On The Inevitable Batman Reboot

This list of five things he wants in the Batman reboot (assuming that the next film in the franchise will be some form of reboot) has some interesting notions. I’ll have more to say about some of his other demands, but if I were ever tapped to make a Batman movie (or comic, for that matter), this one would be my keystone:

Make Batman a detective.

The full name is “The Dark Knight Detective.” Batman isn’t just an urban vigilante in a strange getup – he’s a master detective whose deductive skills rival Sherlock Holmes. This element of Batman is historically underplayed, and Nolan’s Batfilms in particular have ignored his detective element (or, more truthfully when Nolan has engaged the detective element it has been in a way that makes Batman seem stupider, like the fingerprints on the Joker’s bullet thing).

Tell a story where Batman isn’t just punching guys but where he’s engaged in a real mental match-up. Where he’s not only riding in his Batmobile but also piecing together seemingly mundane and pointless clues. Where he’s seemingly at a loss but is actually one step ahead of the villain. Look to the Robert Downey Jr Sherlock Holmes films for a sense of how to do this.

He loses me with the Downey Jr. Sherlock Holmes reference (I guess they’re fine for what they are, but are they really something to emulate?), but otherwise, this is spot on. Batman’s first appearance was in Detective Comics, after all, and he’s supposed to be the world’s greatest crime solver. Why not give him an actual mystery to solve? As the Devin Faraci (the author of the piece) notes, this aspect of Batman is historically underplayed, but everyone loves a good sleuthing, so long as the mystery is actually clever and not just obscure (i.e. don’t hire Lindelof and Abrams, though I suspect people would lobby for that duo). To my mind, this sort of story would be an ideal fit for The Riddler as villain, but I’m getting ahead of myself. More on villains later.

As for Faraci’s other suggestions, I don’t feel strongly about most of them, but let’s take a look anyway. Maybe I can muster up some invective or praise:

  • Less Frank Miller, more Grant Morrison. Having already copped to not having read the comics, I’m not really qualified to respond to this, but I think I can go along with the general point, which is to make Batman less grim and gritty and more fun. Makes sense, but there’s also a fine line to walk. I’d like to avoid the Danny Devito Penguin, if you please. Say what you will about Nolan, but I like his mixture of realism and comic book fantasy when it comes to a character like the Joker.
  • Get rid of the bulky rubber outfit. I’m mostly ambivalent about this one, though I agree that it would be nice to see a good portrayal of the grey suit. On the other hand, the grey suit has that whole Underwear of Power thing going against it, so I’m fine if they stick with the black armored stuff.
  • Have it take place in the DC Universe. Again, not really qualified here, but I would want anything in this vein to be subtle and on the periphery. Post-credits sequence would be acceptable. I may have more to say on this a little later in this post.
  • Don’t you dare make it an origin story. Hell yes. Wholeheartedly agreed here. As Devin notes, “I’ll allow a visit to the grave of the Waynes, but that’s it.” Heh.

So, what would I really want out of a reboot, besides making Batman a detective and eschewing the origin story? I’m glad you asked:

  • Give Batman a single villain. Look, I get it, Batman has the strangest, most memorable, and all around best rogues gallery in all of comics. But please, please show some restraint here. Villains seem to multiply in sequels, but I’d respectfully request that be avoided as well. You only have two hours or so, and it’s exceedingly difficult to manage the balancing act of having so many characters onscreen. What’s more, it’s completely unnecessary. You want to do a story with The Riddler and The Penguin? Fine, make two different movies. It’s not like the studio doesn’t want two more movies. Keeping the number of main characters to a minimum is another reason I don’t really like the idea of opening Batman up to the rest of the DC universe (though I suppose that can be done responsibly).
  • Avoid the Joker. I know someone will eventually get the unenviable task of rebooting the role of the Joker at some point, but for now, you have to leave this one alone. There’s just no beating Ledger’s Joker right now. Maybe with the passing of time, a new take on the Joker can emerge, but for now, let’s just focus on the rest of that neglected rogues gallery. What I would have loved to have seen with Leger’s Joker was a situation in which Batman would consult with Joker in Arkham, Hannibal Lecter style (“What became of your lamb, Batman?“) That is one situation where multiple villains would actually work. Alas, I still think it’s too soon for such an approach. A Harley Quinn approach would be an interesting way to reprise the Joker’s themes without the Joker himself… but I’m digressing.
  • Don’t set up a sequel/crossover. Like limiting the story to one villain, this is all about focusing on the matter at hand. I think some leniency could be made on this point if the setup is minimized and subtle, like in a post-credits sequence (Nolan managed pretty handily in Batman Begins). This one is another reason I’m not a fan of opening Batman up to the rest of the DC Universe. Again, it could be done responsibly, but there’s a big possibility the movie would pull an Iron Man 2.

So there’s my five requests. I suppose an honorable mention could go to leaving out a love interest for Batman/Wayne… but that sorta goes along with the minimizing characters theme I’ve got going with the list. My movie would be pretty simple from a number of characters standpoint, but perhaps more complex from a theme and plot perspective (as befitting a mystery, though obviously there’d have to be enough characters to maintain suspicions). This is straightforward stuff: Make him a detective, pit him against a single villain who is not the Joker, and don’t say anything about sequels or origin stories. It’s minimalist, but don’t worry, I can guarantee this won’t happen. Unless Hollywood calls, in which case, I’m all over it.