The release of “The Dark Knight Rises” marks the end not only of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, but also of DC Comics/Warner Bros. only currently successful superhero film franchise. While Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy was a huge hit with fans and critics, DC has struggled to bring its other superheroes to the big screen. The 2006 film “Superman Returns” did not kick start a new Superman franchise, and last summer’s “Green Lantern” was a major flop at the box office, barely earning back its budget. By contrast, Marvel seems to be turning out hit after hit: “Iron Man” (2008); “Thor” (2011); “Captain America: The First Avenger” (2011); and, most recently, “The Avengers” (2012).
My hunch is that due to the success of “The Avengers,” it won’t be long until we see a similar DC Comics mash-up featuring the members of the Justice League (Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, etc.). However, the mere fact that this film will feature a team of superheroes isn’t going to be enough to make it a success. Marvel spent years building up to its Avengers film, and DC needs a few more successful individual superhero films under its belt before it can launch the Justice League.
That push towards a Justice League film could start with Zack Snyder’s Superman reboot “Man of Steel” next summer. I was intrigued by the short trailer I saw for this film before “The Dark Knight Rises.” “Man of Steel” appears to be a grittier take on the Superman legend (Christopher Nolan is listed as a producer for this film, and you can see evidence of his trademark style in the clips shown in the trailer). The film also seems to be putting forth an effort to make the Superman character a little more relatable. In the trailer, Superman is pictured working odd jobs and even hitchhiking. Even though he has perhaps the most impressive set of powers of any comic book superhero, he still goes through periods where’s he’s down on his luck, like we all do. I think that if “Man of Steel” is a hit, a successful Justice League film becomes a strong possibility. If it flops, Warner Bros. is going to have a much tougher time with a mash-up film.
I think a Wonder Woman film would have good potential, even though DC has had a little trouble getting this project off the ground. I also think the Green Lantern is worth rebooting. I don’t think the concept was executed as well as it could have been in the 2011 film, and there’s a lot of material that could be explored.
And speaking of reboots, I also don’t think Warner Bros. will wait too long before pursuing another Batman project. Because Batman has been such a successful character for them, I think that (right or wrong) they will want to keep capitalizing on this.
I’ll admit it — the sentimental part of me would really like Christopher Nolan to come back and do another Batman trilogy where Bruce Wayne/Batman (Christian Bale); Selina Kyle/Catwoman (Anne Hathaway), perhaps becoming Batgirl?; and John Blake/Robin (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) band together to fight crime in Gotham. However, I don’t think this will happen, and I don’t really believe it should happen. At the end of “The Dark Knight Rises,” Nolan makes it very clear Bruce Wayne has hung up the Bat cape for good, and I think bringing Bale’s Bruce Wayne back would rob the ending of its power.
What I would like to see is a director pick up where Nolan left off and do a trilogy based on John Blake’s character. I don’t think Nolan intended to set up a Batman and Robin storyline at the end of “The Dark Knight Rises.” I’m guessing he included the “Robin” reference as a nice aside for fans, but John Blake actually is meant to become the Batman, instead of just Batman’s sidekick. In the “Dark Knight” trilogy, Batman is referred to as a legend, a symbol who represents more than just one person. “Batman” can be anyone who’s willing to take up the mask and fight crime.
I’d definitely be interested in seeing a Batman film featuring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and I also think it would be interesting if they used him to play the Batman role in the Justice League film.
So, what do you think? What film projects should DC work on post-“Dark Knight”? What are your thoughts on a Justice League film?
To read some other interesting speculations on the Batman franchise, check out this column from a fellow Word Press blogger, PG Cooper: Beyond the Dark Knight Rises.