It seems that Christopher Nolan has finally officially announced the third in his Batman reboot trilogy, and it is being called Dark Knight Rises, which, to no one’s surprise whatsoever, has really turned out the boner jokes in full force. But that’s not the important thing about this final installment: we all knew it was coming (ha!), the question has always just been over who he’d trot out as the big final villains this time around.
Batman movies have had a long and confusing relationship with the actual comic itself, following or breaking canon, directors picking out their victims pretty much willy-nilly. The first run of Tim Burton movies were solid flicks, featuring first the Joker, and then Catwoman and the Penguin. When Joel Schumacher took over the franchise, he added nipples to the batsuit and gave us an interesting pair in the Riddler and Two-Face, then decided to finish out his tenure with Mr. Freeze, Poison Ivy and some vague attempt at Bane, much to the dismay of anyone with eyeballs and a memory.
When Nolan took over the franchise, he decided to go with a more realistic approach to the comics, one that was darker and more serious than Schumacher’s, but not as impressionistic or gothic as Burton’s. In that, he decided only to choose villains that fit to this standard. There wouldn’t be a Penguin or a Killer Croc, characters who fall too far outside the realm of realism. Instead we got the criminally underappreciated Scarecrow in Batman Begins, an excellent and untapped choice for a brand new start to the rather repetitive cycle in which Batman movies had begun to spin. Then, of course, with The Dark Knight, he brought us the Joker, the most iconic of all Batman villains, in perhaps, an even more memorable performance by Heath Ledger than Jack Nicholson’s in Tim Burton’s first movie. Along with him was a far more realistic Two-Face, one that really spoke to the horror of Harvey Dent’s twisted character.
All in all, Nolan had delivered astoundingly well on his promise, and it appears that in Dark Knight Rises, he will continue to do the same. In the announcement this week, we found out who our last pair of nasties will be: Anne Hathaway as Catwoman and Tom Hardy as Bane. An interesting pair, no doubt. I certainly can’t complain about Anne or Tom showing up in any movie. And yes, Catwoman is a classic, how could we expect him to skip her in what is likely the last of his Batman flicks? And Bane is yet untested, a favorite of the fan-faithful, and though he appeared briefly in Batman & Robin, his role should hardly be counted at all. So what do I think? Oh, I’ll tell you what I think…
At the end of The Dark Knight, we have Maggie Gyllenhaal gettin’ all blowed up, the Joker dying, and Batman feeling like a big fat sack of shit. While Catwoman is certainly a great prescription for Batman to find his mojo back, how about we actually tie these last two movies together a bit? Ever since I left the theatre at the end of the last film, I had one character in mind, and I knew exactly how I’d write her in:
Stick with me now.
I know it wouldn’t be anywhere near canonical, but out of the rubble of the last movie, we see a new villain rise, hell-bent on revenge for the fallen Joker. She’s a mystery, her face shrouded in greasepaint, but she wants Batman dead and will take down Gotham with him, no matter the cost. Sure, she can invite Bane along for the trip, because frankly, Bane deserves a second chance. So Harley Quinn and her venom-jacked cohort wreak havoc through town at a level even the Joker couldn’t imagine as Batman struggles to know what he is, trying to come to terms with his loss of Rachel and his world crumbling around him. I mean, yeah, she's not Catwoman, but that broad's been done to death (sorry boutcha, Halle Berry). Nolan's not one to stand on ceremony anyway, and with Bane in the mix and his fresh, modern take on the franchise, Nolan could really do Harley well, especially as the movie comes to its teeth-chattering, explosion-filled close.
Because, finally, in the most climactic scene of the entire trilogy, when Batman at long last has a chance to do away with this menace to society that has so definitively broken him, Harley’s makeup is smeared away, and she is revealed to be none other than Rachel Dawes. She didn’t die in the explosion at all. Instead, suffering from a hyper-intensified state of Stockholm Syndrome, augmented by perhaps drugs (let’s tie ol’ Dr. Crane back into this!) or by a head injury or just the Joker’s own insanity, she fell in love with the Joker and went bat-shit (pun completely intended), when she found out he was dead, dedicating herself, along with all of the Joker cronies and Gotham under-dwellers left, to utterly decimate Batman once and for all.
Can you imagine that moment? When Batman has nothing left to live for, a completely broken man, about to go back on his moral standard and actually kill Harley Quinn, only to find out that she is Rachel? That she doesn’t remember him, and that, as they are struggling high atop Gotham on some precarious ledge, she is still wild-eyed and spitting as he is falling back in love and has no idea what to do because she is no longer herself?? He can’t kill her, he can’t even arrest her. WHAT DOES HE DO?? ARE YOUR PISSING YOUR PANTS YET?? It wouldn’t just be the most amazing possible end to the movie, but such an epic, heart-breaking, all-encompassing end to the trilogy that would feel so complete, so perfect, that someone might actually leave the franchise well enough alone for a few goddamn years for once, goddamnit.
So Nolan, get at me brother. There’s still time to change a couple of things around. Tell the Academy to start etching your name on that Oscar.