The Batman film franchise is reaching a crossroads of sorts. While Robert Pattinson will be playing Gotham City’s Dark Knight in Matt Reeves’ The Batman, which has already spawned an HBO Max spinoff series and is expected to be the first installment of a trilogy, Michael Keaton and Ben Affleck’s iterations of Batman are expected to appear in The Flash. There was also a rumor floating around that Keaton would fill Affleck’s shoes as the DC Extended Universe’s official Batman, but that has since been debunked.
Right now, the only thing we know for sure about Michael Keaton’s Batman is that he’ll somehow get pulled into the multiversal craziness that The Flash is delivering. That said, last summer, when Keaton’s involvement in the Scarlet Speedster’s movie was first reported, it was also mentioned that his iteration of Batman could appear across multiple movies, acting as a Nick Fury-like figure for the DCEU. Assuming that ends up being true, or we go a step further and actually get more Keaton-starring Batman movies, this is the perfect opportunity to spotlight the more unusual and fantastical Batman villains that either haven’t gotten their due on the big screen, or, in a few cases, are deserving of much better adaptations.
It’s Been A Long Time Since Truly Fantastical Cinematic Batman Villains Have Appeared
We’ve been given eight live-action Batman movies thus far, including the one that tied into the ‘60s Batman TV series. That feature saw the return of its versions of Joker, Riddler, Penguin and Catwoman, and while they fit delightfully in that campy world, there was nothing particularly fantastical about them. The Tim Burton/Joel Schumacher film film series is the closest we’ve come to getting truly outlandish and totally unrealistic Batman villains, with the critically-derided Batman & Robin getting a gold star in this regard for making use of Mr. Freeze, Poison Ivy and Bane.
However, because Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy was set in a “heightened reality,” there was no room for to delve deep into heavy science fiction or the supernatural. This is best exemplified by Liam Neeson’s Ra’s al Ghul not extending his life through the Lazarus Pits and Tom Hardy’s Bane not using Venom to increase his strength. We know Ben Affleck’s Batman has faced off against Killer Croc in the DCEU, but because this Batman has primarily been explored through his ties to other superheroes, we don’t know if things got even weirder than that reptile man. As such, if you’ve wanted all sorts of Batman villains represented in live-action in recent years, from the grounded to the ridiculously outlandish, you’d need to watch the prequel TV series Gotham.
Matt Reeves’ Batman World Looks To Be More “Realistic”
Now Batman is once again starring in his own film series, with Robert Pattinson’s Bruce Wayne living in a separate reality from the DCEU. We’re still a long ways off from The Batman’s release, but judging by the images released so far and the DC FanDome trailer, it looks like Matt Reeves is taking a Christopher Nolan-like approach with his version Gotham City, i.e. setting these stories in a more “realistic” world. Just look at the versions of Riddler and Penguin; the former is a military-garbed serial killer, and the latter feels like a more conventional crime lord.
That’s not to say that these takes on the characters will be bad, but The Batman’s world doesn’t feel like a place where villains will dress in ridiculous outfits and unleash convoluted schemes, let alone allow for people like Mr. Freeze and Poison Ivy to come into play. Yes, when you have a guy dressed like a bat beating up criminals, then obviously there’s going to be some suspension of disbelief. But I wouldn’t count on Matt Reeves’ Batman saga getting too wild with its lineup of villains. That’s where Michael Keaton’s Batman comes into play, as the Gotham City he’s running around in feels like a much better place for these fantastical villains to emerge from the shadows.
We Need To Broaden The Batman Cinematic Rogues Gallery
Everyone knows about Joker, Penguin, Riddler, Two-Face and Catwoman, but they don’t scratch the surface of Batman’s rogues gallery. There are plenty of enemies from this corner of the DC universe who still haven’t appeared in a live-action movie yet, from the mind-controlling Mad Hatter and the shapeshifting Clayface, to the monstrous Man-Bat and unnerving Ventriloquist. Just because these baddies are more “out there”doesn’t mean they don’t deserve the spotlight. We don’t need to keep returning to the same well of Batman villains just because they’re the A-listers and easier to adapt for the big screen.
Even certain villains we have seen in Batman movies before would be worth a revisit. It’s no secret that Batman & Robin didn’t do any justice to Mr. Freeze and Poison Ivy, so let’s retcon the events of Batman Forever and Batman & Robin out of continuity and have Michael Keaton’s Batman battle different incarnations of those two. It would also be great to see Keaton’s Batman match wits with a Ra’s al Ghul who’s been leading the League of Assassins for centuries and is eager to test Bruce Wayne’s detective skills. Even a villain like Hugo Strange, who could easily flourish in a “realistic” Batman world, could also function just as well as a more outlandish antagonistic force if the filmmakers pulled from his mad scientists roots.
This Approach Can Work For Batman Beyond
As great as it will be seeing Michael Keaton in a Batman costume again in The Flash, with the actor turning 70 later this year, many fans have expressed interest in him starring in a Batman Beyond movie. In other words, Terry McGinnis would suit up as Batman in the field instead, and Bruce would advise him from the Batcave and design gadgets for the teen. Along with battling some of Bruce’s original foes, including Mr. Freeze, Ra’s al Ghul and The Joker, Terry slowly watched his own rogues gallery form, with its members including Inque, Shriek, Spellbinder and his arch-nemesis Blight.
It goes without saying that a Batman Beyond movie wouldn’t be fully faithful to the animated series, especially if it’s set in the Burtonverse’s Gotham City. But if the powers-that-be at Warner Bros and DC decide to bring the Batman Beyond mythology to the big screen, then not only can you introduce audiences to someone new donning the crime-fighting mantle, but you can bring in those villains that ooze sci-fi in excess. Effects like Inque shapeshifting and Blight firing off radiation blasts are top-notch material to bring to life for a superhero blockbuster. Things were already plenty wild when Bruce Wayne was keeping Gotham City safe, but when Terry McGinnis jumped into action in the original Batman Beyond, the weirdness kicked up a few notches, and there’s no reason it can’t be the same in a film adaptation.
Again, right now, we have no idea if Michael Keaton’s Batman has a future beyond The Flash. If he does stick around, since Matt Reeves’ Batman world has things covered on the “grounded front, let’s use the environment Keaton’s Caped Crusader operates in to take an unorthodox approach with his villains. Either way, we here at CinemaBlend will keep you apprised on all news regarding what’s happening with the various cinematic Batmen. Keep track of what other DC movies are coming up with our detailed guide.