Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Batman Beyond: What Will Happen Next?

The Next Batman (*Major Spoilers*)

As established by the ending of The Dark Knight Rises and the profits realized from Christopher Nolan’s trilogy, Batman will undoubtedly endure on the big screen. But where exactly will the franchise go from here?

The Dark Knight Rises leaves many unanswered questions, but perhaps the most contemplative are those questions that surround Joseph Gordon Levitt’s character, John Blake, or rather “Robin” Blake.

At the end of Rises, we learn that John Blake’s legal name is Robin when he picks up a duffle bag left behind for him at Wayne Enterprises. But does that necessarily mean that John/Robin Blake will become Batman’s red tunic wearing sidekick?

Not likely. In the duffle bag, now under Blake’s ownership, are the tools one would need in order to gain access to the Batcave. That’s “Bat” as in Batman, not Robin. Christopher Nolan has stated on numerous occasions that he would not include “Robin” in his Batman universe. Now, that’s Robin the superhero sidekick as we know him from the comics, not Nolan’s depiction.

When you modernize one of the oldest and most iconic comic book characters of all-time into arguably the greatest trilogy in the history of cinema, you are allowed a little creative latitude. And with that latitude Nolan created a character (John/Robin Blake) that mirrors Bruce Wayne/Batman’s code of ethics and morals while paying homage to perhaps the most famous sidekick in superhero history.

In the last scene, we watch as Blake enters the Batcave using the cables and gear from the duffel bag. And then we witness one last taunt from Nolan. Blake, starts to rise unceremoniously on the platform that contains the Batsuit, but the image cuts off before we can really see anything. Well, unless a more fashioned sense Bruce Wayne replaced “his” suit with the colorful Robin ensemble from the comics, it’s pretty safe to say Blake will become the next Batman, or at least follow in Bruce Wayne's footsteps to some degree.

Now, I know that Blake becoming Batman isn’t everyone’s view on the ending, and yes until the next film it will be left open to interpretation. With that being said, Blake will definitely without a doubt be the next Batman, if Warner's decides to maintain continuity with the future of this franchise. You have to remember that movies are essentially art fused with business. And you also have to remember that the business gets substantial authority in the creation of that art, because...well...they’re paying for it. Taking that into account, Warner’s is not about to let one of their most lucrative franchises fizzle out. Batman has brand power that takes decades to build. There is no possible way Blake can become Robin, because Robin does not possess  any stand alone brand power. Secondly, Blake is not going to fight alongside Bruce Wayne as Robin either, because Bruce is now retired. Wayne is out of the picture, that way Warner’s doesn't need to replace such a popular character with a different actor.  And thirdly, there isn't a chance on God’s green Earth Blake will become Nightwing. Over half of the general public doesn't even know who Nightwing is. I think audiences would be pretty shocked and disgusted if the Batman franchise was replaced by a character that they had no prior knowledge of.  

So, that leave’s one last available option...Blake becomes Batman. In the end, it’s all about what will make the “majority” of audiences happy, because if you make the “majority” of audiences happy, well, you've essentially maximized your profit as a studio. Warner’s hit the jackpot with Nolan’s Bat-trilogy, seeing as how it is by far the most profitable Batman adaptation to date. They’re going to do everything they can to continue to milk more dollars. With that being said, if you were Warner’s would you rather try and manufacture a continuation of Nolan’s vision, reboot the character or introduce a new character entirely?

If you chose, “continuation,” congratulations you are correct. The conclusion to The Dark Knight Rises is a fitting end for Christopher Nolan, Christian Bale and Warner’s. It allows Nolan and Bale to exit and move onto other projects, but it also allows someone else to pick up where Nolan left off, without forcing Warner’s to reboot the character entirely. However, that does not mean it’s going to be easy for Warner’s to find someone that will be able to follow Christopher Nolan’s tough act.

That brings us to our next question...

Who will take over for Christopher Nolan?

