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Matt Reeves’ grounded take on The Batman still leaves room for lots of rogues in Gotham.
This article contains spoilers for The Batman.
If you’ve seen The Batman by now, it’s plain to see that director/co-writer Matt Reeves’ vision for the Dark Knight is perhaps the darkest we’ve seen onscreen to date, drenched in the brooding atmosphere and morally ambiguous tones of noir while constructed on the spine of a classic detective story. There’s virtually none of the fantastical carnival aspects of the Burton/Schumacher films and far less of the propulsive action pyrotechnics of the Christopher Nolan-directed Dark Knight trilogy.
The Batman, as a result, is a “grounded,” “realistic,” and “gritty” — to throw around those buzzwords one more time — take on the Caped Crusader’s travails in Gotham City, which is certainly in line with Nolan’s approach as well. It’s also a refreshing change of pace after watching a different iteration of the Bat spend time in the Snyderverse fighting against and alongside godlike beings from Earth and space.
In line with that thinking, the new film deploys down-to-earth versions of classic villains like the Penguin and Catwoman — returning them to their gangster and burglar/wrong side of the tracks roots respectively — while interpreting the Riddler as a truly chilling Zodiac-like killer.
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Should Reeves stick with this approach for future films — and we’re pretty certain at this point that he’ll be making at least a couple more — it’s time to turn our attention to which other figures from Batman’s classic rogues gallery, often cited as the best in all of comics, can be introduced in future films within the aesthetic that the director has established.
Yes, we know that one of the final scenes in The Batman finds Riddler making a new friend in Arkham Asylum who is clearly meant to be the Joker, and we are resigned to the fact that Reeves — like all filmmakers who spend time in Gotham — will eventually want to offer his take on the greatest ongoing conflict in all of comics.
Reeves himself told Den of Geek about his Joker: “His appearance at the end of the movie is really more contextual. I can’t say whether we would do him specifically in the movies or not…The idea is that what you’re seeing is a pre-Joker Joker actually. So it will be critical that he be different.”
But not yet, okay? We’ve had three different Jokers running around these last few years (if you count the Gotham TV version alongside Joaquin Phoenix and Jared Leto), and there are many other villains to bring out before falling back on that familiar grinning face. As the mayor of Gotham once said, “The clown will keep.” Let him and Riddler continue to become friends in Arkham and perhaps tag-team the Batman in a third or fourth film.
Speaking of Riddler, it seems we can probably rule out appearances from enemies like Hush, Holiday, and Calendar Man in a future sequel, since Reeves’ version of the Prince of Puzzlers sort of draws a bit from each of those characters, and we don’t necessarily need to see another serial killer running around Gotham right away (that would also rule out someone like Victor Zsasz).
Let’s also rule out Bane for now. Although there is a shot near the end of the film of Batman injecting himself with a greenish liquid that gives him strength and fury — which many are already interpreting as a Easter-eggy prototype of Venom — Bane feels more global in scope and we’re thinking that Reeves, at least for now, wants to keep his villains Gotham-grown.
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As for Oswald Cobblepot and Selina Kyle, we suspect that they’ll be back, with Penguin continuing to consolidate his criminal power in the wake of Carmine Falcone’s death, and Batman perhaps using him as a source of underworld information. We’re not sure how Selina will fit into future tales just yet, but you can also bet that Reeves won’t leave the palpable chemistry between the Bat and the Cat simmering on the back burner for too long.
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With all that in mind, here are some of the potential rogues — mostly classic, with a few more recent additions — we’d either like to see or think we’re likely to encounter in the universe of The Batman.
It’s almost a certainty that Harvey Dent will show his, uh, face in Reeves’ Batverse. For one thing, Gotham needs a new district attorney after Gil Colson gets himself slaughtered by the Riddler in The Batman, and we’d be willing to bet cold cash that it’s Dent who gets the job. Plus Reeves has cited The Long Halloween as one of the Batman stories that heavily influenced his take on the mythology, and that story is all about the fall of Harvey Dent.
