Now that director Christopher Nolan has released his dream-scape exploration action film Inception upon the world, it is only natural to assume that he will be looking to ramp up pre-production on his next film, which figures to be Batman 3. And, like any fan of Batman, I’ve spent more than my share of afternoons idly daydreaming about what I would do if I were Christopher Nolan, David S. Goyer, or screenwriter Jonathan Nolan as a follow up to what became 2008’s top hit, The Dark Knight. Here is what I would do.
It occurred to me that Batman’s character had explored the id, and super-ego in the first two films. The id and super-ego are two of three classifications that Sigmund Freud proposed were responsible for our impulses and behaviors of the subconscious self. I propose that the third film explore the ego of Bruce Wayne, thereby exhibiting Batman’s intellectual skills and capabilities as he grapples with the enigmatic puzzles of The Riddler. The puzzles that put the Batman and the city in Jeopardy should truly be complex. Previous efforts to place riddles within a screenplay by filmmakers have resulted in making puzzles as set pieces that are often boiled down to the lowest denominator of the film audience, instead of trusting the audience and crafting something truly worthy of The Riddler character. This allows Christian Bale to explore a new part of Batman, and it allows
the actor who might be cast for The Riddler the chance give a performance that is bereft of the campy qualities that(please forgive the pun)riddled the version of the Riddler that Joel Schumacher and Jim Carrey had proposed for the character.
After seeing Inception I am convinced that Joseph Gordon- Levitt, who has been rumored to be interested, and under consideration for the casting of The Riddler, would indeed be ideal. The only drawback, as I see the character of the Riddler, is that I would have liked to have cast a Riddler that is closer in age to Christian Bale, so that the impact of Edward E. Nymga’s tale would have more impact on Batman. If the film were made next year, Levitt would be 30 and Bale 37 years of age. I’d like to see this guy who is around the same age as Batman, but has come away with a totally different view of the world that makes logical sense, but is also terrifying in its approach. If the filmmakers used this approach, I am confident it would keep Leavitt from trying to be more manic than Jim Carrey and Heath Ledger, which is a foolhardy thing to ask of an actor. I mean, really, who can be more manic than Jim Carrey? Besides, that type of energy had already been thoroughly mined with Ledger’s portrayal of The Joker. And, any reminder of Ledger in this new film should be avoided at all costs. This film has to live on its own merits and cannot hope to coast on the success of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. I’m confident that Nolan wouldn’t be lazy enough to try to coast on his previous successes, but I am not as confident with Warner Brothers, the studio responsible for the film. With the economy the way it is, I could see the studio making this massive mistake, and that was a mistake that had been made with other finales in film trilogies made prior to Batman, such as The Matrix Revolutions, and Spider Man 3. Both collapsed under the weight of the enormous complexity and expectations that were fostered to try and top their previous installments. That of course rose expectations far higher than they could ever be met.
So, exploring Batman’s ego is not the only thing to keep mind while creating this next screenplay. It is also important to keep the mood and tone that Nolan has so carefully crafted in the first two films. This is not to say that everything should be lit darkly, but rather that everything should be placed very carefully and deliberately so that it reveals not only something about the exposition of the story, but also does a remarkable job of illustrating the internal reflection of Batman and the dilemma he finds himself in as the focus of a manhunt who holds him responsible for the death of Harvey Dent, while also giving us plenty of subtext for the viewer to chew on long after we’ve left the theater about what gnaws at Bruce Wayne/ Batman. While much of that will be done with directorial and acting decisions, I’m a big believer that a great script has to come first, before the rest of these performances can organically grow and expand into the last reaches of the trilogy.
This film should also avoid the lets-put-in-everything-but-the-kitchen-sink mentality. Use of previously established characters in the trilogy and the addition of villains should be limited to the Riddler if possible. If I were directing, I would avoid the dual villain scenario that was explored with Two Face and The Joker. It made sense in The Dark Knight, because it helped echo the theme of the film’s search in dualities: good and evil, order and chaos, light and dark, but it has led to serious problems in other recent comic films like Spider man 3’s cluttered screenplay with Sandman, Green Goblin and Venom, and in the X-men’s final bow, which featured many of the major villains and heroes who had appeared in the comic series throughout the years in the final battle.
I’ve heard rumors that there has been consideration about including Dick Grayson/Robin in this film, but I would be weary about including that sub-plot unless Lucius Fox or perhaps Alfred were killed, or otherwise removed from the story through some logical means to make room for the examination of a new character. I lean towards Lucius Fox turning away from Batman because he seemed to perceive Bruce Wayne as being too close to crossing the line of rule and order that Lucius Fox holds dear. Plus, fox’s use with the gadgets has reached a logical ending point. I would make this film more about Batman’s detective and reasoning skills and less about solving puzzles through gadgetry.
The strength of the Batman saga under Nolan’s helm has always been keeping the focus on the characters and their growth, and that kind of focus takes up more than enough space in the screenplay between the action set pieces and the necessary exposition, than would be served by pandering to comic fans with an over-saturation of cameos by lesser characters and situations that honestly don’t serve those characters or situations well. If, for example, Dick Grayson were introduced, his introduction should be for the purpose of the audience to have a sounding board to learn about how and what Batman truly believes as he mentors Robin while they attempt to track down and confront the Riddler. This allows the film trilogy to come full circle. Batman, who was once a student of Ra al Ghul, would now be the mentor of Dick Grayson/Robin/Nightwing.
One of the key difficulties would be coming up with a love interest. If it were my choice, I would keep the love interest more of a possibility than a relationship that is actively developed and written in this screenplay. While I understand that most movie-goers expect a love interest or femme fatale in every superhero film, I’m convinced that it diminishes too much of the guilt that haunts Bruce over his inability to save Rachel in The Dark Knight. Instead, I would go for an exploration of family and fatherhood and what it means to Bruce Wayne. I’m quite certain this would prove quite an unpopular decision to those who expect some eye candy, and it might make the marketing of the film a little more difficult, but I think with the success of the first two films Nolan has earned the creative right to break a few rules.
Ultimately I hope that Nolan and company do decide to make the third installment in the Batman films. And when they do, I hope that the message that comes through in the writing of the film is that often answers are not as important as being willing to ask yourself hard questions.
What do you think? What would you do if you were writing the film? How does it differ from my ideas?