“How to move Nolan’s Bat-films into the larger DC Universe,” or “How to do DC superhero movies after The Dark Knight Rises” *WARNING: THE DARK KNIGHT RISES SPOILERS WITHIN*

Nolan’s final Bat-film has come and will soon be gone. At the end of this trilogy we have a sense of closure. He has said he will not be returning to the director’s chair for a fourth film so there is also a sense of finality. His name and the accompanying gravitas are now in the Executive Producer slot for DC’s “Man of Steel” next summer but he has expressed that he would enjoy seeing someone make a fourth movie that picks up where Rises ended.  Well Mr. Nolan, Warner Bros. and DC Comics, I have detailed a plan that would allow for not just a fourth Batman film without rebooting the franchise again, but a Justice League movie that exists within the same universe and a way to tie it all back into the comic books so that every medium remains accessible.

In Rises we are introduced to a young police officer named John Blake who sees the benefit of Batman as a symbol. Because of his own past he has figured out that Bruce Wayne is Batman and approaches him to convince him that Gotham needs him again. By the end of the film he is forced to make a tough decision about the failings of “the system” and in his disillusionment he quits the force. In a wink to the audience Nolan reveals to us in the last minutes of the film that Blake’s given name is actually Robin John Blake. I personally believe that this was the only way Nolan felt comfortable referencing the character of Robin without telegraphing the ending; had he named the character Richard Grayson or Tim Drake, the finale might have been ruined for anyone who knows the comic books. In the wake of Bruce Wayne’s “death” he is gifted the legacy of Batman; the final shot of the film shows Blake atop the Tumbler platform in the cave as it rises out of the water. Clearly we can infer that in Nolan’s universe Batman is the symbol movie-Bruce Wayne set out to create, and he even tells Blake that anyone can be Batman. As mentioned above, Nolan has said he would be happy to see someone make a “John Blake as Batman” film. Warner Bros. would likely be resistant to this idea because Blake is not an established comic book character and this makes the comics less accessible to any new readers who aren’t serious fanboys.

So this is how you solve it:  taking a popular character from another medium and putting them into the continuity of the comics is not without precedent, both Harley Quinn and the modern iteration of Mr. Freeze began in the 90’s “Animated Series” and were adopted into the Batman comics while Lois Lane’s cousin Chloe was introduced in WB’s “Smallville” and adopted into the Superman comics. Therefore, introducing a character such as Robin John Blake into the comics as a potential replacement for Bruce Wayne as Batman can be done. There are plenty of talented writers out there who could not only make it work, but make it compelling as well. Before we go there though, let’s briefly look at the how this would allow for a Justice League movie.

Next summer Chris Nolan & Zack Snyder bring us the latest Superman reboot, “Man of Steel.” All we know for now is that it features General Zod as the villain and that according to the teaser trailers, Clark/Kal may be suffering an identity crisis while he tries to reconcile his alien nature with his human upbringing. This is how you tie it into Nolan’s already established universe. Though it never need be stated, the film might imply that part of Clark’s impetus for putting on a costume and fighting for “truth, justice and the American way” is the urban legend of Batman. This also would be sufficient to explain why no one but Batman came to Gotham’s aid during the crisis; prior to Bruce becoming Batman, there was no one else. What I would like to see is a shot of Clark on his quest, pre-cape, watching the news on television in a truck stop diner or something. No mention of Bane, no mention of Batman, just “Gotham Under Siege” beneath an aerial shot of the city on the screen, a simple and elegant way to establish the larger universe outside of the film. This is the advent of unbelievable, extra-planetary and supernatural events in the formerly “based in reality” world of Nolan’s films. At this point you can choose to build toward a Justice League film the way they did with Avengers, one superhero at a time and then assemble the cast for a giant threat or you can jump right into a Justice League movie and spin off the characters from there. It really can go either way.

As I said, having a Batman movie character whose name never appears in the comics would not be something Warner and DC would allow. There are several valid ways to handle this, we could take the Terry McGinnis/Batman Beyond route where the Nolan-verse is an alternate reality, or we could simply introduce a GCPD officer named Robin John Blake who purposely goes by John because of the connotation of the name Robin in Gotham. His motivations would be identical to those in film and he could even have figured out that Bruce is Batman, which also has precedent in the comics:  Tim Drake did the same thing before he became Robin. At this point you can write any path you want to get him from cop to proto-Batman. Another option is for Dick Grayson, who was at one time a Bludhaven cop, to have used the name Robin John Blake once while undercover leaving the possibility of a retcon in the fourth film of John Blake being the adopted name of an abandoned infant named Richard Grayson, which ties in easily to his growing up in a boys’ home.

