Batman 3 Dark Knight Sequel, Casting, Title, News and Rumors

Batman!Welcome back, kids! This post will serve as the authoritative source for all things related to the next Batman movie, so keep it bookmarked!  The Innernet’s been abuzz about some definitive news coming out of Hollywood about the final chapter in the Batman Begins Thrillogy Trilogy. Director Christopher Noland has let loose some facts to finally add to the dearth of info and quash some rumors that have circulated since 2008’s cash-swollen earner, “Batman Begins 2: The Dark Night.” Warner Brothers must have put the pressure on him after he spent two years crafting the commercial and artistic flop that was this past summer’s “Inception.” So when the boss starts hounding you, you get to work!

Let’s start by getting to the meat of what we do know.

OUT! Joseph Gordon-Levitt so far has not been cast as the Riddler, and Noland has rejected all rumors about the Riddler showing up in the movie. But I’m still holding onto hope that he’s handing out red herrings and we’ll get an appearance by a more cerebral and reserved Riddler, rather than the cartoonish version Jim Carrey brilliantly portrayed in the Burton/Schumacher Fourpeat Quadranglogy. Now I’m just spitballing here… as a nod to that series, Riddler could have a connection to Two-Face, like they were brought together in a Big Brothers program years ago and Harvey Dent mentored a young Edward Nigma.

Tom Hardy and Joseph Godron-Levitt

Badass. Now put them both in a Batman movie!

IN! Tom Hardy, who made a name for himself in 2002’s “Star Trek: Nemesis,” has been cast in an unnamed but pivotal role. Rampant nerd speculation favors him to be playing one of three different roles: Mister Freeze, Mad Hatter, or Joe Chill. The underdog favorite, of course, is Nightwing. Some have said he could play Alfred’s son OR Alfred from 40 years ago, but I don’t know if Noland is ready to introduce time travel into the series. I figure the time-traveling Pennyworth angle is bunk, because Noland probably wants to get away from the sci-fi aspect, like in the second film with Joker’s overuse of teleportation.

MAYBE! Speaking of… there has been no talk of the Joker whatsoever, and Noland has stated the third film will feature a new villain taking center stage. Seeing as Scarecrow showed up in the first act of The Dark Night, though, might we see a Heath Ledger cameo in the third movie? The director has been mum on that so far, but let’s not waste too much time on it just in case he has a surprise in store for the fans. Bringing the Joker back would be nothing short of legendary.

RUMOR! Gene Hackman returns as Lex Luthor! Well, “returns” might be a stretch, since he was never in a Batman movie, but the idea that Noland could shoehorn his epic Batman series into the same universe as the Richard Donner Superman films is three parts mind-blowing, two parts mega-ballsy, and one part extra-brilliant. Hackman’s camp has so-far denied any committed involvement in the franchise, but actors have to play coy until they actually sign the contracts. I just don’t think there is a better way to reintroduce audiences to Lex Luthor than by having him set up shop in Gotham in the next Batman movie, played by the man who redefined the character for the ages!

Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor with Christian Bale as Batman

If only!

TITLE SPECULATION! I guess we can rule out the long-running favorite title, “Batman Begins 3: Trial of the Riddler,” for obvious reasons. I still think Christian Bale’s Batman on the Prosecution team trying to put Riddler behind bars would be epic, because it would be a battle of wits never before seen on film. Imagine the Riddler going all In Propria Persona up against the Batman while Gotham’s protector growls that in stopping Riddler from destroying the city’s financial infrastructure, breaking his collar bone was de minimis. Anything’s possible… so why can’t a Batman movie be a courtroom drama? And you know the judge would have to quiet him every time a witness swore the oath. “Swear to mmmmeee!!!!”

The other popular title that’s been preferred by 2 out of 5 geeks is, “Batman Begins 3: Nightfall,” where the story could feature Bane (Tom Hardy??) breaking the back of Gotham’s hero, only to see Azrael (Tom Hardy in a dual role??) step in an take over the mantle of Batman, just as we saw in the comics in the early 1990s. To do this story right, Christian Bale would probably only be featured in the film for maybe 20-30 minutes total, maybe just bookending the movie in the first and third act. The franchise is getting kind of old and audiences are growing tired of Bale’s Batman, anyway, so using Azrael would allow for the franchise to continue with a fresh, new Batman in place. That way, Bale and Noland don’t have to worry about making more installments together. Don’t tell anyone, but I probably wouldn’t mind if Commissioner Gordon was transferred to Coast City or somewhere in between the second and third movie so we can move on from that character, too.

