JGL as Batman – Take a freakin’ breath, Internet!


UPDATE: My thoughts about the finality and symbolic ending of the Nolan Batman Trilogy were backed up by Chris Nolan himself in an interview posted after my initial article was published. Please see Collider and Film Comment for the interview.

At the time I’m writing this article it has barely been 24 hours since news broke about the possibility of Joseph Gordon-Levitt signing on to play Batman in the planned Justice League film (as reported initially by HitFix and later on here at Modern Myth Media). During this time, the news spread like wildfire over the comic book and superhero universe. The majority of reactions have been overwhelmingly negative.  Reps for JGL have done their best to fan the flames by denying the validity of the story but that is like telling water not to be wet, it’s a futile effort.

As I already stated, reactions to this news have been mostly negative. I’ve personally read hundreds of comments, posts, and tweets about this and I can attest to the divisive nature of this story. However, in my opinion, some reactions have lacked a little bit of logic and maturity. I’ve seen some state that if this news came to fruition that it would forever ruin Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy. I’ve seen some say this is the worst idea of all-time and the worst decision WB has made since letting Joel Schumacher direct a Batman film. I’ve also seen some reaction from people that took five minutes to decide what they thought before posting a kneejerk reaction. Some of those reactions stated that the idea was interesting; there are ways it could work, and maybe this is the studio’s way of testing fan reaction before making it official.

First things first, there is a TON of speculation in the original article by HitFix. Quite frankly, it’s borderline irresponsible reporting on their part. Look, I get it, I know how the game works, and it’s all about website hits. I’m not accusing them of doing that as they have the right to report whatever they want but I think a little more discretion could have been used. Since there is so much speculation in the article it’s difficult to consider anything even close to being fact. I decided to put together a list of what we can actually take away from this article:

  1. WB wants to cast JGL as Batman in the forthcoming JL film (supposedly).
  2. See #1.
  3. Take a deep breath, get a massage, have a cup of tea, and see #2.

Like a lot of reporting, a popular phrase is “according to sources.” No one wants to go on the record or make anything official. A story breaks like this and all it takes is a few “sources” to cause a silly knee-jerk reaction of thousands of people. Personally, I haven’t decided yet what my official opinion is on this news. I would rather give that once the news is officially confirmed or denied. However, in the age of instant communication and reaction, I know that is a rare occurrence. Instead I want to address the ultimate knee-jerk reaction that annoyed me the most.

To whoever thinks if this news if proved to be true would ruin Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy, are you having trouble breathing? I’m amazed and shocked that one piece of casting news could throw away a TRILOGY of films in your eyes.  It does not matter in the slightest bit whether JGL is cast as Bruce Wayne, John Blake, Robin Blake, Dick Grayson, or Alfred Freakin’ Pennyworth. That has zero effect on Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy. We have no idea what identity JGL would take over if he was cast other than Batman. It could be Blake or Wayne. That information was not made clear in the article but that didn’t stop thousands from assuming it was Blake. Sure, that is the most obvious assumption, but still an assumption.

The Dark Knight Trilogy told a complete story of Bruce Wayne in his career as Batman; A COMPLETE STORY. Batman appeared to sacrifice himself for the city of Gotham cementing his status as a legend, billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne “died” during the occupation of Bane’s army, and the real Bruce Wayne secretly moved on with his life. That completed Chris Nolan’s vision for the story of Bruce Wayne and his career as Batman.

I can already hear some of you saying, “Yeah but what about the last shot with Blake?” That last shot fulfilled Bruce Wayne’s mission statement from earlier in the film and the trilogy itself. Batman was meant to be a symbol to inspire others and “Batman could be anybody…that was the point.” Thanks to the heroic efforts of Bruce Wayne, he made Batman into a legend by the end of The Dark Knight Rises. Yes, there were many ways you could interpret that last shot of TDKR. Blake would become Batman, Blake would become Nightwing, or Blake would become another type of vigilante using some of the gadgets and swag he got from Bruce Wayne. Maybe after he got to the front of the cave and saw everything he decided that he should still be a cop after all. Maybe, he saw the gear, changed his mind completely, went home and had a burger. The mission statement was “Batman could be anybody,” it wasn’t Batman would be anybody.

Justice League, if and when it ever happens, will not have any involvement from the brothers Nolan. Chris Nolan made three Batman films that contained a beginning, middle, and an end. The trilogy will never be affected by any future Justice League or Batman films because Chris Nolan will not be a part of them. This was his trilogy and story to tell and that’s what we got. It was a three part cinematic version of a character that has been around since 1939. There will be many more Batman films in the future and they will probably continue long after our bodies are buried in the ground.

