The rumors and hints have been rife for months, but it was finally announced this week; Ben Affleck will direct a standalone Batman movie. Warner Bros. made the announcement at their CinemaCon panel in Las Vegas, via Collider, but the news will come as no surprise for any DC fan who reads the internet. After all, Affleck is currently wowing fans worldwide with his portrayal of the Caped Crusader in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice -- he obviously impressed the big boys at Warner Bros. as well.
On top of directing, Affleck will reprise his role as Bruce Wayne/Batman, and he has already written a script for the yet untitled Batman movie, co-scribing with DC Entertainment CCO Geoff Johns. With Affleck pulling triple duty, and a host of potential storylines available following Batman v Superman, DC and Warner Bros. are in a great place, creatively, to pull something out of the hat -- or cape.
With another Batman movie comes natural concern and worry; in 1997, Batman & Robin nearly destroyed the franchise completely, and it took eight years until Batman Begins picked the character up and dusted him off. In fact, it's due to Christopher Nolan's hugely successful The Dark Knight Trilogy that some fans are concerned in the first place; do we need another Batman movie so soon?
Where that is open to interpretation and opinion, many keen-eyed fans would have noticed a host of Easter eggs in Batman v Superman, hints and clues that not only help usher in the Justice League, but provide plenty of exciting material for a solo Batman movie. Affleck's portrayal of Batman is unique in the fact that we have a 20-year lifespan to explore, past and present, but it also presents DC and Warner Bros. with several unique possibilities.
With that in mind, here are five things that could make the next Batman movie work. Be warned, major Batman spoilers exist below, for various media formats, so proceed at your own risk.
This popular story arc -- and the one below -- will work, either separately or combined, because several key elements of both currently exist in the DC Universe. A Death in the Family follows Jason Todd, the second Robin, as he struggles to co-exist in Batman's shadow. After Todd puts himself in unnecessary danger, and with Bruce Wayne fearing for his protégé's safety, he relieves Todd of his duty and sends him on his way. The two part on bad terms. Soon after, Todd is brutally murdered by The Joker, a moment in the comics that alters Batman's emotional state, not to mention his precious moral code.
If reports are to be believed, DC are already tapping into this storyline. In a key scene from Batman v Superman, a dejected Bruce Wayne is seen mourning a defiled Robin suit, one sprayed with mocking graffiti symbolic of The Joker. In the same film, Batman was a little less restrictive in his crime fighting methods; he happily maimed and even killed his foes, a serious diversion from the comics. It seemed out of place at first, but could this change in stance be a result of Todd's death? Has the violence warped his view? It would certainly explain the sudden change in the vigilante's demeanor.
With Suicide Squad firmly on the horizon, The Joker returning to the big screen, and Batman nabbing a cameo in that film too, it seems this, or a loose adaptation at least, is the route DC and Warner Bros. are walking. The story arc is one of the more popular in the Batman archives, and one that could easily slot into current DC proceedings. It also leaves the plot open for the following.
Under The Red Hood has already been adapted to screen in a 2010 animated movie, and includes several elements from A Death in the Family, namely Jason Todd's death scene. The story deals with Todd's surprise revival, his shocking return to Gotham, his reunion with a guilt-ridden Batman, and his vengeful quest to avenge his death at the hands of The Joker. The comic was controversial for bringing Jason Todd, an unpopular character, back to life; his death was the result of a fan poll.
Again, with The Joker in play, this could be the fitting conclusion to a solo Batman movie, with A Death in the Family providing the emotional beginning. The film could exist over several years, showing Batman in a variety of positions (rookie, up and comer, veteran), and, for the first time, have Batman and Robin -- under the Red Hood guise -- squaring off. Remember, Todd's version of the Red Hood is known for his brutal crime fighting, something Batman doesn't necessarily believe in, although it remains murky with Batman v Superman lending the vigilante a more brutal candor to proceedings.
Also, Todd is resurrected via Ra's al Ghul's Lazarus Pit, something that currently exists in the DC Universe via CW'S Arrow. The show is in its fourth season, and the pit has featured heavily in the series thus far, so would this be the perfect time to introduce Stephen Amell's Green Arrow to the Justice League? Arrow is heavy on Batman references, and they share the same enemies and principles, so it isn't that far of a stretch.
It's very clear that The Joker is prominently featured in DC's immediate future, so why not take advantage of that? With a 20-year lifespan to cover, why not show more of the villain's atrocities? Barbara Gordon was once known as Batgirl, but in The Killing Joke, she was shot in the spine by The Joker and paralyzed. Bound to a wheelchair for life, she didn't let her disability get the best of her, and after several years she became Oracle, one of the best hackers and intelligence agents in the DC Universe, not to mention a key ally for Batman. The two share a unique and close friendship, one that helps Batman fight crime with efficiency, and this is never more evident than their mutual connection in the Batman: Arkham game series.
