Batman is no stranger to the silver screen, making his first appearance in theaters during the waning years of World War II. Depending on how old you are, some of you might remember fondly, or with complete and total hostility, the Batman films from the '90s. Others might remember and love the Christopher Nolan films. Those folks might also want to fight anyone who even dares to question their quality and Academy Award-winning merits.
Now that Batman is back on screen in 2016 -- twice this year in "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" and "Suicide Squad" -- our attention turns to Batman's next solo outing. Directed by Ben Affleck and written in part by Affleck and DC Entertainment President & Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns, expectations for a Batman film have never been higher. Finally, there's a director and writer behind the project who love the comics and love the character as much as we do. No weird emo fetish or brutally conservative outlooks of the world here! But before we get too excited, we want to make some suggestions to ensure the forthcoming "Batman" movie not only meets, but exceeds its high expectations.
10 Never Show The Origin Again
It's become a bit of a joke with each new media property to feature Batman. The joke goes like this: How many times are they going to show us Thomas and Martha Wayne dying in that alley? Answer: Every time. Hey, we didn't say it was a good joke. But given that we just saw Batman's origin story play out again in "Batman v Superman", and the name of his mother playing an unintentionally hilarious role in the outcome of the film, we think the origin doesn't need to be seen again in the standalone "Batman" film. The odds are pretty good that the audience is coming out to see this movie have seen "BvS," and if they haven't, the majority of them already know Batman's origin story given that the character is well past the age where he should be collecting Social Security checks.
Instead what we would love to see is stuff pulled from Frank Miller & David Mazzuccheli's" "Year One" as a flashback instead. Or even some stuff pulled from Kevin Smith's run on Batman -- like how Batman is less than stellar at his job during his early years, leading to a lot of mistakes and dealing with them in the way a human would. As opposed to the way a driven sociopath who can't ever be human would. That's the version a chunk of the fan base demands he be, and they are wrong to do so. (You know who you are, people who heard Batman say "I'm the goddamn Batman" and didn't laugh at how ridiculous that way.)
9 Introduce Tim Drake
The Frank Miller inspiration for Batman in "BvS" is inescapable. And since Warner Bros. all but officially confirmed the vandalized Robin suit in the movie is Jason Todd, then it's about time we got to see the third Robin introduced to movie audiences. Then again, this is a film universe where Mercy Graves gets blown up for no reason, and Jimmy Olsen got shot in the back of the head. You know, because we're pretty sure Zack Snyder's notes for "BvS" just said, "EXTREEEEEMMMEEEE!!!" for like 60 pages until someone told him he had to shoehorn a way to set up the Justice League in the flick before jumping over to that DC Films franchise. So, Dick Grayson could be dead, is what we're saying.
Either way, beyond the last season of "Batman: The Animated Series" and "Young Justice," it's not often that Tim Drake has had a chance to shine in other forms of media. The odds are good the average theatergoer still thinks Dick Grayson is Robin and has no idea that there's been like, 80 of them over the course of Batman's life in the comics. (No, that's not the actual number of Robins. It could be way bigger than that.) Giving Batman movie fans Tim Drake gives them something new and enticing to sink their teeth into, and the words "new" and "exciting," are needed for any new Batman film to be successful. Especially because, there's been so many of them in recent memory now, that it's going to get harder and harder to give the audience something they haven't seen before. And with all the confusion over Tim Drake's backstory since the New 52 began, it might be nice to give the character his definitive due in at least one universe.
8 Give Us The Real GCPD
Except for Commissioner Gordon, the GCPD in all of the previous "Batman" films have lacked the personality and character from hit comics like "Gotham Central" and even "Batman: The Animated Series." Sure we have Harvey Bullock on "Gotham" and, weirdly briefly Renee Montoya on the show, but filmgoers have never seen the Gotham City Police Department and its denizens as more than disposable toys for the villains to kill.
Batman is only as good as his supporting cast. Case in point is that people can rattle off the names off of most Batman villains before they can even tell you something about Plastic Man. You know why? They're memorable. The villains are half the fun of any given Batman comic. We'll circle back to the villains later, but it's high time Detective Bullock and Montoya, as well as many others, finally appeared on the big screen and played more than a one-note role in the story of Batman.
A cynical, loud-mouthed Harvey Bullock, as opposed to the chummy and friendly, albeit slightly crooked Bullock on "Gotham," would make an excellent foil to Commissioner Gordon and his uneasy embrace of Batman's war on crime. Bullock could be the voice of the cops who oppose Batman and give the audience a badly needed perspective to add some realism and variety to the world of Gotham City. Unlike at the end of "Ghostbusters," where the city is lit up to thank the team for saving them from the ghosts, not everyone in Gotham City is thrilled about Batman and his war on crime, and they're not necessarily criminals. That's a fascinating story to explore that hasn't been seen on screen.
