Whether or not you believe the current crop of rumours that Warner Brothers are worried about the potential audience reaction to Batman V Superman Dawn of Justice it’s worth noting that even articles that have quashed such rumours share one unifying factor;
Everyone that has seen the film loves Ben Affleck as Batman and Bruce Wayne.
Rumours were abound just weeks ago that there was a possibility of Zack Snyder being taken off of the impending Justice League and the film being pushed back to accommodate a solo Batman film directed by and starring Ben Affleck (under the working title The Batman).
A few days ago this image of Snyder with Aquaman actor Jason Mamoa doing pre-production work on Justice League put paid to those rumours, alongside the news that the film will begin shooting next month. Nonetheless, if Affleck’s Batman and Bruce Wayne are the surefire hit that Warner Brothers are expecting him to be, it stands to reason that there’s a fair chance that the studio will make The Batman a priority. As one of Hollywood’s most sought after actors and directors the studio will, quite rightly, be keen to allow Affleck to balance his DCEU commitments with other projects. I’m sure I speak for many fans when I say that I’d rather wait to see a solo Batman film of real quality rather than a rushed job made by an earnest but reluctant and over-worked Affleck.
Regardless of when the film arrives, here are 7 things that we NEED to see in a solo DCEU Batman film…
- Make Gotham look and feel like Gotham
As much as I loved, loved, The Dark Knight Trilogy, as a kid who grew up on the Tim Burton Batman films and the animated series of the early 90s I missed the neo-gothic whimsy of Gotham’s architecture. Gotham is meant to look like a caricature of depression-era New York and while shooting in Chicago and Pittsburgh suited the pseudo-naturalism of Nolan’s films I’d liek to see more of a return to source from the DCEU Gotham.
The above Turkish Airlines promo seems to suggest that we’ve already gotten our wish to a certain extent. This Gotham strikes a happy balance between the expressionism of the Burton world and the functionality of the Nolan world, much akin to the Gotham of the Arkham games (note the perfectly replicated sign for Ace Chemicals).
I’d also like to get more of a feel for Gotham in the same way that Taxi Driver gave us a feel for New York in the 70s. Sure, I mean steaming floor grates and blinking neon signs but I also mean jazz cafes, derelict buildings, half-finished Wayne Enterprises restoration projects, and maybe even some other Gotham landmarks like The Iceberg Lounge.
2. Make it like Hush
Now, before you scream at whatever device you’re enjoying this article on, I’m not saying that the film should be an adaptation of Hush (a good storyline that history seems to remember as being better than it is). I don’t believe that straight-up adaptations of comic book arcs make for particularly compelling films. I’d much rather the film cherry pick elements and the occasional story beat from Batman’s publication history in the same way that Batman Begins used a lot of Batman: Year One without being a frame for frame adaptation.
To my mind Hush’s greatest accomplishment was creating a narrative that integrated a substantial cast of Batman’s rogue’s gallery as supporting characters in a much larger story. While we get a lot of exploration, for example, of Batman’s relationship with the Joker it’s far from being the thrust of the narrative. Selina Kyle / Catwoman plays an important part but the plot doesn’t hinge on their relationship either. All of the rogues are used in a way that either moves the narrative forward or causes the reader to view Batman in a new light; Selina brings Bruce’s inability to trust to the fore, Superman is used as a benchmark by which Bruce measures himself.
As enthusiastic as Warner Brothers may be about a trilogy of Batman films under Affleck, I think the reality is that we will get one or maybe two solo outings in this solo Batman world, so let’s make it as comprehensive as possible and incorporate a host of these classic villains…
3. Step Back in Time
Ben Affleck has always been a great looking guy, but (like most men in Hollywood) the years appear to have been kind to him. He’s in his early forties and in Batman V Superman will be playing in his mid forties but we could be made to look in his early thirties without the aid of any digital slight of hand or even a good wig and a handful of makeup.
