Poll Position: The next Batman villain

The question this week is in honor of Heath Ledger's Golden Globes win, and is pretty straightforward:

n

{democracy:65}

As always, discussion after the jump.

The dedication of the current run of Batman films to plausible fantasy drives their success. They make every decision based on how believable it would be to have the subject in question appear in the real world; how would it most likely work, how would it look, how would it have come into being, etc. That dedication to reasonable believability has set this series apart from most other super-hero films, and in my opinion is the best reflection of the direction modern super-hero comics has taken. It's why a Heath Ledger was able to take the Joker role so far, to ask the question "What would such a person really be like" and not erupt in laughter because, come on, The Joker fighting a guy in tights.

With that context in mind, I'm going to look at some of the contenders for who the next Batman movie villain might be. I also invite you to submit your own suggestions for others to vote on because I'm hardly the authority on great Batman villains. I think once you get past The Joker, pretty much all bets are on.

  • Bane: Bane only works if he is the more complex character found in the comics, versus the sometimes mindless version the animated series took on him. You'd have to play up the drug angle, throw in government-sponsored efforts to craft super-soldiers, tone down the hyper-strength part a bit, and riff off the "corrupt politicians" sort of angle, I think. On the upside, you'd have the potential for good fight scenes. On the downside, you'd be running over some of the same ground already covered with the first movie.
  • Deadshot: I'd have to use Deadshot as an amoral gun-for-hire, possibly government-sponsored, for this to work. I think having him sponsored by a secret government anti-terrorism agency might be interesting, positing that they're trying to replace the freelance Caped Crusader with a public hero more easily controlled by the government. Or, you could go with the more traditional role of him trying to take over the underworld while in public being a hero, but The Joker already took the first part of that in the last movie.
  • Killer Croc: Croc could be used as an avenue to attack drug companies or to advance an environmental activism sort of angle, but you'd have to do something similar to The Joker, where the character isn't actually a croc-cross-breed but rather someone with an obscure medical condition, or tattoos to make him look croc-like, etc. Otherwise, half-reptile strongman won't fly in this universe.
  • Lex Luthor: This would appeal to the suits, I think, as a potential crossover with the Superman franchise, like Marvel's trying to do with the Avengers post-credit cameos by Nick Fury. But they'd have to come up with a better Luthor than Kevin Spacey. And a better Superman than we got in "Superman Returns" (the character conception, not so much the actor, who I thought was fine). You're going with the "Greedy capitalist pig" angle on this kind of choice, which given the current economic climate might not be a bad idea.
  • Penguin: They tried going realistic with the Penguin with Danny Devito and, frankly, it sucked. I veto this one with extreme prejudice.
  • Poison Ivy: Again you'd have to go with the environmental angle on this, maybe playing off of global warming. Or you could continue the terrorism angle of Dark Knight by making her an eco-terrorist. I don't know, female villains have been hard to pull off successfully, so this would be a challenge. Definitely keep Uma Thurman far, far away.
  • The Riddler: I like the idea of an adversary who would attempt to match Batman in intelligence and deviousness. I thought some of the best parts of Dark Knight dealt with The Joker's cleverness and his ability to out-think Batman, and The Riddler might work for that. Plus you don't have super-powers to account for, just a smart guy with a bent for crime and proving he's smarter than everyone else. On the downside, The Riddler isn't very threatening or menacing.
  • Solomon Grundy: Similar to Killer Croc, but with potential Superman tie-ins. Hard to pull off in the "plausible fantasy" realm, though.
  • Two-Face: The obvious choice, given the end of the last movie. Sort of a "been there, done that" feeling to it, though.

I think before you could make a choice, you'd have to think about what the underlying dynamic of the next movie will be. If "Batman Begins" was about fear, "Dark Knight" was about terrorism. Similar concepts at some level, but very different once you get into them. Part of what made "Dark Knight" work in my opinion was that it reflected the times in which it was made, with the threat of terrorism hanging over the world and questions about the use of force, the role of the rule of law, all the stuff you've debated with your geek friends ad nauseum.

