What is the greatest version of Batman ever seen on film? Has it yet to happen? Will it be the Batman we see in 2016’s Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice?

Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman is considered the first modern blockbuster, and has since influenced Hollywood’s modern marketing and development techniques of the superhero film genre. Ever since then, the Batman has had a strangle hold on American pop culture, appearing on a multitude of different mediums and platforms. Since the release of Burton’s Batman, there been feature films, animated films, animated television shows, comic books, graphic novels, and video games. Yet, despite all these different versions and re-tellings, the final product of all of them always seems to result in some sort of watered down version of the Batman. Yes, this even includes the acclaimed Dark Knight Trilogy, because even though they did a phenomenal job capturing the essence and the idea of the Batman, they were not as successful in portraying his skills and personality.

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Well, fans, the wait is over, as the iteration of Batman in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, appears to be the most faithful adaptation of the character yet. I’ll begin with the basics, mainly, the aesthetics of this new Batman. There are a couple of reasons that are contributing to this Batman being the best looking Batman on film to date. First and foremost: the Batsuit.

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via Empire

Being born in 1993, my first exposure to Batman was the legendary cartoon Batman: The Animated Series. I was too young for the movies at the time, especially Burton’s, but around the time I was four or five years old, Batman: The Animated Series was just perfect for me. I was a lucky kid to have that be my first experience with Batman, as some consider that cartoon the definitive take on the character. Had I first seen, let’s say, Batman & Robin, my appreciation of Batman might be a little different. My point is, what I took most from Batman: The Animated Series, is how Batman looks. When I think of what he should look like, I think of this version, from Batman: The New Adventures (a continuation of Batman: The Animated Series)

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via Google Images

Fans have been calling for the grey and black suit, a la The Dark Knight Returns, for years, and we’ll finally be getting it in 2016. Until Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice Batman has more or less only wore all black on film, a look rarely seen in the comics. By giving fans a live action version of the Batsuit they have grown to know and love, it immediately becomes the most faithful adaptation of Batman’s look to date.

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However, his wardrobe is not the only reason this will be the best looking Batman to date, as the technology is finally ready to give Batman the ability to do more of what he does in the comics. Before 2005’s Batman Begins, the technology was just not ready for a proper Batman movie. Not to the fault of the filmmakers, the practical and special effect technology was simply not where they needed to be. While The Dark Knight Trilogy has it’s fair share of special effects, almost none of them involve Batman doing Batman like things. By “Batman things”, I mean grappling from building to building, bursting through windows, lighting up the Batsignal, things of that nature.

Batman
via Youtube

Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice is not only going to show some of the most endearing images of Batman, but some of the best fight sequences yet. For all of it’s critical accolades, one of the major criticisms of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy were the fight sequences. While the two fight scenes with Bane in The Dark Knight Rises were no doubt a sight to be hold, it felt to be too little, too late. Point being, this is a notion shared by Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice fight coordinator Guillermo Grispo, having this to say about Batman’s on-film physicality (via Comingsoon.net):

Now Batman is going to fight the way I’ve always dreamed seeing him fight. He’s a character so prepared in martial arts that you can do a lot of things with him, but filmmakers usually don’t go all the way with it. Even in the last Nolan movies the action scenes aren’t very good from a technical , martial arts point of view to things like choreography, filming, bad camera movements.

Not only that, but if Snyder is revered for one thing, it is his ability to direct an action sequence. That, combined with the fight coordinators passion to get it right, and Batman’s extensive combat skills to exploit, it looks as if this version of Batman is going to really focus on his fighting ability, something fans have yet to see on film.

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What you have here are reasons Batman is going to look, move, and all around appear better than he ever has on film. Except, the reasons Ben Affleck’s Batman are going to be the best version go far beyond pure aesthetics. Reasons such as where the inspiration for this character is coming from, as well as where Warner Bros. plans to take him, all factor into me believing that Affleck’s version is going to be the definitive take on the character.