Other titles that have made the rounds but Noland and Warner Brothers won’t comment on is “Batman Begins 3: Enter Clayface,” “Ventriloquist Rising,” and “Revenge of Killer Croc.”

Maggie Gyllenhaal

T-.5 seconds to awesome

OTHER THOUGHTS! “Batman Begins 2: The Dark Night” was a pretty bland Batman movie, but it did have some great scenes like the Lower Wacker Drive chase and the explosion of Maggie Gyllenhaal. Audiences came in droves and plunked down big money to watch Gyllenhaal get obliterated in IMAX, so a third movie was inevitable. But how does any filmmaker top the demolition of the old Brach’s Candy factory (A U.S. landmark if there ever was one, which also doubled for Gotham General Hospital), Gyllenhaal’s funeral pyre, and a teleporting psychopath in white facepaint? The Batman rogue’s gallery is full of fun and interesting villains, like the Penguin, Poison Ivy, and Calendar Man, plus great supporting characters like Robin, Batgirl and Catwoman. It has to be incredibly difficult for an auteur like Christopher Noland to decide which ones to include on his probable final entry in the franchise. Does he bring in Talia Al Ghul and pick up where the first movie left off, or does decide to move production to Rome and again pretend the exterior of Gotham City is the same as the other movies? Will he keep the story closely related to the Batman mythos, or does he play ball with Warner Brothers and let Ryan Reynolds make a cameo to bridge the release of “Green Lantern 2: Green Lantern Lives,” the purported sequel to next summer’s inevitable smash hit, “The Green Lantern?”

More news is certainly going to be coming down the pipe in the next few months, so stay tuned for all the latest Batman talk while we sort through the news and rumors! Don’t forget to post your theories and wish-lists for the next film. And be sure to check out my original review of BB2: The Dark Night when you get a chance. Thanks for stopping by!

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Review: The Dark Knight

Yesterday I put together a particularly scathing review of Batman Begins 2: The Dark Night, but I thought I was maybe a bit too harsh, so I waited to publish it. After reflecting further, I realized the film had some strengths. I thought it deserved a second chance, so I went to see it again last night. The weekend hype was over, the media has moved on to putting out countless stories about that other summer blockbuster coming up, Swing Vote, and now I could settle in and just be a regular filmgoer and maybe relax into it a little bit. And I have to admit, my view of BB2: The Dark Night has changed quite a bit. I now believe it is, in fact, one of the worst Batman movies ever made. And while the crime story was compelling, it was basically the characters and the acting that sunk this film.

Honestly, where do I even begin? First of all, the protagonist of our story, Batman, is this brooding, lonely hero(?), but director Christopher Noland did not even bother to tell the audience why. No details of his origin can be found in this film, eschewing the standards of all previous Batman movies since Tim Burton launched the franchise. Not one mention of his dead parents. No flashback of young Bruce Wayne watching his parents get shot. Not one scene with star Christian Bale looking directly into the camera and saying, “And that’s when I decided to become Batman.” I felt a little lost without these crucial scenes that I’m used to seeing.

The Dark Night"

Promotional still of Christian Bale as Batman in "Batman Begins 2: The Dark Night"

Noland decided that his lovelorn Wayne could either sit around in his fabulous penthouse apartment and be sad about his childhood sweetheart, Rachel Dawes (played by Maggie Gyllenhaal), dating the new District Attorney, or he could go out and be the gravelly-voiced Batman and solve crimes. As Wayne, Bale has playful interaction with Maggie Gyllenhaal and Aaron Eckhart while they wear fabulous outfits and eat expensive dinners. The scenes were barely saved only by the talent and charm of the actors, but what is this, a romantic comedy?

One thought about Gyllenhaal. Is anyone else missing Katie Holmes, here? Where does the indie star get off completely changing the character to be this tall, pasty red-head? She could have at least tried to use some of the standards set by Holmes from the last movie. I guess when you’re an indie actor, you can make choices that defy convention and buck the standards and everyone should just be happy she’s bringing her indie cred to a big blockbuster film.

