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