With Christopher Nolan’s tenure as caretaker of the Batman franchise officially over, the big question is: what next for Gotham’s Dark Knight? This particular query has been further complicated by the announcement that Warner Bros plan to proceed with a JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA movie, DC Comics’ answer to the hugely successful AVENGERS. It makes sense that Warner Bros would want a slice of the billion-dollar superhero pie, especially now Marvel Studios have proved the elusive ‘crossover’ movie works. But assuming Batman will have to be completely rebooted and Zack Snyder’s MAN OF STEEL is the first step toward making JLA happen, there’s a huge amount of work to do before all the essential characters are established and ready to join forces in an AVNEGERS-style ensemble. But is there something we’ve missed? Could it not be that Warner Bros has already put the wheels in motion without us realizing? And will the studio not follow Marvel after all, but approach their big superhero smackdown in an entirely different way…?
What REALLY Happened At The End Of The Dark Knight Rises?
The climax of THE DARK KNIGHT RISES has provoked a great deal of controversy, including some hot debate right here on THN. ‘Did Nolan cheat?’ the fanboys have been asking. After all, even if Bruce Wayne had leapt from The Bat, would the atomic blast not have killed him anyway (from all accounts, they’re pretty powerful bombs). It seems strange that a filmmakers like Nolan, whose scripts are thoughtful and wound tightly, would leave such a huge issue of plausibility lingering over his epic Batman trilogy. But perhaps he meant to cheat; perhaps there’s more to come; perhaps, despite the fact Nolan himself has stepped away from THE DARK KNIGHT, that doesn’t mean the story is finished. Is it possible Bruce Wayne was actually saved seconds before the bomb detonated? And there’s only man fast, string, and… erm, flighty enough to do such a thing. Yes (let’s all sing it), SUP-ER-MAN.
Superman In Nolan’s Bat-Verse… Really?
Admittedly it would be a slight change of tone for Nolan’s story world. His Batman trilogy features absolutely nothing supernatural or fantastical – it’s a comic book story very much rooted in the real world. This is, of course, the reason for assuming Batman will need rebooting before he can enter into the JLA: the Christian Bale Bruce Wayne could never enter into a film that featured aliens, intergalactic evil, and mystical Amazonian princesses. But may we have it all wrong. From the MAN OF STEEL teasers (see them here), we see that Zack Snyder’s Superman reboot looks far grittier than we might have imagined. In fact, it looks very much ‘real world’ (as much as a Superman movie possibly can), and from the alternate voiceovers from Supes’ two fathers, it seems the new Clark Kent is a conflicted character, wrestling with the reality of his immense powers. In other words, real human emotion. That sounds plenty like Nolan’s Bruce Wayne, and let’s not forget, MAN OF STEEL is produced by Christopher Nolan and his Legendary Pictures – would it not make sense it would been tonally like THE DARK KNIGHT films? If Superman were handled in this more grounded manner, it’s entirely possible he could exist in Nolan’s Bat-verse.
So what does this mean MAN OF STEEL?
OK, time for some bold theories: Superman has saved Bruce Wayne (let’s assume THE DARK KNIGHT takes place before MAN OF STEEL and Superman’s ‘outing’, explaining why the media is wrapped up in the siege of Gotham and not the appearance of a flying man in Metropolis), and at some point in MAN OF STEEL – most likely at the very end – Superman reunites with Batman to face an impending threat. This would, of course, be Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s new incarnation of Batman. The beauty of this is anyone who chooses to disregard the JLA-themed continuation of Nolan’s Bat-verse can; his endings are always so open to interpretation anyway, and with THE DARK KNIGHT RISES he has potentially pulled the greatest trick of his career, both closing off his Batman films and opening up something new altogether. Whether you choose to accept DARK KNIGHT and JLA as separate entities or one continuous narrative is entirely up to you. But either way, MAN OF STEEL was always going to have Nolan’s fingerprints on it.
But What About the Justice League of America?
We can just about accept Superman in Nolan’s expanded Bat-verse (his powers could be explained by – admittedly fictitious – science at a stretch), but there’s a limit to how far we’re willing to suspend our disbelief. If JLA is already underway and firmly placed in this grittier, more realistic world then we can count out most of the team members – Aquaman, Green Lantern, Flash, and Martian Manhunter (another alien, sure – but let’s be serious) are all gone. But then, whoever said Warner Bros wanted to follow Marvel’s formula? It took Marvel five films before AVENGERS was ready – perhaps Warner Bros is looking for a tighter, more focused approach, eliminating all the potential problems that lingered over THE AVENGERS (too many characters, too unwieldy etc). Would it not be easier to use the three characters best known by the general public – Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman? That means JLA could only be two or three movies away. And whilst I hear you scream that Wonder Woman could never exist in Nolan’s story world, what with all her mystical powers, it’s plausible the character could be completely reinterpreted as a straight-up double-hard bastard. After all, that’s all Batman is… right? Just to reiterate they could cast real-life toughie Gina Carano, who would suit Wonder Woman perfectly.
Going with a minimalist team would immediately fix all the problems Warner Bros face with their proposed JLA ensemble. And it would be far more interesting to see an expanded comic movie universe in a real-world setting, rather than a carbon copy of Marvel’s. Besides, do we really want Nolan’s comic book vision to actually end? Really? Of course not… all we need is proof that Superman did indeed save Bruce Wayne’s life. Come on, MAN OF STEEL, show us that Warner Bros has known what it’s doing all along, and that the comic book movie has life outside of Marvel Studios…
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