With Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice finally out in theatres, audiences are split on the movie and critics, well… the critics almost universally hate it. There’s no denying that the film, which contains two of the world’s most iconic superheroes, is highly flawed. From the movie’s take on Lex Luthor to the jarring and sporadic editing, the scriptwriters and director have made some interesting and strange decisions. It’s not all doom and gloom though, as there is one aspect of the film that mostly everybody agrees is easily the best part: Ben Affleck’s portrayal of a more rugged and brutal Batman.
This Dark Knight is different from all the other film adaptations. He’s a veteran who has been fighting crime for over 20 years when the movie takes place. He has (supposedly) already faced most of his infamous rogues gallery, and has lived long enough to see himself become a vigilante bordering on the line of being just another criminal. In part due to this portrayal of Batman, people are excited more than ever for what the future holds for everybody’s favourite caped crusader, despite acknowledging Batman v Superman’s inexcusable issues.
So what would a solo Batfleck movie look like? What should it be about? The creative minds behind the rumoured upcoming project have a wealth of story options to pick from, and there’s potential to actually deliver an emotional and original story about a hero we’ve already seen eight times on the silver screen. This Batman is hurt and is slowly losing his moral values and mind. But why? What made him this way?
This is where a classic graphic novel storyline, 1988’s A Death In The Family, comes into play. For the uninitiated, A Death In The Family is about the Joker capturing the second robin, Jason Todd, torturing him and, presumably, ending both his life and his mother’s. Batman arrives too late to save his sidekick, which leaves him in a state of shock. He feels guilty and responsible for Robin’s death, and refuses the help of Nightwing while vowing to never take on another sidekick again.
This storyline is subtly hinted at in Batman v Superman. In the movie, and in its first trailer, Bruce Wayne can be seen staring at a decaying Robin suit with green words spray painted all over it, reading something along the lines of “Haha, joke’s on you!” Not only is A Death In The Family arguably one of Batman’s best and most shocking storylines, it fits especially well in this new cinematic universe Warner Bros. is attempting to build. By adapting this story, not only do we better understand Batman’s violent actions in Batman v Superman and why he’s in the state that he’s in, but we also get a different take on the Joker; a villain that’s willing to murder heroes, and may have already done so successfully.
It’ll help differentiate Jared Leto’s take on the villain from previous incarnations, and creates a necessary distance between this new Joker and Heath Ledger’s magnificent, anarchist portrayal. We’ll also have a much richer history between Batman and his arch nemesis going forward with this prequel-of-sorts. The film could easily be the darkest yet for the hero, who has already received a pretty gruesome take on the character with The Dark Knight.
Another villain that can work, and has already been rumoured as well, is The Riddler. Zack Synder has said that he almost included both The Riddler and Joker in Batman v Superman, but decided to leave them out in order to focus on the titular superheroes. Making a film solely about Batman taking on The Riddler might not work. Despite being one of the hero's more eccentric and interesting villains, Mr. Nygma might not be capable of carrying an entire film all by himself. The only time we’ve seen the character on screen is in Batman Forever, where Jim Carrey decided to just play a crazier version of himself alongside Tommy Lee Jones’ hammed-up Two-Face.
However, making a film that features both The Riddler and Joker would work wonderfully, as both characters will continually test Batman’s mental and emotional strength and intelligence. Exactly how The Riddler might fit into a movie about A Death In The Family remains to be seen, but it’s possible to take some liberties with the story and slightly alter it to fit two villains. Fans have been crying out for a proper portrayal of The Riddler, especially since he’s the only major Batman villain without a great movie. Catwoman, Penguin, Two-Face, Joker, and Bane have all been properly adapted. Plus, the initial plans for the final Batman film in director Christopher Nolan’s trilogy was to have The Riddler be the main villain, with Heath Ledger’s Joker making an appearance. Those are the rumours, anyway.
There’s a rich history that’s constantly being hinted for the Dark Knight in Batman v Superman, and all of the ingredients are there to create something truly special for, arguably, the most popular superhero today.