So given that in the intervening years the economy has tanked so badly, I have to think something along the lines of "Greed" would work. And with that, I'd probably go with someone like Luthor, another very rich, very successful entrepreneur, head of a large corporation, who is trying to compete with Batman and Bruce Wayne at the same time, on the financial end of things as well as on the streets in terms of crime. I can't think of a "Kingpin" sort of character in the DC Universe, but that's what would be called for in my opinion.

Let me know what you think, and if you have a better suggestion, add it to the list and explain your reasoning in the comments!

30 Responses to Poll Position: The next Batman villain

  1. For your consideration I persent Black Mask! … http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Mask_(comics)

    Insane, Rich, and personal Grudge against Wayne, Kind of a Combination of the first two movies villian but adds a touch of a Lex Luther type character into the mix

  2. I added Hush. The Nolan movies delve into Batman’s past and psychology, so it might be interesting to explore the tragedy of a boy losing his parents from the opposite angle – name, one that wanted it to happen. He’s also a fairly realistic villain, so he’d fit nicely into the gritty universe.

    Plus, Hush himself needs more of a strong identity in the comics, because his presence is vastly outweighed by his actions. I mean, this is the guy who stole Catwoman’s heart (literally) and dodged capture more times than Gotham rogues but but comic fans can rattle off a dozen gimmick villains before thinking about him. It’s time end the silence with Hush.

    It’d really work if they call in Chuck Palaniuk to write his dialogue. He could go into graphic descriptions of his operations and the sick medical stuff he does to victims while espousing nihilistic philosophy. The counterbalance to Batman’s driven morality would make the movie outright epic.

  3. I voted The Riddler and I have a vision of him as a Jigsaw like figure. A psychotic genius who enjoys playing games.

    My guess is that it will be Two-Faced though because of The Dark Knight. If you recall early on when Batman held the mobster two or three stories up he said “If you want to scare someone you have to do better then this. A fall from this height wouldn’t kill me” and Batman is like “I’m counting on it”. Well when they fell out of the building they weren’t much higher, if any, then 3 stories.

  4. for some reason I couldn’t seem to add it to the poll, but I would say Black Mask would be a good fit for the next movie

  5. The Penguin as jaunty mobster (rather than maladjusted freak) could work just fine. He is practically the embodiment of greed and ambition without restraint, after all. And after the Dark Knight, there’s rather a large void to be filled in the mob community. He has minions (and since he’s not a psycho who kills his own minions left and right, people aren’t left wondering how he still *has* minions, or why anybody ever signed on in the first place) for Batman to fight while he’s figuring out who’s behind everything. And, let’s face it, he’s so ridiculous that Batman could, at first, seriously underestimate him.

  6. Another interesting Choice to consider with the power vacuum in Gothem’s Mob scene would be the Ventriloquist and his Puppet Mr. Scarface.

  7. I’m with Kaldath on the Ventriloquist. I’d rather not see a return of any of the 90’s movies’ villians. Unless they make the Ventriloquist and Scareface dark and gritty, it’ll probably come off as comical, which is definetly a downside.

    Clayface could be good if they don’t make him a big hulking monster, just keep him the way he was before becoming Clayface–just a man with a chemical that turns his face into silly putty.(if his origin in the animated serious is the same as the comic book version).

  8. I agree with DJ about the Riddler, he most likely would be like Jigsaw and set up all kinds of less-violent-saw-like traps. I can see Johnny Depp playing him too, he would be perfect.

  9. Grizz ,I can see it to, he can somethng like “I’m sorry Batman, I hate killing, I really do…but I’m not killing you, you will, if you don’t make it out in time…oh, you have 120…119…118…117…Tick Tock Batman….”

  10. I voted for Harley Quinn, because even without The Joker, she’s a threat. Plus, you’d have a villain who’s as fit and agile as Batman, not to mention as psychotic as her boyfriend. As for casting, I’d go for either Ellen Page or Summer Glau.

  11. Ummm. Two face is dead.

  12. I like the idea of a more cerebral battle with Riddler. Careful planning, a trap-filled lair, and ‘wonderful toys’ lets him keep Batman out of range. I want to see death-traps! A thug-type enemy could be brought in as muscle, especially as they’ve been going with paired villains in the series. Someone who wants to test themselves against Batman offers to help the Riddler – maybe even help Bats out of a trap so they can fight. Damn, now I want Lady Shiva to be in there as well.

