The DCU’s Rebooted Batman Must Avoid Nolan’s Dark Knight Grit (& The Flash Proves It’ll Happen)

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Summary

  • Andy Muschietti’s new Batman film should embrace a lighter tone like The Flash rather than sticking to the serious and brooding portrayal we’ve seen in recent films.
  • The cinematic versions of Batman have become predictable and stuck in a design loop. It’s time for a more fun and stylistically unique approach, with a gray and blue Batsuit and a fantastical Gotham city.
  • Gunn’s DCU Batman should be a counter to Matt Reeves’ The Batman, offering a refreshing contrast in tone, style, and narrative. Returning to a pre-Nolan world of mysteries and adventures would set it apart. Additionally, avoiding another origin story and introducing Robin could bring new life to the franchise.


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As director Andy Muschietti plans his new Batman film for Gunn and Safran’s DC Universe, the approach to the character should be less Christopher Nolan and more Adam West. Though not much has been said about the team’s plan for the direction of the Dark Knight, Gunn has said Batman will unsurprisingly be a “major part” of the DCU’s future. As those conversations continue, Gunn, Muschietti, and the rest have endless possibilities of tones and storylines to play with.

Over a decade later, Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy is a high watermark for the Dark Knight, and in many ways, it redefined what Batman could be following the four films by Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher. The irreverent mood of Batman and Robin (1997) brought a jokey silliness to the characters that fueled the complete overhaul of the Nolan films. The success of his re-imagining helped set the tone for what has followed cinematically for the character ever since. But The Dark Knight trilogy is untouchable, and with Matt Reeves’ The Batman also going for darkness and grit, The Brave & The Bold needs another approach. Luckily, The Flash offered hints of what could be to come.

Related: 10 Harsh Realities Of Rewatching The Dark Knight Trilogy, 11 Years After It Ended


Dark Batman Is Overdone In DC Movies

Robert pattinson ben affleck christian bale batman day time

Since 2005, the cinematic versions of Batman have been variations of the same note: serious, somber, and brooding. If Muschietti wants to do something interesting with Batman, he should embrace something lighter and more classic like The Flash tried to, or like the TV show, Batman (1966-68) with Adam West, not the same dark hero of those recent outings. Frank Miller’s Batman graphic novels The Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Year One cast a long shadow across the Nolan world and made so many of the movies only gritty and dark. The movies could be so much more, and after nearly 20 years of one tone, it’s time for something else.

In addition to tonal problems, those versions of Batman are stuck in a design loop. Except for Ben Affleck’s color variation, Batman’s suit from Christian Bale to Robert Pattinson has been functional armor that’s always black. Gunn could look at the 60s TV show to find a more fun, light style. The Batsuit should be gray and blue with yellow in the symbol and utility belt. Gotham should be a fantastical city, closer to Reeves’ version of Gotham, not simply Chicago and New York. Batman should return to his detective, crime-fighting roots and build a Rogues Gallery of criminals rather than the large-scale, culturally conscious philosopher villains of Nolan.

Gunn’s DCU Batman Needs A Counter To Matt Reeves’ The Batman Universe

Pattinson in The Batman

Gunn has said publicly that his vision for the DCU does not include Reeves’ The Batman film or any sequels it may have. He has said, however, the film(s) will continue to exist in their own right. This means DC will have two cinematic Dark Knights running simultaneously. The best way to differentiate those two characters is for Gunn to create a Batman in direct contrast to Pattinson’s interpretation. This move could set Gunn’s Batman apart tonally, stylistically, and narratively.

Though Gunn should probably avoid the 60s camp factor, he could borrow from West’s famously memorable Batman with his Sherlock Holmes-esque sleuth, bent on solving crimes and catching the bad guy. It would serve as a refreshing counter-narrative to the bleak vigilante with nothing to lose. The Batman films from Nolan and Reeves deal with big questions of morality in society. Gunn could return Batman to a pre-Nolan world of mysteries and adventures. Rather than borrow from Miller, Gunn could borrow from the gold and silver age comics that inspired the TV show.

It’s Easier To Avoid An Origin Redo With A Lighter Batman

Batman Begins - Bruce's parents

The new version of Batman should also avoid the trope of the origin story. The boy and the pearls and the tragedy of Crime Alley have been shown ad nauseam in so many of the films. Audiences seemed to respond positively to Reeve’s younger but established Batman, so it’s clear an origin isn’t necessary for the film to be understood. Even though that film manages to skip the death of the Waynes on screen, the murder is writ large across the film’s narrative arc. Audiences are ready to see Batman be Batman, fully formed and good at the job.

A Lighter Batman Could Fix A Long-Running Robin Problem

Batman and Robin running in their TV show

Bringing a lighter touch to Batman could finally allow enough levity to introduce Robin. Finding a place for the character in a Batman film has been an issue since 1997 when Chris O’Donnell donned the signature “R.” but has since disappeared from the films. Part of the issue has been, tonally, Batman is presented as an avenging loner in dreary worlds of darkness. That leaves little room for a Boy Wonder sidekick to swoop in and help save the day. If Batman is handled with a lighter tone, Robin could easily fit into a role akin to Dr. Watson from Sherlock Holmes. The Flash‘s dynamic between Ezra Miller’s twin Barry Allens and Michael Keaton’s Bruce Wayne also showed how well that relationship could work, giving the DCEU its first real Robin-like character.

Introducing a lighter Batman could breathe life into the character and the franchise. It can open doors for the DCU that other Batman movies can’t. With a different approach, Gunn wouldn’t be locked into the Batman villain problems of previous films and wouldn’t have to be selective about the peripheral characters or design or other Batman iconography that never appears in the films. Flights of fancy and adventure would be woven into the fabric of the storytelling.

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