The character of Batman is available for everyone in this world to enjoy. I think that sometimes our lifelong love for Batman causes us to be defensive when we hear a piece of news that WE think could negatively affect future iterations. Maybe we should focus our opinions for a time when news is actually confirmed and we have a better idea of what’s coming. Let’s not allow our defense of a character we love turn into pretentious behavior. We were just given arguably the best superhero trilogy of all-time; take some time and enjoy it. When we finally receive some official news about Justice League and who the new Batman is we can address it, debate it, and look forward to it as much as we want. Until that day comes, let’s just take a breath and be thankful for what we have because it may never be this good again.

-Josh Costella

  • http://twitter.com/DRockDot John Derick Dotson (@DRockDot)

    Thanks for this! lol… You made my day Josh. The trilogy is established and none of the future films will make them any less awesome or any news for that matter.

  • Craigtheowl

    Never say Never. I could see it. I actually half expect Christuan Bale to turn up in a post credits Man Of Steel scene. Tell me that wouldn’t mindfuck the Internet.

  • heyberto

    Great post.. but let me say this as a bit of a retort. I agree that this will not ‘ruin’ the original trilogy, and I’m not one that immediately thought it couldn’t work. But I have to say that I worry that trying to continue this story, will have a negative affect of how much I love Nolan’s story. This was his ending, with no intention of the story moving forward anywhere but in fans’ minds. For me, I go back to the Star Wars issue. If you’re a Star Wars fan. how do you feel about the original trilogy, now that we got some half-assed prequels? So yeah, those films aren’t ruined, my childhood was not raped.. but I no longer have my imagination about what the clone wars were. I no longer wonder what Anakin and Obi Wan were like in their prime. There are parts of the prequels that I love, and parts that I hate. But… I had grown ambivalent about Star Wars as a result of the prequels. Watching the original stories brings up a tinge of sadness of how badly the lore was handled.

    I don’t want that to happen to Batman. I’m open to a continuation of Nolan’s story working, just like I was with the SW prequels… but it doesn’t get me excited. I just don’t want them to blow it, and the failure factor goes up by not recasting/rebooting the character. If it’s good and makes sense, it won’t matter. If it’s a simple ploy to cash in on what Nolan did, it will fail.. and that worries me. Casting JGL as Bruce Wayne doesn’t bother me. Having him play John Blake/Batman in Justice League worries me. They can’t ruin the original TDK trilogy, but that doesn’t mean that it won’t have some effect.

  • http://blogs.forbes.com/markhughes Mark Hughes

    Lots of good stuff here, Josh. I agree, even those of us who oppose the idea of Blake-Batman being used in future films shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking that any future mistakes could somehow do harm to the Nolan trilogy itself.

    Nolan’s films are and will always remain great, definitive works that stand alone and cannot be injured by things that come after it, apart from it.

    The one thing I’d have to disagree with is the notion that the ending of TDKR is really open to much interpretation. I don’t think there’s any real way to ignore the obviousness of the message that Blake is supposedly going to take up the Batman cowl, and I think Nolan’s remarks clearly stress that point. Look at his entire remarks:

    “For me, The Dark Knight Rises is specifically and definitely the end of the Batman story as I wanted to tell it, and the open-ended nature of the film is simply a very important thematic idea that we wanted to get into the movie, which is that Batman is a symbol. He can be anybody, and that was very important to us. Not every Batman fan will necessarily agree with that interpretation of the philosophy of the character, but for me it all comes back to the scene between Bruce Wayne and Alfred in the private jet in Batman Begins, where the only way that I could find to make a credible characterization of a guy transforming himself into Batman is if it was as a necessary symbol, and he saw himself as a catalyst for change and therefore it was a temporary process, maybe a five-year plan that would be enforced for symbolically encouraging the good of Gotham to take back their city. To me, for that mission to succeed, it has to end, so this is the ending for me, and as I say, the open-ended elements are all to do with the thematic idea that Batman was not important as a man, he’s more than that. He’s a symbol, and the symbol lives on.”

    No, of course he’s not saying that just ANYBODY can be Batman, but he’s definitely making the point that Batman isn’t just Bruce Wayne, and he says very clearly that the ending’s openness is meant to speak directly to the point that “Batman is a symbol, he can be anybody.” Nolan says “Batman was not important as a man, he’s more than that. He’s a symbol, and the symbol lives on.”

    The film clearly ends with a repaired bat signal (seen by Gordon), with Blake in the bat-cave surrounded by bats (just like Bruce was in BB), and with Blake rising as the final image before the title ‘The Dark Knight Rises” appears on screen. Then there is the screenplay, which is written to make it clear that the context of images and events at the end are of Blake surrounded by bats and rising — the script literally ends by saying, “Blake lifts his head, feeling the bats all around him… Blake rises, and is swallowed by the darkness of their wings as we– FADE OUT.” I just cannot see any reason to look at the screenplay, the set of scenes in the film with the bat-signal repaired and Blake in the cave with bats as he rises, combined with Nolan’s comments focused on the notion Batman can be anybody because he’s a symbol as the meaning of the film’s ending, and not come to the conclusion that Nolan put on screen precisely what he really meant, that Blake is a former “Robin” who is now going to become Batman. And not that it directly matters, but the novelization of the film — an official licensed adaptation — does make it very plain that Blake is becoming the next Batman, too. That’s just all too much evidence for me, it seems like it’s not meant to be vague or unclear as to the meaning and intentions.