Man of Steel established that non-linear narratives are very much on the table in the DCEU and we already know that the Batman we see in BvS is a 20 year veteran, I’d love to routinely jump back in time to earlier points in that career.
Just think of the possibilities…
- Multiple Robins
We know from the Batman V Superman trailer that there has been at least one. It wouldn’t take us long to get to know them and their relative successes and failings. Although personally I think the inclusion of Damian Wayne at this point may be a bit of a tough sell. Illegitimate paternity has never been a particularly attractive issue for DC Superheroes…
- Ladies loved and lost
One of the inherent tragedies of the Batman character is his fundamental inability to love, and anyone he’s tried to love has been generally ill-fated. It would be a good idea to learn of at least one tragic romance from Bruce’s past and help to establish him as the emotionally stunted wreck we see in BvS.
- Bruce’s training / early years
Sure, this was the ethos of two thirds of the Nolan trilogy but there might be some formative lessons from former mentors that Bruce might want to reflect on in the story. Which leads us to…
- Formative moments
While most heroes’ continuities wipe themselves clean every decade or so, Batman has had to endure more skeletons in his closet over his publication history than most. The death of Robin has already been alluded to, but what about the crippling of Barbara Gordon or even the accidental death of an enemy? It’d be interesting to see this Bruce Wayne bear the scars of his past failures and compromises.
4. Multiple Bat-Suits
Licensing Iron Man and his inevitable ever-changing suits has enabled the merchandising arm of Marvel Studios to virtually print their own money. Over the past seven decades Batman has had some pretty awesome costumes, even if we only see the now familiar black and grey suit in action it would be nice to see some previous efforts encased in the Batcave. Batman’s wardrobe has enabled him to be a merchandising cash cow for decades and Batman V Superman is absolutely no exception with variant action figures from Hot Toys to Pop Vinyls sporting the armoured or Knightmare costumes from the film. Why not keep that tradition going with more variations on that classic look?
5. Matches Malone
Surprisingly, one of the facets of Batman’s character that we’ve still never seen on film is that he is a master of disguise and, having been trained by Alfred, a great actor. Setting up the secret identity of Matches Malone for himself, Batman has ingratiated himself in Gotham’s underworld, gaining the trust of his enemies and thereby gaining vital intelligence on criminal operations in Gotham. Matches Malone doesn’t have to be the identity used but I think it’s about time we saw this element of Batman on film. Hell, they even managed to pull it off in the 1943 serial!
6. World’s Greatest Detective
We’ve seen Batman use his smarts (and the Batcomputer) to identify Joker’s deadly Smilex gas in Tim Burton’s Batman, we’ve seen him use some technical wizardry to get a fingerprint from a scan of a shattered bullet in The Dark Knight but I still don’t think we’ve established Batman as The World’s Greatest Detective in cinema. If Batman is to stand shoulder to shoulder with gods in Justice League we need to believe that his intellect allows him to transcend the physical limitations of being just a man in a suit.
One of Sherlock‘s greatest triumphs is that it makes a cognitive process as thrilling as any well shot action set-piece, is there any reason why we shouldn’t expect exactly this kind of cerebral thrill from our Batman films?
7. Show us some Dick!
Dick Grayson is a great character. As Nightwing, he’s essentially DC’s Spider-Man, striking a balance of darkness and light that audiences have shown an appreciation for in the Marvel Studios films. His story is rooted in tragedy, yet his charmingly optimistic demeanour allows him to transcend his adversities rather than be swallowed by them. Like his mentor he’ll crash through a skylight into a room full of armed thugs, but he’ll take time to enjoy himself as he takes them apart, throwing out quips as readily as he throws his escrima sticks. If we’re using a non-linear narrative then we have the opportunity to cast a great 16 year old actor as the Robin era Dick Grayson and an equally great 26 year old actor in the same role thereby getting to know Dick Grayson very well in a way that’s very economical run-time wise.
Sorry, Chris O’Donnell but it’s about time this character was done justice…
If you enjoyed this article, you might like to read about what we’d like to see in a solo Superman film too!