It doesn't really matter what you thought of Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight Trilogy, or Zack Snyder's Man Of Steel, these two gentlemen aren't going anywhere for a long time. Mr. Nolan produced Man Of Steel and is executive producer on Batman V Superman Dawn Of Justice, which is currently being directed by Mr. Snyder. These two creative giants are now doing something that seemed unlikely so soon after The Dark Knight Rises; they are rebooting Batman. In doing so they are moving away from the world created by David S. Goyer and The Nolans and dropping Batman into a world populated by super powered folk. We know it can work, we've seen a billionaire playboy hold his own around gods onscreen before, but will it work here?
It seems like Warner Bros. have faith in both Batman V Superman Dawn Of Justice and Ben Affleck if recent whispers are to be believed. Last week it was rumoured that we might see a new series of Batman movies, starting in 2019 with The Batman. I thought it might be interesting to look at one of the major bonuses of rebooting The Batman. Again.
Now, I have my opinion on Man Of Steel and Zack Snyder, but I'm not going to address that here. I'm assuming if The Batman ever sees a green light it'll get a new director anyway, perhaps even Ben Affleck. I also have an opinion about Ben Affleck playing Bruce Wayne and Batman. That's slightly more positive than most, but neither of these points interest me here. What caught my imagination is the fact that when you reboot The Batman you also reboot his villains. One in particular interests me and that's The Joker.
A ghost haunts the batman franchise. That ghost in wearing a cheap purple suit and make up. Conspicuous by his absence The Joker loomed large over The Dark Knight Rises for me. I felt, early on in the movie's production that he needed to feature in some way. He is, after all, the other side of the Batman coin. They even gave The Joker dialogue that intimated that in The Dark Knight. But Mr. Nolan decided to stay clear of the character following the untimely death of Heath Ledger. I have to admit, Mr. Ledger's performance was legendary. It helped establish a character worthy of Batman, worthy of a place onscreen time and again, an eternal battle of good vs evil, Batman always one rule away from stopping the killer clown as he leaves too many "hats on the ground." When Joseph Gordon-Levitt joined the cast of The Dark Knight Rises I thought he may be playing The Joker. His eery similarity to Heath Ledger would have worked well with or without make up. In fact I started to hope that JGL would portray a Hannibal Lecter style Joker. Head shaved, face make up free behind glass in Arkham assisting Batman in his hunt for, say, The Riddler, whilst simultaneously coaching Riddler through other channels, maybe Harley Quinn. Alas it was not to be.
To me The Joker has come to represent Batman's weakness. He will not be rehabilitated. He will not be contained. He will continue to kill and taunt Batman until he himself is killed. It's Batman's one rule not to take a life that gives The Joker licence to act the way he does. Like that shark in Jaws or John Doe in Se7en, there is no beating him, you just have to destroy him and a part of yourself along with him. Look and the end of their relationship in Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns. I won't spoil it here in case there are people who haven't read it, but it's especially powerful given the lifelong battle that's implied within that book's pages. We need to see The Joker again and again in Batman stories or the character of Batman is weakened in some way.
We got the foreshadowing of The Joker in Batman Begins with the playing card in the films final moments. At that point Christopher Nolan didn't know if he'd ever return to make a sequel, but he knew enough to know the power that moment would have. How powerful would a short cameo have been in the final film? Just an acknowledgement that he was still there, even if they repurposed cut scenes from The Dark Knight. Or if they did digital face replacement. Imagine The Dark Knight Rises if The Joker had figured into Talia's plan. To me it's odd that such a prominent figure in Batman's life wasn't even referenced. Christopher Nolan chose, instead, to honour his friend by leaving The Joker alone. Author Greg Cox decided to include this passage in the official novelisation of the movie:
Now that the Dent Act had made it all but impossible for the city’s criminals to cop an insanity plea, it (Blackgate Prison) had replaced Arkham Asylum as a preferred location for imprisoning both convicted and suspected felons. The worst of the worst were sent here, except for the Joker, who, rumor had it, was locked away as Arkham’s sole remaining inmate. Or perhaps he had escaped. Nobody was really sure. Not even Selina.
The Joker, I would argue, is a very important component in the Batman Mythos. And with a potential reboot of Batman comes the potential to reboot The Joker. Going forward we might see a series of films that uses that character to taunt Batman and push him into darker, scarier places than we've ever seen him before. Culminating, one would hope, in The Dark Knight Returns, giving the character a fitting exit...
Do you think The Joker should feature in future Batman movies? Who would you cast in the role? Leave your thoughts in the comments.
By Marc Godsiff