The Dark Knight Will Rise Again: Who Will Replace Christian Bale As Batman?

July 20th sees Christopher Nolan’s tremendous Batman trilogy come to a climax, before the franchise is once more rebooted, but who can fill Bale’s batsuit?
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July 20th sees Christopher Nolan’s tremendous Batman trilogy come to a climax, before the franchise is once more rebooted, but who can fill Bale’s batsuit?

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So it is that we have to plan for succession.  We do it in all aspects of our lives, replacing retired staff, realising that the washing machine which now sounds like an angry Vespa and we have to do it with Movie franchise stars.

There are a few Premier League franchises which always spark a healthy debate amongst movie fans.  James Bond being numero uno admittedly but ever since Michael Keaton took the decision to hang up his wings we’ve had a succession of leading men snap on the utility belt.  So what were they like?

Michael Keaton:  Batman (1989) and Batman Returns (1992) – both Tim Burton.

Mike just didn’t tick all the boxes in my view.   Voice?  Yes but he’s a bat of few words.  Intensity?  Oh yes but he didn’t need all his skills to portray this to teenage nerds if we are honest.  The elephant in the room was that he is only 5’ 9” (including his hair), and did we ever imagine Bruce Wayne being “average” height?  Who would have played Robin if Keaton had wanted to continue in the role?  Kenny Baker?  Don’t get me started on Jack Nicholson and his $50m for playing The Joker as it was miscasting on an epic scale in my view but that’s Tim Burton for you, a man who thinks Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham-Carter are great for everything.

The elephant in the room was that he is only 5’ 9” (including his hair), and did we ever imagine Bruce Wayne being “average” height?  Who would have played Robin if Keaton had wanted to continue in the role?  Kenny Baker?

Val Kilmer:  Batman Forever (1995) – Joel Schumacher.

Auntie Val plays a wardrobe in wings.  It begs the question “where did he pull Doc Holiday from in Tombstone?”  It’s one of the great mysteries of our time as he’s awful in just about everything else yet he was outstanding as the Doc and inexplicably ignored by the academy.  His Bat is a return to the lumber yard I’m afraid.  They had to bring in a puppy dog called Chris O’Donnell to keep the audience’s attention.

George Clooney:  Batman and Robin (1997) – Joel Schumacher.

You did if for the paycheque George yeah?  Please tell me that you did fella because you made Up in the Air (2009 – JasonReitman), The Perfect Storm (2000 – Wolfgang Petersen) and O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000 – Joel Coen) and I love these films.  Batman and Robin is a terrible movie, part star vehicle and part school play.  “Hey, lets get some skateboards in here”, “yeah, yeah, more neon, get all that shit in here”.  Plus Arnie is in it and he’s like beetroot juice, whatever it touches he ruins.

Christian Bale:  Batman Begins (2005), The Dark Knight (2008) and The Dark Knight Rises (2012)  – all Christopher Nolan.

Twat Rant as he’s known in the trade.  Captain Knobhead to all the lads and lasses behind the camera.  Whether he will ever live down the embarrassment of the taped recording of him berating Terminator Salvation (2009 – Joseph McGinty Nichol) Director of Photography Shane Hurlbut like a spoiled bastard is debateable but he’s a top drawer actor as shown in numerous films, most recently The Fighter.  He makes a decent fist of Batman to, delivering a supremely gravelly voice and an intensity not seen sinceVal Kilmer (ha ha ha ha ha).  He also conveys the inner turmoil that Wayne had and there are some great scenes which give you a better sense of the back story, why he is the way he is.  The whole franchise needed dry-cleaning of beetroot stains but Nolan, Bale, Caine, Oldman and latterly the late Heath Ledger did a great job re-booting it.

So what of the future and what it holds for the Batman?   Bale has now done three and publically said he will not entertain anything with Robin in it, and does an actor of his undoubted quality need to be associated with one part for ten years as it would be if he signed on again?  I’d say not.  The casting will surely very much depend on what age Bruce Wayne is in the story.  I’d like to see The Dark Knight Returns (Frank Miller – published 1986) on film but we would need an aging and creaky lead as Wayne is supposed to be 55.  Would it be good box office to bring Michael Keaton back?  He’s of a similar age and is looking pretty trim.  Yeah I think that would work, he can act and with the benefit of hindsight and large dogs keeping Tim Burton off the set it could be a cracking movie.  My nod for the part but he would almost certainly not do it would be Daniel Day-Lewis.  Firstly there is nothing he cannot do, and secondly, we are not talking about a camped up script from the Adam West days, Miller’s graphic novel is a classic make no mistake about that.   Failing that let’s go in a different direction and bring Bruce back from a 10 year party.  Enter MatthewMcConaughey who fresh from a Chanel commercial could slip into the role like a drunk into a limo.  I think he’s great, he oozes charm but also looks like a retired middleweight with a twinkle in his eye.  A bit of grey hair dye and some stubble and he could carry it off no problem and you watch the ladies turn up to see him.  “To the Batcave, y’all hear”.

Failing that let’s go in a different direction and bring Bruce back from a 10 year party.  Enter Matthew McConaughey who fresh from a Chanel commercial could slip into the role like a drunk into a limo.

If they go down the route of a younger Wayne and plotting the rise of one of the villains again then they will be looking for a leading man no older than 35.  I would have no problem with a Josh Hartnett, a James Franco or a Jeremy Renner as they are all very capable and good looking dudes who look like they could handle themselves in a ruck.  Hartnett has already turned it down however and Franco would probably be excluded from consideration due to his association with Spiderman (hey Mom, why is The Green Goblin Batman?).  I have one left field suggestion and I can be correctly accused of British bias here: Toby Kebbell is making a good name for himself in various roles and is a real star in the making.  Like Day-Lewis I think he could do justice to a serious storyline.  I fear though that we could see the likes of Jake Gyllenhaal, Ryan Reynolds or Channing Tatum get the role and it could stall the franchise once again.  Batman has never been a kid’s story and it needs to be treated seriously.  That’s not to say it needn’t be OK for kids to watch much like Grimm Fairy tales, it’s not about fluffy bunnies it has dark themes.  It’s why Superman films don’t really work anymore, things have moved on we don’t want to watch a monumental goody two shoes who clearly works for the CIA.

One of the biggest arguments regarding Batman is who could have played the joker better than Jack Nicholson in the original 1989 movie.  There tend to be two school of thought on this one who thought he was great and probably only compared him to Caesar Romero and clearly never picked up any of the graphic novels.  Then there would be those who did pick them up and thought it was a great big shitty show off performance which he probably doesn’t even remember doing.  You might guess I am in the latter category.  I pains me to say it as Jack has been great in many films, particularly The Shining, Chinatown and As Good as it Gets but it’s a dreadful bit of pork wrapped cack.  Ham joints flying all over the place but hey he got $50m and he looked like he was enjoying himself.  Who would have done better at the time?  Many names have been mentioned as better choices, Peter O’Toolewould have been great I reckon, Willem Dafoe (31 in 1989) has mad eyes and is as menacing as they get and I am a huge fan ofCrispin Glover and he can do unhinged as well as anyone, he might have been a bit young at 25 then though.  Tim Curry used to get a mention but I think he’s too camp and not too far removed from Romero’s 60’s version.  Personally the argument is now consigned to history as Heath Ledger pulled off what Jack could not.  They may as well retire the character from the films as who would want to follow that?

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