With all due respect, step aside, Marvel. Also, J.J. Abrams, I’m sorry but that whole Star Wars: Episode VII you got going also takes a backseat. Because when Christopher Nolan steps into the picture — as the appointed “Godfather” of DC films for Warner Bros. no less — the battle for box office and pop culture superiority has already been decided. If Latino Review’s report holds true, and Christian Bale will indeed once again don the cape and cowl alongside Henry Cavill’s Superman, there’s no going back. Things will have changed forever when the Dark Knight trilogy and Man Of Steel become the foundation for Justice League.
A decade worth of films will form a DC cinematic universe, bringing together a team headlining two of the most iconic and enduring characters ever created. Arguably the most influential director of our time, Nolan, will oversee all of it with the help of David Goyer, the current guru of modernizing superheroes. And Zack Snyder, terribly underrated for his work on Watchmen and fittingly praised for 300, will direct coming off the heels of what many anticipate to be a very successful Man Of Steel.
In other words, you’ve got Bale, an actor whose Batman earned $2.5 billion at the box office all by his lonesome. You have Superman returned to glory. And you have a group of proven filmmakers that know what they’re doing with these characters; and they know how to tell a serious, engaging story that relates to audiences while also providing plenty of blockbuster entertainment.
But as awesome as all of that sounds (I cannot fathom the eventual hype), fans, particularly those of Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, are left wondering how all of this is possible.
“Didn’t Nolan say his Batman existed in a world with no superheroes? That he was the first superhero? And that The Dark Knight Rises concluded the story?,” they ask.
The answer to all of those questions would be a definite “Yes!” Nolan did state repeatedly that his Batman lived in a self-contained, realistic world, and that he was done after Rises. He reportedly turned down the “Godfather” role for future DC films in the past.
What changed exactly? History tells us through various interviews that Nolan is a man of focused attention. He doesn’t often look to the future when making any of his films, dedicating everything to making each one as good as it can be. After both Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, he had to be convinced to come back. Each time it was the story, the elements that Nolan and co. would add to the Batman mythos, that brought him back (oh, and most likely truckloads of money as well). Which, if Nolan has truly taken over as the head honcho for DC films, means something similar happened again. There’s a story that both he and Goyer want to tell with Justice League, and they believe in Snyder to carry it through as with Man Of Steel.
Now the question becomes: how does all of this fit together?
Establishing the Nolan-verse timeline & possibilities
If Bale’s Batman is supposedly the first and only superhero during his crime fighting tenure, it stands to reason that the entire Dark Knight trilogy takes place before Man Of Steel and the arrival of Superman. Baby Clark/Kal-El would likely crash land on Earth a few years prior to Bruce’s 7-year disappearance from Gotham in Batman Begins. While Bruce globe trots and trains with the League of Shadows, Clark grows up under the care of the Kent family. By the time of The Dark Knight, he’s a teenager at Smallville High School. And by the end of The Dark Knight Rises, he’s full grown and on the verge of discovering his alien origins.
The events during Man Of Steel would take place during Bruce’s post-Rises retirement, perhaps still chilling in Venice with Selina Kyle. This is where one of the key concepts from Begins would come into play: escalation. Humanity makes first contact with an alien species, the Kryptonians. Among them, only Superman presents himself as a friend to mankind, and his resulting battle with Zod escalates the definition of “global threat” to an entirely new level. No longer are the organized crime syndicates and terrorists that Batman faced the standard. The bar is permanently raised, and it’s going to take and equally powerful group of heroes to combat whoever strikes next.
This can work because both Nolan’s Dark Knight saga and Man Of Steel operate a simple premise: “What would happen if X hero existed in our world?” Factor in escalation and the arrival of aliens, and it’s possible to connect the two franchises. Bruce comes out of retirement, deduces that Clark is Superman, the two come up with the idea to team up, other superheroes emerge (Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Lantern), and it’s off to Justice League-ing.
Being careful not to undo The Dark Knight Rises
One thing that must not happen should Bale return is that the events of Rises cannot be swept under the Bat-rug and forgotten. At this point, Bruce has moved on and found happiness outside of Gotham. He no longer needs Batman, and that’s why he left John Blake to take the mantle. Bruce needs to come out of retirement not because he wants to, but because the world needs him. And if anyone could get this across to both Bruce and audiences, it would be Alfred. He’s the one who told Bruce to leave that “awful cave,” and he should be the person to convince Bruce that the world needs the one true Batman to return.
Allow Justice League to build off what Nolan’s films so brilliantly established. We know what the symbol of Batman means to Gotham. But what does it mean on a global scale? What does Batman represent when surrounded by gods among men facing indestructible foes? Tackle why the world — not just Gotham — needs a Batman, and the story will add something of substance to the character’s mythos on film.
At the end of the day, it’ll be impossible to sway everyone that believes Nolan’s Batman should forever be left alone. But the good thing is that those movies will always be there — nothing that comes after can tarnish them just as George Lucas’s original Star Wars trilogy cannot be tarnished by Episodes I-III.
Easily the hardest challenge will be portraying the entire Justice League in a realistic light, especially when it comes to Bale’s Batman potentially fighting off aliens. As audiences, we’ve come to expect a cinematic Batman to inhabit a world similar to our own, and watching that same Batman throw punches alongside the super-speedster Flash could be jarring if not handled correctly. Should Snyder direct, we’ll likely get a better idea of how this could be accomplished with Man Of Steel. And there’s always Snyder’s Watchmen, The Avengers, and X-Men films to learn from and adapt in creating the right mix.
Grounding the origins of Wonder Woman and the Flash will be key, with the Flash’s needing more hard science and Wonder Woman’s cutting out much — if not all — of the mythological elements. Green Lantern might be stretching it considering he wills constructs into existence with a magic ring, but at least his powers can be traced back to alien origins like Superman.
Without a doubt, nothing about approaching an ensemble of this magnitude will be easy. Endless piles of money will be spent on its budget. Fanboys will scrutinize at every chance, and flame wars among forum users everywhere will burn brighter than ever (with also plenty of mature, thoughtful discussion mixed in). But Nolan and his crew have given us no reason to doubt them so far, and they have earned the right to convey their vision of these characters however they see fit.
May Warner’s “Godfather” offer moviegoers everywhere a Justice League they can’t refuse.