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To begin with, is the inspiration. Ask any Batman fan, one who actually reads the comics, and most will tell you that Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns is their favorite story, or at least in their top 5. Depicting an older, worn-down, more-unhinged, fresh out of retirement Bruce Wayne, Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns was a Batman the likes of which fans had never seen. Bringing an already impossibly human character to a more grounded level of realism effectively changed the way Batman was marketed. The 1980’s are known as a sort of renaissance for comic books, and The Dark Knight Returns is a major contributor to that. The Dark Knight Returns has also had a tremendous influence on none other than Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice director Zack Synder, who had this to say all the way back in 2008, long before he was remotely attached to anything involving Batman (via Slashfilm.com): 

There are a lot of other graphic novels out there, but I would love to see Frank Miller’s Dark Knight made into a movie, but that’s just me.

Luckily for him, and comic book fans, he was given that opportunity, revisiting his love for The Dark Knight Returns at 2015 ComicCon in San Diego (via 2015 Comic Con Batman v Superman Panel):

There has been a lot of talk about my, sort of, love of a particular comic book, which is The Dark Knight Returns. A comic book that I love and that I definitely homage a lot in the movie as a way of saying to Frank Miller ‘”you’re a genius and I think that book is genius”.

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Similar to Snyder drawing inspiration from The Dark Knight Returns, he is also using elements of Batman lore never portrayed in the movies. For starters, we are going to see a veteran Batman, a vigilante who has been protecting Gotham for 20-something years. This adds a whole new potential dimension to both his rogue’s gallery and his relationship with those characters. This is a Batman who has presumably been solving The Riddler’s infuriating riddles for two decades. This is a Batman who has been in a romantic standoff with Selina Kyle for 20 years. This is a Batman who has been battling The Joker for almost half of his life. The kind of psychological, emotional, and mental impact that can have on Bruce Wayne has never been explored on film. Compound that with the death of a Robin, and you have one seriously complexly scarred Batman. Affleck elaborated on this idea in a recent interview with Empire Magazine (via Empire):

Zack pitched me his concept for this older, more broken, kind of f—d up Batman. It was something we haven’t seen. We have seen that Batman is willing to cross the line to protect people. That vigilantism has been a part of his character all along, and we are tapping into that mentality when faced by something as potentially as deadly as Superman.

However, Snyder and Affleck are not the only reasons this version of Batman is primed to succeed, as Warner Bros. studio heads are heavily invested as well. With the massive success of Marvel Studios (all the credit to them in the world) and their Cinematic Universe, it was only a matter of time before DC and Warner Bros. threw their hat in the ring. If these executives are any sort of qualified, than they must know that if their cinematic universe has any chance of succeeding, let alone competing with Marvel’s, that they must nail the DCCU’s interpretation of Batman.

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Batman is unequivocally the biggest superhero in the world, and can draw a billion dollar box office all on his own. Something not many, if any, other superhero can claim. With the comic book movie craze apparently proceeding full steam ahead, it is crucial that Warner Bros. blows the world away with their Batman if their cinematic universe has any chance of surviving.

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Apparently, they already have, as it has been recently reported that an early cut of BvS was shown to studio heads, and received a standing-ovation. Couple that with the news that Warner Bros. has delayed the release of Affleck’s other two projects, The Accountant and Live By Night, and the rumors that they are prepared to offer him a 10-year, three standalone film deal, it looks as if Warner Bros. is beyond sold on Affleck’s take on Batman.

With all that being said, in order for this Batman to be the greatest ever, it must be over multiple films: he can’t just be a one hit wonder. With Affleck rumored to be both writing (with legendary writer Geoff Johns) and directing the next solo Batman film, the character looks to be safe in the Academy Award winning director’s hands. With Affleck’s penchant for gritty, real-world crime dramas, along with what he learns from working with Snyder, and Warner Bros. desire to produce the best ever Batman, it looks as if the next Batman movie, currently titled, “The Batman,” will be a home run.

