So I watch a lot of Superhero shows and films and I am also a writer.
Which means I am totally equipped to tell huge multinational corporations that employ professional screen-writers how to make their movie and TV franchises better!
For example. The films presented as part of the DC Extended Universe so far have ranged from mediocre to psychotically bad. So without going into too much detail or writing entire scripts this is how I would rewrite history to make the DCEU a better franchise. (Not more profitable, just better).
Step One. Start the shared universe with a Batman film, not Superman. Do the Arrowverse thing and start out dark then get progressively weirder.
Now this is a tall order because The Dark Knight Trilogy was mostly built of awesome and had an excellent depiction of the character and his origin story, even if Bane’s voice in the third film is incredibly silly and non-threatening, (yeah I said it). And since the MCU has been going for a good few years longer than the DCEU the audience for any new superhero film has probably sat through a lot of origin stories already.
So don’t write Batman’s origin story again. Or at least find a new way into that story.
My suggestion would be to avoid telling the story from Batman’s point of view. One of the most iconic and powerful aspects of Batman’s character, (at least when he’s played straight and isn’t messing around with Bat-Shark-Repellenttm), is that he is supposed to be scary; he terrifies the criminals of Gotham and quite a few of the ordinary citizens as well.
So make him frightening! Don’t treat him like the hero of the film; treat him like the monster in a horror film. For a good chunk of the movie you don’t know exactly what he is, what he can do or what his motivations are. (Of course most everyone knows who Batman is but if you didn’t retell the story in the film then you might as well just put up a big sign saying ‘go read the comics’ and save the bother).
The film is called ‘The Batman’ to make him sound less human. The protagonists in the film are a pair of young myth-busters style journalists, (or one journalist and one camera man/woman), who try to find out the truth behind urban legends. They team up with a private detective in his late 30s or early 40s, a poorly educated self-made man who is intelligent and charismatic and determined to make up for a misspent youth. This character is haunted by memories of a fateful shooting.
The journalists made their name by investigating the stories of alligators living in the Gotham sewers and discovering the existence of Killer Croc; who was living down there and occasionally nipping up to the surface to eat people. The journalists found and printed enough evidence that even the famously corrupt Gotham Police Department had to start taking the story seriously.
But Killer Croc was only caught by the GPD when they found him unconscious in the sewers with a whole host of brutal injuries; fractured jawbone, slashed tendons, broken ribs and so on.
Croc claims to have been defeated by another inhuman creature, something which he calls ‘The Bat’. His fight with the Bat is depicted in a dream-like sequence in which a dark and wraith-like figure with demonic horns beats him to a pulp. (In the ‘fixed’ version of the DCEU this will be the only dream sequence, EVER).
Croc’s claims are dismissed as the ravings of a mad reptilian cannibal but rumours of The Bat persist in Gotham’s criminal underworld. Croc plays no further part in the film and gets put into a box which can be opened again in time for Suicide Squad.
The detective contacts the journalists and tells them he has a lead of some sort on The Bat and/or convinces them to join him in a search for this strange being.
The trio have a tense meeting in a foggy and otherwise deserted location with local gang-bangers who supposedly know something about The Bat. (The protagonists have started calling him ‘Bats’ for short). These hardened and well-armed criminals are extremely jittery and reluctant to actually talk. They do reveal that local crime-boss Oswald Cobblepot (the Penguin) has put a bounty on ‘The Bat’s’ head. (Someone would probably make a joke about that).
Of course the Bat himself turns up and picks the gang-bangers off one by one; dragging them into the mist and seemingly making them disappear. The frightened journalists try to flee and one of them hides inside a car. An arm clad in spiked metal reaches in and drags the journalist out, he/she screams and a powerful light is shone in his/her face. After a single dismissive grunt the Bat-thing shoves the journalist away before he/she gets a proper look at him and takes off.
The beaten but still alive bodies of the gangsters are found the next day. They all have the same story; they were captured and interrogated by a black -clad monster who set them free so that they could let Cobblepot know that his time is coming to an end.
Shaken but undeterred the three investigators keep on trying to discover the Bat’s identity. They somehow learn more about him e.g. that he is human but driven by a mysterious tragedy in his childhood to take revenge on criminals. (In a major deviation from the comics Batman does not seem to be interested in justice or saving lives at this point; he just wants payback and he seems to blame the Penguin for whatever it is that set him on this path. Killer Croc was just practice for taking on Gotham’s Underworld). They also learn that the Bat or ‘Batman’ has been tracking the detective, presumably in retaliation for being investigated by him.
Due to Batman’s vengeance-fuelled shenanigans the Penguin finds his grip on the city slipping and attempts to blackmail the city government to prove his power. Bolstered, (or frightened), by Batman’s exploits they call his bluff and he retaliates by publicly stating that he will commit a great atrocity so that the city remembers that they should be afraid of him and not ‘The Bat’.
The atrocity, (a bomb at a local hospital), is averted by the Bat when the journalists tip him off. Of course Batman is only interested in catching the perpetrators so that they can reveal the Penguin’s whereabouts. In the midst of doing so they also admit that the bomb was only a distraction.
