Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy has ended once and for all, and the Dark Knight's future remains totally in question. The Caped Crusader is a total cash cow, so he's pretty much guaranteed to return to theaters soon, both as part of the Justice League and in his own solo pictures. But what should the next Bat-movie be based on?
We've given it a lot of thought, and we've decided: The next Batman movie should absolutely be based on Batman Beyond, the futuristic animated series from a dozen years ago. Here are 10 reasons why.
Assuming you missed it, Batman Beyond takes place decades in the future, when Bruce Wayne is a bitter old man who's given up on being Batman. (There's a heartbreaking scene early on where Bruce almost uses a gun, something he swore never to do.) A teenager named Terry McGinnis discovers Bruce's secret, and also finds out that the new CEO of WayneCorp (now called Wayne-Powers) is developing biological weapons and killed Terry's father. Terry winds up becoming the new Batman, with Bruce Wayne giving him pretty much constant advice from the Batcave, via Terry's earpiece. The two of them fight crime as a team, eventually saving the world a few times. Oh, and Terry's Batsuit is like a cybernetic suit of power armor, that can fly and do other awesome stuff.
We're not the first people, by any means, to say that Batman Beyond should be the next Batman movie, but we're bringing the zeal of the converted. Here are ten reasons why:
1. It's a way to carry Christopher Nolan's themes forward.
The Dark Knight Rises makes it clear that a major theme of Nolan's Batman series is that Batman is a legend, not a person. Anyone could be Batman. And meanwhile, Bruce Wayne can't be Batman forever — at the start of TDKR, he's already walking with a cane, just like he is in Batman Beyond, because his knees are shot and he has zero cartilage left. (Until he uses the magic knee brace.) There aren't too many ways to take the themes of Nolan's films any further than he already took them — but the story of a future Bruce Wayne coaching a young Batman is one of them. Plus the set-up sort of reminds us of Person of Interest, the TV show created by Christopher Nolan's brother Jonathan, with the division between the legman and the guy who stays behind.
2. You know they're going to want a younger Batman, and this is an actually cool way to do it.
It's almost inevitable that they're going to want to skew younger with the next Batman, after Christian Bale's increasingly grizzled version. They already tried to have a younger Bruce once, with Armie Hammer in the abortive Justice League film. And rather than having the original Batman be a teenager or young adult — which flies in the face of the idea that Bruce spent a decade traveling and preparing to be Batman — having Terry McGinnis in the cowl allows you to have a younger Bats while still respecting Bruce's origin story.
3. Everybody loves future dystopias, and this is a really interesting one
In the era of Hunger Games, people are apeshit for future dystopias. And especially in the early episodes, with Bruce Wayne's old company under the control of an amoral psycho and gangs of "Jokerz" roaming the streets, Gotham City is a pretty horrible place. You could easily update a lot of this stuff, adding more pervasive surveillance and augmented reality, and wind up with a pretty compelling vision of a dark future, that would give you a run for your money.
4. It's the next best thing to The Dark Knight Returns
We're probably never going to get a straight-up movie version of Frank Miller's weird masterpiece, which is pretty twisted and also full of jabs at Reagan-era politics and culture. There's a lot of stuff in Dark Knight Returns that seems both too dated and too subversive to translate into a movie now. But you could capture a lot of the same ideas with a movie about an older Bruce Wayne in the future handing off the mantle to someone else.
5. It's awesome, but not so sacred that you can't take liberties.
That's the sweet spot for something that's being adapted to film — you need something that's got a lot of great stuff at its core, but doesn't demand total fetishistic adherence to every little detail. When you try to cram in every little feature from a sprawling narrative, you risk getting something like Green Lantern. You could easily pare Batman Beyond down to the basic concept, without having to worry about needing to include Nelson or Max or whoever.
6. It's the only way Batman could actually get darker, after the Nolan films.
The natural tendency for the Batman films is to go lighter after The Dark Knight Rises — which would probably be a mistake. If any character belongs in the shadows, it's Bats. But there aren't too many ways that you could actually take Batman to a rougher place after Nolan's trilogy. And Batman Beyond is definitely one of them: There's the aforementioned fact that Bruce is a broken old man who almost resorts to using a gun. But there's also all of the backstory that's introduced in the Return of the Joker movie, where we learn that the Joker not only tortured Tim Drake/Robin, he also found a way to take away Tim's very identity in a horrible metaphor for Stockholm syndrome.
7. There's already a screenplay, with input by Neal Stephenson.
Back in 2000, Warner Bros. was seriously considering making a Batman Beyond movie after the failure of Batman and Robin. Paul Dini and Alan Burnett wrote a screenplay, and Snow Crash author Neal Stephenson was hired to consult on the project. Boaz Yakin was signed up to direct. This means there's already a great Batman Beyond script out there — with Dini's involvement, it's probably pretty great, anyway — with Stephenson's input on how to make the future world make more sense. Let's hope someone still has a copy.