With no real proof that he's out of whatever the forthcoming DC Superman/Batman team up is (save for a pretty consistently unreliable source), it seems to look a bit more likely that the Batman standing beside Henry Cavill's Superman will be none other than Christian Bale. While it's still way too early to talk in terms of absolute certainty, presuming Bale's involvement does ask some very interesting questions about the future of DC Comics on film. Is Warner Bros. shooting itself in the foot by possibly continuing the continuity of Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight Trilogy? Or, is this the most ingenious way you could possibly expand the horizons for their shared universe?
Is it possible it could be both?
Bale as Batman Again: Could He? Should He?
At the risk of repeating someone else, our own Christopher Campbell made a persuasive case about why he feels that Christian Bale shouldn't be back as the Dark Knight. I enjoyed reading that piece immensely, but I tend to see things pretty differently. Looking at the actors that have portrayed Batman in the past, from Lewis Wilson in 1943 on up to Keaton, Kilmer, Clooney and Bale, there is a clear, decisive winner if you look from the perspective of who best represents the character as he is in the source material. That man is definitively Christian Bale. Back in 2005 when I soaked up every bit of information that I could about the then-upcoming Batman Begins, the thing that astonished me most was the fact that we actually had an actor talking about how the comics changed his longstanding perceptions about the character he would come to embody.
Bale talked at length about how in the books he was given when formulating his take, Bruce Wayne/Batman was a far more "dangerous" and "volatile" character than Bale had ever seen portrayed before. He took in the imagery of some celebrated Batman artists and actually incorporated things he'd seen in the comics into his posture and stance while in costume. The result made for general movie audiences getting the same kind of rush in the theater that comics fans have been getting every Wednesday in specialty stores for years.
But, as we all know, adhering to the comics only gets you so far when bringing a character to life in a major motion picture. This is where Bale excelled: Bruce Wayne had human flaws and frailties, but as soon as he put on the mask, Batman did what he's always done best: worked through the pain.
Do I think Christian Bale should be back as Batman? Well, if you had the option to see Connery, in his prime, back as Bond at least one more time, wouldn't you take it? Bale's still got it, and it's his understanding of Bruce Wayne and that singular devotion he showed to that character that would be very hard to replicate with another actor. While he can't play Batman forever (no pun intended), I'd feel pretty fortunate as a Batman fan if I had the chance to see him suited up at least one or two more times, and I definitely feel that Bale as Batman would allow for an easy transition for film audiences to bring the Dark Knight and the Man of Steel together on-screen.
Now, what about the events of The Dark Knight Trilogy? This, unfortunately, isn't as easy to answer.
The Dark Knight Trilogy: The New Beginning of the DC Universe?
Continuing the timeline with the likes of Superman in the picture doesn't exactly create an easy transition point between Dark Knight Rises and whatever the team-up film ends up being. In truth, I don't have much of a problem with continuing from the events of Rises, the only problem I truly foresee revolves around Batman himself.
Automatically, the next solo Batman film would presumably be bound by the established set of rules that governed The Dark Knight Rises. Ra's al Ghul, Two-Face and Bane can't really be used as long as the continuity is in effect because of their respective fates in their films. The Joker, last seen in The Dark Knight and played by an actor that likely can't ever truly be duplicated, will probably not be touched out of a rather correct fear of fan backlash. What about some of the supporting characters? Would they be able to resecure the likes of Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Anne Hathaway and others? It's not impossible to pull off, by any means, but this is not the path of least resistance.
I know what some of you are thinking: Bale's involvement doesn't necessarily mean that The Dark Knight Trilogy's continuity will come with him. Well, it might as well come along, because chances are the majority of people will see Bale's face and automatically assume that this is the case. The return of Christian Bale brings all of the preconceived notions about his Batman with him, for better or for worse. I think it's likely worth it, but hopefully we'll find out soon enough.
Superman and Green Lantern: Can They Fit?
Here's the trickier question: In the world not too dissimilar from our own established from The Dark Knight Trilogy, can a superpowered bulletproof alien that defies gravity be permitted to exist? What about a green trinket allowing the wearer to create anything they can imagine -- can that fit in the world of Bale's Batman? With Man of Steel on the horizon, springing from the very minds behind the Nolan Batman films, that question is easier to answer. While I don't know for certain, I would bet pretty confidently at this point that Man of Steel will prove to be an important and rather definitive factor in the evolution of a cinematic DC Universe, regardless of Bale's inclusion as Batman. As DC's flagship character, I think it's likely that Superman and the Man of Steel film will count for more in establishing the rules of the new DC cinematic universe than even The Dark Knight Trilogy, if it's included.
While there's been no definitive news about the future of the Green Lantern character or franchise since the latter half of 2011, many reports seem to suggest that Warner Bros. wants Ryan Reynolds back for a Justice League project. It's a little harder to imagine Reynolds' Hal Jordan standing alongside Bale's Batman, but again, it's not impossible. I personally hope that Reynolds gets another crack at Hal, and the optimum environment for success in that opportunity would likely be in a team-up scenario.
In the modern comics, Hal Jordan and Batman have a very hard time getting along. The characterizations of Bale as Batman and Reynolds as Jordan would easily allow that trend to continue. Since we haven't seen Cavill's version of Superman yet, it's a little difficult to guess how those two characters would gel in a film, but there are multitudes of comics detailing the first meeting between Superman and Batman. My personal favorite is probably 1986's The Man of Steel: there is mutual respect, and even admiration found at the very end of their antagonism. As the first "modern age" telling of the characters' first meeting, I'm sure it will at least be looked at, although DC just announced a new comic book series called Batman/Superman that promises to show us what that first meeting looked like in the scope of the current DC Universe.
Regardless of all the speculation, it will be put to rest in good time, and although we may not be able to envision how it's made to work now, the creative team in place at least promises that we will, soon enough.
My Pick This Week at the Comic Shop (Releasing 3/13)
This week, Dark Horse Comics releases Star Wars #3, continuing the really interesting series taking place in between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. The rebels are still on the run after the destruction of the Death Star, and are desperately searching for a new location for their secret base. Meanwhile, Han Solo and Chewbacca are looking to get into trouble and spend some of the fortune they earned rescuing the Princess, and Darth Vader feels something stirring inside him in regards to the young rebel that slipped out of his grasp and destroyed his Empire's battle station.
Writer Brian Wood and artist Carlos D'Anda are bringing a great comic book series to life with an extraordinarily high level of accessibility since it picks up right after a movie that most self-respecting people have seen. Definitely find the first two issues if you can, and jump into the latest issue this Wednesday at your local comics retailer.
See you guys next week. I hope you enjoyed the Geek Beat!
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.