By Patrick Gibbs
While anxiously awaiting the results of Robert Mueller’s investigation into the question of whether or not Ben Affleck will be starring in director Matt Reeves’ new take on the caped crusader, cleverly titled The Batman (who says Hollywood has run out of creativity?), we still have to read endless speculation every single day about who might play the role, most of which is rooted in very reliable rumors based upon intricate, powerfully reasoned deductions from people who put two and two together and come up with 22 (“Hey, you know who’s kind of a mammal? Kit Harrington!”)
Now, I like Reeves as a director. A lot, as a matter of fact. His Planet of the Apes films are, in my opinion, not only the best prequels ever made, but added together with Rupert Wyatt’s Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, I consider them to be one of the very best trilogies in movie history . . . along with Chris Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy, which is still a really tough act to follow. But if anyone can bring something new and interesting to the character at this point, it’s as likely to be Reeves as anybody out there. But a big part of me, the part that feels like DC will always struggle with the MCDLT of Batffleck (keep the hot side hot, the cool side cool, and make sure know one cares) thinks there’s a different way to go, to bring something old to the character of Bruce Wayne, and something new to Batman at the same time.
I speak of Batman Beyond. For those unfamiliar with the 1999 cartoon series, the basic premise is that an aged Bruce Wayne reluctantly decides that his time as Batman is over and shuts down the Batcave. We then move to 20 years later, in 2039 in “Neo-Gotham”, a futuristic megaloplis featuring staggering high rises and flying vehicles. Bruce is now an elderly man in his 70’s and a recluse living in bitter isolation in Wayne Manor, with no companion but his guard dog Ace. Through a series of events I won’t bother relating here (you can always go to Wikipedia if you really don’t know), Bruce eventually recruits 16 year old Tery McGinnis and trains him (ala Anthony Hopkins training Antonio Banderas) to take up the mantle and don a very technologiclaly advanced Batsuit. Now, the idea of bringing this version to big screen is nothing new: at one point, Remember the Titan‘s Boaz Yakin was attached to direct a version. But what I have in mind isn’t just any version of Batman Beyond. I want to see the future and the past meet.
Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman is still the movie that got this whole comic book mania we’re living in now going, and in case you haven’t noticed, nostaglia is even more of thing now than it used to be (mostly because the only good thing about now is remember that there was once a “then.”). Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Jurassic World, The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi . . . these movies all have two things in common: they make a ton of money, and internet trolls pay to see them over and over again just so they can bitch incessantly about how they got it all wrong. Why not give fans the chance to be loudly angry about Batman in a whole new way?
Michael Keaton is 67 years old. Compare these photos:
Are you going to look at these and tell me you can’t see Keaton as the grizzled, weary and cynical mentor version of Bruce Wayne? Of course you can. Between make-up and his considerable acting skills, he could age another ten to 15 years for the camera if he needed to do so. And even for those of us who actually liked Batman Forver (I cannot defend Batman & Robin, and would not dare try) there’s always been a feeling that Burton’s take on the Bat started off as the biggest, baddest ass (bad assest?) realization of comic books on the big screen and then just went away without the proper pomp and circumstance it deserved, given the place it holds in the pantheon of pop culture. A direct sequel to his films, taking place firmly in the world of Batman and Batman Returns, ignoring all subseqeunt versions, would be a nice thing to see. And now, imagine the visual marvel that is Burton’s Batman mixed with Blade Runner: 2049.
But wouldn’t it have to take place now, you ask? Not in a future with flying cars? Not really, I reply. Because Burton’s films certainly didn’t take place in the late ’80’s/early ’90’s any of us actually lived through. They were filled with retro forties styles, creating a time and place that was unique to the Burtonverse. Whose to say that 30 years from whatever unspecified time that was isn’t whatever unspecified time we want it to be?
As for the role of Terry McGinnis, the Teen Bat? How about a young Tim Burton:
Ok, that’s not actually a young Tim Burton. It’s Timothée Chalamet, the young actor who is currently appearing in every movie you have no interest in seeing because nothing in them explodes or flies , but he is really quite talented. He has both a young Burton and “Johnny Depp back when he was still alive” quality that feels more than right for this project.
I’d love to see these two fighting Jokerz, set to the stirring sounds of Danny Elman’s score (whatever else you thought about Justice League, if hearing that theme in a theater didn’t do anything for you, we’re no longer friends). I’m talking about a full scale, dark science fiction Batman movie, but one where he doesn’t have to share billing and Jesse Eisenberg isn’t even allowed to see it. And the beauty is that this doesn’t have to be in place of any other version: the Joaquin Phoenix Joker movie (which I believe is really Todd Phillips’ attempt to do his own Super 8, but saluting Scorsese instead of Speilberg) is not connected to any other cinematic DC properties, and this wouldn’t need to be, either (except for Keaton’ and Burton’s two previous films.).
The irony of the fact that while Matt Reeves made arguably the best Planet of the Apes film ever, Burton made easily the worst, is not lost on me. Maybe science fiction isn’t Burton’s forte, and it may well be that this movie is better suited to being made by a director who is content to play in Burton’s established world instead of reinventing it the way Burton himself might feel the need to (think Denis Villeneuve doing Ridley Scott, or Ryan Coogler’s take on Creed.). The presence of Burton is less important than the spirit of his first film. But it goes without saying that his blessing would be crucial to the project.
To be clear, this movie is not in development anywhere but in my head. But it should be. Make some noise if you agree.