Let’s face it, we all know that ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ is likely to be the end of the Christopher Nolan Batman continuity. He did two good movies and one truly excellent one (I’ll leave it to you to decide which one you think was the excellent one, but hint: It had the Joker in it) and is now moving on to what sounds like a truly fascinating Howard Hughes bio-pic. The reboot will probably hit theaters in about 2016, just in time to tie in with the Justice League movie…or it would, if that didn’t get delayed to 2025 while Warner Brothers tries to hammer out a few details in the script to make it not so much like the mega-hit “Squadron Supreme” movie Marvel did a few years earlier. (Oh, I’m sorry. Is my faith in DC’s movie division showing?)
But if we did get a fourth movie, where would it go from the end of the third? A spoiler tag, for those of you uninterested in speculating just yet…
The way I see it, there are two basic directions it can go. In both movies, Bruce Wayne is retired as Batman. This saves you the trouble of having to try to bring back a clearly-uninterested Christian Bale, and if you’re not bringing back Bale you can probably go ahead without Nolan as well because hey, why wait all that time for a guy who’s not coming back just because he brought an unprecedented and singular creative vision to the films? So let’s assume this is John Blake, Batman. He’s operating out of the Batcave under the Thomas and Martha Wayne Orphanage, of course, but let’s face it…as many people have pointed out, he’s no Bruce Wayne. He hasn’t trained with the League of Shadows, he’s no kung-fu master, and frankly, it’s not like Bruce really wound up in good shape after a decade or so as a crimefighter. One thing Nolan got right: This stuff takes a toll.
So Blake is already looking for his own successor, after only a few years in the role. Fortunately, this is where we finally see the casual brilliance of Bruce Wayne’s last will and testament: He put a handy orphanage right on top of the Batcave! Endless supplies of angry, parentless kids, just waiting to be shaped and molded into the next generation of vigilante justice! It’s a veritable Batman factory!
From here, I see two takes on the idea. The first is the charming, family-friendly version, where a young orphaned boy is sent to a very special orphanage and learns that he’s got a very special destiny. He trains in the martial arts, gets into boarding-school hijinks, all while preparing for his future as the newest Batman. Call it “Batman Academy”, bring back Michael Caine as the heartwarming and charming headmaster Alfred, and rake in those Harry Potter bucks.
The second…a young boy goes to a strange, haunted orphanage. Every night, he is wakened by the shrieking of bats. One by one, the older boys disappear. There’s talk of hidden caves beneath the manor, a cult steeped in shadows…until finally, on his sixteenth birthday, he learns the truth. The Cult of the Batman waits in the darkness beneath the orphanage, brainwashing children to use as soldiers in their vigilante crusade. Can our hero escape to warn the city of the army of brutal, ruthless enforcers that prepares to march on them in the night…or will he become one of them?
……or it’s possible I’ve just gone insane.