Back in October, when Warner Bros. finally released a schedule of their full slate of upcoming DC Comics films, some were alarmed by the absence of planned solo adventures for their two biggest characters, Batman and Superman. While neither superhero has an concrete release date for a future solo vehicle as of now, Warner Bros. is on record confirming plans for "stand-alone Batman and Superman films" within the next five years. It should be noted that any and all of those plans are subject to change and are largely dependent on the success of the DC Cinematic Universe. But when this past Wednesday brought with it a report from Latino Review claiming that Ben Affleck will direct himself in the upcoming solo outing, which is tentatively titled The Batman, the future of the character became a bit more clear. Even with a planned November 2018 release date, however, many questions still remain. What sort of story should we expect to see from Affleck's first big-budget directorial gig? Rather, what sort of story should we hope to see?
Since the release of Tim Burton's Batman in 1989, the Dark Knight has starred in a total of seven live-action films, and will star in at least two more (Batman V Superman and the 2017 Justice League film) before appearing in a new solo movie. For most fictional characters, the main concern with any additional adaptations would be keeping the story fresh and interesting while avoiding narrative retreads. Thankfully for Batman, over 75 years of printed and animated material leave us with countless character and story arcs to explore. There is certainly no shortage of adaptable material.
With all that in mind, let's take a look at three distinct story possibilities that would be ideal for Batman's next adventure, as well as the positive and negatives that go along with them.
Good Old-Fashioned Detective Story
One of the keys to this upcoming Batman film will be containing the story in Gotham. The film cannot be on a global, extinction-level scale like a Justice League movie can be. If it is, no amount of stubbornness could explain away Bruce Wayne deciding to not call up his JL pals for help. Grounding this movie in Gotham allows Batman to work alone and allows the filmmakers to focus on aspects of his character that previous films have barely even mentioned.
- DC and Warner Bros. execs have said on numerous occasions that they want to create comic book films that are darker and grittier than their Marvel counterparts. They could put their money where their mouths are with a serial killer mystery in the vein of David Fincher's Seven.
- Popular Batman comics like The Long Halloween, Hush, Gothic, and The Court of Owls could serve as fitting sources of inspiration.
- Character traits of Bruce Wayne that have previously gone unexplored would be fully fleshed out, giving the Dark Knight a true place in the Justice League. Note: a certain hyper-talented Moviepilot creator may have touched on this in his last post.
- Comic book movies have yet to explore the classification of mystery-thriller since 2009's Watchmen. The Batman could really set itself apart from other superhero films and further legitimize the genre in the eyes of critics.
- A skin-crawlingly eerie Batman tale may prove to be too dark for some (ie: casual moviegoers, family audiences, and WB shareholders) and could limit the film's box office return.
- Jared Leto's Joker, who seems to be completely nailing it so far, would not feature as the primary villain without heavy rewrites to the aforementioned source material. Even with major changes to the comics, the Joker might not be the best fit for a mystery story. When the Joker commits a crime, he usually wants Batman to know it was him.
Arkham Asylum/City Adaptation
Another route DC will likely consider for The Batman will be an adaptation of Rocksteady's incredibly popular Arkham video game series. In addition to being a major hit with critics and fans alike, the Arkham series has proven to be an equally original yet faithful depiction of the Caped Crusader and his gallery of rogues. If the higher-ups at Warner Bros. make a push for a bigger, blockbust-ier Batman tale, this would be a likely candidate.
- The Arkham games are spectacularly cinematic, so an actual movie adaptation would theoretically be even more so, right? RIGHT?!
- David Ayer's Suicide Squad will feature nearly a dozen usable characters for an Arkham-based movie, so the daunting load of villains that would need to be introduced would be lightened.
- If Ben Affleck is indeed set to direct, his creative influence over the DCCU would be enormous. He could be charged with casting the vast majority of DC's villains. Note: some may view this as a negative rather than a positive, but let's try to stay optimistic, shall we?
- This story option could draw inspiration from Grant Morrison's vastly underappreciated graphic novel Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth, which would be a huge win for true comic fans.
- An Arkham film would be an ideal showcase for Batman's seemingly endless rogues gallery. Sorry, Batman Triumphant.
- If the film were mishandled in the slightest, it would be awfully embarrassing for DC to have released a movie adaptation of a video game that wasn't as well-received as the game itself, especially considering the rich comic book history that they would have had to pass on adapting.
- Even with the helping hand provided by Suicide Squad, casting for this film would be an epic (read: nearly impossible) undertaking.
- The massive number of required villains could too easily result in a crippling case of the dreaded "Spiderman 3 syndrome." Side note: A quick Google of this affliction wields odd results. Doesn't "Spiderman 3 syndrome" refer to a convoluted/overly-stuffed plot resulting from an over-abundance of characters?
- An Arkham film could be forced to focus on the villains rather than the hero, potentially depriving audiences the opportunity to get to know this latest incarnation of the Dark Knight. Keep in mind, Ben Affleck's Batman will supposedly be fully-formed in the DCCU. While most rejoiced at the idea of DC deciding to skip the traditionally obligatory origin story, it's unlikely we'll know too much about this take on the character as a result.
A Bat Family Tale
Gahhhhh this would be crazy fun, wouldn't it? When the creative minds behind the new Batman opted for an older version of the Caped Crusader, they opened the door to appearances from (the majority of) Batman's greatest allies while simultaneously sidestepping potentially awkward sidekick introductions. The idea of seeing fully-grown versions of fan favorites like Dick Grayson and Jason Todd on the big screen without arousing questions like, "Why would Batman ever allow a 12 year old boy to fight crime alongside him?" should be enough to excite any comic book fan.
- An adaptation of Under the Hood, which is both an excellent comic book story arc and DC's greatest animated film to date, would almost certainly prove to be a standout entry into Batman's cinematic history of awesomeness. With rumors surrounding the inclusion of certain elements of the famed A Death in the Family story line in Batman V Superman, fans' dreams could soon become a reality.
- While it wouldn't quite be a true solo adventure, a film that chose to focus on Batman's relationship dynamics with his allies could root out a variety of character traits that common moviegoers probably aren't aware of. A deeply personal look into the psyche of Batman that doesn't solely focus on the death of his parents is long overdue.
- The Bat Family is filled with complex, emotionally-arresting characters that could conceivably carry their own movies. Should Ben Affleck decide to take a step back from his character a few films down the line in order to pursue other interests, DC could continue on in Gotham for years to come. Nightwing and the Red Hood are only two examples of such characters; there are many more.
- Such a film could combine a variety of story elements to satisfy the masses, resulting in the most faithful and commercially-viable depiction of the Dark Knight yet.
- There are none. DC, do this please.
One final thought...How amazingly meta would it be if Matt Damon signed on to play a Batman villain like, say, Hush? A childhood friend of Bruce Wayne that grows to despise him and eventually tries to ruin him? There's your movie, folks.