In a story first published by Jett at Batman-on-Film, news has come to light saying that the post-Christopher Nolan cinematic Batman will be appearing first not in a solo rebooted Batman film (as initially expected), but in a tentpole team-up film starring the entire Justice League, DC Comics' premiere superhero team. This means that the next time we see the Dark Knight on the big screen, it’ll be alongside the likes of Superman, Wonder Woman, the Flash and Green Lantern in a single swoop that could potentially create a cinematic DC Universe, like a big bang with a $200 million budget.
Unsurprisingly for some, this news has been polarizing to fans of Batman. There’s quite a sect out there of fans that would prefer to see the Guardian of Gotham without any partners whatsoever, and certainly not alongside a slew of characters with superhuman abilities. These fans make a persuasive argument that pairing Batman with the characters of the League can devalue his humanity to an extent, and that Batman has no business being alongside the likes of gods in red capes, space cops with glowing green rings, or men that can run at supersonic speeds.
Personally, I tend to take the opposite approach. I don’t think Batman’s membership on the Justice League takes value away from the Dark Knight, I think it has the potential to add value to him. Consider this: what does it say about a human being with no special powers when he can stand side-to-side with gods among men, and be seen as their equal? Does that take away from him? I certainly don’t think so. In the world of comics, the inclusion of Batman on the Justice League makes him more special and more unique, because he can stand with characters like Superman and the Flash as equals through the sheer force of his will. Batman, for all intents and purposes, is the most self-made hero on the team because everything he has done has been by design, as well as through a lot of blood and sweat. He may not be able to go toe-to-toe with Darkseid or Brainiac, but he can (and does) serve as the team’s tactician. Calling the plays while having the quarterback (in this case, Superman) plunge down the center line.
Now, that does not mean that there's no way to screw this up. Batman’s first appearance in a cinematic DCU, ideally, would’ve been in his own solo film. If the team dynamic doesn’t work, there’s a chance that Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment could be shooting themselves in the foot as far as establishing other franchises out of a Justice League film. But, if enough care and precision go into the formation of the team on film, then this could potentially be a very special outing for all the characters involved, Batman included.
In a piece I wrote for Movies.com a few months ago detailing some thoughts on how to do a Justice League film, I wrote that the best way to reintroduce Batman would be to have one toe in the world of fantasy like the comics (in order to account for the existence of characters like Superman existing in the same world as the new Batman), and one toe in the world of gritty realism established by Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. I think the best way to do this, personally, is by following the example of the critically and commercially successful Arkham games developed by Rocksteady Studios. Arkham Asylum and Arkham City feel gritty and down-to-earth while still permitting the existence of super-powered villains like Clayface, Mr. Freeze, Poison Ivy and Killer Croc.
The Arkham universe also keeps things grounded while permitting the original supernatural elements of Ra’s al Ghul to exist, Lazarus Pits and all, as well as having the source material’s conception of the Venom-powered Bane run unstoppably rampant. Because of the existence of super-powered characters presented in a grounded, down-to-earth fashion, it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to believe that a character like Superman, or like Wonder Woman, could also exist in that world. Because of that, in my opinion, that would be the pitch-perfect tone to go for in a Justice League film and the rebooted Batman solo franchise that conceivably exists in the same world as the League.
Gone are the days of Burton, Schumacher and of Christopher Nolan as far as Batman is concerned. That doesn’t mean, though, that the new series can’t take some very valuable lessons from the most successful cinematic iteration of the character in the Dark Knight trilogy while still allowing the League to exist in a relatively down-to-earth and gritty environment. Regardless of how anyone feels, good or bad, a Justice League film is coming, and Batman will be in it. How they decide to present him is still uncertain, but for my money, I’m happy he’ll be there, and I’ll be even happier if their approach looks something like the Arkham universe.
If they go for it, then the Justice League can live up to their moniker of “the World’s Greatest Heroes” and make us believe that a self-made man can achieve greatness, standing shoulder to shoulder with gods among men through his own design and force of will. To me, that’s a hell of an inspiring message about the vastness of human potential, and more importantly for the Dark Knight, a testament to the greatness of the Batman character. As a huge fan of the Dark Knight, it’s definitely an idea I’d love to see on the big screen.
Chris Clow is a recent Western Washington University graduate, film history fan, and comic book expert and retailer, contributor, and overall geek to Batman-On-Film.com and ModernMythMedia.com. You can find his comic book reviews for various monthly titles and his participated podcasts at BOF and MMM. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisClow.