Round table – Who would you like to see take over the Batman franchise?

18 min read

Christopher Nolan brought a breath of fresh air to the Batman franchise back in 2005 with Batman Begins. Modern, edgy and cool, that film and its two sequels wiped the horrid taste of George Clooney and his bat-nipples from our mouths.

That trilogy is over now, and you can bet your batmobile that a new set of films are only a greenlight away. So we’ve got everyone here today to give their take on who and what they’d like to see in a new Batman film franchise, from director and storyline, through to the man himself they’d like to see take on the mantle of the bat.

Darryn’s pitch

Who should play Bruce Wayne/Batman: Armie Hammer

For my dream Batman film, I want to see a masked vigilante that has grown into his role, and is well accustomed to spending nights dressed as a flying rat who beats up criminals to get over his daddy issues.

Armie Hammer has the right look, build and attitude for such a role, and hopefully if The Lone Ranger film succeeds, the star power as well. I’m not the only person who thinks so either, as George “Mad Max” Miller wanted him to play the billionaire crime fighter as well in his Justice League film, before the whole thing went to hell and got canned.

Which storyline should be used: The Night of the Owls

There have been many classic Batman stories done, tales where the dark knight had to overcome incredible odds to emerge victorious. But look for a modern tale that can stand the test of time, and you might be in for a challenge.

When the DC Comics Universe rebooted however, Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo arrived, putting a fresh spin on the Batman universe, with the villanous Court of Owls. They took the caped crusader to the breaking point and back again, as he faced off with not just a villain of the week, but a society that had warped Gotham City itself to its every whim, resulting in a battle for the soul of the city that was fought by the entire Batman family.

While it’s doubtful that we’d ever see so many supporting cast members in a new bat-film, the ingredients are there, as The Night of the Owls storyline has everything from action, mystery to a shocking revelation at the end that resulted in a more focused Batman emerging.

Who should direct: Guy Ritchie

Guy Ritchie is the kind of director who can mix style with substance, as evidenced by his recent take on Sherlock Holmes and various British gangster films.

The man knows how to deliver a visual left hook of impressive visuals and kinetic action, resulting in films that are never boring (most of the time, at least), while keeping the characters fresh and interesting. But the director is at his best when it comes to showcasing villainy, something that could work to his favour with such a project, and it doesn’t hurt that his visual style helps give life to the surroundings with a believable, yet fantastic atmosphere, another point in his favour.

A smart, witty Batman film with characters that are all equally memorable? That’s the Batman film that I’ll see, if St Peter ever lets me past the pearly gates.

Lourens pitch

Who should play Bruce Wayne/Batman: Jonathan Rhys-Meyers

It’s simple, really. Not only does he have the look, but starring in The Tudors has proved that he has the ability to play complex, dark characters. For a Batman reboot to work an actor young enough is needed to see a potentially huge franchise through to the end, which includes the inevitable crossover with his Justice League cohorts.

Notorious for being a bit of a “bad boy”, I think he has the perfect mix of broodiness and on-screen charisma to play the Dark Knight to perfection. Bruce Wayne, as a character, is every bit as important as his alter-ego and an actor is needed that can bring both to life, and make the role his own. Rhys-Meyers is definitely capable.

Which storyline should be used: No Man’s Land

While I have to admit I might not be as clued up on many of the major Batman story lines, one that immediately caught my attention was No Man’s Land, following on from Cataclysm.

As movie-goers, we have seen many incarnations of Gotham City, for better or worse, and I think a change of scenery is needed. As much a character as the Bat himself, Gotham needs to shaken to its core to give us a new, exciting environment for a reboot. After a huge earthquake Gotham City is declared a no man’s land and very soon all of the city’s bad guys are picking their teeth on a city in ruins. Picking this story arc serves another purpose as well:

Besides incorporating villains we know and love like the Penguin and Poison Ivy, the main antagonist of No Man’s Land is none other than the bald man himself, Lex Luthor. It is the perfect vehicle to incorporate a cameo from the Man of Steel himself, and eventually the Justice League. Could it get any better?

Who should direct: Matthew Vaugh

I think Matthew Vaughn is the perfect match for a new Bat film. After Nolan’s masterful trilogy, someone will need to be brought on board that won’t be scared to take a franchise and make it his own. After breathing life into the plummeting X-Men franchise with First Class, I don’t think anyone would disagree that he has the vision and the passion to be able to bring a new Batman film to life by making it his own, which solves the massive hurdle of being compared to the Nolan’s films.

The next Batman film will have to bring back some of the comic book flair that I have to admit I missed in the Nolan films. As great as they were, I never quite felt like I was watching a comic book film and this will logically need to change, as strict realism will have no place in series of films that will feature an alien with a red cape and undies.

He also gave us Kick-Ass and Layer Cake and while they might be very different films, I feel Batman needs to fall smack in the middle of the two when it comes to grit, action and bucket loads of fun. That…and we know he is going to find a spot for Sienna Miller. Sold!