Every time this question is asked, self-proclaimed “film fanatics,” blurt out Darren Aronofsky. Don’t get me wrong, I love all of Aronofosky’s work, but there’s more than one blatant problem with this answer. For one thing, the biggest budget Darren has ever worked with is $35 million, on his Sci-fi wonder, The Fountain. The Dark Knight Rises had a budget of $250 million. That is a significant difference. Now, I’m not saying that Aronofosky wouldn’t be able to rise to the challenge. Budgets don’t always mean everything, but it is something to take into account. 

Perhaps the more obvious reason Darren will not helm the next Bat project is due to the fact that his Batman script was rejected by Warner’s back in 2000. This was the period in which an influx of Batman scripts flooded the doors of Warner Bros., back when they were trying to figure out which direction they wanted to take Gotham’s greatest detective.

Ultimately, Aronofosky understood why Warner’s didn’t want to roll with his project, but he did believe in his vision. And that’s the problem. To put it simply, if Aronofosky were to continue Nolan’s vision, it would be “Nolan’s” vision and not his. That can be a tough pill to swallow for a creative mind such as Aronofosky’s. And I believe it would be enough to deter him from the project, at least until a complete reboot. I also believe that the same will ring true for other rumored “big name” directors.

Directors are visionaries; they want to carry out the images they see in their mind when they read or write a script. They want to be able to create the way they see the world and they often don’t like restrictions. And although it is not confirmed, it appears as though the future Batman films, at least the first one, will come with some restrictions in order to continue off Christopher Nolan’s vision. That poses a problem. Because how do you exactly find a director that will be willing to abandon that sense of individualism?

Well, I can think of one way...you keep it in the family.

Left: Jonathan Nolan Right: Christopher Nolan
Christopher Nolan has stated that this is “his” last Batman movie, but that doesn’t mean this is Jonathan Nolan’s last Batman movie. Jonathan, Chris’ younger brother, has helped pen the scripts for the last two batman films, The Dark Knight, and The Dark Knight Rises. In addition, he co-wrote The Prestige with his brother, wrote the short story that Memento was based on, and now he has a TV show called Person of Interest in which he has 24 writing credits. That’s a pretty solid writing resume, but it doesn't mean he has the ability to direct, especially a big-scale film running north of a $200 million budget (there’s that budget problem again). Unless...

Unless his brother has been silently mentoring him for the past four years. And it’s really not that outrageous to think so, especially because Chris has not been afraid to mention Jonathan’s involvement in the past two Batman films. It has been stated that Jonathan’s primary task during the writing of The Dark Knight was to focus on The Joker. Now, I don’t think I need to further explain how big of detail this is, considering those words that Jonathan wrote helped the late Heath Ledger earn a posthumous Oscar. Make no mistake, Heath’s performance was simply incredible and completely his own. All I’m saying is those chilling speeches Jonathan conceived were unquestionably brilliant and it shows that he truly has an understanding for his brother’s vision.

Jonathan also had a substantial impact on The Dark Knight Rises. “I was nervous how Catwoman would fit into our world. But Jonah turned me around,” Chris said in interviews with Empire Magazine. Meaning, the inclusion of Catwoman was completely thanks to Jonathan. So, if you liked Catwoman, the Joker, or both then you like Jonathan’s style. But in any event, the man has been responsible for a significant amount of what you have seen from this trilogy.

So, if you want to see the Nolan Bat-Universe continue, I think this is your best shot. I also think Jonathan would do a fantastic job. Christopher Nolan has undoubtedly proved himself as one Hollywood’s elite directors over the past 5-10 years; I would imagine Jonathan has learned a trick or two by now. Moreover, Jonathan has said in interviews he would like to direct. The stars are aligning...

If you look at Christopher Nolan’s power over at Warner’s, you’ll see that he now has a substantial influence on their DC adaptations, as he seems to be God-fathering the Superman reboot, Man of Steel. This means that if Chris wanted to pass the torch to Jonathan, Warner's would more than likely jump at the idea. 

