Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Rumor commentary: Joseph Gordon-Levitt may be playing Batman in the Justice League movie.

HitFix broke the story late last night and while I generally try to avoid commenting on rumors, McWeeny is a pretty trustworthy source for this kind of thing.  Anyway, long story short, Joseph Gordon-Levitt is allegedly in talks to reprise his role as John Blake (cough-Tim Drake-cough) in Warner Bros.' upcoming Justice League film.  Said superhero team-up is set to open in summer 2015 (July 17th, I'd presume), where it will square off against The Avengers 2 and Star Wars Episode VII.  So if the rumor comes to pass, it looks like John Blake will be the man in the cowl, as opposed to a new actor playing a new Bruce Wayne.  Also of note, John Blake (as Batman?) will allegedly make a post-production cameo in Zack Snyder's Man of Steel, which comes off of Snyder's comments stating that Man of Steel won't be as closed-world as he had previously indicated.  So presuming this is all true and not just a rumor or a gambit to drum up interest in next week's DVD/Blu Ray release of The Dark Knight Rises, what do I think?  Well, it's both not terribly surprising and incredibly shocking.  

John Blake's 'discovery' of the Bat Cave is of course the closing shot of The Dark Knight Rises, which was a way for Chris Nolan to have his cake and eat it too.  He arguably closed the book on the Bruce Wayne-as-Batman saga while still leaving room for further exploration.  I suppose the big question this raises is a pretty simple one: How much do you want to see a Justice League movie with Robin as Batman?  The John Blake character was a pretty clear mash-up of Jason Todd and Tim Drake, second and third of the now five (!) people to don the Robin outfit in the Batman comic continuity.  What's interesting about this is that Warner Bros. is basically telling Chris Nolan and his 'closed universe' to jump off a cliff.  Not only does having a John Blake as Batman in the Justice League movie bring the Chris Nolan Batman saga into the 'DC film franchise' continuity, but it basically threatens to invalidate the closed-ended nature of the three pictures.    Since Bruce Wayne is left alive and well at the conclusion of The Dark Knight Rises, how many sequels will Warner Bros. allow to go by without finding a way to get Bruce Wayne, played by Christian Bale or a replacement actor, back into the bat-suit, negating the entire 'Dark Knight Saga'?

Moreover, if the guy under the Bat-cowl isn't Bruce Wayne, what's really the point of including Batman in the team in the first place?  Part of the fun of The Avengers and the animated Justice League series was watching rather specific characters bump up against each other.  John Blake isn't Bruce Wayne, period.  He doesn't have the psychological issues nor does he have the vast fortune (something that was left hanging in The Dark Knight Rises) of Bruce Wayne.  Watching Bruce Wayne, be it Bale's Wayne or a different actor under the cowl, match wits with Clark Kent and Diana Prince is a vastly different experience than watching the relatively vanilla John Blake and Clark Kent team up and fight crime.  Imagine for a moment if The Avengers basically replaced Tony Stark with the far more pragmatic and less obnoxious James Rhodes as the would-be Iron Man.  All due respect to Don Cheadle, but it wouldn't have been the same character cocktail and it would have been a vastly different picture.

In the end, this almost feels like a film version of the budgetary surplus that Bill Clinton left us with at the end of his term.  He has long regretted just leaving the surplus in the budget as opposed to spending it, as his 'gift to the nation' was squandered on tax cuts for the very wealthy by his successor.  Chris Nolan gave us an arguably close-ended story but didn't go the cheap-shock route of killing Bruce Wayne and/or blowing up Gotham City.  For his relative restraint, he is apparently being rewarded by Warner Bros. basically undoing the entire close-ended and solitary nature of his three-part story.  What this does, and I think this is what's motivating Warner Bros. toward this direction, is turn Justice League into a de-facto sequel to The Dark Knight Rises.  But putting aside that, the question is whether a Justice League movie with someone other than Bruce Wayne as Batman will really play like a true Justice League movie?  And at what point will Warner Bros. realize that they have to find a way to make DC Comics films without leaning on the Chris Nolan trilogy as a crutch?  Anyway, I don't want to ramble any more about something that may or may not come to pass, but there you have it.

What are your thoughts on this rumor?  Does having John Blake and not Bruce Wayne dilute the Justice League brand?  Are you concerned that basically bringing the Nolan films into 'DC movie continuity' will negate their close-ended nature and/or send fans demanding that Christian Bale return in a later Justice League picture?  Do share below...

Scott Mendelson               


Monica said...

I agree with everything you said. I love the Batman trilogy, I am very grateful for what Nolan did for the character, but warner needs to leave this trilogy alone.

corysims said...

I'm 80/20 on your editorial, Scott.

Selfishly, yeah, leave Nolan's trilogy alone. Let it be somewhat unique within this genre. Don't thumb your nose at Nolan, considering the gift he gave them with this three Batman pictures and putting the character front and center in the realm of comic book movies for audiences.

Still, having John Blake be in the JL film is the most organic way to go to the next set of films for Batman. Plus, and this is the real gift of what Nolan did, it allows the character and other comic book franchises to essentially become like the James Bond franchise.

We love our continuity in this genre but it's ridiculous to think, like some fans do, that these actors want to play these characters forever. They don't. So, instead of redoing origins every decade or so just to keep the rights and franchises alive for the studios, do what Bond has been doing for 50 years; replace the actor and keep going.

Fans of the Marvel films will bitch and moan about it when it happens but RDJ ain't playing Stark forever. For some, it won't be Iron Man without him.

At least Nolan gave WB an organic way for audiences to accept another actor/character as Batman.

Yes, having Batman not be Bruce Wayne in a JL film, butting heads with Clark Kent is a problem. That's a valid concern but I'm not going to lie, as much as I love the graphic novel/one-off nature of Nolan's trilogy, I do like the idea that his universe is essentially the jump off point for a larger DC movie universe.

Again, I think you're right Scott, especially with WB's treatment of what Nolan gave them if this rumor turns out to be true but you don't think they ran this by Nolan at least a few times?

Bill Vegas said...

He's a comic book character not Jesus!

Chucky Johnson said...

I don't see how they can do it. They HAVE to have Bruce Wayne as Batman in the Justice League. HAVE TO. It's already borderline absurd that a "regular" human holds his own with Superman, Green Lantern (two of the most powerful being in the universe), Flash, Wonder Woman etc. It only somewhat makes sense if that human has genius level smarts and has been pathologically training his body and mind since childhood to "fight crime". To suggest that John Blake, who was just your average Gotham cop, could stumble upon the Batcave and a few years (5? 10?) later be holding his own against Darkseid and his minions is downright ridiculous.

Jane said...


Scott Mendelson said...



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