“Batman… the Court of Owls has sentenced you to die” – What to do with Ben Affleck’s Batman?
By Craig Thomson
One of the largest topics of conversations in geek culture of today is what will become of Warner Bros/DC’s upcoming slate of Superhero movies, starting with Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, the 2016 sequel to the rather mediocre curtain raiser, Man of Steel (2013).
After that, the plan is that DC will go on to create a cinematic universe, similar to what their rivals Marvel are doing over at Disney. As well as the three superhero team movies Justice League *groan* parts 1 & 2 (2017-2019) and Suicide Squad (2017), Solo outings are expected for Wonder Woman (2017), The Flash (2018), Aquaman (2018), Shazam (2019), Cyborg (2020) and Green lantern (2020). Alongside these movies, proven box office talisman Superman and Batman will both assuredly be given their own films. I plan to write an article on these heroes soon, but have decided for this moment to centre on just one hero that perhaps poses the most questions for fans on how DC might approach him. Batman.
With Henry Cavill’s Superman, it is much easier to see how they might continue the story. With a whole range of intergalactic villains never seen on screen, such as Brainiac, Darkseid (who we assume is DC’s answer to Thanos in Justice league), the Parasite and Metallo among others, Superman has reams of fresh material ripe for plundering. Batman, however, might seem that bit trickier, particularly with Christopher Nolan’s masterful Dark Knight Trilogy still fresh in the memory.
Ben Affleck’s take on the Dark Knight will no doubt be one of the most anticipating moments of next year’s Blockbuster season. What is clever is the way Warner Bros has decided to present us a new kind of Batman, very different from the caped crusaders of yesteryear. Taking inspiration for frank Miller’s acclaimed graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns (1986), and sporting flecks of grey in his hair, Affleck will present audiences with an elite, experienced Batman; one who has spent many years fighting his enemies in Gotham City. Not only will we gain images of supped-up high tech Batmobile, the leaked teaser shows images of a metal plated Batman, similar to the armour he wore in the closing panels of Miller’s story, as well as a bulked-up physique and diddy Bat ears (that look a little bit silly… sue me, I’m a Neal Adams guy). Furthermore, if rumours are to be believed, he will also be without the help of a retired (or perhaps murdered) Jim Gordon, replaced by Commissioner Yindel of Miller’s text. A very different Batman indeed.
Recent intelligence notes that the Dark Knight will most likely also have a cameo in Suicide Squad, leading to a possible confrontation with Jared Leto’s Joker in upcoming solo movies. As much as I admire DC/Warners not making the same mistake Sony did with Spider-Man by retelling the origin story an umpteenth time, I would also like to see them gamble by taking a different route with the next Batman solo movie, rather than going for the tried and tested, frankly boring arch-villains.
There’s such a large abundance of good batman stories, but to really tell a good Batman story on film they need look no further that DC’s recent new 52 run by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo who are currently writing some of the best stuff in comics today.
One story in particular that I would love to see adapted is their 2011, debut Batman: The Court of Owls and its sequel Batman: The City of Owls. Although I was not initially thrilled upon first reading, upon hearing my friends rave I gave it another chance and god am I happy I did. The story centres on Batman attempting to solve a series of murders enacted by the legendary Court of Owls, an old wives tale that is famous within Gotham City. As Batman delves further, we see him further brought to his knees by the court and in a startling rarity actually vulnerable at the hands of not only their deadly, immortal assassin, The Talon but also a potential ghost from his past.
Merging horror themes with a kind of CSI pseudo-science fiction, this blockbuster run reignited Batman during the new 52 reboot, and with Affleck’s experienced Dark Knight taking centre stage after Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, there’s no reason why it might not work in movies as well. Not only would this reject well worn ground and give us something new in the genre, it would also allow DC the opportunity to expand their universe by bring the ‘bat family’ (god I hate this term) into play, though I must admit caution must be advised with this.
That being said, if they still wish to go down the Joker route, particularly with Jared Leto’s casting then they might also look no further than the modern comics. The Death of the Family story arc, with the clown prince of crime, disfigured into strapping what remains of his rotting face to his flesh, was one of the best Joker stories in recent years, though it might evoke nightmares in its younger audience. Still, the story was strong and fits perfectly with the horror elements Snyder has managed to conjure up within his fresh take.
Snyder and Capullo also have delivered DC an option when the time comes that Affleck wants to give up playing the caped crusader. If and when that happens, DC/Warners might look towards bringing in a younger Batman for a prequel. Furthermore, the duo’s recent run on Batman: Zero Year has fresh origins for both Batman, The Riddler and (possibly) The Joker. Not only that, it’s tale of urban decay and dystopian look is unlike anything Batman’s ever been part of before and would play into the audiences of understanding of how the Dark knight became the experienced crime fighter we see in later stories. Not only that, with supporting characters like the monstrous Dr Death, could they really do any worse?
Batman still has incredible potential that much is true. People will flock to see him. But to equal Marvel they will have to be on their A-game and they need only look to the success of their modern comics for inspiration.