Seven years separated the release of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight Rises, and in those seven years not a day went by in which we here at The MindHut didn't look forward to Christopher Nolan's next Bat-film with mounting enthusiasm. It's weird saying goodbye to this film series, but it's almost weirder saying goodbye to that particular brand of ever present anticipation we've lived with this past half decade.
Warner Brothers has made clear that the end of Nolan's involvement with Batman does not mean the end of Batman on film, surprising exactly nobody. Sure it might be nice if they gave the character a lengthy break before rebooting the series, but Nolan's movies did make roughly a million bajillion dollars (a conservative estimate, we know), and though the company's higher ups have proven themselves to be the sort of businessmen who value artistic integrity, they are still businessmen and the motion picture business is still a business. A new Batman film is coming, probably soon.
And that's how it should be.
Nolan's Dark Knight Trilogy is a truly masterful piece of work: grand in ambition, nuanced in execution. It's not just the defining take on the character on film, its one of the most important and compelling takes on the character period. Fans will be talking about this series, its middle installment especially, in the same breath with which they espouse the virtues of Year One or Heart of Ice for years to come. Its artistic success shouldn't be proof that the series has peaked, it should remind us of the promise this mythology has.
Sony has recently faced a fair amount of criticism for its decision to reboot the Spider-Man series so soon after Raimi's last installment. And yes, The Amazing Spider-Man deserves a lot of the vitriol it has inspired—it's a flawed film. But its flaws lie not in its proximity to Spider-Man 3 but in its lazy storytelling and weak creative vision. Its critics would do well to remember that The Amazing Spider-Man would be just as mediocre a film were it released in July of 2022 as it is having been released in July of 2012. Time is trivial. Creativity is everything.
The Dark knight Rises' ending is the perfect denouement to Nolan's series. Gotham is saved, Bruce Wayne finds happiness, and (Robin!) John Blake takes on the mantle of the Bat. The series began with a Bruce Wayne who seeks to become more than just a man, and it ends with a Bruce Wayne who is at peace with his own humanity. And why shouldn't he be? He's proven that Batman is bigger than any one man. It stands to reason that he's bigger than any one director too. We love Nolan's movies, but they are but one take on a character that can be interpreted in any number of ways.
Just as Batman can be Bruce Wayne or (Robin!!!) John Blake, he can also be gritty and realistic or campy and funny or gothic and fantastic or so and so and so and so. Nolan's Batman movies aren't important because they proved that Christopher Nolan can make a good movie; anyone who saw Memento could attest to that. They're important because they proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that someone with smarts and talent can adapt super heroes to the screen not only competently but transcendentally.
Great though it may be, The Dark Knight trilogy has its limits. There was never going to a good Nolan Clayface movie, or Poison Ivy movie, or Mr. Freeze movie. And that's fine and it makes sense. But you know what? We would love a good Clayface movie, or a good Poison Ivy movie, or a good Mr. Freeze movie, and somewhere out there there's a young director who not only agrees but could make that happen. Maybe the next Batman series won't be as good as Nolan's. Maybe it'll be a complete failure. But maybe, hopefully, it'll be different and weird and interesting and flawed, yes flawed, in ways that remind us not only of the possibilities of this particular mythology but of the movies themselves.
But we don't envy whoever has to make good on that.
How do you think Warner Brothers should continue the Batman series?