The Dark Knight Rises was a fitting conclusion to Nolan’s Batman trilogy. The problem with that is that DC and film audiences want more Batman films. After the success of the Avengers, the preference would be for the new films to be in the same universe as the upcoming Man of Steel, so Warner Brothers can have a Justice League franchise.
With the four year wait between The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises, it would seem a bit odd if a new Batman film comes out sooner than that. That could complicate efforts to introduce Batman in a film universe that kicks off next year with Man of Steel. Warner Brothers will be tempted to rush the process, although they’re better off following in Marvel’s footsteps and seeding the big epic at a slower rate, rather than just bringing the Justice League together in 2015.
Henry Cavill, the new Superman, isn’t even thirty yet, and he’s the only lead cast so far, so they can take their time setting the stage for the big event. They could do Man of Steel 2 in 2015, along with the introduction of another JLA-er in a second film. Wonder Woman makes the most sense, considering the name recognition. That could be followed by two more superhero debuts in in 2016, and then the the big team-up blockbuster in 2017.
There’s always the risk with the creation of a super-franchise that the brand might suddenly be diminished. Man of Steel or its followup could be a critically reviled flop. Moviegoers could come to the conclusion that there are just too many superhero films. And that would be catastrophic for Warner Brothers if this all happens while they’re spending close to a billion dollars producing several tentpole superhero films.
That said, a Justice League franchise is still a fairly safe bet, especially when compared to the risks inherent in original material, as John Carter demonstrates. Franchise sequels tend to do well in the current climate. And there will always be interest in more Batman films.
There are at least two ways to use the Batman from the Nolan trilogy. Warner Brothers could drive a truck full of money to Christian Bale’s house and hope for the best. Or they could make Joseph Gordon Levitt’s John Blake the new Dark Knight.
But if they want to introduce a new film Batman in 2016, they would have a hook, a way to distinguish this caped crusader from earlier iterations. Nolan was meticulous about trying to make Batman plausible in the real world, and that’s not a requirement in a shared universe. The next creative team can explore the idea of a man without super powers fighting the bad guys in a world with Superman and Wonder Women. It would ensure a different type of film than we’ve had before.
Batman Begins and Amazing Spider-Man set a precedent for superhero film relaunches. While they’re likely to hint at familiar villains for the inevitable sequels, the bad guy tends to be someone who hasn’t been adapted into the movies. Batman has an impressive rogues gallery, so even with all the villains in the Nolan and Burton films (Joker, Catwoman, Penguin, Two-Face, Riddler, Mr. Freeze, Bane, Poison Ivy, Scarecrow, Ras Al Ghul, Carmine Falcone, Talia Al Ghul) there are plenty left for the next relaunch.
This is especially true with Nolan’s decision to avoid Batman’s superpowered foes. Either Clayface or Man-Bat could fit the bill. Man-Bat may have more of a character arc, while the Clayface of the comics doesn’t operate on a scale impressive enough for a two-hour flusually have particularly interesting motivations usually operate on an epic scale. But Man-Bat will be a little similar to the Lizard of The Amazing Spider-Man, so that could be a bit weird. You can also argue that Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Mister Freeze didn’t count, so that villain could be available for a sequel. And a mad scientist like Hugo Strange could also fit the theme of a film about ordinary people responding to the arrival of superheroes. Clayface could be his sidekick.
Whoever it will be, one advantage is that after Batman kicks the bad guy’s ass, it’ll be clear that this hero belongs on a team with Flash and Green Lantern.