Thursday, September 20, 2012

Christopher Nolan's Batman Universe Needs to Continue

Legions of Gotham Op-Ed: Christopher Nolan's Batman Universe Needs to Continue

The Dark Knight trilogy is too compelling of a world to let sit idle, even if Warner Brothers reboots the story and Batman on the silver screen.

By BRIAN HEATON

Director Christopher Nolan has been adamant that “The Dark Knight Rises” marks the end of his involvement with the Batman movie franchise. But after ending the trilogy with some big question marks, the Gotham envisioned by Nolan has to continue, even if it is relegated to officially licensed novels and comic adaptions.

From the revelation that John Blake is Robin and Bruce Wayne leaving him directions to the Bat Cave, to Bruce fixing the Batman signal for Commissioner Gordon on the roof of Gotham Police Department headquarters, Nolan set the stage for his story of Batman to live on. The question is, will it?

DC Comics and Warner Brothers seem hellbent on rebooting the franchise on the silver screen, even if that introduction to a new Batman character might not happen until the rumored Justice League film gets made. But while Nolan's gritty, dark depiction of Batman and Bruce Wayne was popular, I highly doubt any reboot of the character will be in the same vein.

Some may view that as a problem. But I see it as an opportunity for Warner Brothers and fans to have the best of both worlds. A continuation of Nolan's Gotham in novels and special graphic novels can give those who are loyal to a more realistic take on the Batman character a broader world to explore and enjoy. At the same time, a new feature film reboot will give Warner Brothers a chance to continue capitalizing on the Caped Crusader's immense popularity, without destroying the integrity of Nolan's vision.

The idea would also open up a fiction novel market for Batman that aside from a handful of books, has never been adequately explored. Tie-ins with specifically-written comics and even specialized online content could make such a move even more profitable.

Nolan's films have transcended audiences. The people going to see “Batman Begins,” “The Dark Knight” and “The Dark Knight Rises” weren't all Batman fans or superhero geeks. Batman was presented in such a realistic and compelling manner, people went to the theater to be entertained by a dramatic story. That needs to be recognized and capitalized on by DC Comics. The market for Batman isn't just run-of-the-mill comic book fans any longer.

In addition, the story is wide open for more adventures. There are a ton of loose ends that were never tied up in the trilogy. The Joker's whereabouts – very carefully avoided by Nolan in the final film – are unknown. All the mobsters and villains Batman put away are back on the streets and Gotham is inevitably going need its Dark Knight again once the city is rebuilt.

Some might argue that Batman intended John Blake to take over the mantle of the Bat, therefore bringing the story full circle. I disagree. It was clear to me that by revealing Blake's real name to be “Robin,” that Nolan intended that Batman wouldn't be replaced by Blake. Rather, Blake will be the Caped Crusader's understudy once he returns. No, Bruce doesn't want to be Batman forever. But any Bat-fan worth his or her salt knows the fling with Selina Kyle won't last.

Bruce Wayne being “dead,” could be spun into a big story about how the eccentric billionaire faked his death and how the money he lost was due to fraudulent transactions. After a period of time his fortune – minus the contents of Wayne Manor, the mansion and grounds -- might be restored. The story would fit the playboy persona of Bruce Wayne quite easily.

The Bat Cave still exists, Bruce could get his penthouse again, and as far as we know, the Bunker is also still active. Nolan's Batman world is very much alive and far from concluded.

I'm not suggesting that DC Comics and Warner Brothers re-use Nolan's Batman template for a new movie with new actors cast in familiar roles. Like any Batman fan, I expect them to reboot the entire franchise and to a degree, I embrace that. Getting a fresh take on the character is exciting.

But The Dark Knight trilogy was a cultural phenomenon that spanned Bat-fans and general movie-goers alike. It crossed boundaries and connected with people unlike any other superhero film ever made. If DC Comics is smart, they'll recognize that, take heed of other successful officially licensed continuations such as Star Wars and Star Trek and allow Nolan's vision of Batman and Gotham City to live on through the fans.

Brian Heaton is a regular contributor to Legions of Gotham. When not opining on Batman-related issues, Brian spends his days as a professional business-to-business journalist, covering technology use and policy. He can be reached at briman04@yahoo.com.
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