Now, here is how I would do Batman 4; I eliminate the character using already established characters. Let’s call the film “Knightfall.” Introducing Jervis Tetch, CEO of Mad Hatter, Inc. a competitor of Wayne Corp. He intends to use his vast fortune to remake Gotham into a futuristic utopia, referred to in blueprints as Wonderland. Using the memory of Bane’s five month siege to his advantage he claims such a thing could never happen again in his utopia and gains popular support for the renovation (as a manipulative and charismatic politician might as opposed to real “mind-control”). Further, he demonizes Batman’s methods, claiming him to be a vicious vigilante for which the city no longer has a need and further reinforcing the desire of the people of Gotham to give in by asserting that Batman is also directly responsible for the Narrows fire, Scarecrow’s gang of Bat-thugs, the Joker’s rampage and the crisis of Bane’s marshall law. Batman’s presence makes Gotham a target to every nut with an agenda. Blake/Batman attempts to break into Tetch’s building to see the plans and look for some kind of hidden agenda and is goaded into a fight Tetch who records the whole thing and uses it to claim that Batman feels threatened by another who might “control” Gotham. All the while Blake shows real difficulty carrying on Bruce’s legacy. Blake realizes he only option is to destroy the Messianic image Tetch has created for himself but no one, including Jim Gordon and Lucius Fox, can find any dirt on him. Ultimately Blake discovers that Tetch’s is simply a desperation-fueled plot to please his beloved Alice, a childhood friend with whom he always associated Louis Carroll’s stories. Blake manufactures evidence of her death, the real person actually living in Metropolis (seen here as just a name on a computer screen or file folder). In his rage Tetch uses his influence over the people of Gotham to mobilize against Batman and Batman’s only option is to somehow publicly humiliate him. Obviously a screenwriter would punch up the story, pace it better and add more weight to the finale. A post-credits sequence would reveal a young man in the Wayne Boys home named Richard Grayson discovering the cave and overhearing a conversation between Blake and Lex Luthor. Luthor had been manipulating Tetch from the start and we learn here that Blake is a zealot named Jean-Paul Valley.

Finally, this leads into my ideas for the Justice League film while providing the impetus for Bruce to return to Gotham and retake the mantle of Batman. Over the course of a series of solo films for Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lanter, Green Arrow or whatever JL line-up you want to use we learn Luthor has been pulling the strings on a worldwide plot to discredit the genuity of Superman and indeed all superheroes, using Tetch as a template for how a negative PR campaign might work, meanwhile Blake/Valley renames himself as Azrael. Batman 5 could show us that Selena returns to Gotham’s East End to defend it from the brutality Azrael has begun inflicting upon its citizens which forces Bruce to admit that he cannot trust anyone else to carry the weight of Batman but he doesn’t necessarily need to operate alone either. At this point we can also introduce Dick Grayson as Robin or Nightwing, which could then potentially be used to spin him off into his own franchise.

Now, this is strictly my idea and just a basic outline of a plan and not necessarily the only way to keep Nolan’s vision of the Batman intact while opening it up to the larger DC universe. Batman 4 & 5 could be just as easily a soft reboot where everyone is recast and it’s up to the audience whether you want to link it back to Nolan’s films. What I would like to see is an idea such as this one gain enough popular support so that we don’t get a hard reboot 4-6 years from now and keep the thematic elements and continuity of the Nolan Bat-films going.

I would especially like to hear anyone else’s ideas on the matter or how my idea does or does not work.

The Dark Knight Rises review, spoiler free

To begin, my review will remain spoiler free. I’m no film critic, I’m no film student, I’m just a very big, and well-read, Batman fan who finally got the Batman story he always wanted.

If you’ve never seen another Batman film, this is the one to see. By now, if you’ve never seen a Batman film before but you’re a fan I assume you’re probably old enough to read but not old enough to have been allowed to see The Dark Knight yet. You probably know the basics of his origin and can’t afford, or know someone who can afford, a DVD player and the last film, or six. If you are this hypothetical person I’ve just invented, this movie is all you need (Until some later time as when you choose to consume more Batman films). From the beginning you are given enough information on the current status of Batman and Gotham City. Interestingly enough, though this is his final film, much of the first hour is devoted to literally EVERYONE else and yet, his absence is hardly felt because underneath you are patently aware that it’s still all, somehow, about him. The new characters are superbly acted, Anne Hathaway and Joseph Gordon-Levitt especially, and when Batman makes his triumphant reappearance, everyone, even the characters in the film, are excited about it!

All the requisite toys were present, and satisfying. We got to see much more of the cooler features of the Bat-Pod (the double-axis wheels that so profoundly confused me on the TV trailers for the previous film for a very long time, that is) and the newest toy was a very welcome, nd awesome, addition. Back before I even saw the last film, I had hoped that before it was over we would see a flying vehicle in the same basic vein as the Tumbler and while I was hoping for a jet, I was definitely not disappointed. Nolan definitely knew what he was doing.