Of course, no one can talk about Batman without mentioning his nemesis, the Joker, played beautifully by Aussie sensation, Heath Ledger. I think we should have seen more of the Joker, but Noland really dropped the ball here for more reasons than just that. We got three different versions of where the scars on his face come from! I know films do rewrites to scripts as the filming goes on, but holey shamoley, the continuity is way off. These glaring errors may not have been so bad if it was written like he was intentionally lying, but it’s clear that Noland went way overbudget and they couldn’t afford to do reshoots. Did they really think we wouldn’t notice? Plus, I was interested to learn more about Joker’s powers and where they came from. The Joker obviously has the power to teleport, because he shows up exactly where he needs to be absolutely out of nowhere in ten different freaking scenes. Noland notoriously used practical effects where CG effects would have been completely fine (the truck flip scene, Gyllenhaal sliding down a building, etc). I guess a glowing ball of energy teleporting around town would have taken us out of the reality of it? If you say so, Noland.

Heath Ledger as Joker

Heath Ledger as Joker

Another word about casting. Heath Ledger really brought the darkness to the Joker, making him everything Jack Nicholson showed us the Joker should be from Tim Burton’s Batman. But he really pushed the envelope to give us the scariest nihilist to ever wreak havoc on the silver screen. He also had some of the funniest lines in the movie, even once referencing other projects in Ledger’s career, like when he played the little boy in Jerry MacGuire 15 years ago. I suppose I can give him a pass for not winking to the camera and really knocking the line, “You complete me,” out of the park, but only because the rest of his performance salvages this nightmare of a film. I really look forward to see what Ledger will do with the Joker in the rumored next film of the trilogy, Batman Begins 3: Trial of the Riddler.

Speaking of characters, just what happened to the ‘character’ of Gotham City? Apparently in one year (of movie time), the city dismantled its elevated train system, tore down the Wayne building in the middle of town, sank the Narrows neighborhood into the ocean, and put street cleaners on duty twenty four hours a day. Oh, and everyone lives and works in tall glass skyscrapers. I can understand modernizing Gotham (see Joel Shumacher’s brilliantly designed neon-kaleidoscopian Gotham from Batman & Robin, for example), but Gotham has never looked so bright and clean! It’s like I was visiting Chicago. Oh that’s right, I was. I’ve lived in Chicago for awhile now, and I truly don’t know how non-Chicago residents felt about this ‘new’ Gotham, but for someone who recognized every exterior shot it was quite distracting. I was definitely taken out of the movie during every scene. What’s also interesting is that all the citizens of Gotham can fit onto one ferry boat, while all the prisoners of Gotham fit on another. They have just as many criminals locked up as they have citizens! Strike two for trying to be “realistic,” Noland.

I swore I would keep this review under 350 words, and I’ve already gone waay over that. I haven’t even mentioned Two-Face (Eckhart), Jim Gordon (played by Gary Oldman), and Lucious Fox (Morgan Freeman), but I’ll be brief. They all sucked.

I hope Christopher Noland can make some improvements with this mess he’s got himself into. I barely tolerated Batman Begins, but BB2:TDN is clearly way off the mark of what a good Batman movie should be. The third installment of the series should be interesting, to say the least. But I swear if Gotham City ‘resembles’ Los Angeles next time, I don’t care if they get Malkovich to play the Riddler, I’m walking the hell out of there.

Watchmen Trailer: First Look

I saw Batman Begins 2: The Dark Night over the weekend (Don’t worry, the review is forthcoming!) and the audience was treated to an interesting trailer. It seems that fans of the comic book movie genre will have an intriguing little movie to see next year. “The Watchman” hits theaters on March 6, 2009 (or 03.06.09. Oh, CLEVER use of multiples there). I thought I would offer my first impressions on the trailer for you, my loyal readers.

What is going on here?

What is going on here? Only in a comic book movie!

First, yes, this clearly looks like a comic book movie. There are nicely designed costumes, bright colors, hand-to-hand combat, fire and explosions, and funny looking set pieces, so you immediately know what you’re getting into. And even though that point is clear, it looks completely derivative. I’m there watching this trailer thinking, “Haven’t I see this before?” And it’s not that I’ve seen it in one movie, but just about every comic book movie that came before it.

We’ve got some guy in a cape and head gear who’s either a squirrel or an owl, clearly an *ahem* homage to Batman, who also happens to be cleaning up the Hollywood box office this summer. We also meet a guy wearing a sock over his head with ink stains on it. How would he be able to see in that crazy getup? Whether he’s naturally without sight or if the mask completely blocks out his vision, we certainly have our standard “blind superhero” here, based off of the archetype Daredevil, famously portrayed by Ben Affleck in 2003’s flawless Daredevil.