7 Wonder Woman!
One of the best things to come out of the "Justice League" animated series was the fun romantic tension that existed between Bruce Wayne and Diana Prince. In the comics, DC has paired Wonder Woman up with Superman in what can only be described as a fit of creative laziness or altered-universe madness. (Or maybe that they just wanted to validate Frank Miller's version of DC's future as seen in the Dark Knight franchise?) Either way, in the new DC Films, based already on their limited interactions in "BvS," we've seen the chemistry between Bruce and Diana (and Affleck and Gal Gadot). This is the kind of chemistry not seen since the old "Justice League" cartoon.
Yes. We did (finally) get Catwoman in "The Dark Knight Rises," and yes, we have seen Batgirl on screen, but in the long history of Batman on film, his superhero-related love interests have been few and far between. Instead, we got Vickie Vale, ditched from the franchise after one movie; Chase Meridian, who also vanished; and Poison Ivy. Ivy doesn't count so much because she's a supervillain, and more importantly, she's not terribly interested in men.
Given this, Wonder Woman's presence in the Batman universe, even if it's in the ass-kicking form of whatever alias she's pretending to have that week, would be interesting and unique to see. Both for moviegoers who may have liked their interactions in "BvS," and for fans of the comics and the cartoon who always felt that Batman and Wonder Woman should be more than friends.
6 Introduce the Bat-family
Save for the Gal Gadot films, Batman hasn't had an official sidekick on screen. No. Joseph Gordon-Levitt doesn't count. He didn't all that much but get shouted at by people in the last Nolan film. (Go back and watch the movie. The amount of time JGL spends doing things rivaled by the amount of time he gets told not to do anything but stand around making pouty faces is ridiculous. This could explain why "The Dark Knight Rises" is such a long fricking movie.) So introducing Robin is one thing, and having Diana around (note the wording, Diana, not necessarily Wonder Woman) is great. Of course we want to see Robin, and of course, we want to see Diana kick ass, and they totally will, but Batman is at his best in the comics when he has a whole team to lead. This frees Wonder Woman up to pop in and out of the film as needed, adding more weight to the time she does have on screen.
Batman is at his best when he leads a team and serves as a surrogate father figure. Something that was lost in the grim and gritty realism Christoper Nolan wanted, and didn't get any play in the goth, emo world of "The Dark Knight" trilogy. Put another way, if it's true the Affleck Batman film is going to feature as many members of Batman's rogues gallery as it can, then we want to see a counterbalance to that with Batman's team coming to his aid. We don't want just Robin, we want Bat Girl, Nightwing, the Outsiders and more. Even if it's just in a cameo or a tiny role, show us the Batman Family! This would allow the movie to feature something we've never completely seen on screen before.
5 Less Frank Miller, More Adam West
Thankfully, in recent years the people who demanded any mention of Adam West and Batman '66 be buried have vanished into the ether. Given how dark "BvS" was, and the (seemingly) lighter tone of the new "Justice League" trailer, we think shaping Ben Affleck's older Batman more toward Adam West and less like Christian Bale can do a lot of good.
Scowly, frowny face, gravely voiced Batman has been done to death. An older Batman trying to redeem himself for being a cynical and nasty bastard, not to mention attempted superhero murder? Interesting. An older Batman who follows the lessons of Darwyn Cooke by realizing he wants to frighten criminals, not children? That is a compelling movie character. And again, not to sound like a broken record here, but that Batman hasn't been seen on screen in over 50 years. It's time he came back.
Now, we're not saying this new Batman film should go for camp. What we are saying is that there's a lot of charm and personality that is lost from Batman in this constant and annoying attempt to make him dark and gritty in the films. Making him a little bit of a square, or even a scoutmaster in his relations with his teammates can create some comedic tension that is desperately missing in the current DC film universe. If the "Justice League" trailer is any indication, that's the version of Batman we might be getting, and we can't wait.
4 No Joker
Seriously. Over it. Done. If we never saw The Joker again, we'd be thrilled. Although we reserve the right to change our opinion after seeing "Suicide Squad," what we have seen from that Joker thus far has left us less than enthusiastic about its prospects of topping the previous takes. When you consider the work both Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger put into the character, it's already a tough battle to sell audiences on yet another Joker.
There's also not a hell of a lot this Joker can do that'll differentiate him from the others beyond look stupid, and that's not a slight against Jared Leto. Leto is an incredibly talented actor. The issue is that The Joker only has one M.O., and that's to screw with Batman, whereas Batman throughout the years has taken many different forms and variations that are each unique from the other. Where the Dark Knight has been malleable, the Joker is rarely anything but. (Go ahead and tell us the difference between Scott Snyder's Joker and Frank Miller's Joker from thirty years prior to Snyder's run.)
