Ditch the origin
Pros: Everyone who buys a ticket to a Batman film already knows Batman’s origin story.
In fact, it’s such a well-known part of pop culture that Tim Burton’s Batman deliberately subverted it, with Burton opening his first film with a family lost in Gotham that first-time viewers would have totally assumed to be the big-screen version of the Waynes, before going in a completely different direction.
Every rendition of Batman – from the comics, to the animated series, to two movie versions – has covered the Dark Knight’s origin story, and Nolan’s version is arguably the best of all of them.
How refreshing would it be to go into a new Batman franchise and not have to sit through another shot of pearls hitting the concrete?
We could join our hero halfway through his career, with all the rules and tropes we know so well already established.
And it would satisfy all the fanboys and fangirls currently complaining that it’s too soon for a Spider-Man reboot. There’s only so many ways you can make an origin feel fresh – the further away from it you move, the more unhappy fans will be. The closer you stick to it, the more bored they’ll be.
Cons: We can’t think of many for this one – except perhaps there’ll be some unhappy boyfriends / girlfriends / parents who have been dragged along to see the film without knowing Bats’ back-story.
But hopefully there’ll be enough time between when the first trailer lands and the general release date to give these people comics / Blu-ray boxsets of Batman and Batman Begins or introduce them to the Internet.
Keep it grounded
Pros: Weirdly, the Batman films seem to have accidentally paralleled the comic-book evolution of the character.
First, the ‘40s-influenced Gotham noir of Burton’s Batman , to which he introduced ‘50s Golden Age elements in follow-up Batman Returns (most notably, Catwoman).
Next came the ‘60s Silver Age mania of Schumacher’s Batman Forever / Batman & Robin (characters introduced in the far sillier Silver Age include Bat-Girl and Poison Ivy, with The Riddler making a return to the comics after a long absence).
Which takes us up to Nolan’s ‘70s and ‘80s influenced double of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight (the comic went darker and more crime-focused, Lucius Fox, Ras Al Ghul, Henri Ducard and Batman: Year One all appeared during these decades).
From what we’ve seen, The Dark Knight Rises contains several key elements of the ‘90s incarnation of the series – with Bane, Knightfall and possibly even the No Man’s Land story-arc all look set to be referenced.
Which means that, in the next instalment of the movie version of the mythos, we’re due a ‘00s take.
So forget returning to the lunacy of Schumacher’s era, the post- Rises reboot will be staying focused on the real-world crime elements already established by Nolan’s universe, and building on them – bringing them closer to home.
Arcs up for grabs include Bruce Wayne: Murderer – which would work as a courtroom drama on the big screen, with Bruce framed for murder, and Batman having to prove his innocence – and the iconic Hush series (though possibly that would be best saved for later down the line in the reboot franchise, considering the fact it involves so many of Batman’s rogues gallery).
Cons: By sticking so closely to Nolan’s methodology, future directors would have to suffer from being constantly compared to the auteur’s near-perfect vision. It would take a strong character to maintain their own voice in the din of fan-whinging.
Maintain real-world villains
Pros: Don’t worry, this feature isn’t going to be 15 pages of ‘Just copy Nolan’ we’ll be veering off that path shortly.
But there’s another element of Christopher Nolan’s continuity that simply has to be maintained in order for the Batman reboot to succeed.
Forget seeing the big-screen debut of Clayface, or the gritty update of Mr Freeze – the next Bat-villain has to be as believable as Heath Ledger’s Joker, as convincing as Cillian Murphy’s Scarecrow, or as retooled as Tom Hardy’s Bane.
Possibilities include new versions of Penguin (we’d still like to see our dream of Philip Seymour Hoffman wielding a machine-gun umbrella realised) and Riddler (though not as a Jigsaw-style sociopath, please) – but we’d prefer to see brand-new (to the silver screen) villains.
The Black Mask, Hugo Strange, even Killer Croc (though he’ll need to get his name from scarring, as opposed to mutant atavism) have potential for a place in a realistic Batman universe.
And our favourite out of that lot? Strange, for reasons we’ve explained in the past (opens in new tab) .
Batman’s best villains work as psychological metaphors (schizophrenia for Two-Face, psychopathy for Joker, obsessive-compulsive disorder for Riddler) with close connections to Batman’s own mania. Which means that grander the scale, the lesser the impact.
But whatever happens, if DC seeks to mimic the success of The Avengers by pitching Batman against a universe-endangering alien threat, it would be a massive mistake.