The Batman "Homage"

The Batman "Homage"

And we’ve got a hero who is, get this, basically naked, completely blue-skinned, and got his powers from some sort of radioactive accident. I guess I didn’t see that before in Ang Lee’s masterpiece Hulk from four years ago or The Incredible Shrinking Hulk, that came out in June and starred Ed Norton. Sure the Hulk is GREEN, so I guess it’s not a total rip-off. And sure, the blue guy can split himself into three, but then again we do have two Hulks running around. I’m looking forward to the rumored upcoming Hulk movie where Eric Bana’s Hulk does battle with Ed Norton’s Hulk and some other as-yet-unseen Hulk! But nice try with the blue Mr. Clean, Hollywood! We almost didn’t catch that!

Let’s talk about casting for a minute. Just who are these people? Not one Hanks or Pitt or Hathaway or Fanning in the bunch. And while I’m sure this cast of complete unknowns are fine actors in their own rights and they will handle their parts with grace and nuance, one big question remains. How do you sell a derivative comic book movie to the public, in WINTER, without a superstar headlining the cast? I guess the boys in marketing will have their work cut out for them!

I will make one note about one of the characters, who looks like he’s being played by Robert Downey Jr’s stunt double. It’s like they hired an actor that would resonate with folks because he resembles the biggest summer draw this year. Just take a look at this cigar-chomping ne’er-do-well, and compare him to Downey’s look on two recent projects, Iron Man (which will top out with around $316 million in U.S. grosses) and the upcoming Tropic Thunder (which will easily make somewhere around $100 million).

Interesting Coincidence!

Interesting Coincidence!

One, two, buckle my shoe. Ten, twenty, you’ve got Downey! Is it just a coincidence that Iron Man was the hottest comic book movie in recent memory AND that it came out only two short months ago? And now this new supposedly event comic book “film” has a guy that is basically Downey’s long lost twin brother? I think audiences will see through this, but it may not stop them from going to satisfy their unending lust for psychotics running around in spandex and leather kicking the crap out of each other. I, of course, will still be there opening night!

The trailer is not without some merit, and it does manage to put together a short narrative so non-comic book fans may find a reason to go. I will try to tell the story from what I remember. There is a world where superheroes were once the big thing but now don’t have a place in society. It looks like 9/11 didn’t happen, probably thanks to the superheroes wiping out the terrorists and winning wars in the past. I think one scene is a flashback; the large blue guy is fighting in Vietnam and literally atomizing people with his blue death touch. (Okay, so maybe the Hulk he isn’t, exactly.) But the heroes seem to know something really huge is coming and they’re all bitter about it and maybe when regular people look to them for hope and salvation, the heroes will say, “Ah, too bad, so sad.” The plot, I suppose, is not very conventional. I mean, just imagine superheroes turning against the people they’ve sworn to protect! But I swear I’ve seen this, probably in something from Shakespeare, where I guess all great stories come from.

Cool!

Cool!

But let’s see what positives we can find. There were some great other sequences that give us a taste of the action we will be in for: A dude gets knocked out the window of a skyscraper, some alien-looking ship comes out of the ocean, a superheroine crashes through a burning building, the aforementioned Vietcong getting atomized on a battlefield. These all point to a movie that will at least live up the standards of what can sell a comic book. There seems to be a love story tied into the plot, so there’s obviously something there for all the nerds’ girlfriends (oxymoron?) who will be dragged to the theater on 03.06.09 (Now I’m falling for it!).

“The Watchman” is definitely an effects-driven movie, also. I suppose most critics will say it’s a “stylistically fascinating treat,” as we see the accident that caused the origin of the blue man, the atomized Vietnamese fellow (boy, I can’t talk enough about that!), teleporting, and an exploding storefront! Wow, so much going on!

Not a selling point.

Not a selling point.

I don’t know, I don’t really think I can get too excited about this thing. At least with Spider-Man and Batman you know what to expect. This seems to be some director trying to turn the whole genre on its head. I guess it makes sense that humans are flawed, and superheroes are all human, so therefore all heroes are flawed, but don’t I go to the movies for escapism? I don’t want my heroes to be flawed! I want them to be beacons of hope! I want to look up to them! I want them to keep me safe and not have extra-marital affairs with the neighbors and cry about their problems. Those types of things are for schmoes like me! The trade papers and the Internet will have more information for us as we approach that oh-so-memorable release date, so keep your eyes peeled. Not all first impressions are accurate, especially mine! So don’t forget, people! “The Watchman” 03.06.09.

Anyway, I’m going to put together my review of Batman Begins 2: The Dark Night, so be on the lookout for that. And here’s a not so subtle hint about my verdict: Save your money!

Ciao for now!