Kervyn’s pitch

Who should play Bruce Wayne/Batman: Matt Bomer

Straight off the bat (pun most definitely intended) you can clearly see Matt Bomer has the Bruce Wayne look mastered. Through three seasons of television, the White Collar star has also proven that he can definitely turn up both the roguish charm and the menacing darkness necessary to portray the Cape Crusader’s dual identities. And if you’ve seen Magic Mike, then you know that the physical side of things won’t be a problem.

Most importantly though, in his mid 30’s already, Bomer would be able to portray a Batman that has been in the game for a couple years, already brimming with confidence and superior skills, but not too world weary yet.

Which storyline should be used: Dark Knight, Dark City

As good as Nolan’s Bat trilogy was, I’ve always had two major complaints: Firstly, with the exception of some scenes in Batman Begins, he ignored Gotham as a character. Yes, a character. That gothic, nightmare inspired city is as much a part of Batman’s identity as the cape and cowl, and by turning it into a New York City knockoff, Nolan lessened the mythos for me.

Secondly, Nolan’s Batman is not Batman. Not really. He’s a wannabe ninja with expensive toys and a sore throat. The real Batman’s most formidable weapon has never been EMP rifles or bat signal shoes, it’s always been his mind. He is supposed to be the greatest detective in the world, yet we never got to see it as he could always just gadget his way out of everything.

His crazy armour turned him into a walking tank, instead of showing how he beats his enemies because he’s always one step ahead of everybody else and plans for every contingency (This tactical genius role will be even more important if the character is ever incorporated into a Justice League film, because then what good would the ability to hack people’s cellphones be, when you have a demigod on the team who can hear a butterfly fart from across the planet.)

And I think Peter Milligan’s Dark Knight, Dark City is the perfect narrative vehicle to address all of my concerns. By spinning in some occult influence, it was a dark and twisted Gotham origin story that instead of once again showing us why Bruce became a vigilante i.e the death of his parents, it shows why he chose to become a vigilante specifically dressed as a Bat and how the significance of that fearsome flying rodent ties into his city’s history.

And standing at the centre of it all is The Riddler in one of his most terrifying incarnations, twisted evil wrapped in a genius intellect, who forces Batman into a deadly cat and mouse game that pushes the Caped Crusader to the max mentally as he tries to piece together the deranged and sometimes violent puzzles of Riddler’s nefarious scheme and figure out how it all ties into the dark forces growing beneath the streets of Gotham.

Who should direct: Darren Aronofsky

Dark and twisted, you say? That may as well be Darren Aronofksy’s middle names (which would admittedly make his parents kind of weird). With tales like Black Swan and The Fountain, he’s shown his grasp of dark and fantastical imagery, and The Wrestler proved he could deliver bone-crunching hits. And if you’ve ever seen Requiem for a Dream, then you know he won’t be shying away from some of Dark Knight, Dark City‘s more shocking moments, like when Batman needs to slit a baby’s throat in order to save it’s life.

Over and above that though, Aronofksy has one credential that should make him an even easier choice. Before handing the franchise to Chris Nolan, Aronofksy was actually poised to reintroduce the Bat to modern audiences. Granted, his ideas for a reboot were a bit different (Bruce Wayne is found in the gutter by a mechanic named Big Al, who raised to be his own son with no idea that he’s the heir to a fortune), but with the right material he could pull off something amazing.

Noelle’s pitch

Who should play Bruce Wayne/Batman: Jon Hamm

I am so tired of movies depicting twentysomething superheroes overcoming their doubts and finding their direction in life. It’s time for a BatMAN film, not BatBOY. Let’s see a Caped Crusader who’s already established, experienced… and no doubt weary after putting his body on the line for a decade or longer.

I know there was a massive fan push for Hamm to play Superman when Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel was announced, but the Mad Men star has always struck me as too much of a “bad boy” or “cool cat” to play the Big Blue Boy Scout. Hamm has a wry sense of humour that would meld effortlessly with Batman’s smirking cynicism.

More importantly, Hamm totally looks the part of debonair playboy Bruce Wayne – undeniably masculine (instead of boyish), physically imposing (he’s 1.84 m tall) and fantastic looking in a suit. Hamm also bears a pretty strong resemblance to Batman as he appeared unmasked in the Arkham City video game.

Which storyline should be used:

I don’t really have any specific arc from the comics in mind, but my ideal Batman film would downplay the Bond-esque gadgetry and instead prioritise the crime-solving. Let’s see Batman as the world’s greatest detective for once: scouring crime scenes, doing procedural stuff, meeting with Jim Gordon in the shadows and swooping down on bad guys from the rooftops before delivering the devastating hand-to-hand smackdown. In essence, my ideal Batman film would use Batman: The Animated Series as its tonal and narrative model.

This said, I’ve always loved the Knightfall comic arc – where an Arkham Asylum escape forces Batman to face and recapture many of his greatest foes over the space of a few days and weeks. At the same time as the Caped Crusader is pushed to his mental and physical limits, Bruce’s stubborn insistence that he does everything alone alienates his allies and supporters. Forget the climactic battle with Bane (been there, done that!); there’s still great dramatic and action potential to be mined from the increasingly draining recapture efforts.

