Jul 21, 2008

Batman movie franchise: Who's next?

So, uncharacteristically, I thoroughly enjoyed The Dark Knight more than I thought I would. I thought Christian Bale and Gary Oldman did great jobs as Bruce Wayne (not as Batman. We'll get to that later.) and Commissioner Gordon, Aaron Eckhart was a spot-on Harvey Dent, and Heath Ledger was a phenomenal Joker. And by phenomenal, I mean amazing. I mean great. The only thing Ledger had going against him is that his physical features don't really match the Joker's (he's too big and built), but that's not his fault at all.

So I was thinking of the next Batman movie, and possible villains for the Bat to square off against. Batman has one of the three best rogues' galleries in comics (along with Spider-Man and The Flash), and certainly the most psychologically fascinating. The problem is that I think they've used up the three villains capable of carrying a movie on their own (Ra's Al Ghul, Two-Face, and the Joker). Who's left? Let's check it out.

Uh, spoilers may follow.

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TWO-FACE


Pros: The logical villain for the next movie is, once again, Harvey Dent/Two-Face. Because of the way the last movie ended, the obvious next plot is to get Batman to clear his name, and exposing Harvey is the easiest way to do that. Plus, Aaron Eckhart played him well, and it'd be a hoot to see him again. (I actually thought in the beginning that they were putting him in the next movie instead of this one.)

Cons:
Been done. People might not get into it as much due to the repeat factor.

The Verdict: I think Harvey'll be in the next movie. But I don't think he'll be alone, and I'm even unsure as to how much he'll be in it. I'd say 100%, but I'm not sure what he'll do or how much.
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CATWOMAN
Pros: With Rachel Dawe "dead" in the last movie, the Batman franchise needs a new woman to take center stage, and to put in another love interest for Bruce is just reprisal. So the femme fatale's the way to go. Also, next to the Joker, it's hard to argue that the most recognizable antagonist for Batman is Catwoman. She'd also be the one antagonist left in his gallery to fit in really well with the "realistic" Batman world Nolan is creating - she's the only one left in a black costume, with no superpowers to speak of.

Cons: There's that Halle Berry movie that might still be giving Catwoman a stigma to carry around with her, wherever she goes, and DC can't really make up their minds as to what to do with her, whether she's a hero or a villain. Granted, her moral ambiguity may make for a fascinating story, but is it enough to carry a movie on its own? I doubt it.

The Verdict: I think she's a lock, but, again, I don't see her being alone. I'd say 75%, because I don't think she can carry the movie alone. Maybe she's the one who ends up clearing Batman's name.

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THE PENGUIN

Pros: Name recognition. Next to the Joker and Catwoman, it's hard to argue that any Batman villain is more known than the Penguin. And it would be the perfect time to reclaim the character from Danny DeVito's creepy portrayal back in 92.

Cons: He's a fat dirty businessman with an umbrella. Oh, the gods do tremble. What would end up happening is that he'd just be another mobster; there's nothing he can really offer in this particular version of the Batman universe that Moroni and Falcone haven't already.

The Verdict: The only way I see it happening is if Penguin is the leading mob boss in the city. In which case, he can't be the leading villain, because that'd be boring. And I don't see DC, Warner Brothers, or Nolan just using him as a tertiary character, similar to Moroni in the last movie. 10%.

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MR. FREEZE
Pros: The original Mr. Freeze episode of the Batman Animated Series won an Emmy. AN EMMY. Freeze is just that good of a tragic villain.

Cons: He has a science-fiction edge to him that would likely not fit in with Nolan's Batworld. Plus, all of his emotional baggage is a movie in itself and would not fit in very well with the loose ends from Dark Knight.

Verdict:
Don't see it. Victor doesn't fit in tonally, nor does he fit in narratively. 20%.

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POISON IVY
Pros: The same as with Catwoman, Poison Ivy gives the film a female antagonist that this Bat-universe could use.

Cons: Ivy doesn't fit. Not just with this Bat-universe, but with the Batman universe in GENERAL. This is why she's never the stuff classic Batman stories are made of. She has powers that are FAR too powerful, she's too freaky to be a love interest (some writers depict her as bleeding chlorophyll), and the whole eco-terrorist angle has been covered by Ra's Al Ghul, kinda making her redundant. She simply does not fit. I say transplant her into the Wonder Woman universe.

The Verdict: 10%, and that's only because I can see them putting her in just because they need a woman.
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THE RIDDLERPros: Flat out, name recognition. It goes, arguably: Joker, Catwoman, Penguin, Riddler in terms of name recognition. In fact, little bit of trivia. The Joker was not Batman's arch-nemesis until the 70s. There was a time, in the 60s, thanks to the Adam West show and my man Frank Gorshin's spectacular portrayal of Edward Nygma, that the Riddler was the number one villain. And there are two ways to play him: he can be manic, like Gorshin and Jim Carrey played him, with joyful, Joker-like glee, or he can be cerebral, as he was played on the cartoon, just calm and calculating. He works either way.

Cons:
Because most people know the Riddler as his manic self, it's quite possible that he'd be seen as too close to the Joker tonally, and the Joker's a hard act to follow. There's also the question of his entire gimmick, fitting in with the Nolan Batverse.

The Verdict:
I think they could pull it off, and I think he could even carry the movie on his own, but I also think it's a stretch. If he does show, it'll likely, still be with Harvey. It could go either way, I think. 75%.

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MAXIE ZEUS
Pros: Maxie Zeus is fascinating, insane, and would make a great leading mobster because of his whole angle.

