Among all of the less-than-stellar reviews for Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice were a few common, positive threads about the future of the DC Justice League movie universe. And one of those positive threads was the portrayal of Batman by Ben Affleck. I liked the movie a lot more than the negative reviews you will read out there. I didn’t find it boring at all and liked the fact that it was not just wall-to-wall action. It was about the differing philosophies in crime-fighting between Batman and Superman and how Luthor manipulated that, so the subtitle Dawn of Justice was about more than just setting up the future Justice League movies. That was a theme in the story. Jesse Eisenberg played a great villain that in no way resembled Lex Luthor or the red-haired Lex Luthor II from the 1993 Death of Superman comic storyline. Most of the criticisms of his performance come from the big change they did with the character, and I completely agree with that one.
But this article is about Batman. These are the things that I would put in the next few Batman solo movies if I were the one writing them. I don’t know if they are going to take the gray out of Ben Affleck’s hair and do a solo Batman movie that is a prequel to BvS or just move forward, but most of these suggestions work either way.
Now that we have seen Batman fight two Kryptonians (technically one and a half), gone are the days when Christopher Nolan thought that he needed to ground some of Batman’s more fantastic elements in reality. I love me some Batman Begins and Dark Knight, but, think about it, if the information had leaked online that Heath Ledger’s version of The Joker was wearing makeup and didn’t fall in the acid, would fans have been outraged? Yes, but we only found that out halfway through the best superhero movie of that time and just bought what Nolan was doing. And we were cool with it because the character (and writing and story) was spot-on. Bane, on the other hand, was all wrong, and it had nothing to do with the fact that there were no tubes in his head. So, getting the character right is more important.
That being said, I would love to see some of the light sci-fi elements from the comics and animated series that the Dark Knight Trilogy sidelined in favor of realism. Yes, I would like to see them do Mister Freeze justice, the way they did in the Emmy-winning Heart of Ice episode of Batman: The Animated Series. But I would add a little plot twist that they used in the first Batman annual from the New 52 (written by Scott Snyder).
In that issue, Bruce Wayne is the one who shuts down Victor Freeze’s cryogenics project, initially making you think that Bruce is a jerk. But at the end, Batman reveals that the woman in the glass container is (bum bum bum) NOT his wife Nora, but rather the first woman that was ever cryogenically frozen, a woman old enough to be Victor’s grandmother. Victor is so obsessed with cryogenics that he fixated on her. He is far creepier than the sympathetic villain who wanted to cure his wife that we met in TAS. That is how I would handle Freeze, making him a sympathetic villain until the very end. And then he flips out like Spock did in the 2009 Star Trek reboot when Kirk suggested he never loved his mother. That’s my Mr. Freeze, mentally-ill reboot Spock in a refrigerator suit.
I would also like to see Clayface in a movie. I wouldn’t even mind them shoehorning a fight with the giant, shape-shifting clay monster at the end of the film as long as the character of Matt Hagen was well-developed. Maybe he was manipulated by whatever gangster character they use in the movie. Speaking of which, we’ve never really seen Penguin portrayed as a gangster in a Batman film, just as a Tim Burton circus freak. I would like to see that version of him, maybe he does have his flippers and was raised in a circus, but now is a powerful, ruthless, genuinely scary, fish-gobbling mob boss. True, that’s not a sci-fi element, but speaking of gangster characters.
THE VENTRILOQUIST AND SCARFACE.
Here’s a character that can be done in a genuinely creepy way without the above-mentioned sci-fi elements. He was always one of my favorites from the 1992 animated series. I picture him being like Smithers from The Simpsons. Remember how, before he actually “came out,” they used to do all of these jokes about how Smithers had a crush on Mr. Burns without actually saying it. Okay, they did “come out” and say it a few times. Envision the Ventriloquist being like that, accept the doting, creepy relationship that he has is with a puppet named Scarface that houses the other side of his multiple personalities.
Visualize what they could do with that character in a PG-13 film vs. a children’s cartoon that admittedly did get pretty dark. I would want him to be a brilliant criminal that earns the respect of other mob bosses with his ferocity and not the butt of their jokes. Maybe he is the mob guy that manipulated Clayface. Or maybe he and Mister Freeze were childhood friends, so you have two characters with unhealthy fixations for Dr. Harleen Quinzell to treat in Arkham, (assuming that this a prequel to BvS and takes place before Suicide Squad). Speaking of unhealthy fixations, I would love to see Harley Quinn’s love story with The Joker play out like a PG-13 Mickey and Malory from Natural Born Killers, but I assume Suicide Squad will handle that.
THE URBAN MYTH
One thing that BvS did very well with Batman was to make him an urban myth once again. We see cops bursting into a place where Batman has already beaten up the criminals, and we see him disappear like “a terrible thought, a wraith,” as Ra’s Al Ghul said in Batman Begins. We haven’t seen this kind of thing since Batman Begins, and many fans decried the scenes in The Dark Knight Rises when he fights in broad daylight. I would put the shadows back into these films. Maybe some of the more superstitious of the “cowardly lot” still think that he is actually a giant bat. Why not? Aliens exist in this world.
THE RIPPED-UP ROBIN COSTUME
Yes, many fans want to see an adaptation of the Red Hood/Jason Todd returns as a bad guy story that was nodded to in BvS. Bruce has a line about good guys that “didn’t stay that way”…and then they show the dead Robin’s costume. So, if the next few Batman movies want to elaborate on the Death in the Family/Red Hood stuff from the comics, taking the gray out of Ben Affleck’s hair and doing a prequel might work. The key thing that I would do is to balance sci-fi elements that were absent from The Dark Knight Trilogy with the dark and creepy stuff from the best Batman stories. Imagine how cool The Dark Knight would have been if it did have the light sci-fi, instead of the studio feeling that grittier Batman was necessary to make up for the Joel Schumacher debacle.
Did you like Batman v. Superman? Did you like Batman’s portrayal in it? Which characters would you like to see in a Batman solo film? Comment below.