However, Chris is a mysterious filmmaker . He doesn't like to let fans in on any details until the absolute last second. I mean, most people thought The Riddler was going to be the villain in Rises until late 2011. With that in mind, I think it is entirely possible he could have been planning to hand it over to his younger brother. It could be days, months, maybe years before we find out, but it's possible. Anyway if it is true, I would speculate that Warner’s would fully endorse the idea.  


Anonymous said...

I notice you posted this on the 24th. My birthday is the 25th & I consider this a gift. Thank you! May it be so.

Scott Burgess said...

Glad you feel that way! I am also hoping that it will come to fruition!

Anonymous said...

maybe this is all a very well planned marketing-trick, and bale and c.nolan are both back for a next movie. if yout take every word in it's most correct sense... it is rigth, that the triology of the dark knight ends, robin did not play a role in this storyline and the work is done. but maybe there was a new batman&robin storyline planned eversince... and there are in fact some statements like "it seems that it is over now.... but you never know, right?" from bale after asked about a return in further movies. imagine the big repsonse after an announcement of such a movie with nolan back and bale as batman again and mentor of robin"-this would be the greatest deal for everybody- and with robin, there would also be enough space for bale doing other acting roles.

Anonymous said...

I wondered who would pick up where Nolan left off. Of course, it's Nolan, but the other Nolan. I think this is 100% accurate. Why stop making movies from a franchise where this is the biggest grossing trilogy of all time? I think this is just the beginning of the Batman series where the Nolan brothers stay in tandem to finish out the Batman saga. Just like the ending of DKR where Bruce Wayne hands the torch to Blake, Chris will hand the torch to his brother, Jonathan using his aid to complete the series. We differ in opinion on what Gordon-Levitt's role is because I believe he will in fact be Robin and Bale will continue as Batman. They will work in tandem to stop the next villain(s) such as Black Mask,the Riddler, the Penguin or perhaps the return of the Joker with Harley Quinn. Did you notice the reference of Killer Croc in DKR when Blake said something about him roaming the sewers of Gotham? I think the next movie should feature Arkham Asylum and Hugo Strange a little more to give the common fan more insight of how important that place is in the Batman universe. I'm hoping for the dynamic duo to team up and take on the puzzles of the Riddler in the next movie. We will see...

Scott Burgess said...

I thought the Killer Croc line was genius! I also think I caught a possible Harvey Dent/Two-face reference during the dialogue between the two stock traders getting a shoe shine. I can't remember the entire line, but one of them says "On what basis" and the other replies with "I flipped a coin." I may have read to much into that but I took it has an intimate reference Nolan purposely included. As for the next series villain wise I agree. We know the Riddler will be in their some where, because WB has already made it clear they want the Riddler on screen, but I don't think it will be in the first film. Riddler would be great to the throw into the second film as they did with the Joker in The Dark Knight. I think Black Mask or Hugo Strange would be great to kick things off in the next film, because they are a bit different from what we are used too and they both have great potential stories. But you could be right... It could be that they will just throw the Riddler in from the get-go, to let fans know nothing's changed and that this next installment is going to be just as good as the previous... Let's just say I wouldn't be shocked.

Scott Burgess said...

As for Blake being Robin...my prediction is based off the sole fact that I don't see Bale returning in the next installment. However, if Bale was able to return I would have no problem with the aforementioned mentoring story line, but I find it highly unlikely giving the ending. Because the way I took it...the ending closed the book on Wayne entirely and provided a glimpse of the next chapter. I just can't see Bruce Wayne returning as a character without Bale and I don't see Bale returning...that is why I think Rises ended the way it did.

Anonymous said...

I think the writer of this is spot on, well i hope it is. There is no way Blake will become robin. A super hero won't use his real name as his secret identity. He will take over as the batman. simple. Bruce Wayne wasnt always batman in the comics or cartoons, so its very possible.