Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice was a film that suffered from an insurmountable level of anticipation prior to its release, and an almost equal amount of derision from many fans and critics after the dust had settled at the box office. While, to its credit, the film does have a lot of great character moments, some fantastic costumes, and impressive visuals, the fact remains that even its most ardent fans were left wondering why Batman didn’t debut in a solo film prior to showing up just to give Kal El a good ol’ what for and bark about Martha.
It’s been two years since the release of BvS, and we still don’t have a Dark Knight-centric outing in the DC Extended Universe's canon. This fact is somewhat concerning, especially when you consider the rocky road to production for the upcoming The Batman that has been well-documented in the media. Everything from screenwriters and directors dropping in and out of the project, to the inconsistent commitment to the film from current caped crusader Ben Affleck (earning him the nickname Schrödinger's Bat in some circles) has resulted in a fanbase that doesn't really feel warm and fuzzy about what lies ahead for one of DC’s biggest characters.
But is all the turmoil necessary? There are myriad stories in the Batman universe have not yet been tapped for the big screen. Any number of them (or a combination of several) could easily be shaped into a strong narrative that would bring in huge audiences (c’mon “Court of Owls”). Surely there’s a Batman script that is worthy of the talents of director Matt Reeves, who is currently attached to helm the film. Or maybe there isn’t. Perhaps Warner Bros. is over-thinking just what a Batman film should be. After the massive success of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy in which Batman was approached with a more grounded tone (for the most part), followed by the lukewarm reception of the ultra-grim version we’ve seen thus far in the DCEU it’s understandable if a massive film studio isn’t ready to put all their eggs in one cape-covered basket. The last thing Warner Bros. probably wants is another Batman and Robin on their hands.
Maybe the key to making a great Batman film isn’t in the tone of the film or even the cast and crew. Perhaps what might make for a good movie is adopting an underused template in the action movie genre. Every now and then a film comes along to define how action films are made for the next decade (or longer). Die Hard reinvigorated the “every man action hero” genre and heralded a decade of films that could be pitched as “Die hard but on a BLANK.” Speed was Die Hard on a bus. Under Siege was Die Hard on Battleship. And Under Siege 2: Dark Territory was Die Hard on a train and way dumber…You get the picture.
Other watershed films like The Matrix had similar effects on the genre during the early aughts (See: Equilibrium and the Resident Evil franchise). Going further back, Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai and Yojimbo shaped the entire genre and its influence can be seen even to this day. Now we aren’t expecting The Batman to be the next Yojimbo (although that would be amazing), but maybe barrowing the template and stylistic flare from a film with a simple premise would work for the DCEU. One particular sleeper hit comes to mind: The Raid (known as The Raid: Redemption in the United States).