Sunday, April 09, 2006

Returning to the Dark Knight

As anyone (if there is anyone) who reads this blog regularly knows, I am a great fan of The Bat-Man. As anyone who is a great fan of The Bat-Man knows, one of the great works in the Dark Knight’s history is Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. Now, I won’t dignify Miller’s new All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder with a mention, because, well, it sucks, but DKR was not only what revitalized Batman in the 80’s, but comics as well.

If you aren’t familiar with this work, it’s about a 55 year old Bruce Wayne, ten-years retired in a world that has outlawed superheroes and gone to pot. Only Superman still operates, but that is in exchange for having sold out and become and agent of the US Government. Written in the 80’s, the story takes place in front of a backdrop of a growing threat of nuclear exchange between the US and USSR, and features street gangs in Gotham that would make Alex and his Droogs at the Korova Milkbar cringe. Able to take no more, Wayne again assumes the mantle of the Dark Knight starting a social and political maelstrom that culminates in a fight to the death between Batman and Superman.

Recently, the director Robert Rodriguez made a picture perfect adaptation of Miller’s other great work Sin City. Fan boys have been spreading their fan boy fantasies around about the idea of these two getting together to do DKR- let’s face it; Hollywood and Warner Brothers will never be cool enough to let that happen, there’s a really good Batman franchise running right now, and if Hollywood and Warner Brothers did let it happen, they would stick fingers in the pie and screw it all up. BUT… if they did let it happen, here’s who I would see in my dream project, and this is of course considered with no accounting for budget, schedule, or reality (which I typically try to keep from plaguing me anyway.

Commissioner James Gordon-
The seventy year old Gordon is a man of principle, but still representative of a moral age long past. He is grizzled, yet fair, and offers advice about Batman to the incoming commissioner. I would give this role to the man many would pick to be Batman himself, Clint Eastwood- a hero from days past being put out to pasture.

Harvey Dent-
Formerly Two-Face, this ex district attorney is released from Arkham Asylum his face repaired. But which of his two personalities was excised? Let’s stick Mickey Rourke, who already has experience as a psycho in Rodriguez films, in this role of a man faking his repentance.

Commissioner Ellen Yindel-
Progressive, tough, and completely intolerant of masked vigilantes, she cannot understand how a man she has admired, Jim Gordon, could allow this criminal to operate. She’ll learn. A big gun and glasses on Ellen Barkin would cover this role nicely.

Dr. Bartholomew Wolper-
The doctor who declares both Two-Face and the Joker cured, and then blames Batman for the existence of crime in Gotham, he represents everything wrong with a blameless society. I’d like to say Vincent Schiavelli here, bt he passed on in December, so perhaps Donald Sutherland?

The Joker-
A mass murderer with more than 600 to his credit, the Joker went into a coma when Batman retired, and mutters not a word until the Dark Knight appears on the nightly news. His response? “B-b-b-Batman. Darling…” Call me crazy, but as an older Joker here I want to see David Bowie match his age with some Man Who Fell to Earth/Ziggy Stardust/Goblin King from Labyrinth nuttiness. Alternatively- give me Mark Hamill, who has voiced the Joker to perfection since the debut of Batman: The Animated Series in 1992.

Oliver Queen-
Always the bleeding heart of the Justice League, the Green Arrow has lost his arm to a fight with Superman, but returns for a small but crucial role in the battle between Batman and Superman. He’s an old bald hippy with a mean sense of humor and a radical’s ethic. Ed Harris, start your goatee now.

Robin-
13 year old Carrie Kelly is living in the hell her apathetic parents’ generation have allowed to exist. When she hears of the Batman returning, she literally buys a Robin costume from a rental agency, saves the Dark Knight’s life, and becomes the Girl Wonder. I really want to see this role cast age appropriate, so I won’t put a name here, since by the time scripting and preproduction is done, you’ll have to cast an eleven year old now, or find a very young looking teen girl. She should be solid, smart, but not too pretty. She’s a crimefighter, not a supermodel.

Superman-
He has compromised everything he ever stood for so he could continue in some small way to fight his never ending battle. He tries to talk Bruce down, but when Batman becomes too much a of a political liability (Batman keeps order in Gotham City in the wake of a Soviet Electro-Magnetic Pulse while the rest of the country falls into chaos) it comes down to the Dark Knight versus the Last Son of Krypton. Good luck, Supes- you’re gonna need it. There’s two ways you can go here. In the comic, Kent looks mature, but not older like the rest of them- perhaps the new Superman, Brandon Routh, should just continue this role along (or do we give Tom Welling his chance to don tights here?). Or, if we do want to mature the Man of Steel, give Kurt Russel a haircut and a cape.

And finally…
The Dark Knight, the Caped Crusader, the Batman-
He thought he was done- nothing left to fight with, but the world needs a Batman, and he must cast aside the life of the playboy (no longer just a fa├žade) and retake the mantle of the Bat. Tell me how cool it would be to see the now older, wiser, and still well cast Michael Keaton step back into the role. I mean no disrespect to Christian Bale, and I always had problems with Tim Burton’s Batman films, but Keaton was dead on as Bruce Wayne, and based a lot of his performance on the DKR comic anyway. His only challenge will be pulling off Batman without the benefit of a big rubber suit. While Ed Harris grows his goatee, Mike, start working out.

For what it’s worth- those are my picks. Now, Warners- will it kill you to let it happen right? Don’t touch a thing, let Miller and Rodriguez handle it, and just collect the residuals. Please?? Pretty please???