But Chris Nolan (and co-writers Jonathan Nolan and David Goyer) also drew upon The Long Halloween for their version of Dent (played magnificently by Aaron Eckhart), and frankly their interpretation is going to be hard to beat. So if Reeves does want to explore the transformation of his White Knight into the murderous Two-Face, he might want to find a different angle.
Professor Hugo Strange is one of Batman’s oldest villains (first introduced way back in 1940 in Detective Comics #36), and while he’s appeared in animated efforts and on the Gotham TV show (where he was played by B.D. Wong), he’s yet to appear in any of the big-screen versions of the Batman canon.
A scientist who is able to deduce the Batman’s identity — one of the first enemies in the comics to do so — he has had his share of far-fetched adventures but could easily be reinterpreted in a more modern, realistic fashion. The version of the character established on the animated show The Batman — where he is the chief psychologist at Arkham Asylum — may point the way to an interesting cinematic take.
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Roman Sionis is not a “classic” Batman rogue in the sense that he only came on the scene in 1985, but he could definitely have fit into the original lineup of villains. Plus we’ve always loved his style, including his ebony skull mask, which we didn’t see nearly enough of when Ewan McGregor played the role in 2020’s Birds of Prey. We didn’t care for that version of this tough-as-nails, sadistic crime lord, so we’re more than happy to see a new one introduced.
Bruce Wayne’s childhood “friendship” with Sionis, as well as their adult rivalry in the business world — with Bruce offering to bail out a humiliated Sionis’ failed cosmetics company, only for Sionis to turn to crime — could certainly be mined and expanded upon in the world of The Batman, that is if young Bruce Wayne takes more of an interest in what his company is doing than in the first movie.
Dr. Jonathan Crane has been a presence throughout Batman comics and animated films for decades, and finally made his long-awaited live-action debut in Nolan’s trilogy. But he was featured only as a secondary villain in Batman Begins and relegated to cameos in The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises, while never once appearing in full Scarecrow regalia (only his admittedly creepy hood).
It’s certainly not out of the question for Reeves and his remarkable production team to come up with an equally eerie full Scarecrow outfit — even in this “grounded” world — and Crane developing a fear toxin is also something we could see happening in the Gotham of The Batman. Doug Moench, Paul Gulacy, and Jimmy Palmiotti created a storyline called “Terror” back in 2000-2001 (Legends of the Dark Knight #137-141) which teamed Crane with Dr. Hugo Strange. It might be very interesting to tap into that and see these two demented practitioners of psychological torment turn their efforts toward Robert Pattinson’s already damaged Bat.
Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo are one of the greatest Batman creative teams of all time, and one of their top-notch creations was the Court of Owls, a secret consortium that draws its members from some of the richest and oldest families in Gotham City. Wielding their considerable financial and political power, and using trained, undead assassins known as Talons to kill anyone who stands in their way, the Owls have controlled the fate of Gotham for centuries — until they come up against both Bruce Wayne and the Dark Knight.
Since the Caped Crusader discovers in The Batman how far up the rungs of society Gotham’s corruption goes, introducing the Court as the secret power behind it all would make perfect sense as a direct follow-up to the events of the first film. It’s also a double-edged conflict as the Court wants to take Bruce Wayne off the board as well before he can use any of his own power to change Gotham’s direction. Throw in a few wild cards (Penguin, a villain to be named later) and you’ve got an epic.
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Pattinson himself told Den of Geek that he’d love to take on the Court in the next movie!
Yes, we know. We said “grounded” and “realistic” are the watchwords of Reeves’ universe in The Batman. But since we’re talking about a world in which a billionaire goes around dressed as a bat fighting criminals and killers, using some advanced gadgetry and one hell of a souped-up car, there has to be a little wiggle room to allow a bit of the fantastical, doesn’t there?
