EDITOR’S NOTE: The following opinions expressed by the author doesn’t necessarily reflect those of BATMAN ON FILM. – “Jett”
Recently the question was posed to me of what I would want to see from a Reeves solo Batflick, and it got me thinking. Indulge me, if you will?
More than anything, I want to see the definitive Batman film. I think all of the previous movies have gotten elements right, but no one film has nailed every aspect of the character (Mask of the Phantasm actually succeeds, and while that was a theatrical release, I’ll keep this to live action). The Dark Knight Trilogy came close. It came very close. But those films are more of an adaptation or “take” on Batman and his meaning as a symbol than they are a straight-up interpretation. Plus, in my humble opinion, the series stumbles in its third act (but that’s another article for another day).
So what is my definitive Batman film? My biggest gripe with these movies has always been the villains. We get one or two per film, and it usually includes their origin and their ending. I’ve never gotten to hear Batman utter, “Cobblepot.” with the grit of history between the characters. By this point, I think audiences are as familiar with Batman’s rogues gallery as they are with the Caped Crusader himself. Forgo origin stories. Let Gotham be lived in, and its citizens familiar with the most notorious super-criminals this side of Metropolis. And let there be a lot of them.
To accomplish this, I would love to see a Batman film that is more episodic (something I’ll come back to), with vignettes of different battles between Batman and a roster of baddies a la Pulp Fiction, with varying timelines, some even overlapping. Let them be unique unto themselves, but tie them all together in the end. I know the Joker might seem overused at this point, but to me it’s not definitive without him. He’s gotta be the big bad. So what if everyone knows it, the surprise will come in how he’s depicted, written, and portrayed.
In the same breath, do something new and interesting with Bats’ supporting cast. Don’t just have them on the sidelines, make them active participants. Look at how Skyfall (which, if we’re being honest, is pretty much The Dark Knight 2.0 and totally amazing) takes M, Q, and Moneypenny, and weaves them into the plot, making the stakes that much more personal for Bond. Characters like Gordon and Alfred should be integral to the plot, and not receptacles for exposition. The same goes for long-established elements of the mythos. The current Telltale series is a good example of shaking up Batman’s status quo, giving us fresh takes on old faces and elements, but consistently remaining true to the core of the characters.
But that’s not to say I want all the focus to be on supporting characters. Batman Begins is still the only Batman film to date that actually focuses on its titular character. The Dark Knight was more concerned with Harvey Dent, and by Rises, Nolan was more interested in the actors he’d met on Inception. Reeves has said that he wants his Batman film to be more noir-driven, which I absolutely love. Batman is the perfect noir hero – morally ambiguous, but always striving to do what’s right, even if you have to do bad to accomplish it. A warrior of justice who works outside the law. And we all know he’s got a bevy of femme fatales.
Speaking of film noir, I would love to see a Batman film shot in high contrast black and white, Gotham City a nightmare of inky shadows. But since I know WB would never grant me that wish, I will concede a Batman film in technicolor. But let’s have the look be classy and timeless. Raiders of the Lost Ark takes place in 1936, but it looks like it could almost be any time. Nothing about it ever feels dated. Tim Burton already accomplished a version of this with Batman ‘89, though his interpretation leaned further into the gothic than the noir of it all. Batman works best on the page when he’s shrouded in darkness, and film noir perfectly lends itself to this aesthetic.
What about the Batman Family? I would make them our audience-POV characters. The film would examine Batman through their eyes, keeping his mystery by eschewing him as the straight-up main character, but opting more for an ensemble piece a la The Dark Knight. Remember how I was saying you tell the story like Pulp Fiction – many characters, many timelines, some intersecting – you could get away with having your cake and eating it too. You could see Dick Grayson as Robin and Nightwing, and Tim Drake could be the Robin in the “present” timeline. Fragmenting the story allows you to craft a tale that can play like a greatest hits, from Year One to Rebirth.
And while we’re on the subject of Batman and Robin… I know a lot of people think seeing Batman and a comics-accurate teenage Robin would be too funny-looking, but… shouldn’t it be? At least on some level? Hear me out. You’re a hardened Gotham criminal on a fairly standard bank job, you hear one of your guys call out, you turn and see a man dressed as a bat and a child in colorful tights and they are laying waste to your entire crew as if it were a choreographed ballet. Along with the surprise and fear, wouldn’t it all feel just a little comical as well? So I say lean in to it, not too hard mind you, but don’t fall into the trap that Rises fell into and take everything so bloody seriously. At its core, Batman is a power fantasy wrapped in a morality tale. Let the fantasy shine a little. Just not too much.
As much as I want to see all these characters come to life, the one I actually hope to see the least of is Bruce Wayne. Wait, what? Think about it. When you’re reading a Batman comic, how often does Bruce Wayne show up? For the most part in the comics, he’s in the suit. Give us that guy – the obsessed crusader-holic who stays up for 60 hours on a case and hangs out in the cave with his mask on. Less Bruce Wayne. More Batman. (Always more Batman.)
And while we’re at it, up until very recently, while he’s had his trysts, romance tends to play a small part in Batman’s world. Sure, he’s had (and currently has) his loves, but for the most part, he’s all business. No time. So in that spirit, I’d love for them to forgo a forced romantic subplot…unless it’s with Catwoman. I ship Bat and Cat.
Overall, I want something simple, iconic, intimate, familiar, and fresh. Definitive. It’s a tall, contradictory order. But most importantly? I want this movie to be for everybody, without ever feeling the need to talk down to its audience. I want grownups pumping their fists, and kids acting out the scenes on the blacktop. Because Batman is for everybody, and I want to see a movie that understands that.
Oh. And no killing. – Joey Perotti