So the Dark Knight saga has come to a close, the anticipation has been quelled, expectations have been met — possibly even exceeded — and everyone can go home satisfied in the knowledge that there will never need to be another Batman movie ever again.
Of course that’s not even remotely feasible because Batman will be rebooted until the end of time. That’s a fact. But what does that mean for Bruce Wayne and his alter ego? Hell, what does that mean for us? I wish I could say I had definite answers, but sadly all I have are my thoughts. So sit for a moment and lend me your ear as I present a notion or two for your perusal.
Let’s begin by stating something that really should be unspoken, but for the sake of my position in this matter should be laid bare for all to see. Chris Nolan’s Batman films are amazing. Not amazing because Batman is awesome, or because they really brought home the whole gritty comic book movie shtick, even though those are valid reasons. They’re great because as films they are masterful examples of how to create entertainment that is broadly appealing without stooping to meet the lowest common denominator. They manage to be intelligent and fun at the same time, something summer blockbusters usually fail to achieve. To be fair, a lot of that is due to Batman’s inherent legacy as a part of pop-culture, but it was Nolan’s sensibilities that made the Dark Knight not just relevant again, but bigger than he has ever been before.
So with my feelings on the Dark Knight saga shared, let’s get on to the real meat and potatoes of this discussion. Let’s talk about what happens when Batman returns (I hear the pun police) and is told to get his ass back in front of the camera. Let’s have quick a chat about the inevitable Batman reboot.
I don’t want the tone of this article to be pessimistic. I’m willing to give anything a fair chance. Realistically, though, I think we can all agree that the benchmark is now higher than it has ever been before. And not just for Batman, but for all comic book films. So I really don’t think there is any way that Batman will ever return to the greatness he has achieved in these last years. Oh, he’ll be back, but who’s to say if it will be the Batman that you’ve grown to love? What direction is left for the franchise? If they stick to the gritty realism of Nolan’s universe, they won’t be able to measure up. If they reboot the franchise back to Batman’s origin, they’ll be retreading old ground that really isn’t even that old yet. So what’s left? How can they keep Batman relevant?
Well, I don’t think they can, at least not as a live action film. You see, when a series has a satisfying conclusion it leaves the audience full. Sure, they could make room for more, but just like a good meal, you run the risk of throwing up all over the table if you keep cramming food into an already full belly. After seeing The Dark Knight Rises I came out of the theater knowing all I needed to about Gotham and its vigilant guardian. That doesn’t necessarily mean I’m sick of Batman movies, if just means that once you’ve experienced the pinnacle of something, it’s hard not to be disappointed in its future endeavors. I think I can confidently say that if there were never another Batman movie again I would be able to get by just fine.
But that won’t be the case of course, and I would love to be proved wrong. There’s certainly no lack of villains to draw from, or even different universes (Batman Beyond, Gotham by Gaslight anyone?). I’ve even heard it suggested that future Batman films should just be stand-alone stories, similar to the Bond franchise. And these are all cool suggestions! They could still make some really fun Batman movies with the wealth of material available to pull from. I’m just not sure if they’ll ever fill the bat-boots of the Dark Knight we know now.
I would like to share an interesting fancy I had after leaving The Dark Knight Rises. If Batman and his comic book brethren are going to be shared across generations, with our children and grandchildren and so on, when do they stop being figments of pop-culture? When do they start becoming so ingrained into us that they just become a part of our cultural heritage? I feel that idea is part of the importance of Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, that it has solidified Batman not just as a comic book hero, or a film hero, but as a character whose stories will be told for years to come, for better or worse. Maybe there will come a day when Batman is more myth than mere entertainment. Maybe he really is the hero we deserve, and we just don’t know it yet.
I guess when you think about it that way, more Batman doesn’t seem like such a bad idea.