    The idea that Batman will continue to live on doesn’t undermine the point that Nolan’s films stand alone as a completed legend. He brought the whole thing to a solid conclusion, for certain, because this was the tale of how Bruce Wayne created the *legend* of Batman. Batman’s arc “ended” because TDKR fulfilled the true destiny of building a symbol and legend that would be immortal. if Batman had just ceased to exist in BB or in TDK, then Batman would not have been an eternal symbol for Gotham City. Only in the story of TDKR did he finally achieve that, and that is why this trilogy concludes the story of how Batman was created and became a legend that would live forever. The tale of how this symbol then went on to be used by others taking up the mantle is unimportant, those tales don’t matter, the real legend is in the story (told in this trilogy) that led to Batman turning into that eternal symbol.

    But it’s a legend that won’t be “hurt” or “ruined” by other films coming later that use the Nolanverse to continue Blake-Batman’s story, and I agree with the main point of your article about not resorting to hyperbole over the situation. The problem with continuing the Blake-Batman stories is that it hurts THOSE later stories they’d be telling, the problem and weakness of the idea resides in the films that would come out of the concept. We need to focus on discussing our opposition to the idea in realistic ways, on the idea’s own merits and in the context of why these new stories would not work or would contradict what was set up in the Nolan films etc, without falling into the error of claiming falsely that somehow the trouble with these later films would be that they were capable of reaching back to damage and destroy the films Nolan created.

    So while I hope they do not use Blake-Batman, since I think it would result in many problems for the new films and would mean we have to wait a lot longer for a new series of Batman films that reboot and move beyond the Nolanverse, I also hope we can all discuss it logically and remember not to overreact and to wait for more information. I think the rumors are not going to come to fruition, and that we don’t have to worry about this.

    However, I do think that fans need to start responding now and letting their voices be heard loud and clear. WB listens to the fans, and if fans sit silent and the only voices WB hears are the people expressing praise and favor for the idea, then even if they weren’t previously going to consider it, they might reevaluate the concept. The best thing is for fans to make reasoned, logical objections that avoid hyperbole and rudeness, but that are also very clear and stated loud enough to get attention.

  • Stock

    Now, hold on, Dude. I agree with Mr. Hughes’ last line above. The idea that some empty suits at WB, and even at DC would float a proposition like that, and not expect some extreme fan reaction is nonsense. And of course, as Steve Martin said, “Some people have a way of expressing themselves, and other people…..not have way.”

    But I disagree with one aspect of your argument. There IS a danger of diminishing a legend. I love Batman. Have so, all my remembered life. It took a very, very long time to see him on screen as me and others like me have wanted. I really liked Burton’s first attempt, but Nolan did something really extraordinary and made me give a damn. Without disappointment.

    Now you have these suits, whose only concern is green, throw out really stupid ideas that, if implemented, could make Nolan’s efforts to legitimize the characters a waste of energy. And yes, to this argument; the Star Wars Prequels DID diminish the original trilogy. There is no way around that fact. You can correctly state that it was at the behest of the original’s creator, so its completely on him, but still….

    Truthfully, I don’t believe these rumors, or even consider that JGL would agree to do it. But when moronic idiocy spews forth from the powers that be, revolution is the only effective response. Or, to quote Young Frankenstien, “A riot, is an ugly ting. AND I THINK ITS ABOUT TIME WE HAD ONE RIGHT NOW!

  • Stock

    Oh, and one more thing, I really don’t believe in the “Batman can be anyone,” line of thought. That, in and of itself, diminishes the character to the point of being unrecognizable. It brings to mind many extrapolations of Could anybody be anybody?

    The answer is no. Lincoln could only be Lincoln. Anyone else would not have had the background, or gone through the trials that he had endured to become the Lincoln that we know, and accomplish what he did. (Apologies to my Southern brethren who may not agree about his greatness)

    The same is true of the legend of Batman. He may not have any super-powers, but it is his background, his training, and his will that make him Batman, not his suit or his gadgets. At the end of TDKR a statue of Batman is unveiled, and everyone then realizes that Batman is gone, and he will NOT RETURN. That is the true end of Nolan’s Batman.
    Just as there is a statue and factual remembrance of Lincoln, as we now are fully and painfully aware, the like of him shall NOT RETURN.

    So, continuing the legend with someone else growling under the cowl, will unavoidably, diminish Nolan’s Batman. Whether he thinks anyone can be Batman or not.