That’s why we like the idea of reinventing Mr. Freeze, bringing him closer to the brilliant, tragic figure of the animated shows and erasing the stink of the Schwarzenegger disaster in Batman & Robin. A man who must wear a cryogenic suit and who wields a freeze gun — these aren’t completely beyond the bounds of believability, with a little bit of technobabble to smooth the way.
Hell, if you don’t believe us, take it from Reeves himself, who said the following at a press event for The Batman when asked about this possibility: “I just feel drawn to finding the grounded version of everything. So to me it would be a challenge in an interesting way to try and figure out how that could happen, even the idea of something like Mr. Freeze, that’s such a great story, right? I think there’s actually a grounded version of that story which could be really powerful and could be really great.”
The Queen of Green falls under the same category as Dr. Victor Fries above. Aside from the fact that it would be good to have a few more female faces about Reeves’ Gotham besides Selina, Dr. Pamela Isley can be reimagined as an ecoterrorist who uses advanced scientific knowledge and technology to wreak environmental havoc on Gotham (which doesn’t look like the greenest of cities to begin with).
Sure, her outright supernatural control over plant life and her overripe costume would need to be heavily altered or dispensed with, but there are ways around both. Although she’s been a staple of the animated universes (and also showed up on both Gotham and Batwoman in reworked versions), it would be a shame if a big-screen Ivy didn’t come along to — as with Mr. Freeze — exorcise the dreadful Uma Thurman edition from Batman & Robin.
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Ah, Clayface. Although he debuted in 1940 as one of the Bat’s earliest villains, actor-turned-villain Basil Karlo was used only sparingly. But the Clayface concept was reinvented in the late 1950s when he became Matt Hagen, whose exposure to a radioactive pool gave him shapeshifting abilities and turned him into the Clayface who hung around the DC Comics universe for decades (there have been multiple other characters since then using the Clayface name as well).
As par for most of the bad guys on this list, Clayface has surfaced over and over again in the animated movies and series, and even had a stint on Gotham. As with Freeze and Ivy, the whole shapeshifting element that is the villain’s main gimmick would have to somehow be rejiggered or scientifically explained to give it some kind of grounding. But it’s not too wild to be dismissed, is it? (Apologies to Killer Croc and Man-Bat, who didn’t make the list.)
Another longtime (around since 1948) and oddly durable Bat-villain, Jervis Tetch and his fascination with hats has turned up not just in plenty of comics, but in the animated realms, the 1966 Batman series, the Gotham universe, and even on Batwoman (although the character was revamped and renamed as Liam Crandle, who aims to become the “second” Hatter).
Mind control is the name of the game for Tetch, a weapon not outside the realm of possibility in any comic book universe no matter how grounded. Nevertheless, his techniques and look would probably go through a serious reimagining to fit into the Reeves aesthetic: since the Hatter is kind of child-like in nature, he may be the one character on this list we have the hardest time visualizing.
Although he made his debut way back in 1952, Firefly was for a long time not associated with the classic Batman rogues gallery — probably because he hadn’t been featured as much and a criminal who used special lighting effects to cover up his crimes probably wasn’t that compelling. Rebooted in the 1980s as an all-out pyromaniac, Garfield Lynns has since taken up a position as one of the Bat’s most dreaded and darkest enemies.
Now, while there have been animated versions of the character and even a live-action female edition on Gotham, there is one thing that may throw water on the idea of Firefly appearing in the Reeves Bat-verse: Lynns is set to appear in the upcoming HBO Max movie Batgirl, where he’ll be played by Brendan Fraser. We’re so excited about seeing Fraser play a classic Bat-villain that we’ll be willing to pass up the opportunity to see Firefly go up against Pattinson’s Bat.
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Which villains would you like to see in the sequel to The Batman? Let us know in the coments!
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The Batman is in theaters now.
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Written by
Don Kaye |
Don Kaye is an entertainment journalist by trade and geek by natural design. Born in New York City, currently ensconced in Los Angeles, his earliest childhood memory is…
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