Cons: Once again, the curse of following Nolan rears its clown-painted face: how on earth do you compete with his ingenious takes on such classic creations?
Introduce Leslie Thompkins
Pros: Leslie Thompkins plays a significant role in the history / character of Batman, but she’s yet to be brought before big screen audiences.
Thompkins has two subtly different origins – in one version of continuity, she was the care worker who first comforted young Bruce after his parents’ death (which Nolan retooled to be a young Commissioner Gordon, in one of his many elegant plot-shifts) in another, she helped raise Bruce, providing a maternal counterpoint to Alfred’s father figure presence.
In both versions, she shares Thomas Wayne’s philanthropic vision of Gotham City – running a clinic for criminals and drug addicts, out of the notorious Crime Alley.
In the classic There Is No Hope In Crime Alley , we learn that Thompkins was inspired to open the clinic by bearing witness to the murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents; she wanted to ensure that such a tragedy would never take place again – going by slightly different methodology to Batman.
Because of this, Batman visits Thompkins on the same night every year, to remind himself of what he’s fighting for.
If you haven’t read it, seek it out – it’s a beautiful comic. And one that could provide a key character for any future Batman franchise.
One of the few criticisms of Nolan’s Batman films is he hasn’t created many strong female characters (Catwoman looks to be the exception that proves the rule), Leslie Thompkins would definitely solve that – she’s a tough old bird.
Leslie would also allow the person following in Nolan’s footsteps to hold-off on the introduction of a new Commissioner Gordon.
Just as it’s going to be difficult to introduce a new Joker following Heath Ledger’s stunning performance, it’s going to be very hard to imagine anyone other than Gary Oldman as Jim Gordon – he’s been stunning in a very underrated role.
Thompkins could perform a very similar narrative function – being Batman’s key crime contact in the reboot story structure.
Cons: Casting will be key for Leslie to work – and mainstream Hollywood isn’t exactly bursting with roles for pension-age actresses, which means there aren’t as many to choose from.
Still, Helen Mirren would be perfect, as would Maggie Smith. Yep, despite the fact we want to avoid comparison with Oldman, we still want Thompkins to be played by a Brit. Some things are too perfect to change.
Make him a detective
Pros: It’s an absolutely key aspect of Batman’s character; in the comics he defines himself as a detective, not a vigilante.
And whilst we saw glimpses of Batman’s clue-chasing skills in The Dark Knight – even if sometimes they didn’t really make sense; what was that shooting the bullets into the wall bit all about? – often it felt as though Batman was discovering events as they were happening, rather than using evidence to stay one-step ahead.
We want the next incarnation to be a full-blown police procedural, with Batman’s sleuthing skills being so comprehensive they make Sherlock Holmes look like Tony Stark.
In the ‘70s, Batman frequently solved side-cases that had nothing to do with the main story, seemingly for fun. They were often versions of the ‘a man’s been found hanging in a locked room with no chair, how did he die? (answer: he stood a block of ice) brain-teasers, but it was the Dark Knight Detective’s path to the truth that provided entertainment for readers.
Old Bats was definitely from the Holmes school of ‘eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth’ school of detection and it was fun to follow. It could be just as fun in the reboot.
Cons: It’ll take a clever screenwriter to come up with puzzles that are satisfying to solve. They need to be tricky without being frustrating, and clever enough to ensure that the audience doesn’t work out the answers before Bruce does.
Pros: Despite the darkness, Batman’s traditionally a pretty funny superhero comic, with a nice line in gallows / sarcastic humour (ignoring the pun in the image above, that is).
Mostly, the jokes come from supporting players, with Alfred, Nightwing and Robin all being used to lighten the tension. But Batman’s been known to tell a few jokes himself – something that’s almost entirely absent from Nolan’s films.
Whilst some of The Dark Knight Rises ’ promotional material suggests that the Nolan brothers are stepping up the joke-count for the final installment, we don’t expect it to be a laugh-a-minute.
We’d like the reboot to introduce a few wry pay-off lines to the growls and threats.
Cons: It’ll be important to get the balance right; we don’t want to see Bats chuck out one-liners as often as he throws Batarangs.
Open up the universe
Pros: Let’s face it, following the success of The Avengers , a Justice League movie is inevitable.
But we’d argue that, rather than jumping in at the deep end with an Aquaman movie, it’s essential that DC get their Justice League version of Batman right first.
So it’s important that the Batman reboot, whilst remaining firmly in the real-world that Nolan’s created, starts to introduce the more fantastical elements that are essential for a League movie to get off the ground.
