I think about a world to come where the books were found by the golden ones, written in pain, written in awe by a puzzled man who questioned, "What are we here for?" All the strangers came today and it looks as though they're here to stay.

-David Bowie "Oh! You Pretty Things"

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Top 3 Batman Villains For The Dark Knight Rises

3. Catwoman

Last year there was an internet hoax in which Megan Fox was supposedly confirmed for the role of Catwoman in the third Dark Knight Christopher Nolan Batman film (which we now know by the name The Dark Knight Rises). I was furious. Megan Fox can't act and I've never found her attractive (with the exception of a couple brief moments in the film Jennifer's Body). Megan Fox as Catwoman was, to me, like feeling the need to throw up, feeling that poison welling up in your abdomen and your entire body preparing to forcefully remove it. Likewise, the clarification that this was a vicious rumor and that no casting choices had been made for the upcoming Bat-film felt much like that moment of happiness once a poison has been purged.

The fact, however, is that the conclusion of The Dark Knight sets the stage perfectly for a Catwoman storyline. (I would argue that a Batman/Superman story would actually fit better, but Nolan said he didn't want to introduce Superman in Batman's story. I also think that there is a significant setup for a Batgirl storyline.) Batman is a criminal. His existence is against the law. He belongs, like those he has brought to justice, in Arkham Asylum. He is forced into the dark underside of justice, and who better to accompany him than everyone's favorite cat burglar with a conscience.

Between the rumors that Joseph Gordon-Levitt would play The Riddler and the confirmation that Tom Hardy will be in the film but that he will most certainly not be playing The Riddler, there was a rumor that Inception co-star Marion Cotillard would be joining the cast as Catwoman. Of all the rumors, that is the strongest public casting choice that I have seen so far. At the same time, however, I think Cotillard's talents might be better used elsewhere, but I'll explore this later. For me, the greatest Catwoman was Michelle Pfeiffer in Batman Returns. Pfeiffer's Catwoman, like Nicholson's Joker in Batman, is the standard of comparison, if we deem comparison necessary. Who, like Pfeiffer, can do the role of Catwoman justice? The first thought that came to my mind was Kristen Bell, but maybe that's just because I would love to see her in that costume and I know from Fanboys and Veronica Mars that she's a geek. Naomi Watts would be fantastic, but I fear that she is getting too old for audiences to buy into this casting choice. Scarlett Johansson's already tied to the Marvel films, but would that be a problem? Halle Berry had already played Storm in two X-Men films when she was chosen to play Catwoman in Catwoman. (If you want to know where I think Halle Berry's portrayal of Catwoman fits in the spectrum, you will find it at the exact opposite end from Michelle Pfeiffer.) Kate Beckinsale?

In the end I don't know who the best choice for Catwoman is, but I know Catwoman is one of the best choices for The Dark Knight Rises.

2. Ra's al Ghul

There are a couple of significant difficulties with bringing back Ra's al Ghul for The Dark Knight Rises. The first difficulty is that Ra's al Ghul was killed in a train wreck in Batman Begins. The second difficulty is that resurrection via the Lazarus Pit seems a little too mystical and extraordinary compared to the tone that has been set for the Christopher Nolan Batman films.

I think that if we assume that Ra's al Ghul is simply not a viable candidate for the villain in the next Batman flick then we are underestimating not only our own imaginations, but the imagination of Christopher Nolan. If you remember how Ra's al Ghul was depicted in Batman Begins, you will remember that he was always enshrouded in some sort of mystery. The first person we believe to be Ra's al Ghul (Ken Watanabe) turns out to be a decoy and we find out that the real Ra's al Ghul is a man we have come to know as Henri Ducard. At Bruce Wayne's birthday party, Ra's al Ghul suggests that as an idea he is immortal.

So, how does the idea of Ra's al Ghul come back to life? I think it's possible that Ra's al Ghul was suggesting that the concept of Ra's al Ghul is something that any of a number of people could partake in, that it is perhaps more of a role than a particular identity. The decoy Ra's al Ghul may have been just as much Ra's al Ghul as the Henri Ducard Ra's al Ghul. I wouldn't immediately dismiss this idea. First of all, Nolan continues to describe his Batman films as a trilogy, meaning that there's a strong likelihood that issues dealt with in the first movie will resurface in the last creating a greater continuity. The League of Shadows certainly could have been behind some of the events of Dark Knight as well. Second, there may be a precedent for this transformation of the identity of Ra's al Ghul from the personal to the corporate. In Marvel's Iron Man, the character of Mandarin, originally understood as a martial artist who came upon ten rings of power in a crashed alien space ship, is transformed from a single individual enemy into a terrorist group known as Ten Rings. If the Mandarin identity can be understood as belonging to multiple individuals, why not the Ra's al Ghul identity? The mystery and identity confusion of Batman Begins are basically begging for this to be true and it gives us a chance to see a very Nolan understanding of the classic rejuvenation and resurrection themes that accompany any understanding of Ra's al Ghul.

Who should play the next Ra's al Ghul? Why not Tom Hardy? He's already confirmed and he sure isn't playing The Riddler.

1. Talia al Ghul

The solution to all of your Batman casting problems is Talia al Ghul.

Talia al Ghul is the best way to resolve the Ra's al Ghul/League of Shadows storyline from Batman Begins. You don't have to think so hard about identity and illusion. Instead you get to enjoy an incredibly beautiful woman in the interesting and complex role of Ra's al Ghul's daughter.

Talia has the dark side of a Catwoman character without introducing too many extraneous characters to the storyline. She belongs to the storyline as a successor to Ra's al Ghul. Similar to Catwoman, Talia al Ghul fills the necessary lead female role in Bruce Wayne/Batman's life that was emptied when Rachel Dawes was killed in Dark Knight. This provides an extra pay-off for comic book fans who know that she is the mother of Bruce Wayne's son Damian Wayne in the regular DC universe.

As for casting, here's where Marion Cotillard comes in. She's sexy and exotic, which hits the nail on the head for Talia al Ghul. She's got a rapport with Nolan, which seems to have worked for Tom Hardy. Most importantly, she can really act. I say this because Katie Holmes and Maggie Gyllenhaal were the two weakest links in the casting of Batman Begins and Dark Knight. Gyllenhaal was miles ahead of Holmes, but she was also miles behind what I would consider her normal acting capability. With Cotillard we could have an enticing female bat-villain who steals the show from acting titans Christian Bale, Gary Oldman, Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman.

In the end, I am just happy that Christian Nolan is in charge. For the most part, I trust his decisions and I feel certain that The Dark Knight Rises is going to astound me and be one of the best films of the year.

Now to figure out how I'm going to pass the time until 2012. Any suggestions?


  1. Don't know why this just hit me only know. Reading the descriptions for what Nolan was after, Talia suddenly hit me. Went in search of commentary, and here you are, pretty much writing everything I was thinking. Good post!