, and that’s arguably how it should be. So, how about Warner Bros looks at the likes of Gareth Edwards, Duncan Jones, Edgar Wright, Matt Reeves, Darren Aronofsky or Joe Cornish? Those are the kind of names I’d like to see linked with the film. Or perhaps they could tempt Scorsese? Who wouldn’t want to see what he could do with a Batman movie (although he’d never do one!)?

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My only real problem with the talk of the reboot is the timing of it. It seems odd to be discussing a reboot of a franchise when the final part of its current arc hasn’t even started filming yet, but that’s studio politics at work. Warner Bros has a new studio president and he’s basically addressing the future of the studio’s key franchise, now that Harry Potter is all but done (unless they remake all the Harry Potter films, one by one). Presumably, he’s also looking to put forward some kind of statement of intent. So, that’s why we’re talking about a Batman reboot, and about reviving Justice League Of America, too.

All I’d ultimately say is this: don’t be scared of a Batman reboot. It’s worked for Bond. It’s worked for Batman himself. And if, week after week, fresh, interesting stories about The Dark Knight can be told in comic form, it shouldn’t instigate maximum fear at the thought of having two hours of filmed Batman every three years.

It might go horribly wrong, granted. And it’s certainly worth Warner Bros taking its time to get things right, and allowing at least three years between movies.

But am I the only person who wants to see Batman again on the big screen once Christopher Nolan has left Gotham?

Read all that’s known about The Dark Knight Rises here.

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