Years ago, I wrote an op-ed here on BOF arguing that the BATMAN film franchise needed to be like the BOND series. Now, this was after the four Burton/Schumacher films and right after Christopher Nolan was hired to reboot Batman on film with what would end up being 2005’s BATMAN BEGINS.
My thinking at the time was that Nolan’s first film, this “reboot” of live-action Batman on film, was a fresh start after the series was run off the highway and into a ditch in 1997 with BATMAN & ROBIN (though nowadays in the post-THE DARK KNIGHT TRILOGY/THE BATMAN world, I no longer “hate” that movie). Batman on the big screen was getting a second chance (which was NOT a given) after a colossal flameout and one that needed to be done right this time. Thus, why not take a page from the longest-running superhero (secret agent) franchise to date, Bond, James Bond?
So yeah, do Batman on film 007-style and keep this rebooted Batman movie series going and going and going!
Different directors/filmmaking teams? Fine! Different actors playing Batman and core Batman characters? OK! It wasn’t like this wasn’t already happening, right? Between 1989 and 1997, we’d already gone through two directors and three Batmen (Batmans?). Directors and actors can come and go over the years, but keep the same kinda-sorta continuity going. You know, like Bond…did (more on that in a bit).
Like most, I figured that BATMAN BEGINS would be the first of many Batman films all set in the same continuity and that they would do it better this time around. However, at the time, I had no idea that Nolan was planning a finite Batman story that would be told over the course of three movies, the revered DARK KNIGHT TRILOGY.
Honestly, I was a tad disappointed that there would be no more Christopher Nolan Batman movies after THE DARK KNIGHT RISES — my mindset didn’t yet grasp how it could just, well, end, you know? That wasn’t the way things were done! And then I saw RISES and it all made sense to me and my position on how the Batman film series should progress changed. I became an advocate of putting Batman on film in the hands of a quality filmmaker who has a specific vision for the character/story to tell and have it take place over a set number of films (I believe a trilogy is perfect, but I’m not opposed to 1 or 2 more). A fresh beginning and ultimately, a definitive ending.
Hell, even Bond took a page from Batman, pulled a BATMAN BEGINS with CASINO ROYALE, and is now in the planning stages of the next BOND series of films with a fresh continuity. Furthermore, I’d argue that Sony took a page from BEGINS with not just one, but two reboots of their Spider-Man film franchise (THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN films and the HOMECOMING/HOME movies).
Why not, as I previously said, simply keep going and going and going with Batman on film?
Well, for one thing, the Batman franchise set the precedent of rebooting and each new series being successful.
Secondly — and probably most importantly — if it keeps going and going and going, it’s going to end up running out of gas. Let’s say that despite BATMAN & ROBIN pretty much being a failure (though it actually made money), Warner Bros. decided to go ahead with the 5th film of that series, BATMAN UNCHAINED (which we all incorrectly called BATMAN TRIUMPHANT for years) and it ended up being successful (ala BATMAN FOREVER after BATMAN RETURNS). As a result, we probably would’ve got several more sequels of very diminishing quality and we wouldn’t have gotten THE DARK KNIGHT TRILOGY…just imagine that!
I can also make the argument that if Batman on film had not been rebooted with BEGINS leading to no DARK KNIGHT TRILOGY, the entire comic book movie genre would not have reached the heights it has over the last 20ish years — Disney’s super-successful MCU very much included (which is starting to run out of gas itself…so don’t get me started on shared universes!).
Currently, we are in the midst of the third solo iteration of Batman on film with Matt Reeves’ THE BATMAN SAGA. Once he’s done and his story is completed, the keys to the SOLO cinematic Bat-Franchise (Yes, I’m excluding this THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD/new DCU shared universe thing…I said don’t get me started on shared universes!) should be given to a new filmmaker (who has, of course, a passion and vision for the character and a story to tell) with the same creative freedom as their predecessors.
On so on and so on and so on… – Bill “Jett” Ramey
ALSO CHECK OUT | The BOF Social Hour Podcast Ep. 133: Favorite Batman Movie Trailers