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So far, as compelling as my case may be, there is one crucial factor I have yet to touch on: the villains. Based on rumors, hints from the trailers, and general knowledge of Batman lore, I am putting my money on some sort of adaptation of “Under The Red Hood” being the basis of the next Batman movie. If Jared Leto’s Joker is as good as advertised, which I believe it will be, he will undoubtedly be the main antagonist in Batman’s next solo outing, however, based on what we’ve seen and heard so far, it looks as though Red Hood will also be involved in some capacity.

Let’s start with some hard facts, most notably, the defiled Robin suit seen in the BvS trailer.

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Seen displayed in the Batcave, is a Robin suit with “HAHAH joke’s on you Batman.” Obviously, this is a direct reference to the Joker, his past relationship with Batman, and his potential (probable) murder of a past Robin. While some may be trying to argue around it or develop their own over-thought theories, the fact remains that this image means nothing else other than that The Joker has previously killed a Robin in the DCCU. In fact, it is rumored Jared Leto’s Joker will be appearing in BvS in a flashback capacity. Coupled with the fact that Zack Snyder’s own son, Eli Snyder (a relatively inexperienced actor), is set to play Robin in BvS, it would be fair to deduce that the two will be sharing said flashback, a flashback that will most likely depict Jason Todd’s death. Harking back to Snyder’s inspirations, he seems to be taking plot points from another Batman classic, A Death in the Family, where a young Jason Todd dies at the hands of the Joker.

Batman, Robin
via Google Images

Now, that is not the end of the Batman-Robin-Joker story line, as other little clues have been sprinkled into Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad production. It is rumored that at the beginning of Suicide Squad, Harley Quinn and The Joker are estranged, as a result of Harley’s guilt over the death of Robin. This, in turn, provides her with the motivation to join Amanda Waller’s crusade against The Joker, Task Force X. Similarly, it has been previously rumored that “Jason Todd/Red Hood” is a priority character for DC in their new cinematic universe ” (via Heroic Hollywood).

The following is purely my speculation, however, I believe this image from the BvS trailer is the most substantial clue that The Red Hood is part of the DCCU:

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The casual fan, putting two and two together, with the image of Robin’s vandalized suit, assumed that is that this was a message from The Joker. I have one major issue with this: there have never been any (at least any that are rememberedBatman stories where The Joker knows his true identity. It has happened, but the most classic Batman and Joker stories ever told are the ones in which neither of them know a thing about the other’s past. There are few rogues in Batman’s galley who know his true identity, but Jason Todd/The Red Hood is certainly one, having once been Bruce’s apprentice. Not only that, but the message itself, specifically mocking the death of his family, is something that The Red Hood would do. Affleck and Snyder have both repeatedly spoke on the fact that this emotionally scarred Batman has been retired, and there would be no scar would cut deeper, and force the Batman into retirement, than that of Jason Todd’s death.

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You must be tired, that was a lot of information to take in, so I’ll summarize it for you as simply as I can. This new version of Batman, beginning in Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad, has the potential to be the most physically intimidating, faithfully adapted, emotionally and mentally complex version of the character we have ever seen on film. Following those two movies, that Batman, will then be (probably) in the care of a legendary comic book writer, Geoff Johns, and Academy Award winning director, Ben Affleck. And that movie (and the two following sequels), will potentially star the aforementioned definitive Batman, a polarizing take on the Joker from an Academy Award winning actor, a scene-stealing Harley Quinn, and the introduction of one of the most interesting and tormenting villains in Batman lore, The Red Hood. Sounds pretty damn special, doesn’t it?

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Now all that needs to happen is Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad become massively successful, Affleck’s Batman, Leto’s Joker, and Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn are all universally praised, Affleck needs to be officially announced as the director of “The Batman,” Red Hood needs to be actually confirmed and properly cast (Jake Gyllenhaal!!!), and then that movie needs to be the greatest Batman movie ever made. No big deal.

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