Christian Bale announced that The Dark Knight Rises will be his last appearance as Batman “unless Chris [Nolan] says different,” whatever that means. And while many fans will say, good, we don’t need Nolan’s trilogy diluted by sequels with other directors and other Batmen, Warner Bros. will disagree. The Dark Knight Rises will be the biggest film of whatever year it comes out, and the best way to follow that up is with more Batman.
The Pitch: The Dark Knight rises yet again for another adventure. In anticipation, the entire internet will debate and fan-cast until a new villain has been chosen and a good portion of North America will see it on a Thursday at midnight. It will be awesome because it’s Batman.
Why it’ll work: This is the most obvious way to follow up The Dark Knight Rises: pass the torch onto someone else to reinvent the franchise for the next decade with a new actor since Christian Bale is hardly the best part of these movies. The new style was the one good thing about the change from Tim Burton to Joel Schumacher in the original series — never mind that the franchise turned into some extravagant gay porn parody of Batman ’66, it was different enough to be distinct and made a ton of money. Hand over the reigns to someone with vision and watch the magic happen.
Why it won’t work: Devoted fans of anything will cry bloody murder when someone tries to change stuff, and in the wrong hands, regardless of quality, you could have something as universally reviled as Batman & Robin.
The Pitch: Decades after The Dark Knight Rises, an aging Bruce Wayne comes out of retirement to clean up the dystopian, mutant crime-ridden Gotham City with a 13-year-old female Robin at his side. After dispatching the Joker and forming his own personal crime-fighting army, he deals with his greatest enemy yet: Superman, who’s become a tool of the US government. How dystopian has America become? Well, for one thing Ronald Reagan is still President…
Why it’ll work: It’s not only a radical idea, but it’s one of the most well-known and beloved Batman stories, often uttered in the same breath as Watchmen. Adapt The Dark Knight Returns and you already have a comic book to promote the thing. Worked for both Watchmen and V for Vendetta — those things sold like crazy and they didn’t even HAVE Batman in it. The Dark Knight Returns will be sold out for MONTHS.
Why it won’t work: Have you read the comic? It’s fucking INSANE. No Hollywood exec would allow Dark Knight Returns to become a movie. They closest they got was when they enlisted Darren Aronofsky and Frank Miller to try and do a super-gritty version of Batman: Year One after the failure of Batman and Robin. Warner Bros. eventually came to its senses and realized that it would be totally unmarketable — you can’t sell toys of Prostitute Strike Catwoman. But it’s amazing that they even entertained the idea. If you do some digging on Google you can find the screenplay.
The Pitch: It’s like Batman except it’s a woman who wears a catsuit and loves to steal jewels. Um, so the opposite of Batman. In the midst of her biggest heist yet, she finds herself on the run from the law and Batman, and only she can save herself and possibly even Gotham City.
Why it’ll work: It’s Catwoman, one of the most iconic and popular characters in the Bat-universe. Plus, it’d make up for Halle Berry’s Catwoman, one of the few superhero movies I have no interest in sitting through — and that says something, because I watched Elektra. As long as you make her a super-fun antihero, it shouldn’t even be a problem. Plus, it will make young tykes these days feel the same way my generation did watching Michelle Pfeiffer in Batman Returns: weird.
Why it won’t work: There’s no reason why it wouldn’t unless they don’t stay true to the character (see: Catwoman). I’m not sure who thought that was a good idea. Just make a movie about Catwoman as we know her as opposed to an Egyptian cat lady who fights cosmetics moguls or whatever that movie was about. Keep it simple, guys.
The Pitch: This route would be a TV show, but a potentially great one. Co-written by Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka, Gotham Central the comic book was a police procedural that followed Gotham City’s finest as it solved crimes that one would only come across in Gotham City: murders by Mr. Freeze and corpses in Robin costumes, among others. Just throw in the occasional stylish cameos from Batman himself and you’ve got an instant hit.
Why it’ll work: It would have already been a TV show a few years ago had the silly and not-very-good-at-all Birds of Prey not crashed and burned so hard. But now that The Dark Knight showed people how well Batman worked as a crime story, a new attempt at Gotham Central is a no-brainer. It’s a cop show with an easily marketable twist.
