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How Future Batman Installments Can Live Up to The Dark Knight

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Nick Nadel’s Tuesday column examines the increasingly busy intersection between comic books and the movies.

So, it’s safe to say that The Dark Knight will pretty much be the greatest comic book movie ever made. No less an authority on the subject than Dogma ) has already called it the Godfather II of comic book films.” But what’s next? Sadly, the planned two-film Joker storyline will never come to
fruition. While Harvey Dent/Two-Face seems to be a definite possibility
for the next outing, fans are already buzzing about what other villains
and characters will make the cut. Can Noland and his crew keep up the quality for the third sequel? Here are some tips on how future
Batman installments can live up to The Dark Knight.

Keep the Dynamic Duo of Nolan and Bale Together
In the
course of just two films, Christopher Nolan has crafted the richest,
most grounded comic book movies since the heyday of Richard Donner’s Superman .
Meanwhile, Christian Bale gives us an intensely layered portrayal of
Bruce Wayne. Is it too much to hope for that the duo will stay with the
character indefinitely? Sean Connery lived with James Bond for decades.
The revolving door of directors and actors on the franchise have taken
us to some pretty brightly-colored places. (Ahem, Schumacher.) Nolan
and Bale are the De Niro and Scorsese of comic book films. Let’s hope
they stay together.

Avoid Robin
Though he’s been the subject of intense debate,
I’m erring on the side of no “Boy Blunder.” While the Dick Grayson and
Tim Drake incarnations of Robin grew into their own in the comics, the
character makes little sense in the current franchise. Nolan and his
screenwriters have gone to great lengths to make every element of
Batman’s onscreen universe seem plausible. A grown man running around
with a tights-wearing kid sidekick just doesn’t fly in Nolan’s world.
(And dredges up too many hack jokes and dated rumors.) Not to mention
that Batman is already getting crowded out of his own films, what with
Alfred, Gordon, Rachel Dawes, Lucius Fox, and multiple villains. Save
Robin for the inevitable Teen Titans movie, and keep Batman solo. 

Tread Carefully Into the Rouges Gallery
Let’s face it:
Batman has the coolest villains in comics. (Superman and Spidey should
be so lucky.) Unfortunately, he also has some of the campiest. A
psychotic clown-faced killer fits perfectly into Nolan’s street-level
films, but a cat burglar who literally dresses up as a cat? Michelle
Pfeiffer created a brilliantly warped Catwoman for Batman Returns ,
though the script did occasionally veer into purr-fectly awful puns.
(Sorry, couldn’t resist.) The safest bet is to follow the lead of
Darwyn Cooke’s noirish Catwoman comics and turn Selina into an ally and
informant to Batman, who also occasionally dips into cat burglary. And
how about casting an actress who is both sexy and sharp-witted?
(Zooey Deschanel, perhaps?)  As for oddball crime boss the Penguin,
here’s hoping the rumors of Philip Seymour Hoffman leading the Gotham
underworld actually pan out. If anyone can bring gravitas to one of the
more absurd Batman baddies, it’s Hoffman. (But, please, Nolan, skip Mad
Hatter and Egghead entirely.)

Leap Into the Future
Should
Bale and Nolan decide to move on, Warner Bros. would be wise to restart
the franchise in the future. Far into the future, that is. Frank
Miller’s seminal graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns,
featuring a retired Batman returning to the cape and cowl, is
practically begging to be adapted to film. (There’s still time to play
Batman yet, Clint Eastwood!) Plus, it features quite possibly the
greatest Superman/Batman tussle in comic book history. Fans have been
waiting for a Dark Knight Returns adaptation for decades, and
with Miller currently on a cinematic high, the time is finally right.
In the meantime, this fan is looking forward to many Nolan/Bale
Bat-collaborations for years to come.

When not writing, Nick
Nadel is in line at the comic book store alongside the other geeks, er,
fans of speculative fiction. His most prized possession is a 1960s
Batman comic wherein
the Dynamic Duo are trapped inside a fortune cookie factory. He lives
in Brooklyn and updates his aptly named website (nicknadel.com) with comedy writing and videos.

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