With The Dark Knight Rises, Christopher Nolan doesn't just conclude his run of Batman films, but the years and years of speculating we've all been able to do about where he might take the world of Gotham. And as much as we've all debated about what might happen to Bruce Wayne next, the real fun was in predicting which villains he'll face off against, and which members of Batman's famed rogues gallery Nolan would try to incorporate into his realistic view of Gotham.
At some point pretty much every villain was rumored for The Dark Knight Rises, but now we know it's all about Catwoman and Bane-- which leaves a lot of villains the Nolan Batman universe will never touch. But in the spirit of one last round speculation, here's our take on five villains that could have been, and how Nolan could have incorporated these outlandish characters in his gritty universe. It's too late for him to include them, but heads up to whoever will be in charge of rebooting Batman next-- these are 5 characters well worth your time.
When the The Dark Knight Rises rumor mill was in full rotation, there were whispers that Killer Croc might be one of the villains featured in Christopher Nolan’s final Batman film. Of course, almost every nemesis ever faced by the caped crusader was at one time or another set to star in Rises but the mention of Croc stood out because of his apparent disconnect with the now famous ‘gritty and real’ Gotham created by the director and his team. And that disconnect, or challenge, was only one of the many reasons I was so excited by the prospect.
Despite his increasingly reptilian portrayal in the comics and cartoons, Killer Croc is still a human being (Waylon Jones) and would have provided a perfect physical threat for Bale’s Batman. Bane manages to satisfy both the brain and brawn but had there been a different antagonist, a Nolan re-imaging of Croc would have been awesome as a lead henchman. As for the realistic universe, one need look no further than Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo’s “Joker” for a great example or even the animated Batman: Gotham Knight which attributes his ‘scales’ to epidermolytic hyperkeratosis. Oh, and Tom Hardy can still play him.
A lesser-known Batman villain, Hush was once a childhood friend of Bruce Wayne's named Tommy Elliot. As boys, the two played strategy games together, but Tommy's abusive home life twisted him into a creature of wrath and cunning. While Bruce lost his parents, Tommy tried to kill his, looking to be set free from their control and gain their fortune. However, his mother survived, and their relationship grew more and more gnarled, spurring his deep resentment of Bruce Wayne, who had both the wealth and freedom Tommy so desired.
He became the supervillain Hush, not only to destroy Batman, but also to ruin Bruce Wayne. As Hush's main weapons were guile and manipulation rather than the flashy arsenals of some of his comic peers, he seemed a great fit for Nolan's more grounded take on Gotham. Hush easily could have been pulling the strings on some of the villains Nolan did choose to feature. As a direct foil to Bruce, Hush's casting should be someone who can match Bale's intensity, so I'd suggest his Rescue Dawn co-star Steve Zahn, who can proved to be unexpectedly wily in the under valued thriller A Perfect Getaway.
What makes Mr. Freeze such an interesting villain is that unlike Joker or Bane, who simply want either chaos or total control, Freeze’s motivations come from a very pure place: love. While the character’s origin story has changed over the years, the most interesting version paints him as a tragic figure, a man who cares for nothing in the world other than his dying wife, Nora. All you have to do is strip away some of the more fantastical elements and he would fit right in to Christopher Nolan’s movie universe.
The story would begin in the Wayne Enterprises cryonics lab where Victor Fries (played by Patrick Stewart, of course), works day and night to try and find a cure for Nora. Fries has even gone as far as to sneak his wife into one of the cryogenic chambers, though he does so completely off the books. When Wayne Enterprises falls into financial trouble, however, the division is shut down, and while all of the other test subjects are transferred, Nora gets her plug pulled because nobody knows she is there. Driven completely mad by the incident, Victor then uses his knowledge of the technology to create a freeze gun that will help him take revenge against the people who took his wife away – including Bruce Wayne.
Back before Nolan let it be known that Bane and Catwoman (and possibly Ra’s al Ghul) would be the villains in his finale, a fan-made poster hit the Web showing The Riddler scribbling question marks on a Gotham newspaper under the headline, “Who is the Batman?” Like the last piece of those puzzles Riddler adores, the natural conclusion of Nolan’s Batman story snapped into place for me. Alas, the director didn’t see it the way I imagined it. But I think The Riddler would have fit beautifully into Nolan’s Bat universe – which figures realistic ways to conjure threats for Gotham’s Dark Knight. And here’s how I would have used him.
As The Dark Knight concludes, Batman’s forced to go on the lam, accepting the crimes committed by Harvey Dent as his own. It would only make sense that Gotham’s citizens – angered by the murder of their White Knight – would want to hunt down the Batman and reveal his secret identity. Secrets? That’s the Riddler’s line of work. Nolan and David S. Goyer could have painted Edward Nigma as a brilliant detective on Gotham’s police force, tasked with cracking the identity of the Caped Crusader. Somehow, his quest to “out” Batman drives him criminally insane. Where we went from there could have been anyone’s guess … and now it will remain as unsolved as one of Riddler’s riddles, for Nigma remains an opportunity for whomever Warner chooses to reboot the Batman franchise. Please don’t cast Jim Carrey, and we’ll all be cool.
Poison Ivy's reputation was practically ruined by 1997's ridiculous Batman & Robin-- but then again, so was Bane's, and he had no trouble making a comeback in Nolan's universe. And while Uma Thurman's vampy take on the character was pretty over the top, there are many shades of it in Anne Hathaway's performance as Selina Kyle in The Dark Knight Rises. Nolan clearly wanted to make room for a femme fatale in his final Batman film, and as a temptress who's also completely bad, Poison Ivy could have been the perfect character to straddle the line between Bruce Wayne's womanizing ways and Batman's desire to good.
And thinking of how Nolan has tied modern concerns, like terrorism and the economic downturn, into his Batman movies, Poison Ivy's role as an environmentalist, and her immunity to natural toxins, could have made for a fascinating story. Imagine a city-wide poisoning threat like the one in Batman Begins, with Poison Ivy at the helm and her fraught romantic relationship with Batman complicating his response. It's really not unlike the story of Batman & Robin, except this time, y'know, it makes sense. Nolan has been accused in various films of being unfair to his female characters, and while the women in The Dark Knight Rises hold their own, Poison Ivy could have been the trickiest and most villainous of them all.