The real atrocity is a truly hideous mixture of chemicals that Penguin’s men are going to dump in the city’s main water treatment plant; this will kill thousands of Gothamites and disfigure many more.
Batman races to catch the Penguin and is pursued by the detective who seems to have lost interest in the investigation in favour of talking to the Batman directly.
In the mean-time the journalists have found their way into the Bat-Cave and discovered that Batman had been tracking the detective for years and apparently hates him, (I’m thinking pictures of the detective with batarangs stuck in them but there’s probably a more subtle way to get the point across).
Batman catches Penguin and tells him that he knows it was Cobblepot’s orders that led to his parents’ deaths and that he is going to take the Penguin to a dark and remote place where he can reflect on this for the rest of his life. The Penguin is bitterly amused, (“You came after me for that? That wasn’t even supposed to be a hit”). He also says that his men have orders to complete the atrocity if he disappears. Batman gives a big bat-shrug and starts dragging the Penguin away.
The detective arrives and begs Batman to save the city instead. Batman tells him that he of all people should not tell Batman to do the right thing. Let’s switch to dialogue here.
Private Detective. “You already know who I am? How?”
Batman. “I’ve been following your movements for years. You are my one fear.”
PD. Breaking down into sobs. “You don’t have to be afraid of me. I wouldn’t hurt you; I won’t hurt anyone ever again.”
B. “I’m not afraid of you. I’m afraid of what I would do to you.”
PD. Properly crying now. “I know, I’m so sorry. Please forgive me, I was just supposed to scare them, I never meant to shoot anyone, I never meant to kill a little boy’s parents in front of him. I’ve spent every day since trying to atone for that.”
B. “No.” Proceeds to beat the crap out of the detective.
At this point more of Penguin’s goons arrive and Batman is distracted trying to fight them off. Penguin gets up and tries to pour the vat of chemicals into the water supply but the detective crawls over and grapples with him, then gets thrown into the vat.
Or Batman defeats his attackers and intervenes; knocking Penguin out for good but knocking the detective into the vat. Either way it’s clearly Batman’s fault that the detective has a chemical bath. (No prizes for guessing where this is going DC fans).
Stunned by the detective’s sacrifice Batman finds his conscience and stops the vat from pouring out and after some soul-searching uses some bit of Bat-tech to pull the detective’s limp body out.
Batman accepts that while he is not a killer himself; thousands of people nearly died because he was focused on revenge instead of helping them and that this makes him in some ways as bad as the killers he has hated and hunted all his adult life. He vows, (perhaps to Captain, soon-to-be-Commissioner, Gordon when he hands over the Penguin to him), that from now on he will try to be a hero to the innocents of Gotham as well as a demon to the guilty.
Post Credits sequence.
The detective wakes up in hospital covered in bandages. One of the journalists is with him and explains that he is recovering well but that there was some alteration to his body chemistry and he is being sedated to help with the pain.
A nurse arrives to check the bandages and the drip which is feeding painkillers into the detective.
The detective does not seem to be lucid and his voice is altered. He demands that the needle in his arm be removed so that he can ‘feel everything’. The nurse refuses.
The journalist tells him to get it together and explains that if they spin the story right the detective could be the hero of Gotham.
The detective says that that is a very funny joke. He starts laughing. He explains that he doesn’t need to be good anymore; his debt to the Batman is paid and now he is free. He is free of everything. Still laughing; he rips the needle out of his arm and stabs the nurse with it.
As the journalist starts to run the detective pulls the bandages off his face to reveal the still laughing face of the newly created Joker. (What a shock that was).
As the credits resume we hear the Joker’s voice say. “Be seeing you soon Bats!”
Well that’s how I’d reboot Batman. Over the course of the film Batman transforms from terrifying urban legend to an all-too-human crime-fighter who reluctantly accepts his role as one of the good guys. The Joker is set up for future films rather than being just an extra in Suicide Squad and there’s a nice link between Batman and him; they created each other and neither of them is entirely innocent.
And while it’s completely against the story of the comics I like the idea that the Joker’s last act before becoming the Joker was a selfless/redemptive one which set Batman on a better path. It explains why Batman resists the urge to kill despite all provocation and particularly why he always spares the Joker; he feels responsible for him. Considering all the stuff Joker gets up to in the comics that could lead to anime levels of angst for the Dark Knight in later films as he struggles with the consequences of repeatedly sparing a murderous supervillain.
Because, on an important side-note, Batman does not kill people. I’m not sure how the creators of Batman V Superman failed to notice that because it is practically written on a huge sign over the gates of Superhero-town.
BATMAN DOES NOT KILL PEOPLE! (Except when he does).
SUPERMAN ALSO DOES NOT KILL PEOPLE! (Anymore).
STOP MAKING THEM KILL PEOPLE!
Or at least make more of a thing of it.
Anyway. In Part 2 of this rewrite of DCEU history I’ll address Man of Steel and in Part 3 I’ll look at Batman V Superman. Though I think I might need an entire blog-post just to list everything wrong with Batman V Superman. Depending on how much creative energy I have to spare from writing Inari I may even do a regular blog post in between!