Multiple Batman films have showed the Caped Crusader fighting with other heroes -- Catwoman, Robin, Superman, et al -- but none have shown him fighting while aided from behind the scenes. Sure, we've seen it in the Batwing or Batmobile, with Alfred pulling the strings, but seeing Batman touch his ear to discuss potential escape routes and solutions to puzzles would definitely add a new dynamic to proceedings. He's known as the world's greatest detective, so utilize it. Oracle gives him a reason to stretch those deductive chops, and would certainly keep things interesting. Oracle recently got a mention in Arrow too, with Oliver Queen name-dropping her as a potential nickname for Felicity Smoak, who acts in a similar role to Green Arrow.
On a third, but brief note, according to Cinema Blend, Barbara Gordon was reportedly cast in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Jena Malone nabbed the part, red hair and all -- but was left out of the cinematic release. It's not been determined what version of the character will appear, or if there is any truth to this. Could this be a tease for Oracle? Worse things have happened.
A Death in the Family, The Killing Joke, and Under The Red Hood all have a mention above, and all deserve their credit. As a collective, they provide some of the best Batman moments ever committed to the comic page. However, there is one storyline we're missing from that list: Knightfall. In Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Batman is 20 years into a stellar, but brutal crime fighting career, so where it's easy to focus on how he got to that point, we can also focus on where it will take him. Knightfall was adapted and touched on in The Dark Knight Rises, the final film in Nolan's trilogy, but it wasn't adapted verbatim -- and this would be a good chance to revert back to this.
Sure it would mean the potential return of Bane, not to mention a host of other villains -- see below -- but it would also introduce the masses to Azrael, aka Jean-Paul Valley, Jr. or Michael Lane (both incarnations have their merits). When Bane paralyzes Batman, he is put out of action permanently, or so it seems. To ensure the Dark Knight's presence remains in Gotham City, Valley takes on the mantle of Batman, and, believing his predecessor's tactics to be obsolete, fights criminals on their own terms. This soon prompts Bruce Wayne to return and reclaim his rightful place, and restore his reputation, but not before a seriously violent smackdown between the two.
With Bruce getting long in the tooth, this would be a great way to give him that 'I'm Batman' moment that was missing from Batman v Superman. Azrael also has connections to several major players in the DC universe, and a seriously cool back story as well. It would also be interesting if Batman had someone else to contend with too, a pretender to his Gotham throne, a hero with his own agenda. The threat of a new hero, one we know could replace Bruce Wayne -- because he did it once before -- would certainly make for interesting cinema.
One thing is for sure; Batman isn't short of foes to conquer. Where The Joker is the most infamous, there are many villains who are yet to make their on-screen debut. Several will do this in late summer, 2016, when Suicide Squad introduces us to Harley Quinn, Deadshot, Killer Croc, The Huntress, and a host of others, but is it time for Batman to meet someone new, or someone we haven't seen in a while? Touching on the Knightfall arc again, could this be a chance to overwhelm the Dark Knight, and have him face several foes at once?
Rumors have persisted for years, but some have a little merit. There are a host of villains that fans are eager to see. One enemy people have been waiting years for is Harley Quinn. This scene will probably happen in Suicide Squad, but seeing Quinn develop from professional shrink to crazy psychopath, as she slowly goes insane at the hands of The Joker, is ripe for cinematic adaptation. Still, featuring her in a solo Batman movie -- with or without The Joker -- would be a wise move. Deadshot is also rumored to be involved in the solo movie, with Will Smith potentially reprising his role as the perfect assassin. In fact, any member of the Suicide Squad could step up and become a challenge to the Caped Crusader.
But what about the classics? When Nolan was casting his movies, rumors of Johnny Depp as The Riddler surfaced, and the chaotic Penguin would be a great role to cast since DC is keeping it dark and mature. Poison Ivy would be a great choice too, especially if we see the return of Catwoman. With Gotham and Arrow currently sowing the young seeds for some of these criminals, could DC again reach out to their TV counterparts for inspiration? Victor Zsasz and Hugo Strange are excellent candidates, as are Firefly and Deathstroke. With Ra's al Ghul and Black Mask also on the precipice, to lend a more dominant, mafia-style edge to the film, any one of these super villains could step up to challenge Batman.
Will it be someone new, or someone old? Will it be all of them? Either way, sit back and watch the internet implode when casting begins next year.
The untitled Batman movie doesn't yet have a release date. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is currently showing in cinemas.
[Image via Warner Bros. Pictures]