  13. I agree with the idea for Black Mask, that would be interesting. However I kind of feel like they have done the mob angle enough already. I feel like the next movie should focus on a different avenue. The next villain will more than likely be tied closely with the theme of the movie like the first two (fear, terrorism). Personally I wouldn’t mind seeing the Scarecrow be given a larger role and have him then team-up with another up and comming villain.

  14. Jimmy-We are TOLD Two Face is dead but it is very possible he isn’t. When Batman is dangling Maroni from the fire escape to try and get answer Maroni says “From one professional to another, if you’re trying to scare somebody, pick a better spot. From this height, the fall wouldn’t kill me”

    Two Face was about as high as they were when he fell so its possibly he is still alive.

  15. William A. Peterson

    Oh, it’s going to be Harvey Dent, no question!
    I HATE Black Mask, and ditto for The Ventriloquist, but that’s me…
    Clayface would be cool, but I think people would just see him as a T1000 (from Terminator) rip-off…
    Bane might be good, but his back story is sort of convoluted, and Movies really don’t like to do hours of expository dialogue!
    Luthor is too heavily associated with the big, red S, though you could have him make a few moves in the background, then do a “World’s Finest” movie…
    I’d go with Poison Ivy, if you could get the right actress.

  16. I added and voted for Catwoman, and here’s why:

    Batman has always been defined best by his opponents, and he has the best Rogues’ Gallery of any hero in comics. The current series has successfully redefined the archetypal villains of the Batman mythos: Ra’s Al-Ghul, The Scarecrow, Joker, and Two-Face. I think it stands to reason that those archetypes must continue to be reinvented to fit into a modern interpretation of Batman. The Penguin would be a logical choice, but the character would be much more of a challenge to not make into a buffoon. The other strike against poor Oswald Cobblepot is that he’s in essence just another face of organized crime, and we’ve seen someone already try to take over Gotham’s underworld in Ledger’s Joker.

    Catwoman is the other major villain in the Bat-verse, and she would be a different challenge than Batman has seen in the current cinematic canon. She’s not trying to take over the underworld. She doesn’t have grand designs to destroy Gotham. She just wants to steal things and sell them, and she’s very, very good at it. I imagine a character who is Batman’s equal in martial arts ability, a better gymnast/acrobat, and very intelligent. It becomes a (forgive me) cat-and-mouse movie, where Batman keeps failing to bring down the Catwoman, mixed in with the sexual tension that has always been between the two characters.

    My $.02, anyway. 🙂

  17. Catwoman would be great if she was done like you said as a simple thief who got the nickname Catwoman from her glass cutting claws that she wears and uses in fighting. No real cat costume needed just leather with a mask deal. Change her backstory and make her an ex-gymnast who turns to steal after being disqualified from the Olympics. Make her character very playful with Batman after he trys to stop her and fails. Give her some “gadgtes” (smoke bombs is my thought). It would make her a good anti-batman.

  18. OH! Idea. Have team of circus performers as the backstory for Catwoman (gymnastics), Bane( worlds strongest man) and Killer Croc (tattoos so and body mods to looks like a human croc.) that also commit crimes as a group. This would also open up a chance to introduce Robin.

  19. i have to go with hush here , to me he is as hardcore and insane as you could possibly get without milking the joker card that proved to be a cash cow in the dark knight ,with hush you have amazing potential to wreak havoc as well as include the death of jason todd which is a brilliant way to “include” robin & still restrict him from actually making appearences and “watering-down” our current dark & hard boiled batman

  20. I can see a good story for Hush. He torments Batman/Bruce after figuring out his true identity. It would also be a good way to bring Two-Face/Harvey Dent back to life.

  21. Ian: Great points about Catwoman. I wish I’d read that before voting. I wasn’t fond of the last Catwoman film–and you’d think anything with Halle Berry in a catsuit would be, at the very least, tolerable. But if Catwoman was presented the way you’re describing, it would be incredible.