Why it won’t work: I ask you: who would air this show? The CW is the most obvious just because of the WB connects, but nobody goes to the CW for gritty cop shows. And AMC and HBO are not options. NBC? ABC? Or — god help us — CBS?
The Pitch: Following in Batman’s footsteps, a young woman (not necessarily Barbara Gordon, though making it the Commissioner’s daughter makes a TON of sense) dons a costume and goes out on her own to fight the crime she sees just outside of her window, possibly to the chagrin of Batman himself. Can Batgirl stop the bad guys and make it to class the next morning?
Why it’ll work: It can be a more fun, light-hearted version of Batman, with a plucky young female lead that could make for a movie distinct from Chris Nolan’s movies despite a similar costume. Give the screenwriting duties to Bryan Q. Miller, the Smallville scribe turned writer of the seriously fun Batgirl comics (seriously, go check ‘em out), and voila, feel good superhero movie of the year. Pluse, we really need some good female-fronted superhero films.
Why it won’t work: Viewers may not want to see a girl in the Bat-costume? I do, but that’s beside the point. This kind of girl-oriented spin-off might get treated like a dumb cash-in a la Elektra or Catwoman, so there’s a risk of ending up with something a lot like those movies — something very horrible that caters to no audience except the MST3K crowd.
The Pitch: Dick Grayson used to be Batman’s sidekick, but he’s stepped out of Batman’s shadow to protect Gotham City on his own terms. Or, if you want to closely follow the comics, he’s inherited his own stomping ground in the form of the even-more-crime-ridden Blüdhaven.
Why it’ll work: Have it take place years after The Dark Knight Rises to account for the fact that Robin doesn’t appear in the main franchise. The idea of taking on the fight against crime after Batman is a pretty good metaphor for the movie’s own attempt to work in a post-Chris Nolan Gotham City, no?
Why it won’t work: While Nightwing is a popular character, a movie version might require too much set-up (“You see, it’s years later! And Batman had a sidekick!”), and Dick Grayson isn’t Nightwing anymore in current DC Comics continuity so there’s no comic book for viewers to potentially read after they see the movie. In that respect, Nightwing is the least viable of these movies, though it’s easy to imagine a Nightwing movie that isn’t exactly related to Dick Grayson or Batman where they just use the costume and the general idea of the character. Which, again, worked SO well with Catwoman.
The Pitch: Synergy!
Why it’ll work: They tried it before with Wolfgang Petersen directing and it didn’t come to fruition, presumably because Warner Bros. decided to wait and reestablish both characters in their own movies before moving on to a big expensive team-up movie. But, once the new Superman movie comes out, what’s stopping them?
Why it won’t work: If the script doesn’t show off how awesome these characters are separately as well as together, what’s the point? It’s easy to imagine a writer overcompensating and making a movie where Batman overpowers Superman, and that’s just too easy to do, because people love writing Batman as the guy more capable than any of the superpowered ninnies around him. Which would do a HUGE disservice to Superman.
The Pitch: Pretty much the same deal as Batman vs. Superman, but even bigger and featuring even more DC Comics superheroes — presumably big guns like Green Lantern, Flash and Wonder Woman. Maybe Martian Manhunter, if the creative team behind the film are fans of the comic.
Why it’ll work: Marvel’s doing a similar thing with their own big superhero team the Avengers. DC and Marvel have had a “Hey, me too!” competition going on for decades, so DC and Warner Bros. would naturally follow suit and do their own superhero team movie. And it will make zillions of dollars because, if made right, it will look huge and epic and expensive and the fans will clamor. Oh, how they will clamor.
Why it won’t work: Like Batman vs. Superman, Warner Bros. tried doing this a couple of years ago with Mad Max director George Miller at the helm until, seemingly following in Marvel’s footsteps, WB decided to introduce some more characters in their own solo films first — it’s way less of a gamble, and it establishes popularity before the big team-up. It’s only a matter of time before this happens, but if Avengers ends up being a huge failure (it won’t), it’s not hard to imagine Warner Bros. abandoning the whole idea.