Rumors have been floating around that Warner Bros is finally thinking about producing a live action film for the animated series Batman Beyond, possibly even tying it to the Michael Keaton version of the Caped Crusader. There have been talks about a live action Batman Beyond since 2000, but it has usually been shelved for another version of Bruce Wayne. But now it seems like we could be one step closer to actually making it a reality. This is the right move for the future of the Dark Knight.
Let’s face it- Batman has been stuck in a cyclical loop for years now. It seems every two or three years there comes a ‘new’ version of Gotham’s vigilante that promises to have a fresh take, and ends up being more or less the same thing we’ve already seen. But this has always been the case. For all intents and purposes, the first real exploration of Batman on the screen was in the 60s starring Adam West and Burt Ward. A classic, and still retaining virtue, this rendition was mainly comedic in style. But what would one expect from a sitcom in the 60’s? They aren’t going to try a dark exploration on the psyche of an orphan in a half hour show that comes on between The Monkees and I Dream of Jeannie. The main issue is that superhero media, specifically on screen, stayed in this genre for far too long. With each passing movie, the superhero genre was treated as comedic live action comic books rather than real stories. Yes, comedic superhero media is a great thing, but it shouldn’t be the only thing.
Credit for a change should be given both to Sam Raimi and Jon Favreau. With Raimi’s Spider-Man, the world of superheroes changed forever. No longer were they stuck wearing silly costumes and making people laugh. Now they were able to tell real stories- stories that matter to the viewer. Favreau was only able to capitalize on this movement with the release of Iron Man in 2008 that spearheaded the decade of interconnected Marvel movies that followed. They created a universe where the human behind the mask was more important than the hero that the public saw. This has always been the biggest difference between Marvel and DC. In most cases, Marvel looks at humans who have to deal with the fact that they now have superpowers: what does that mean for them, for the world; what is their moral responsibility with these new powers. It looks at the person first, making the argument that the human has always been the hero instead of the mask. The ordinary becomes extraordinary. DC on the other hand seems to look at the hero first, who happens to also be (or at least look like) a human. They are not human stories, they are superhero stories that star humans. The extraordinary have to pretend to be ordinary. Both are good and both are necessary. But when one focuses on the hero rather than the human, how much connection will the audience really be able to have?
Yes, yes, “But what about Christopher Nolan?!” Up until the twenty-first century, Batman was treated as a punchline. While Tim Burton’s films took the hero seriously, it placed him in the midst of a German Expressionist world which made the whole thing feel more cartoony than even the Adam West Batman. As the movies continued through the Val Kilmer Batman and the George Clooney Batman, the style became more mainstream, but never left it’s comedic roots. Enter: Christopher Nolan. With the Nolan trilogy, Batman was finally given a realistic approach. Finally, a DC superhero was treated as a fully human character that isn’t just for kids, but adults as well. The trilogy looks at the man behind the mask. The main thing that sets Nolan’s trilogy apart from every other superhero film is its villains. Jonathan and Christopher both have a deep understanding of what makes a villain villainous, and what kind of person needs to be at the opposite end of someone like Bruce Wayne. Now with that being said, nothing has changed since that trilogy now being stuck in a new cyclical loop. The most recent takes on the Dark Knight (Ben Affleck and now Robert Pattinson) have continued down the road of Nolan’s realism, and now made it even more serious. They resemble a jaded man created by his rough upbringing resulting in a hero with questionable methods. This is a great take for a film or a trilogy, but three Batmans later is a little tiring. It’s time for something new. Time to go beyond what Batman has been.
Batman Beyond was an animated show that ran from 1999-2001, showcasing the voices of Will Friedle and Kevin Conroy about Bruce Wayne training Terry McGinnis as the new Batman. Taking place in 2039 Neo-Gotham, the story is accompanied by flying cars, high rises, and gangs of Jokerz. Running for three seasons, Batman Beyond had a fresh take on the Batman story and concluded with a huge twist in the story (no spoilers). This is exactly what the Batman movie franchise needs at this point in time. A new setting, a new hero, but a legend as old as time: where the original hero must pass on what they have learned to a new generation. DC needs to move on from Bruce Wayne and towards Terry McGinnis like Marvel is moving away from Peter Parker and towards Miles Morales. No one is asking for cancellation either. Keep the Pattinson Batman, but explore a future where Bruce Wayne is too old to fight crime anymore. This also opens up the opportunity to play around with a new style of future. For the past few years, Hollywood has been obsessed with realistic science fiction (Gravity, Passengers, Interstellar, Looper, etc.) and foregone the old-school science fiction of technology we don’t have (why don’t we have flying cars yet?). Again, that’s great, but it’s now getting old. This gives the opportunity to change it up.
And that’s really all that’s being asked for- change it up. A Batman Beyond movie is the perfect vehicle to start a new story; to change the world we’re accustomed to. It’s been twenty-one years since the release of the first episode which means enough time has passed that they could do virtually anything they wanted with the story (if any movie producers are reading this, I have a few suggestions). What does the superhero audience need? Something new: new in style, new in character, new in setting. A future- the audience needs to see what’s beyond the superhero genre of today.
(Cover Photo: dailysuperheroes.com)