Future of the Batman Franchise: Robin or Reboot?(Part 2/Response)

Follow Up From: http://www.comicvine.com/myvine/superdork/future-of-the-batman-franchise-robin-or-reboot/87-82994/

The following story once again discusses The Dark Knight Rises in very, very specific detail. If you have not yet seen The Dark Knight Rises and do not wish to be exposed to any plot details as they pertain to the future of the Batman franchise on the big screen, you’ve been spoiler-warned ... again.

Go on. Git. You cannot legally or ethically hold us responsible if you’re reading these words, much less the ones right below.

So, Bruce Wayne is Batman, you say.

Launch a $200 million dollar Batman movie that does not include his origin as a central plot element, you argue.

That summarizes not all but a great deal of the reader response to our thoughts Monday on how Warner Bros. should approach the post-Christopher Nolan/next phase of Batman’s life on the big screen, with the majority opinion seeming to answer our question – “Robin or Reboot” – with the latter.

But we do see eye-to-eye on some things. Most comics readers seem to agree Nolan has told a Bruce Wayne-Batman origin story (if not the “definitive” one) and that likely no one wants another Bruce Wayne-Batman origin story in our world’s cine-mega-3D-IMAX-plexes for the foreseeable future.

But this is where our common ground turns into a fork in the road. Some seem receptive to the idea we advocated in part 1 – a new film series set in Nolan’s version of Gotham, telling the story of “Robin” John Blake’s journey as Gotham’s new Batman (or Nightwing as a compromise ... but that’s a discussion for another day).

Most others, however, seem to prefer to dismiss the closure to the Bruce Wayne story Nolan’s Batman trilogy provided (poor, poor Alfred) and reboot, with Bruce looped back into service as Gotham’s protector in perpetuity, in new feature-length adventures that mostly ignores why Batman is Batman.

Or in other words – a movie with Batman instead of aboutBatman. More on that in a bit.

Now that’s not to say there’s anything wrong with stories that feature Batman as the central character as opposed to being about Batman. Batman inhabits a vast, rich world built over decades featuring dozens of worthwhile supporting characters and antagonists, with enough familiar toys and trappings to literally fill encyclopedias. His origin is a part of our pop culture lexicon and certainly people can bring that knowledge to any story featuring the character.

But we also have literally thousands of stories just like those in comic book form, and hundreds more from various animated series, a live-action TV show, multiple video games, and even a few feature films.

The question is, can Warner Bros. center a new tent-pole movie franchise expected to generate over a billion dollars an installment worldwide around an episodic story approach?

They could in theory. James Bond – a comp often cited by ‘Bruce Wayne is Batman’ advocates as the model Warners should follow – has followed that formula to varied success since the 60s. The problem, however (and no offense, 007 fans), is James Bond has never really been a flesh and blood character. He has little by the way of “origin” other than a seeming unwavering dedication to Queen and Country. The franchise has always been about girls and guns, villains du jour and their evil plots.

To Batman fans, we say, be careful what you wish for. Isn’t Batman more than a cowl and a car ... much more than just a foil to Clayface and Killer Croc?

How can one champion a big-screen Batman story without his origin? Batman is nothing if not all about his origin. More than “being” Bruce Wayne, Batman is in his essence a man driven by his parent’s death by the hands of criminals. Without that element central to any story, he’s just a guy in crazy costume, regardless of name.

Removed from his origin he’d no more be the focus of a story any more than the detectives and prosecutors of your various Law & Order are to theirs. What Nolan understood is the protagonist must enter and exit a story fundamentally affected and changed by its events. His Batman story featured a beginning, middle and end (like allgood stories should) for Bruce Wayne.

Batman is too great and valuable a fictional figure to be bound by dogma and sentenced to meander through countless (and weightless) episodic “adventures." At least the feature film version of him is; where the stakes are bigger, audience expectations are different and a pay-off is required.

What this all means is Warner Bros. has at their fingertips a means to continue to tell true stories about Batman ... about a tortured soul driven to fight the forces that took away his life... and the events that lead him to his ultimate damnation or salvation. Wholly new and unique stories that would be 100% Batman, that don’t simply remix Nolan’s epic or the countless versions of the familiar story we’ve all heard a thousand & one times before, or ignore those stories and come off as somehow smaller and lesser for it.

So the question is this: is Batman really best realized in a feature film as a familiar figure whose every reason for being can and should be left unspoken, and whose own fans never want to see changed? Or is the Batman all about that moment that drives his purpose and his journey to overcome the forces that control his life?

So Bruce Wayne or Robin Blake?

We can revisit Bruce's story again and again at any time, in countless forms. We already know the ending of his story, and/or cherish his lack of one.

The story we don’t know, however, is Blake’s. We don’t know where it goes, who it involves, or how it ends.

And isn’t that really the point of a story..?


Future of the Batman Franchise: Robin or Reboot?

From Newsarama.com:

Christopher Nolan left Warner Bros. with a bit of a conundrum, didn’t he?

If you’ve seen The Dark Knight Rises you of course know we’re referring to the final sequence/final frame of the film, in which Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character “Robin” John Blake – a sort of amalgam of Dick Grayson, Tim Drake and even Jason Todd – is given the keys to the Batcave and ‘rises’ up to meet his destiny to become Gotham City’s new Batman in the wake of Alfred getting his lifelong wish – Bruce Wayne hanging up the cowl and returning to the world of the living.

The conundrum of course is how to continue the too-profitable-to-warehouse-for-long, billions-dollar franchise. Nolan has left Warners with two options as we see it:

1.) Try to start over – to reboot – with a new Bruce Wayne story and new continuity, set in a new vision of Gotham City with all-new new actors, new production design, etc...

