Let’s talk about the inevitable Batman reboot.
Don’t act affronted or horrified at the mere suggestion; I’m not the first to talk about it, and in fact there are many signs to indicate that wheels are already turning over at Warner Brothers and DC. So get it out of your system, and slowly come to grips with this: Nolan and Batman are two amazing things that are very unlikely to ever coincide again.
Now, on to business. Since it’s inevitable, it’s in our best interest to make it the best it can possibly be – and it can be really, really good. I know that Nolan’s stamp on the franchise has been indelible, and that all attempts after will be seen as attempts to live up to what Nolan did with the character of Batman – but it doesn’t have to be that way.
If I were in charge of the new Batman movie (which I currently am not – but if any WB or DC executives are reading this, please let me write and direct. I can promise you much moneys and critical love), here is how I would do it, and why it would stand well outside of Nolan’s untouchably awesome trilogy.
DC Comics recently relaunched their 52 major series as The New 52 – among them, the Batman series, written by Scott Snyder with art by Greg Capullo, is easily the best. The plotline involves a new creation called the “Court of Owls”, a shadowy organization of Gotham’s elite that secretly runs the city – supposedly. You see, Bruce Wayne – back when his parents were murdered – launched his own investigation into the myth of the Court of Owls, believing them to be connected to, if not outright responsible for, his parents’ death. His conclusion then was quite adamantly that they did not exist – they were nothing more than a myth created over many years. So when their legendary assassin, an immortal, superstrong man known as The Talon, shows up in Gotham and nearly kills a mayoral candidate that Bruce endorses due to his dedication to reforming Gotham, things get interesting.
What makes the Court of Owls plotline so wonderfully compelling is that Batman is sure of one thing: if he knows nothing else, he knows Gotham City. He IS Gotham City, after all, as the opening inner monologue of the series points out: “Every Saturday, the Gotham Gazette includes a small lifestyle piece called “Gotham Is.” In the column, random Gothamites are asked to complete the sentence “Gotham is…” using three words or less. Here are some of the words used to describe Gotham in the past few weeks: ‘Damned.’ ‘Cursed.’ ‘Bedlam.’ ‘Murderous.’ ‘A losing game.’ ‘Hopeless.’ Of course, one of the most common answers to the ‘Gotham Is’ question is ‘Batman’. Gotham is Batman. Gotham is Batman’s city. Gotham is the Bat.” And the random Gothamites are very much right: Batman is what defines Gotham, and vice versa. In Nolan’s trilogy, Gotham City was as much a character as the Caped Crusader himself.
As much as Batman thinks he knows Gotham, however, here is one of Gotham’s oldest myths, one that Bruce was sure was nothing more than a myth, knocking on his doorstep and creating problems for the Bat. Batman’s one certainty is no longer certain. His faith and conviction in his city is shaken, and that makes for an incredibly compelling tale. Nolan was more interested in Batman as a symbol; the Court of Owls is interested in Batman as a man.
But there’s more to it than simply a richness in the thematics and emotion of the tale. If we’re to reboot Batman, we’re going to need to talk about his origins. While Batman Begins managed to do a pretty good job of telling an origin story without making the movie slow and laborious, telling the same story over again only 10 or so years later isn’t the best way to do things. But the Court of Owls provides a wonderful little opportunity here: since the Court of Owls are tied to the Wayne family in a fairly substantive way, the series delves into the history of the Wayne family – specifically, the events surrounding the death of Martha and Thomas Wayne. A perfect opportunity to explore the origins of Batman in Bruce Wayne’s tragic past.
It’s a wonderful fit – but simply adapting the Court of Owls into film form isn’t enough. We need a little bit more. And that little bit more can fit in a single word: Robin.
Nolan was loathe to include the character of Robin in his Batman trilogy, and that was a smart move – he wanted to focus on Batman as a symbol, whereas adding Robin to the symbology would have muddied things up a bit. But Robin is an inseparable part of the Batman mythos by this point – having been four different people throughout the run of the comics, Robin is deeply entrenched and is key to understanding the Batman. So we include him in the Court of Owls film – but wait, there’s more.
No film should include an element for the sake of including the element – if we include Robin in the mix, there needs to be a reason for him to be there. We’ve already discussed that the benefit of the Court of Owls plotline is that we get to see Batman question himself and what he believes in. We can take that further if we mesh together the plotline in the New 52 revival of the Batman and Robin series with the Court of Owls.
As everybody knows by now, Miranda Tate is actually Talia al-Ghul – the daughter of Ra’s al-Ghul. In Nolan’s film, she is solely focused on avenging her father by finishing his work and destroying Gotham. In the comics, however, she is torn between her father’s ideals and her love for Bruce Wayne. That’s right, Talia loves Bruce – so much, in fact, that the two had a child together – Damian Wayne. This Batson is the latest (the fourth) Robin.
This Robin, however, is very different from the previous Robins, Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, and Tim Drake. He has almost all of his mother’s attributes with little of his father’s attributes – he’s a psychopathic, violent nutcase who was trained from a very young age to be an assassin, and has none of Batman’s compunctions against killing. While there’s definitely a real plotline going on in Batman and Robin, the majority of the series’ emotional weight is placed on the strained relationship between Bruce and Damian, Batman and Robin.
So, let’s add Damian Wayne to the Court of Owls. Now that everybody knows who Talia al-Ghul is due to Nolan’s film, it’ll be easier to add Damian into the mythos in a reboot. With Bruce questioning his faith in Gotham, Damian’s penchant for violence and psychopathic tendencies will make Bruce question himself and his own ideals. It’s perfect.
That’s my proposal for the Batman reboot – it’s a film distinct from Nolan’s vision, but rooted in the Batman mythology and ethos in a way that will make a Batfilm just as stellar as Nolan’s entries into the franchise.
So please, WB and DC, if you’re reading this (you’re not) please let me write and direct it.