The "news" that broke late last night, with Christian Bale saying out loud that he won't play Batman in any forthcoming Justice League movie, wasn't really news. It's been clear since the final moments of The Dark Knight Rises that Bale's Bruce Wayne was done with Gotham and super heroics in general, and though Man of Steel made reference to Wayne Industries, it had no explicit ties to Nolan's version of the Dark Knight. Henry Cavill is a new Superman, so he was getting a new Batman in the future… right?
That's what Katey though, at least, but Sean-- a much more diehard comics fan-- still has hope. Below they debate just how likely it is that Nolan's Gotham will be a part of either Man of Steel 2 or a forthcoming Justice League movie, even without Christian Bale involved. Is the key Joseph Gordon-Levitt? Is it Michael Caine? Is it all just a crazy theory in Sean's head? Join the debate below.
KATEY: I've been taking it as a given basically since last summer that, much as Warner Bros. might want to force it, Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy was over and wouldn't be revived, not even in the form of a Justice League movie. And when Man of Steel came out and had no nods to Nolan's movies-- especially that Joseph Gordon-Levitt cameo that was rumored-- it seemed to confirm it. Man of Steel is a hit. Warner and DC are moving on. The past is the past. But Sean, you are stalwart, and even though Christian Bale is totally out, you still think the world of his Batman is alive. Talk to me.
SEAN: One reason I think Warner still want to acknowledge Nolan's universe is because they'd be crazy not to do it. Nolan's Batman trilogy stands as one of the most successful superhero franchises of our age. It redefined an audience's perception of the superhero genre, and it laid the foundation for everything that Warner is trying to do with Superman and the JLA. To ignore it, to sweep it under the rug as a thing of the past, would be foolish. And Bale saying that he's out makes sense. Because I think that Warner will build on the John Blake character at the end of Rises, continuing with the idea that Bruce Wayne (Bale) is out, but a Batman figure exists. Yes, a JGL cameo in Man of Steel would have solidified this belief. But I still feel that Warner wants to connect the Superman world of this moment to Nolan's existing trilogy.
KATEY: I totally get why they want to do it, and I assume they've spent the entire last year figuring out how to do so. But The Dark Knight trilogy ended with a whimper, not a bang-- The Dark Knight Rises made money, sure, but was not remotely the phenomenon The Dark Knight was, and everyone involved really did seem ready to walk away. Nolan is obviously a huge name, and his contributions to Man of Steel were highly touted... but he's also a guy who wants to move on and make his own movies, and seems to have actively shied away from the godfather role that Marvel has given to Joss Whedon. I think Nolan wants to move on... and I think it's easier for DC not to have one more 800-pound gorilla like Nolan around to make decisions. Use the success of Man of Steel and the massive popularity of Batman to change it up. We've seen Batman played by more actors than any other superhero on film. We're used to seeing him change.
SEAN: Now is not the time for Batman to change, though. George Clooney's Batman? That guys needed a change. Nolan's idea of Batman works very well with the realism Snyder repeatedly said he tried to bring to Man of Steel. As much as many think Steel starts the ball rolling on a Justice League movie, I believe Nolan's Batman films really set the tone for the types of movies DC/Warner want to make ... much the same way that Jon Favreau's Iron Man set a tone for Marvel's film slate.
KATEY: OK, so how do you suggest this work going forward? Do you think Nolan will stick around to shepherd JLA and then another series of standalone Batman films-- because that's the obvious next step, unless they're finally going to commit to making something substantial out of Green Lantern or Wonder Woman. Or do you see them just taking John Blake and Nolan's ideas and bidding him farewell?
SEAN: Here's what I see as the likely scenario, which allows for Nolan to walk away and make his own films. I believe that a LOT of prep work went on behind the scenes on Man of Steel. I believe that Nolan helped guide Snyder and Warner's execs on the next few steps of the DC Cinematic Universe. "Here's your blueprint. Now go build it." And I believe that the blueprint will tie back into the world that Nolan created. This is how Warner is able to entertain the notion that Man of Steel 2 could possibly reach theaters in 2014. A lot of work had to be completed behind the scenes already. I think Snyder and crew know what's coming. Right now, they're just playing coy.
The lynchpin to my theory is one man: David S. Goyer. He's the bridge Nolan left behind, the man who helped build the Batman trilogy, the man who helped build Superman's new playground, and the man who will connect the dots leading to DC's future. Why? Because Goyer isn't foolish enough to go back and rewrite his nearly perfect Batman story. How can he do better than Batman Begins and The Dark Knight? He can't. Goyer (and Nolan) gave Warner Bros. the ideal Batman. They would be crazy to scrap him and start over ... and I believe that keeping Goyer in the fold -- as the screenwriter has said is the plan -- means that they want him to continue developing the hero he created in Gotham, then finding a way to fit him into a recently-demolished Metropolis.
KATEY: I can buy Goyer as a connecting thread. And I can buy, I guess, a Batman who has emerged from the Gotham that Nolan has created. But I still don't see Joseph Gordon-Levitt's John Blake as that Batman. Just think of what he would look like standing next to Henry Cavill! And if it's not JGL, then how much of Nolan's Batman is that, really?
SEAN: I'm not saying it doesn't cause controversies. I think Warner would be taking a gamble, if they were to go down this route, by having a Justice League movie starring a Batman who ISN'T Bruce Wayne! But tell me, don't you think Warner has at least had the conversation with Gordon-Levitt, asking, "If we did this, would you be on board?"
KATEY: Yes. Definitely. But I think that 'non-Bruce Wayne" Batman question is really, really important... and given that we know they're going to have new standalone Batman movies in the future, aren't they just painting themselves into a corner? Man of Steel has the potential to build on what the Dark Knight trilogy did and start over again... but if it's going to be the launchpad, it needs a clean slate.
SEAN: Maybe. But then we're just in a vicious cycle. Because if we get a new Batman, eventually, we're going to want a new Superman when some storyline paints Cavill out of it. I do agree that Nolan didn't HELP the future of DC when he "killed off" Bruce Wayne. But I still believe that the value of the Gotham he created for Warner is far too important to just place on a shelf and forget about in favor of a newer, shinier version fans might not embrace. And Bale saying he isn't involved doesn't change my mind, because he'd be out of the picture in the scenario in my head, anyway. Maybe it's John Blake. Maybe it's someone else who is Batman, because as Nolan said, Batman is just a figure. But you cast Gary Oldman and Morgan "I'm Up For Any Paycheck" Freeman as connecting threads for a Jutsice League movie, and I think fans will be more accepting than, say, Armie Hammer as Bruce Wayne in an out-of-the-blue Man of Steel 2 cameo.
KATEY: Alright, I think it's time to lay down bets. If Nolan's Batman is part of Justice League-- that is, if any cast member from the Dark Knight Trilogy reoccurs in Justice League-- you get $10 If they start fresh, just with the tone and mood of Nolan's films intact, I get $10. How's that?
SEAN: Fair enough. I will cackle with self-righteous glee as I devour two Subway footlong sandwiches at your expense!
KATEY: You plutocrat monster!
Do you think Nolan's Batman will appear in Justice League in some way?