The latest round of Batman 3 bullshit on the web got me thinking: why bother trying to top Heath Ledger’s Joker? What’s the point of making the next Batman movie center around another villain? Christopher Nolan and company obviously tried to break out of the superhero movie formula with The Dark Knight, so why not take it further?
It was then that I realized I was engaging in fan fiction. Oh well, we’re all human and we fumble once in a while. But then I also realized two things: maybe I could make my fan fiction into a sort of pro bono pitch to David Goyer and the Nolans (guys, feel free to steal all of my ideas), and Batman stories get good hits.
At the end of The Dark Knight Nolan has set up a situation for Batman where he doesn’t really need a villain since he is the villain. But he’s also set up a situation where Batman is very alone. He’s alienated himself from the city he protects and his friends in the police department and his girlfriend is toast. This is a Batman who is moving ever more into the darkness, a guy who was already pretty loony who will likely be getting loonier.
Which means it’s the perfect time to bring in Robin. The key thing that Batman’s comic creators have learned is that the character works best when he has a ‘family’ around him. Batman alone quickly becomes dehumanized, and he’s really not that interesting a character on his own. But once you have other characters bouncing off him you get some decent stories.
A Nolan Robin wouldn’t look like your average Boy Wonder, or like Chris O’Donnell. He’d be more like Jason Todd from the comics – streetwise and a bit of a punk. He’d also be 18 or older.But you’d still have the problem of getting him to hang out with Batman. In the comics Jason Todd became Robin after Bats found him stealing the Batmobile’s tires (seriously), but the movie Batman would just kick him in the head. This Robin would have to incorporate a bit of the Tim Drake Robin; in the comics extra-bright young detective Drake figured out Batman’s true identity. That forces Batman to deal with him, as opposed to just kicking him in the head.
Robin also continues the themes of The Dark Knight, but in a more hopeful way. While The Joker was an almost elemental reaction to Batman’s presence, Robin would be the other side of the coin – the inspiration. That was touched on with the Batmen of Gotham in TDK, but it was painted negatively. This Robin could be running around fighting crime before he even meets Batman, eliminating all of that ‘ward of Bruce Wayne’ garbage. This Robin would also be 18 or older, and his relationship with Batman would be less gay. Unless that was an angle Nolan wanted to explore.
The addition of Robin allows Batman to reach redemption at the end of the third film, something he needs to do. Basically coming to accept Robin as, if not a partner then as a colleague, Batman opens himself up to someone new. The first act would establish a Batman who is increasingly on the edge and becoming more violent; having somebody else in his life allows him to back away from the precipice, to find the spot where his humanity and his mission can live in some kind of harmony. Bruce Wayne will never hang up the cowl and retire, but that doesn’t mean he has to be alone forever. The great thing about Robin, Nightwing, Oracle and Huntress is that they allow Bruce to recreate the family he lost as a kid while still staying focused on his crusade against crime. They balance him.
But what about conflict? I don’t think you need a villain to have conflict in this film, although you do need someone for Batman to be up against. While this might go beyond Nolan’s ‘realism’ mandate (which he breaks whenever it suits him anyway, but whatever), I think an interesting story would have Batman up against another hero. Reimagine the character of Deadshot, making him some kind of duly deputized government agent brought into Gotham to capture the Batman. The situation comes down to Batman trying to break the mob while also trying to not get captured by Deadshot.
If you really need a villain, bring one in as a MacGuffin. If the mob or a heroin cartel isn’t good enough, have it be The Penguin, reimagined as a fat little crime boss with a penchant for tuxedos and sardines. Or have Mr. Zsasz – a run of the mill serial killer who happens to carve a notch in his skin for each of his villains – be on the loose. You’d just need something to keep Batman busy while he’s dealing with Robin and the hero who is hunting him.
Another idea would be to simply adapt Batman: The Cult – Deacon Blackfire assembles an army, mostly of the homeless, that wages violent war on crime and eventually takes over Gotham after deciding that the city’s power structure itself is criminal. This story allows Nolan to explore the flip side of Batman’s own crusade and the concepts of taking the law into your own hands. In this case Blackfire (who should probably get renamed) would be toned down from a straight up villain to a guy who simply goes too far, making for a far more interesting moral quandry.
I don’t think the Nolans or Goyer will exactly take my advice, but if these guys are as smart and good as so many of you think they are, they’ll probably be taking a tack not unlike one I’ve laid out, one which eschews a traditional leading villain and allows them to examine a Batman completely at odds with the law while trying to uphold it. They’ve established a moral universe so murky that a straight up villain would be silly at this point anyway.
What do you guys think?