Who should direct: David Fincher

Se7en. Zodiac. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. David Fincher certainly knows how to direct moody crime thrillers/mysteries that are simultaneously VERY dark, smart and stylish. The Game and Fight Club, meanwhile, proved that Fincher is perfectly capable of a screwing with viewers’ minds, without having to resort to Nolan-esque twists, tricks and conceits. Neither is Fincher as reality-bound and special effects-phobic as Nolan, making it possible to include more fantastic villains like Clayface and Poison Ivy in his Bat movies.

With his refusal to pull punches, I’m sure Fincher could be relied upon to do the likes of Victor Zsasz, the Scarecrow and Joker justice – presenting these characters in all their psychotic R-rated glory… and setting audiences squirming in the process.

And speaking of psychotics, wouldn’t it be great for a filmmaker to thoroughly explore the concept that Batman himself is responsible for putting Gotham City at risk, seeing as he’s catnip for criminal crazies?

Justin’s pitch

Who should play Bruce Wayne/Batman: Ryan Gosling

Ooohhh, the curse of coming in at the latter end of a discussion, when all the choices you would have gone for have already been spoken for. Bugger. Fine then, I’ll play. My choice for Batman: Ryan Gosling.

Scoff if you will, but Gosling has long since proven that he has acting chops to spare (his turns in Drive  and Half Nelson being easy evidence). And in Drive, he’s shown that he can brood with the best of them as well as dispense violence like a proper psychopath should.

Some might argue that Gosling is a bit too pretty, someone who, as Emma Stone puts it in Crazy Stupid Love (yeah, I watched it), looks as if he’s been Photoshopped. But that, dear readers, is the point. Bruce Wayne is a billionaire playboy, someone whose image you’d struggle to reconcile with that of a a vigilante who spends his nights leaping from rooftop to rooftop, wearing a cape and a mask with pointy ears, and beating seven shades of shinola out of the criminals who dare to practise their trade in his city. Bruce Wayne is ultimately the mask that Batman wears and I think that Gosling would be especially convincing in this regard.

He also has the physicality to pull it, and, as I’ve already mentioned, the acting chops. If he can polish up that accent of his (Gosling has a tendency to slip into a faux Brooklyn accent at times and Bruce Wayne comes from a more refined background) then I think we might have a real winner on our hands.

Which storyline should be used: Hush

I have very specific ideas about what story should next be used for Batman. By that, I mean that I have a clear idea of what the overarching plot for my ideal Batman trilogy would be and I have all but written out a treatment for that trilogy.

I will however say that if there is one element that I have missed from the Batman films, an element that is one of the most fundamental aspects of the Batman character: the detective aspect. The guy is regularly called the Greatest Detective mind in the world. Hell, one of the monthly Batman titles is called Detective Comics. How is it that, after seven films, the detective aspect of the character is still the one that is given such short shrift?

There have been brief flashes (Val Kilmer’s solving of the Riddler’s puzzle in Batman Forever and that bullet/ fingerprint business in The Dark Knight) but nothing that has tested Batman to the core or been significant in pushing the story forward. If anything, the one aspect of Batman that the films have really taken to is the physicality of the character. Whether this is due to laziness on the part of the writers (coming up with genuinely challenging puzzles for a genius detective can be, erm…., genuinely challenging) or whether there is a fear that it might be too challenging for audiences just looking for an action movie is irrelevant. What is relevant is that a character who is one of the greatest detective minds that the world has ever known has thus far done precious little actual detecting in his cinema outings.

As such, I would love to see a film (or trilogy of films) that test Batman’s grey matter as well as his muscle matter. One of my favourite Batman series in this regard (bearing in mind that I have not read that much of the character’s comic exploits) was Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee’s Hush.

Gorgeous on the eye, it was also entertainingly written, a story that saw Batman being attacked from all sides,  as both Batman and Bruce Wayne, and left him thoroughly disoriented by the whole thing.

Hush (as a series and a character) tested Batman’s brains and his brawn, something that I would love to see in a Batman film.

Who should direct: Nicolas Winding Refn/Rian Johnson

Having named Ryan Gosling as my ideal Batman, I think a fitting director for my ideal Batman movie would be Nicolas Winding Refn. He has a good working relationship with Gosling (the pair are already working on their next film as I write this), he has shown that he isn’t afraid to walk on the dark side with his Pusher trilogy and Drive, and he is capable of bringing some gorgeous style to his films.

But I’m going to throw out another name: Rian Jonsohn. Johnson has proven that he is more than able to work intelligence and smarts into his films in a very entertaining fashion and now with Looper, he looks to be expanding his talents by marrying more obvious spectactle to his substance. He has also shown himself to be unafraid to tackle large casts with complex plotting (a necessary talent when dealing with the potentially complicated plotting needed to disorient Batman).

I’ve set myself up with a tough choice given those two directors, but, with a gun to my head, I’d have to go with Rian Johnson.


Last Updated: August 17, 2012

Darryn Bonthuys

Something wrong gentlemen? You come here prepared to read the words of a madman, and instead found a lunatic obsessed with comics, Batman and Raul Julia's M Bison performance in the 1994 Street Fighter movie? Fine! Keep your bio! In fact, now might be a good time to pray to it!

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