    Mock me if you will, but I think Spacey could be a not-terrible Luthor. Superman Returns didn’t suffer because of Spacey’s casting; it suffered because of horrible, horrible writing. Spacey’s shown that he’s capable of charismatic and amoral. Given a decent script,I’d give him a shot at showing us he can do sophisticated too.

  22. “OH! Idea. Have team of circus performers as the backstory for Catwoman (gymnastics), Bane( worlds strongest man) and Killer Croc (tattoos so and body mods to looks like a human croc.) that also commit crimes as a group. This would also open up a chance to introduce Robin.”

    I read somewhere that Christian Bale has flatly refused to do a Batman movie that has a Robin. So, if that’s true, I’m against anything that could introduce Robin.

  23. I’m trying to add “Man-Bat” bit it won’t take. What gives?

  24. I voted for Harley Quinn. D I heard rumors about possibly Sarah Michelle Gellar, I think that was fan talk though.

    There’s something very interesting about her, and I would think she has to be crazy, but smart. A lot of female villains in movies always seem to have a male counterpoint coercing them or something along those lines. I just find it interesting, though she would probably be too much like the joker so that’s out. Catwoman could also be thrown in with her. I can’t remember a lot of movies where there are two women as villans against a male hero. Then you throw in a Bane, or Puppet master (who by the way Kaldath is also a very nice choice, I think he could be one that could easily fit into the reality of the Batmanverse, as well as handle the mob angle, and really try to outhink Batman.)

    Overall I just want to see characters I haven’t seen before, something new.

    and on a side note haz I agree with the Superman thing, I think the writing stunk and truth be told, I’m hearing they want to take Superman dark, but this is just my opinion I thought the movie was already dark. The colors the atmosphere, the superman suit, everything was just so bland when I was hoping for a more lighter atmosphere with possibly a dark storyline.

    I never read comicbooks, but when I was younger, I had a collection of trading cards like basketball and other sports and a lot from the comic book universe, which is where a lot of what I know about comicbook characters come from. I don’t know if that disqualifies me from being allowed to post, but I went for it.

  25. The version of Clayface that I had previously posted, seems like somebody that would be hired to do “jobs.” Someone like the Mad Hatter could hire him or hire someone else(whatever) to steal whatever he needs to work on his mind control expirements.

  26. The way I see them introducing Robin is like…the three circus criminals kill his parents and he tries to kill them. Batman intervenes by throwing a batarang and hitting the gun before it shoots. The criminals escape and Batman gives the kid a lecture on how killing someone is never good and blah blah blah and then leaves. The camera then pans out showing the kid (whos like 14-15)wearing a red shirt with a bird on it watching Batman for a second before bending down and picking up the batarang. Just a small cameo.

  27. The way I see them introducing Robin is like…the three circus criminals kill his parents and he tries to kill them. Batman intervenes by throwing a batarang and hitting the gun before it shoots. The criminals escape and Batman gives the kid a lecture on how killing someone is never good and blah blah blah and then leaves. The camera then pans out showing the kid (whos like 14-15)wearing a red shirt with a bird on it watching Batman for a second before bending down and picking up the batarang.

  28. I like the Penguin. With the right treatment he could be a semi legit modern criminal businessman who gets into the mob world to make up recent losses. The key is to avoid the bird obsession and the trick umbrellas. I’d say have the “penguin” name be a tabloid slur due to an old style formal dress at his court appearances. He doesn’t need to be physically formidable and could employ a second tier bat villain for muscle. And no trick umbrellas until the absolute very end, when it turns out to have a one shot zip gun built in. That way, he could have a semi credible fight with a wounded Batman to end on.

  29. Agree with the Lex Luthor “capitalist pig” narrative line. He’s human, like Batman, and having two intellects go at it could be kind of cool. Of course, they better have lots of cool gadgets.

  30. i think that halle berry will make a good catwoman villan in world’s finest the movie,.. with crispin glover as the joker,.. in the movie,.. and with sarah michelle gellar as
    harley quinn,.. in the movie,.. and with aaron eckhart as two face,.. in the movie,.. and with tails miles prower/tailsko,.. in the movie,… please mr.nolan… she has to be in the movie,.. and with the arkham asylum inmates,..