2.) Continue – albeit without Nolan behind the camera – the Batman franchise in his established Gotham City and continuity, and sail the uncharted IP waters of telling a Batman story on the big screen without Bruce Wayne.

In other words, the 'Robin' option.

Here’s a preview of where we’re going with this – we’re strongly advocating the latter.

Let’s start with the problems with rebooting Batman.

Simply put, Nolan’s Batman Trilogy is too damned good.

Now reboots have become something of a trend for comic book films, but in their brief history they’ve also proven to be something of a necessary compromise. Most reboots – like the recent X-Men: First Class and Amazing Spider-Man – almost by rule show box office attrition compared to their franchise predecessors – and the studios hope audiences will regain trust in the franchise over time and via different mediums. This is the formula concocted by Nolan himself with Batman Begins, which was a modest box office success that exploded during its home video life and built the franchise back up leading into the monster hit The Dark Knight.

So could another Bat-director pull off Nolan’s own trick a second time? The challenge with that proposition is two-fold.

For one, a second reboot would be unprecedented. Rebooting a comic book property has some historical framework to try to emulate. Turning the trick twice is more of an unknown.

Secondly, nearly all reboots occur after major franchise missteps. Batman and Robin, X3: Last Stand, and Spider-Man 3 – how do we put this...

...they all sucked.

And while Rises has its share of critics, it isn’t nearly the clunker-to-flat-out-disaster that helped necessitate those previous reboots.

This is not nearly the case with Rises, regarded by most as an imperfect but worthy conclusion to one of film’s greatest trilogies and a modern masterpiece. Woe is the director-writers charged with trying to live up to inevitable comparisons as well as asked to compromise one of the great happy endings of genre film.

As mentioned in our review of Rises, Nolan’s ‘Batrilogy’ has evolved beyond its source material. It is not long a comic book adaptation. It’s more than that. It tells the definitive Bruce Wayne-Batman story, a story no one – not even Frank Miller – has ever really told in comic books.

As comics readers we’re all accustomed to the persistent stasis of our heroes. We accept that Bruce Wayne will always and forever be tormented by the death of his parents, and despite how many decades pass and stories are told, he’ll never really rise out of thatparticular pit.

But to your less comics-indoctrinated moviegoers, an immediate new Batman film series ignoring Nolan’s poignant ending, looping Bruce Wayne back into the endless cycle Nolan spent three definitive films exorcising him out of would run the risk of feeling hollow, tragic, and recycled. Ignoring Alfred and Bruce’s final moment too soon would almost inevitably feel smaller and less relevant in comparison.

Frankly, it would be sad.

The good news for Warner Bros., however, is Nolan left them with another option. One with considerable risk, but vast upside. To trust in audiences to consider a ‘new’ Batman story, rather than assume they’ll be turned off by some dogmatic slavishness to Bruce Wayne as Batman.

Blake learning to become a new, different Batman; we want to see that movie. We want to see him learn to work with Gary Oldman’s Commissioner Gordon (the best Gordon we ever expect to see on film) and Morgan Freeman’s Lucuis Fox. We want to see him inhabit the fully-realized Gotham City Nolan created.

We want to see a Batman that perhaps relies more on his mind and detective skills (already signaled in Rises) than his two-fisted ninja abilities.

And I think Nolan, and perhaps even Warners, themselves, have already signaled that a continuation – rather than reboot – of the franchise with Gordon-Levitt in the suit is in consideration.

Recall the very final frame of the movie is in fact Blake rising in the cave, followed by the credit title “The Dark Knight Rises”. Now one can dismiss this metaphorical finale as simply sending the franchise off on a high note of triumph, but is that even what it really does?

Nolan as a writer/director does not waste a single word or frame. Nothing is throwaway, everything has meaning. To Nolan, becoming Batman is not a triumph; it’s not an endnote. In his Bat-world, Bruce Wayne becoming Batman was tragic – a necessary step that nearly killed him but eventually led him back to the world.

That’s the real ending of The Dark Knight Rises – that Blake’s journey is just beginning, that his story is yet to be told.

So Robin or reboot? Neither is the perfect solution, but its likely Warner Bros. is happy to be faced with the dilemma Nolan created through his remarkable achievement. Perhaps the safe, or maybe easier choice is reboot. To assume moviegoers just want to see a new half-turn on the familiar dynamic. But then they already did something they’ve never done before – they let Bruce Wayne ride happily off into the sunset.

We say, let’s let Bruce enjoy his much-deserved holiday for a few years and lets take a chance on something different.

Rise up. Robin. We, and we suspect millions more, got your back.


Should Wonder Woman and Cyborg Become Best Friends?

Superman and Batman are best friends. In Justice League issue 9 written by Geoff Johns, they're such close friends that Batman just calls Superman to hang out on a mission. And their friendship has even produced a long-running Superman/Batman series.

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Green Lantern and Flash are best friends too. They get along better than anyone else on the Justice League, and they seem to team up together very often.

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So I think it wold be cool if Wonder Woman and Cyborg became best friends. They could hang out, share experiences, and team up. Maybe they could even be co-workers if they both work for A.R.G.U.S. Cyborg could work for the Red Room while Wonder Woman works for the Black Room or the Circus.

Plus, they have a pretty cool dichotomy. Superman and Batman are Light and Darkness. Green Lantern and Flash are Space and Time. Wonder Woman and Cyborg would be Antiquity and Modernity. And all 3 pairs have an Outer Space Hero/Earth Hero dichotomy. Now that's symmetry!

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What do you think?