If we're stuck with The Joker, and it's a safe bet to assume that we are, the less he's on screen, the better. If you want him to be the Thanos of the Batman films, working behind the scenes to torment the hero until, finally, it's time to emerge, that's fine. But for the love of St. Dumas we hope never again to see Batman square off with The Joker in a purely one-on-one battle again on film. There are two excellent films we can go back and watch for that.
3 He's The World's Greatest Detective
Batman on screen has been different from Batman in the comics. Batman on screen is very skilled at fighting, but without Lucius Fox in the Nolan trilogy, and without his stuff just being "there" in the Burton films, there's not a whole lot of time dedicated to Batman thinking things out logically and solving crimes with his mind.
Sure he did some inept Googling in "Batman v Superman," but it'd be nice to see Batman do something on the screen that he hasn't done since Adam West was on screen in the rushed and slapped together "Batman" film from the 1960s. And if Ben Affleck wants to humor us, he can make his best Adam West impression while doing it.
OK. We're kidding. But still. If we're going to move away from The Joker (please for the love of God let's move away from the Joker), how about having Batman square off with The Riddler? Sure, we saw Jim Carey "play" the role in "Batman Forever," and by play, we mean act like himself throughout the duration of the entire film, but we're talking the real Riddler here. Not the "look at me, I'm a serial killer now!" Riddler on "Gotham." We're talking the Riddler who is five steps ahead of Batman and forces our hero to battle him on a whole different level than punching and kicking.
But also, there should be punching and kicking. Just not until Batman has solved the puzzle.
2 Use Different Villains
On screen so far we've seen The Joker (three times), Catwoman (twice), The Penguin (sort of), The Riddler, Two-Face (twice), Poison Ivy, Bane (twice, if you count "Batman & Robin"), Mr. Freeze, The Scarecrow and Ra's al Ghul. In the case of Bane, it was great that the character got a bit of redemption in "The Dark Knight Rises" from his portrayal in Schumacher's "Batman & Robin." But how cool was it to see the Scarecrow in "Batman Begins"? Or how about Ra's al Ghul? What made "Batman Begins" stand out, aside from quickly dispatching with the commercialism and general weirdness of the three '90s Batman movies was seeing new villains for the first time. We think it's time for the Batman film franchise to go deeper into Batman's bench of villains. (And maybe, throw the Penguin a bone. He's OK on "Gotham," but he's still not quite The Penguin from the comic that we'd love to see on screen. For that, you have to go back to the "Batman" TV series and Burgess Meredith, who sadly can't reprise the role because he's currently dead.)
While we're not calling for Z-list villains like Professor Pyg to make an appearance, we are calling for the likes of Solomon Grundy, the Mad Hatter and Firefly. They don't have to be the only villain in the film, but seeing them come to life on the big screen would go a long way from giving audiences that new and fresh coat of paint that we mentioned earlier in this post. And now that Killer Croc, Deadshot, and Harley Quinn have been introduced through "Suicide Squad," we can't think of a better time for Batman to square off with members of his rogues gallery that moviegoers are less familiar with.
You know you'd come out to see Will Smith square off with Ben Affleck in the battle we can only call, "We're sorry for Jersey Girl!" (Our apologies to Kevin Smith for that joke.)
1 Pay Homage
Finally, Batman is going to outlive us. You know it. We know it. For a lot of us reading this, we're going to live to see Batman turn 100 quickly in our lifetime. But funny enough, Batman's history is rarely on display in the Batman films. There might be an odd reference here or there, but they are few and far between. We haven't seen little nods like a dusty red phone in the bat cave. Or a giant penny. Or his old costumes. Or even a memento from that awkward first year when he was the Bat-Man and Bob Kane was busy convincing everyone Bill Finger and his other ghost writers and ghost artists didn't exist.
What we would love to see in future Batman films more than anything is a celebration of the character's history. A shout out to Neal Adams by naming a thug or mayor after him. A cheeky reference to the giant mechanical dinosaur that sat lonely and unloved in the background of most Batman adventures. Actually, anything that can be placed in the film for the eagle-eyed viewers, and for people like your parents who grew up with the '60s "Batman" series, would be fantastic.
Not only because it's a way in for those theatergoers to settle into this umpteenth addition to the Batman film franchise, but because it's a nice way to acknowledge Batman's long and storied history. It's the kind of history we can all be proud of to have played a role in by seeing these movies. And hey, if The CW shows can do it successfully, there's no reason the films can't do the same.
What are you hoping to see (or not have to see) in the upcoming "Batman" movie? Let us know in the comments!