Look, I hypothetically like the idea of Batman. You’ve seen the title. Over the past decade, Batman has become the patron saint of white male internet geekiness. That’s why I feel I have to jump on the defensive. I like Batman, I do. Just, he’s boring right now. Batman has stagnated since he was re-invigorated for the mass audience by Burton. The Batman of Keaton is only marginally different from the Batman of Affleck, or even the Batman of Bale. For twenty-nine years, Batman has remained a brooding, black-clad, boring bastion of a male power fantasy.
All of this wouldn’t aggravate me so much if the Internet didn’t valorise Batman to the level that being Batman is a justification for anything Batman does. The popular refrain of ‘Because I’m Batman’ quickly grew stale to my ears and yet people still trot it out. I don’t have enough fingers to count how often I’ve seen the theory ‘What if Batman is the crazy one and his villains are the doctors and nurses’. Congratulations genius, you’ve hit on a core aspect of Batman’s character that is only alluded to in the films. Batman is a deeply unstable man. In the films at least, his only attempt at thwarting crime is to beat up criminals. In the comics and other media, at least Bruce Wayne’s philanthropy is mentioned.
Now, there are parts of Batman’s character that are genuinely intriguing. Batman is ‘the World’s Greatest Detective’. A fact that is rarely mentioned except when he needs to defeat Superman. None of Batman’s stories is ever a detective story. All the detective is done by computers and off-screen, in order to rush him to the next action scene.
You know the thing I find most compelling about Batman? Batman has a metric fuckton of sidekicks. Five Robins, two or three Batgirls, countless Spoilers, Alfred and Oracle (so much as those last two can be called sidekicks). Bruce Wayne is the orphan that can’t stop adopting orphans. There are a few ideas that have crossed my mind as actual interesting Batman movies. I will pitch them below. They will take the parts of Batman mythos that are interesting and highlight them.
Batman: Hush – A killer has appeared on the scene, cutting up the faces of his victims. Clues lead to a new rogue on the scene. Hush. As the investigation intensifies, Hush is revealed to be Bruce Wayne’s childhood friend Tommy Elliot. Tommy grew to be a world-class surgeon and moonlighted as Hush. He did so to construct a skin mask that looks like Bruce Wayne. Tommy grew jealous of Bruce and plans to replace him.
This film would emphasise the investigation and detective angle of Batman. Also, it would explore an aspect of Bruce’s childhood that wasn’t his parent’s murder.
Robin Pentalogy – This would be a series of films that each focus on Batman’s various sidekicks. The first film would focus on Batman’s relationship with Nightwing as Nightwing outgrows his former mentor. The second film would focus on Batman’s failure to rescue and guide Jason Todd as the former Robin reveals himself as the Red Hood. The third film would focus on Batman’s fear of failure as he trains new Robin, Tim Drake. In the fourth film, Batman takes on his most inexperienced Robin yet, Stephanie Brown, and realises that perhaps Robin is a role that doesn’t need to exist. In the fifth film, Batman considers legacy as his son, Damian Wayne, becomes Robin.
These films could dive into why Batman feels he needs Robin.
Batman Inc – Bruce Wayne worries that people are starting to connect Wayne Corp and Batman. When Batman is revealed to be carrying a Wayne Corp prototype, Bruce must reveal the ‘truth’. Wayne Corp is bankrolling Batman as part of its effort to clean up the city, alongside its philanthropic efforts. Bruce establishes Batman Inc, a company that bankrolls the Batfamily. Each member of Batman’s team must consider how they feel about being bought-and-paid-for superheroes. Think Civil War-esque.
This film could really examine how far Bruce is willing to go to preserve his dual life.
Not everyone’s going to agree with me. Hopefully, I’ve made some compelling points and offered some alternatives. Batman is allowed to smile, he is allowed to crack jokes. Batman could contain multitudes but we keep returning to the same story where Batman travels between locations and hits people. That’s video game storytelling, and the DC films can do better.
Got thoughts? Comment below or via social media.