This could be as throwaway as a newspaper headline announcing the arrival of the fastest man in the world, or a TV news report about the discovery of a new island which scientists have named Themyscira. But the references do have to be in there.
The Batman reboot will work best as a gradual transition from Nolan’s world into the more fantasy-heavy landscape that the sequels and spin-offs will almost certainly have to exist in.
Cons: This is going to be extremely difficult to get right – the Batman reboot has to successfully bridge the gap between The Dark Knight Rises and Green Lantern .
We wish whoever takes on the task the very best of luck.
Include a Superman cameo
Pros: Alongside opening up the universe with a few well-placed Justice League references for the fans to pick up on, the Batman reboot simply has to include a decent-sized cameo for Superman.
It could be in an Avengers style end-credits sequence, or it could be mid-movie, but it has to happen – and it has to be more than just be a red and blue flash in the sky.
Superman is a fantastic character in the Bat-verse. He doesn’t appear often, but when he does he’s a brilliant counterpoint to Bruce’s brooding. He knows Batman better than anyone – some of our favourite dialogue about Batman’s true nature has come from a Superman speech bubble.
Basically, Superman and Batman work together as a concept. He’s the best route in for a Justice League movie set-up.
It would work in one of two ways: If Warner Brothers wanted to cover the first meeting of the big blue boy scout and the masked manhunter, then have Superman appear at the end of Batman’s film, threatening to take him down because he doesn’t like his methods.
Then, the Batman reboot sequel can be Batman Vs Superman , they’ll fight for 90 minutes or so, before realising at the end that they’re on the same side, and that they should set up some sort of League Of Justice to ensure that this sort of thing never happens again.
Though we’d infinitely prefer the second option, which accepts that in this new universe, Batman and Superman already know each other. We want an end-credits sequence in which Superman floats down onto a roof while Batman moodily peers out over Gotham. Superman lands, and says: “Bruce, I need your help.” Cut to black, roll credits.
Cons: There’s a small – but very vocal – minority of fans who hate Superman as much as they do Robin, thinking such a decent, moral and brightly coloured character has no place in Batman’s dark and gritty universe. These people are wrong, and must be ignored.
Reinvent the Batcave
Pros: We love Batman Begins and The Dark Knight , but they both completely failed at delivering the concept of the Batcave.
There’s a chance we’ll get it in The Dark Knight Rises – all we need is a rebuilt Wayne Manor, a bit of restructuring work in the caves established in Begins , and The Dark Knight ’s supercomputer to be moved underground, but that’s probably fairly unlikely.
But don’t get us wrong, we’re not after the ‘60s TV version of the cave, complete with a Batcomputer featuring Special Escaped Arch-criminal Bat-locator, but we also don’t want to see Bruce sitting in an open-plan sky-rise apartment full of windows, wearing his bat-suit and holding his cowl, in broad daylight (sorry The Dark Knight geeks).
Batman belongs underground, and a Bat-film isn’t complete without his cave.
We accept that we probably won’t get to see one with a giant penny and a life-size animatronic T-Rex anytime soon, but the cave is an essential element of the character and one that needs to appear fully formed in the reboot.
Cons: We’re really hoping it’ll make an appearance in The Dark Knight Rises – and Bruce will have more than enough time to construct it in his eight years off – but if it doesn’t show up, there’s probably a good reason Nolan’s stayed away from it. There is something inherently silly about the concept, but that doesn’t stop it from being awesome.
Put more stuff in the utility belt
Pros: One of the things we most respect about Nolan’s Batman films is the fact that, despite taking place is a gritty realistic world, Batman still walks around wearing a massive golden belt filled with ninja shuriken shaped like bats. We’re not being snarky, we genuinely love it.
That’s Batman’s utility belt, and it’s potentially as silly as the Batcave, but equally as brilliant.
And we want to see it used much more frequently in the Batman reboot. Again, we’re not asking for Bat-shark repellent pulled from the belt in the ’66 movie, but we do want it to be filled with all the great tools you can see in the image above.
It ties in with our desire for the reboot to put more focus on Batman’s detective skills – the utility belt is essentially his CSI kit, with an infrared camera, fingerprint dusting kit, and lockpick tools amongst its coolest contents.
Cons: It is one of the areas of Batman lore people make fun of the most – and to be fair, it has contained some ridiculous stuff over the years – but as long as the screenwriters avoid the ‘solution to every problem’ issue, we think it could work.