Cons: As discussed in the Penguin section, for a mobster to be the number one villain in the movie would be kind of boring.

The Verdict: I can see Maxie Zeus being the mobster, playing Moroni's role in the last movie, much more than I can see the Penguin doing it. But it might be too much extra baggage, and they would rather go with a regular mobster instead. 15%.
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MR. ZSASZ
Pros: Zsasz is a fascinating villain, who has no powers at all, and kills people with brute abandon. He carves a scar onto his body for every life he takes. I think he'd be GREAT in Nolan's Batverse.

Cons: Who the hell is Zsasz?

The Verdict: I can see him being one of Harvey's henchmen, but there's no way he's carrying a movie. 40%.
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BANE
Pros: The Man Who Broke Batman's Back in the comics would certainly be a good antagonist for Batman, and would give the next movie one thing EVERY Batman movie ever has lacked: a good fight. Plus, Bane's not just a big guy who's strong; he's actually really smart.

Cons: Good luck finding someone to play him. Also, with Bane's strength coming from drugs, it might run the risk of being preachy.

The Verdict: For the same reason that I fear for the Thor movie, I don't see Bane being the Bat-villain, in the next movie or ever. 25%.

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CLAYFACE
Pros: Clayface is, like Mr. Freeze, a good tragic villain and would provide an interesting foil for the Dark Knight Detective. And because of his shapechanging ability, he would have to make Batman really be a detective.

Cons: Again, the superpowered aspect doesn't really fit in with Nolan's Batverse, and it's only been a year since Spider-Man 3 and their version of Sandman. Clayface might be too close to it.

The Verdict: Don't see it at all. 10%.
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KILLER CROC
Pros: Croc is a good, serviceable villain for an action sequence.

Cons: To just call his reptiley hide a skin condition is kind of a stretch, but it might work since they just did it with Harvey. At first glance, he doesn't look like he fits, but I think he could with some tweaking.

The Verdict: I can see him being a henchman or just opening the movie to be taken down right away, much like Zsasz. 60%.
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TALIA AL GHUL

Pros: Talia Al Ghul would provide the femme fatale. (See Catwoman, Poison Ivy) And she would be an easy storyline to write in, given her ties to Ra's Al Ghul.

Cons: Talia doesn't really work without Ra's, and I don't see them pulling Ra's out again.

The Verdict: Not at all. 10%.

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THE MAD HATTER


Pros: A good, insane villain who could serve pretty decently in the opening of the next movie.

Cons: Nowhere near strong enough to carry the movie on his own, or even be a big character.

The Verdict: I could see him playing a bit, kind of comic-relief part. 60%.
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SCARFACE and the VENTRILOQUIST

Pros: To be honest, this is the only way I'd see the whole mobster angle taking center stage. Scarface and the Ventriloquist are certainly psychologically fascinating enough for Nolan's Batverse.

Cons: Scarface is a dummy. That's not a lot of marketability for people who most likely want to see a good-looking man play the lead villain. Plus, as noted above, the whole mobster thing is really a tertiary storyline, and has been done. This would just add a twist, but I doubt the novelty could sustain the movie.

The Verdict: Again, don't see it at all. 10%.
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WRATH

Pros: Wrath is the anti-Batman. His parents, hardened criminals who were killed by a Gotham cop, thus forcing him to dedicate his life to crime. The cop also just so happens to be Commissioner Gordon. Another perfect example of duality, if they were to play that card again with Harvey. Plus, since he's every bit as good as Batman, it would give action-marks the greatest fight scene ever, in any comic book movie. Yes, better than Hulk vs. Abomination.

Cons: Nolan will probably want to use the established Batman villains before using a character that's shown up all of twice in the last 70 years and has never been adapted into other media. Also, as shown by our next potential villain, the fight scene is probably not the priority.

The Verdict: 1%. But it would be INCREDIBLY cool.
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BATMAN'S ANNOYING BATSUIT (extra: Batman's annoying voice)

Pros: It's "realistic." Which is not, you know, the actual meaning of the word realistic, which is "believable". It's Hollywood "realistic", which is "pretends to be believable in a world where believability should really be taken with a grain of salt." You know, kinda like the Watchmen movie. Where Watchmen the comic was "realistic" in that it had believable characters and situations, and short fight scenes (like real fights are) where the guy who is clearly physically better wins, the movie is looking like it is just "realistic" in that it is dark and gritty, and the world's most perfect man has a rubber suit with nipples which will in no way, not at all, hinder him from catching a bullet.

Cons: In The Dark Knight, Batman got injured by a dog, fell off his motorcycle and got knocked out, and fell on his back in the last scene and took a while to stand up, without even trying to save himself. I blame the suit. This Batman, unfortunately, is not about finesse or smarts. And, unfortunately, it's not about the fights either. Batman is Batman and should be able to protect himself. The suit shouldn't be about protection. It should be about maneuverability. A flexible suit of light armor with bulletproof Kevlar underneath is fine. Any boxer or martial artist will tell you that maneuverability comes first. Protection should come with your natural ability.

The Verdict: Unfortunately, I think Nolan loves the "realism" the Bat-armor gives. "Realism". Yeah. 100%.

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DR. HORRIBLE AND THE EVIL LEAGUE OF EVIL
Pros: It would be awesome. Now that Dr. Horrible has taken care of Captain Hammer, he needs to move up in the world. Plus, I want to hear Batman sing.

Cons: No cons at all.

The Verdict: As Dr. Horrible would attest to, genius is never appreciated in its own time. Zero.

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