Regarding Nolan, though I’m not sure it was deliberate, he did an excellent job of tying together seemingly random moments from the previous two films to give us an over-arcing story that gave me, as I mentioned earlier, the Batman story I’ve waited for for a long time which was:  one with a satisfying end. The character has been around for over 80 years, he’s been rebooted and redone countless times. Yet in that time, we’ve never seen how it all turns out in the end. Sure, no story truly ends, there’s always more to know, more to tell, but at least for me I got the resolution I’ve wanted since the first time I saw these characters. In addition, as a fairly serious comic book fan, the way it brought together elements of several stories from the comics, not just Knightfall but also Catwoman’s early and later years, No Man’s Land and even more, was amazing. For years, superhero movies have followed the model of new movie, more villains; most poorly in “Batman & Robin”, most recently in “Spider-Man 3”. Yet while this movie had more than I care to count (no spoilers, remember), it never felt like any character was robbed of appropriate time nor did the movie seem crowded like the aforementioned web-head’s movie did. Nor did it ever make me think it wasn’t moving fast enough. I did feel as though perhaps certain twists were telegraphed but I’m willing to accept that perhaps that was merely because of speculation on my part and the typical viewer who isn’t an obsessive fanboy won’t guess the answer quite so easily. The pacing was excellent and when the screen went dark I certainly didn’t feel as though 164 minutes had passed (although my bladder did).

Surely someone will find reasons to be upset, disappointed or angry, but not me. Friends who were disappointed, I feel, didn’t see the bits of genius behind the elements or the nods to comic fans such as myself. In the end, while I’m sure another film could be done in the same universe, and I would be happy for it, I’d be just as happy if these films stayed untouched for it was better than I hoped and so good I can’t wait to see it again.

Live tweet Tron Legacy

Why does this soundtrack always sound so awesome?!

Who is this DOUCHEBAG who so clearly loves Dillinger?

Young Dillinger is clearly up to something. #TronLegacy

Next day’s headline: “Sam Flynn Base-Jumping Tragedy” The rest of the film was a dream!

“He’s either dead or chilling in Costa Rica. Probably both. I’m tired, I smell like jail…” #AwfulDialogue

Journey on the jukebox = awesome!

I’ve played Tron, the original arcade game, pretty recently. Does NOT hold up.

First 3D shot of a reclaimer made me smile so much my cheeks hurt.

You call yourself a daredevil, Sam? Freak the sinking street and JUMP!

Is that Kumail Nanjiani freaking out on that reclaimer?
C
Yes, Sam, you’re dad did it. Quit ruminating and figure out how to get frak out of here!

Quit ogling the toy women Sam.

I really want that plastic jumpsuit. *

I really want that plastic jumpsuit, complete with identity/battle Frisbee. #IfClothesWereAlsoToys

PS, don’t lose your identity/battle Frisbee, by, y’know throwing it or anything. Wait…

“He’s different?” you say. The human genitals three programs probably don’t, and shouldn’t, have didn’t give it away?

I’m totally in love with the nice toy woman that told Sam to survive. #ThingsIShouldntTweet

The nerdy kid dialogue that Sam’s got throughout this movie is fantastic.

I can’t stop talking about this soundtrack!

Bruce Boxleitner has the coolest voice!

Something about the CG mouth on young Jeff Bridges is just wrong. Otherwise it’s quite impressive.

Yeeeee-oozer! #AceVenturaIsClu

Sam just had a virtual orgasm over a light cycle.

It’s kinda hard to not look ridiculous in those body suits.

Nobody likes a smart ass computer, Kora.

Sooooo apparently the blank part of my hard drive looks like a dusty mountain range?

Hey, when did I put in The Big Lebowski?

Little too much eye liner, Sam.

I have no idea what Kevin is saying most of the time in this film.

Even computer programs can be flamboyant!

For an advanced computer program, is funny that Clu is mystified by a pillow.

What do computer programs drunk to get drunk?

It’s probably a good thing that Kevin is a genius, if user a virtual playground for all the wrong things.

The Christ metaphor in Sam it’s so heavy-handed after multiple viewings.

The Disney “message” gets pretty heavy-handed in the third act too.

The use of computer jargon didn’t always work, the logic is wonky too.

You know you’re a nerd and a romantic when acts of heroism from PROGRAMS still makes you tear up.

TED talks, On the Grid.

The use of dialogue from the original was brilliant and rarely seemed forced.

Sam walks like a tool though.

The toady from The Cape was a good wimp. *

The toady from The Cape was a good wiener.

Let’s hope you’re a good at videogames as your dad was, Sammy!

Why would a light jet flame out?

Why would a computer gun jam?

Why would a light jet need flaps?

Why do mountains float?