So the results are in and Christopher Nolan didn't let us down with The Dark Knight Rises (2012). It gave us everything we were hoping for, bigger scale, tricky twists, good links to the previous films, and a conclusion that wrapped everything up nicely. But what next for DC's biggest hero. If Marvel's The Amazing Spiderman (2012) is to become par-for-the-reboot-course the cape and cowl could be returning to screens much sooner than we think. So what are the options...
- With The Avengers (2012) earning a pretty penny at the box office DC will be eyeballing their own superhero team-up, the Justice League of America. Whether they want to plough through the number of prequels that Marvel went through who knows, but with Superman getting a reboot with the upcoming Man of Steel the first cog in the JLA machine might already be in place. DC can't leave Batman out of the line up, but there's next to no chance that Bale will bring the realism of his Bruce Wayne to such a project. A Batman reboot it'll have to be then, tinged with alot more of Batman's comic book flavour than Nolan utilised. But will fans take to a return to the day-glo coloured zap, pow and crack of the nineties era Batman movies?
- Bale and Bruce Wayne finally looked happy at the end of The Dark Knight Rises, disappearing to Italy with the lithe Selina Kyle. The baton had been passed to Justin Gordon Levitt's Detective Robin John Blake, the keys to the Batcave effectively handed over, presumably to carry on the good fight should he wish to do so. But will Blake fight crime as Robin/Nightwing or will he don the cape to become the next Batman? More to the point, would audiences take to Levitt as the new Batman? He doesn't have the same physical presence that Bale had and that Batman demands. Nor does he carry the same amout of dark emotion. And any ground covered along the tragic backstory / lost parents arc would just be a repeat of Wayne's story. So did Nolan set him up as a replacement just to cap off the story, or to hint at possible film and story continuation? There were many villains that Nolan didn't utilise that could pose Levitt a challenge, the Riddler, the Penguin, Hush, Poison Ivy, Soloman Grundy. Can they be given the realism treatment to?
- Bale hinted in Rise promotion interviews that he would consider a return to the cowl if the story was right and Nolan was interested. The perfect material already exists with Frank Miller's tremendous 1986 Batman mini-series The Dark Knight Returns. The story sees a 55 year old Wayne forced out of retirement after an escalation of violence in the future Gotham City. How superb it would be to see Nolan and Bale return to the series in ten or so years to add this chapter to the tale. The only sticking point would be the ground already covered by Rise, with Nolan drawing on element's of Miller's story, most notably Bale playing a reclused Wayne limping round a dusty Wayne Manor.
- Away from these obvious options, other projects linger. Joel Schumacher's Batman and Robin (1997) was not meant to be the end of the line for that Bat franchise. Before a dismal reception from fans and critics finished the series off, a part five was in the pipeline. Batman Triumphant was scheduled for a mid 1999 release, with Schumacher on board again. Scarecrow was lined up as the main villain with Harley Quinn also written in as the Joker's daughter. Its unlikely that this series will be resurrected but stranger things have happened.
- Elsewhere, Heath Ledger may have sadly left us but the Joker still has pull. There was no mention of him in Rise and questions of what happened to him still linger. A cell in Arkham Asylum? An early escape thanks to Bane's mass prison break? Who knows, but a Joker solo project remains an option. Whether it would work without the Bat, the ying to his yang, and whether anyone would be brave enough to follow Ledger's brilliant performance remains to be seen. Brian Azzarello's superb graphic novel simply titled Joker proved that solo projects can really fly though.
- Other infamous Batman story arcs also beg for a movie adaptation. Nolan may have cribbed parts of Frank Miller's Batman: Year One for Batman Begins (2005) but a faithful version is still a possibility. And with Mike Barr offering an interesting follow-up with his Batman: Year Two (1987) and the revelation of a brutal predecessor to Batman who cleared the streets of criminals years before the Bat, another movie series has all the writing it needs in place already.