I have made no secret of the fact that I am not a big fan of the direction Zack Snyder has taken the DCEU. I’m not keen on the tone of Man of Steel, I didn’t appreciate his vision of Batman or Superman in BvS and I’m not looking forward to Justice League. I find the tone too dark and the characters too hopeless. But I’m not suggesting everything that came before was perfect either. In fact, I had issues with The Dark Night Rises. These issues were largely mine because I had built a headcanon version of the movie that could never be…
After the Dark Knight, my mind went directly to the sequel. Nolan’s sequel to Batman Begins may be the best superhero film ever made. It also happens to be very dark, lacking any sense of hope and takes the characters extremely seriously, but somehow Nolan made it work. The film was released in 2008 as Marvel was just booting up the MCU and getting ready to teach the world how to manage comic book IP. But, when Dark Knight swooped into theatres it did so beneath a huge shadow. The shadow was cast by the loss of Heath Ledger who breathed life into The Joker in a way that made the character a poison chalice for anyone who dares try to fill Heath’s shoes.
The way the Dark Knight ended, and indeed, the way it closed the book on the Joker felt like the series had more to say. As if the Joker’s return was inevitable, and so my imagination run away with me and ultimately, I created a “headcanon” movie that The Dark Rises, in some small way, to me alone, failed to surpass. I wanted to share that with you today.
My idea for a Dark Knight sequel would require that Christopher Nolan recast the Joker with another actor. Nolan stated pretty clearly as The Dark Knight Rises entered production that this simply wasn’t going to happen. So my vision for a sequel featuring the character started to fade almost immediately, even as my first choice to replace Heath, Joesph Gordon Levitt was cast in the film. Here is what I wanted to see.
In my Batman movie, we would have seen a slightly different version of the Joker. One incarcerated in Arkham. A Joker with no makeup, no brightly coloured hair and no purple suit. This Joker, I envisioned would have sported a close-cropped haircut, clearly visible scars and a subdued persona. This a Joker who is being kept level by a prescribed list of narcotics. Courtesy of his psychiatrist, Dr Quinn of course. In my mind Joker belongs behind glass, rather than bars, the way we meet Hannibal Lector in Silence of the Lambs, and that wouldn’t be the only parallel to Jonathan Demme’s movie.
Gotham would have fallen prey to a terrorist of sorts. A warped individual who is completely obsessed with The Batman. A fanboy who is setting bombs in Gotham designed to test The Batman. To see if the man the press are calling a vigilante is actually hero or villain. To test his prey, the bomber is leaving a series of test, clues that Batman needs to follow in order to foil his dastardly plans. You might call them riddles…
One thing I wanted to see was the introduction of The Riddler. In my story, the Riddler was a simple Gothamite who had grown increasingly more obsessed with Batman and intrigued by the battle of wits between the Joker and The Bat. This is when The Riddler reaches out to The Joker in Arkham. Dr Quinn passes correspondence between the two men, much like The Tooth Fairy in Silence, giving The Joker an opportunity to strike out at Gotham from within his cell in Arkham.
With Batman being the worlds greatest detective (not something we have seen a great deal of in Batman movies so far) it won’t take long before he realises that The Joker is pulling The Riddler’s strings and he enters Arkham with Jim Gordon, in disguise as Matches Malone, to question The Joker and game is on.
This would have been a way to tell a Batman story that shares some of the themes in Se7en. The Riddler, with the help of The Joker, would put Batman in some impossible positions and ultimately tell a zero-sum tale that costs Bruce Wayne dearly.
Ultimately The Dark Knight Rises wrapped up the Nolan Batman trilogy in a spectacular way. Bane was fantastic, Catwoman was a wonderful, morally grey character, and Gotham, perhaps Bruce Wayne’s greatest weakness, was indeed at the centre of the story. But I think I would have preferred a story that utilised The Joker, introduced The Riddler and set up further tales, even if they were not told by Nolan.
My biggest hope for the end of this film that never stood a chance of being made would riff on the Joker playing card sting from Begins and potentially set up the DCEU. In my imaginary movie, just after the credits, we see Batman, crouched on the edge of a tall building in Gotham. Silently, behind him, Brandon Routh’s Superman flutters down into the frame. Batman’s head turns slightly acknowledging his arrival and Superman has one line, “Bruce, I need your help.”
Thank you for reading,