A few weeks ago, I went on kind of an online tirade when I heard the news that Warner Bros. had decided to shelve development on a Justice League film for the foreseeable future.
It made absolutely no sense to me that the studio put out films with critical and commercial risk when it owns classic comics characters with built-in audiences. Is it easier to finance, market and release a film riffing on Jack and the Beanstalk, or would it make a bit more sense to release The Flash instead? It was baffling!
This past weekend, I went to the Emerald City Comicon in Seattle. I got to meet Adam West and Patrick Stewart, and was stuck in my own little world at the worst possible time. A pretty enormous news item seemingly fell out of the sky surprising everyone but insiders, and it was a bombshell: Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale may be returning to the DC Universe.
Not only that, but they’d be joining Zack Snyder and Henry Cavill, forging a cinematic dream team in order to bring the ultimate comics dream team to life, either in the form of Justice League or the “World’s Finest” heroes: the Man of Steel and the Dark Knight.
I wasn’t exactly sure if I should buy it until I saw three full reports: the news-breaking report from Latino Review by “El Mayimbe,” the additional details provided by Jett at Batman-on-Film, and a solid reaction piece with additional sources by Mark Hughes over at Forbes. It wasn’t until I had read all three reports front to back that I quietly allowed myself permission to get excited about the possibilities this news opens up. There are a few questions that arise coming out of this, though.
The Dark Knight Rises: NOT the End for Bale’s Batman?
Much of what made The Dark Knight Rises work for so many people was the fact that everyone described it as the “end of the legend.” Going in, fans didn’t know if Bruce Wayne would come out of the film alive, and we all thought that Rises would be both a thematic and definitive conclusion for the Bruce Wayne we met back in 2005’s Batman Begins.
The news of the last few days would seem to throw all of that out, since some of the reports are making the claim that Bale’s return as Batman would mean that it will be the same Batman of The Dark Knight Trilogy. There are obvious advantages and disadvantages to this, with an advantage being that the preliminaries will be out of the way for the establishment of Batman in a larger cinematic DC Universe. A disadvantage can be that if Bale is back as Batman, it’s doubtful that any new, solo film (presuming Bale’s still attached) will be able to utilize some of the same characters in the same way. Will Gary Oldman be back as Commissioner Gordon? Can he be after the events of Rises? What about the Joker? These are now questions we can’t help but be curious about.
From a purely financial standpoint, this is a very good business decision for all involved. Nolan and Bale will bring with them the earned prestige of The Dark Knight Trilogy, and everyone involved will likely be handsomely rewarded. Twenty-four hours after the rumor surfaced, however, comes word from another source that Bale definitely won't be back as Batman and Warner Bros. will be looking to recast the character. Clearly things are still up in the air.
Nolan Does an “About Face” on Team Ups?
Whenever faced with the prospect of crossing characters over in the universe of The Dark Knight Trilogy, Christopher Nolan has been firmly and adamantly against such cross-pollination. In an interview with Empire around the release of Inception, Nolan expounded some of his feelings on the prospect.
“Marvel are doing what they do and people will respond to that really well, or they won't. It's not something I ever really applied a blanket rule to, but Marvel characters are very different to DC characters, and the key DC characters are very different to the minor DC characters. You've got to go back to that element of, 'What do I see when I close my eyes and think of Batman? What do I see when I close my eyes and think of Superman?'
And for me a big part of that is their individuality. They are extraordinary beings in an ordinary world. And the reason I think the two are fascinating is because Superman is very specifically super-powered and obviously otherworldly; Batman is very human and flawed. They're two very different characters, but there's an elemental feeling of power in the iconography of those characters. To me that's originally because they stood alone. I need to hang on to that in my imagining of them.”
Nolan was even pretty cold to the idea of a character like Dick Grayson showing up in his Batman films, although he slightly backpedaled on that with the John Blake character serving as a nod to the importance and legacy of Robin in the Batman mythos. Really, though, what I wouldn’t give to have been a fly on the wall for that conversation. Was the financial promise too great, or is there a narrative value that Nolan has now seen in a team up? I’d love to know, and presuming this is all official and to be announced, I’ll be very interested what the producer/director has to say on the subject.
Does It All Hinge on Man of Steel’s Success?
With a lot of positive buzz surrounding Man of Steel at both the executive level and with fans, it looks as if the forthcoming Superman film by the other two essential people in this equation, Zack Snyder and Henry Cavill, will likely do pretty well. Will it do Batman numbers? Probably not, but that is far from meaning that Man of Steel won’t be very satisfying for a studio that needs its superhero confidence restored even after the successes of Nolan’s Batman films. At this point in time, though, the general consensus seems to be that Man of Steel is looking good, and it will be very refreshing to see Warner Bros. put its full power behind Superman to try and get him back out into the positive public consciousness.
After the news broke, I had several people hitting me up on Facebook and Twitter about what I thought of the news. I don’t really think my thoughts are that surprising, but what they are includes the words “immensely” and “excited.” Some of you that listen to the Modern Myth Media podcast and read the Geek Beat on a weekly basis know that I was recently pretty outspoken about Warner Bros.’ shelving of a Justice League film, but if this news ends up being true then I’ll have to take back all (well, most) of what I said about the studio’s inability to have warm feet for DC properties and give it kudos.
There’s a little bit of a gray area in regards to whether the in-development film is strictly a Superman/Batman team up, or a full Justice League film. For me, it seems the safer bet that it’s just between the studio's two biggest properties, but I’d likely do a somersault or two if this ends up not being the case. With the right people, the right ideas, and, most importantly, the will to act, the time is now for the Justice League. Even if it’s not, though, I’d gladly take a team up of my two absolute favorite comics characters as a hell of a consolation prize. Keep your eyes affixed to the Geek Beat for more details as this story, hopefully, develops into the film the fans want and indeed deserve.
My Pick This Week at the Comic Shop (Releasing 3/6)
One week after the shocking demise of [redacted] in Batman Incorporated #8, DC Comics promises reactions from all over Gotham City, beginning in this week’s Detective Comics #18 by writer John Layman and penciller Jason Fabok. Though the last several issues of Detective have focused on the rise of a new criminal kingpin in Gotham, the loss of [redacted] would obviously dominate all of the Dark Knight’s thoughts, and as the first released “Requiem” issue reacting to that loss, all eyes are likely to be on this issue.
Layman and Fabok returned the title to its former glory with the beginning of their run in issue #13, and I’m very anticipatory of what it will contain. Though not written by the original architects of [redacted]'s death, Layman has proven himself to be a very capable writer for Batman over the last several months, and although more emotional weight will likely be reserved for Grant Morrison’s, Peter Tomasi’s, and Scott Snyder’s respective titles (Batman Incorporated, Batman and Robin, Batman), Layman has yet to turn in a bad issue for Detective and Fabok’s artwork is complex, appropriate, moody and gorgeous. Keep an eye out for Detective #18 this week, I think it should prove to be memorable.
That does it this week on the Geek Beat. Be sure to follow all of the latest news surrounding Justice League or World’s Finest at Movies.com, and other reliable sources like Batman-on-Film and Modern Myth Media.
Chris Clow is a geek. He is a comic book expert and retailer, and geeky contributor to GeekNation.com, Batman-On-Film.com and ModernMythMedia.com. You can find his weekly piece The Geek Beat every Tuesday and the Star Trek Into Darkness Countdown every other Wednesday right here at Movies.com. Check out his blog and follow along on Twitter @ChrisClow.