The Caped Crusader is back: On March 4, Robert Pattinson will become the seventh actor to don the cowl in a live-action film with The Batman. To prepare, join The Ringer this week as we navigate the grime of Gotham and explore the history of one of the most recognizable superheroes in the comic-book landscape—starting with this post, from February 2017, about building the perfect Batman movie.
‘Batman: Beyond Beyond’
Micah Peters: We’ve had the essential Tim Burton version; the prestige braaaahhhhhhhm Nolan version; the darker — no, darker — color palette of Zack Snyder, complete with the requisite Hands Brushing Against Wheat; and now Lego. I’ve watched Christian Bale flare his nostrils for the equivalent of a full calendar year, seen Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill almost kiss, and all in all, I have seen Bruce Wayne’s parents get brutally murdered in an alley over a string of pearls roughly 1,000 times. It’s time to take this in a newer, braver, and more ridiculous direction: the future.
That’s right. Live-action Batman Beyond. It’s time. Cast Ezra Miller as Terry McGinnis (the Flash movie is never getting made, he’s not busy), bumping The Dirty Nil in the Batwing while out on patrol because parents just don’t understand. Put Clint Eastwood in there as a liver-spotted Bruce Wayne that can, and will, break his hand-carved mahogany cane off in your ass. Let Denis Villeneuve direct it.
Actually, we’re supposed to have done this already. So, you know, let’s. But get Denis Villeneuve. This is nonnegotiable.
Alison Herman: Along with the rest of the world, I am bored with Batman. There’s been an awful lot of him lately, and let’s be honest — will any future Bruce Wayne projects be any better than the Nolan trilogy? Pop culture is still so much in The Dark Knight’s thrall that making a stand-alone Batmovie is like Sony rebooting Spider-Man within a decade of the original. Tobey Maguire’s evil dancing still reigns, and have you ever seen a GIF of Andrew Garfield?
So we’re going rogue: a Poison Ivy/Harley Quinn lesbian heist movie with serious Ocean’s Ocho vibes, helmed by Michelle MacLaren in an act of cosmic retribution for DC Universe injustices past. Both characters will appear in the upcoming Harley Quinn stand-alone, but we’re leaving nothing to chance. No way the franchise that gave us Suicide Squad is gonna do this groundbreaking (and canonical!) couple justice. Margot Robbie deserves to anchor an actual movie, so she can stay; Emma Stone can make her post-Oscar sellout in stupendous fashion. We’ll call it Bombshells, after the comics title that made this thing official.
‘Batman: Die Hardest’
Chris Ryan: This isn’t really about finding the essence of Batman, this is about triage. Warner Bros. and DC so desperately need a franchise film that is in mid-flight — no origin stories, no dozen tertiary characters that need introduction, no complicated off-planet Jesse Eisenberg milk baths … just tell a three-act story, with a hero, a villain, some mild consequences, and some visual clarity. After years of wandering through the darkness, a little bit of light would go a long way.
I’m not talking about levity, by the way. Warner Bros. should do the Arkham Asylum video game story, and they should make it feel like a combination of The Raid and Sherlock (the BBC version): a mission movie, wherein Batman has to solve problems laid out by the Riddler, while in what is basically an Escape From New York–type situation, with the Joker subbing in for the Duke.
To do this you need a visceral action director, who can tell a story cleanly. Try John McTiernan, who hasn’t made a feature since 2003, but recently popped up with this commercial for Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands:
He can do action, he can do humor, he can tell a story, he can get in and out within two hours, which would be such a blessing for this whole shared universe. Affleck can play Batman, let Jared Leto take another shot at the Joker, and bring in Lakeith Stanfield as the Riddler.
‘Batman vs. The Young Pope: Dawn of Justice’
Justin Charity: Who will stage the climactic fist-to-fist fight scene where Pope Pius XIII hurls his shining white, steel-brimmed hat at Batman, slicing the patch of exposed cheek under his mask, as lightning strikes St. Peter’s Square and tornadoes crash Italian SWAT vehicles into various columns like fallen lumber swung against standing trees, a metaphor for the modern Western state’s obliteration of religious order? Jude Law as the pope, natch. Jaden Smith as Batman. The Wachowskis direct.
Sam Schube: You know who is too old for this shit? Batman is too old for this shit. We need a human-scale Batman. A Batman who’s over the hill. A Batman who’s realized that his youthful days wearing a batsuit and fighting people marked the height of crypto-fascist sociopathy. A Batman who has aged into wisecracking and wine collecting. We need Denzel Washington. And we need a director who understands the bumps and creaks of aging. A director who appreciates what is gained when mobility is lost. A director who understands that no machine can replace old-fashioned manual expertise. We need Clint Eastwood.
So here’s what’s up: Bruce Wayne hung his cowl up long ago. Gotham is mellow. Bruce is mellow, too, but only after years of intensive therapy. And after discarding broken-windows policing for a neighborhood-beat approach, Gotham PD is holding it down. Until, that is, a charming Silicon Valley expat (Christian Bale) swoops in with an offer to replace the city’s officers with drones, which promptly go rogue — on his command. So Bat-zel has to start doing push-ups again, and straps on the old cowl. (It won’t have Bat-ears, because they’re lame but also because Denzel negotiated it into his contract, it’s a long story.) Alfred the butler is here, only Alfred is Alexandra, and she’s Bruce’s adopted daughter, and she’s played by Amy Adams. (Clint did this before; this is his chance at making it right.) It’s a fight for the soul of Gotham — but it’ll require Batman to weigh what matters most: serenity or these hands? (Hint: it’s these hands.)
‘Batman: Ga Ga Gotham (Baffleck and Damerobin)’
Jason Concepcion: Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) is a clinically depressed Gotham City billionaire with a secret: He wants to make it on Broadway. Jason Todd (Matt Damon) is a 23-year-old janitor dreaming of something better. One night, a chance encounter with the deranged, wise-cracking owner of a jazz club changes Bruce and Jason’s lives and sets them on a path of redemption, heroism, and song. Damien Chazelle directs, and brings with him Chazelle players Miles Teller (the Joker), Emma Stone (Poison Ivy), and J.K. Simmons (commissioner Jim Gordon). Russell Crowe is Bane, and Peter Dinklage is Alfred.
Featuring modern reimaginings of classic show tunes:
“Memory (Crime Alley)”
“Bruce and his Monocolor Dreamcape”
“If I Were a Rich Man”
“Oh What a Beautiful Bat Signal”
“Don’t Cry for Me Gotham City”
“My Shot (Killed Your Parents)”
“Springtime for Joker”
“La Vie Batman”
“Grow for Me”
“Gee, Commissioner Gordon”
And exciting new songs such as:
“The Hero You Deserve”
“Why, Oh, Why (So Serious)”