Honestly, when Ben Affleck stepped down from playing Batman, I was relieved. I didn’t hate Batfleck in Batman vs Superman or Justice League, mainly because there was so much more to hate (“Martha” anyone?). He was better than Val Kilmer and George Clooney, but he’s no Adam West or Christian Bale. Serviceable, but I’d replace him at the first shot. That said, when Robert Pattinson was announced, as a younger Bruce Wayne, I was annoyed. Sure, I don’t love Pattinson, but he’s carried a franchise before and has been showing his chops in a variety of arthouse films. Pattinson isn’t the issue; Bruce Wayne is. I’m tired of the same story again, because we’ve gotten about 13 movies with Bruce Wayne. Maybe it’s time to play the other concepts you’ve already made, Warner Brothers. My entry for consideration: Batman Beyond.
What is Batman Beyond, you say? It’s the Batman of the future. It was a continuation of the Batman from the DC Animated Universe, with Justice League Unlimited and The New Adventures of Batman. Launched in 1999 on Kids’ WB, Beyond features a retired, 70-year-old, curmudgeon-y Bruce Wayne brought back into the game, in the year 2039, by a young Terry McGinnis, who happened upon the former hero when he was being chased by a gang of Jokerz. After discovering Wayne’s alter-ego and his father’s murder, McGinnis takes up the high-tech cowl to exact vengeance. After originally resisting, Wayne realizes the disarray Neo-Gotham is in, and has McGinnis take the mantle on in full, serving as a mentor to his young progeny.
Throughout the series, they tangle with a variety of villains, both new (Inque, Spellbinder) and old (Mr. Freeze, Ra’s al Ghul), becoming a strong duo. McGinnis has elements of a young Dick Grayson, aka Nightwing: somewhat rebellious, strong street smarts, athleticism, and a sense of justice. The show ended after three seasons and a direct-to-video movie in 2001.
It was brought into the comic book canon in 2010 with Grant Morrison’s Batman #700. From there, the character and his version of the future have popped up every now and again, until getting a standalone series in 2015.
Now I know what you’re thinking: what’s the hook? Why should this be the movie? First, we would get to see old man Bruce Wayne, at the end of his rope, thrown back into the superhero life he left after almost using a gun. Let’s see the original Batman train his protégé and help him channel the pain of loss and his clear natural abilities into a successful hero career. I’d bet money that Michael Keaton would be down to reprise the character, and if I learned anything from Birdmanand his turn as the Vulture in Spiderman: Homecoming, the man has the chops.
In the same vein, we’ve had 13 movies, countless TV shows, and none of them have dealt with the Bat’s legacy like the tales of Terry McGinnis in his cyberpunk world. Neo-Gotham, from when Batman retires to the start of the series, hasn’t become a hellscape, but clearly needed a hero. Example: there is an entire gang inspired by the Joker, terrorizing the city, with no rhyme or reason. Batman was a balancing presence for the criminal underworld, and without him, it ran amuck of the city. The darkness overcame the light, and the city fell under it. In accord, training a new steward for the mantle allows viewers to reflect on his time as the guardian of the city. Wayne is imparting wisdom and instruction on a younger hero, to reconcile how his lack of presence has hurt and his current status gives him a hand in helping.
As well, aren’t we all tired of the same old thing? I mean, no offense to Bruce Wayne, but I’ve seen your parents die a lot. I’ve seen you train with Ra’s al Ghul and slowly become the Batman. I’ve seen you fight the Joker, both the good and Jared Leto. To be honest though: I’m tired of it. This is the same old story, and doing a younger Bruce, closer to his origin, feels like a creative cop out.
What is DC/Warner going to do that does not steal from Batman Begins or The Dark Knight? Are they going to give us a multiverse and Owlman? Are we gonna get Bruce raising a young Dick Grayson as his brother/son? Is this next movie going to be Batman: Hush? These are all plausible and possible, but after a while, you should change it up and dare your audience in order to get a strong return. It’s still the same character with the same origin and the same villains. It’s alright, and would make millions, but is still stale. Unless they’re willing to press the ire of the Bat-family faithful, which I doubt after Justice League, and completely make something up, they should probably pivot into a different version of Batman, not just a new actor.
I get their reasoning for sticking with Bruce, though: return the hero to his mantle with a great performance and film, which the character deserves. I think Robert Pattinson has great potential after he bulks up and gets a great script.
In accord, I want to be challenged with something different. Give us Terry McGinnis, played by Barry Keoghan (or any talented young hot shot), being trained by Michael Keaton’s Bruce Wayne. Let us see a future where Gotham is still dark, but the Batmobile is a flying car and Batman’s suit is more Iron Man without the weight and guns. Let’s see Batman fight robots from a corrupt company led by Robert Pattinson. Or give us Batman chasing Inque around the city, played by Zoe Kravitz. Or give us nothing at all. Let your viewers keep Michael Keaton and Christian Bale in high regard, unchallenged by the Batman that shows up in the inevitable Justice League movies when the DCEU rights its ship. Maybe that will fix everything.gif via giphy