Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Dark Huntress?

I know that as of late, I seem to be a little Bat-obsessed, but I had a crazy idea while watching The Dark Knight for the second time.


People everywhere are already talking about which villains they'll use in the sequel to The Dark Knight. My thought is this - what if they don't use villains? Not in the strictest sense of the word, that is. What if the next film is mostly about Batman butting heads with Catwoman and The Huntress?

I know, I know - neither of them are as vicious as Heath Ledger's Joker and it sidesteps the whole "Batman Vs. The Terrorists" dynamic they've established in both films (Ra's Al Ghul and his cult of fanatics versus Joker and his cult of personality). But, my God - wouldn't that be the point? They can't return to the themes of this movie without rehashing a certain amount of ground. So why not go to a fresh place?

The most interesting part of the film for me are the BatWannabes, the various guys at the start in homemade costumes who are trying to be like their hero. Despite a working BatSignal and admiration for Batman in the comics, no such movement has existed in the comic books themselves, to my knowledge. It's a testimony to the world that Christopher Nolan has created that the existence of such men feel organic; a natural response by fed-up people to the basic idea of one man making a difference. While I think it's implied that the Batman imitators are flash in the pan and scared off by The Joker, I can only wonder if a similar "Year One"-esque motivation will be used in the third film for not just Catwoman, but perhaps Huntress as well.

As it's implied by the ending of DK, everyone now assumes Batman will and does kill. I feel like the placement of Catwoman in the next film feels almost inevitable, given what happens between Bruce and Rachel in this film, but what if we replace that dynamic with Huntress? Or Selina Kyle also assumes the hype about Batman the murderous vigilante? How does Batman deal with taking down the mob while dealing with one or even two women who are as motivated - albeit not quite as well-armed - as he is? More dangerous than him, even, given their moral flexibility? How tempting would it be for him to fudge his moral code so he can be with a partner who understands him? The crushing loneliness of his existence was hammered home in every frame of Dark Knight, to the point where I do feel like a lack of a love interest in the next film would be unforgivable (and please not, Talia Al Ghul - while she would give the trilogy symmetry, she just doesn't interest me nearly as much as a character).

Now, before anyone freaks out, I'm not saying that a total lack of a more straightforward Batvillain is going to happen or that a lack of a straightforward mustache-twirling bad guy would even be a good thing. But The Penguin? The Riddler? No and no. Too silly in Penguin's case and I honestly can't imagine a Riddler who could stand up to Ledger's Joker.

But Black Mask? Absolutely. Hugo Strange? God, yes. In a mob city as violently destabilized by Batman and the Joker's antics, the idea of a mobster like Black Mask adopting their tactics just makes sense. And Hugo Strange? Seriously, what 'real world' psychiatrist wouldn't be trying to figure out Batman and The Joker at this point? Yes, I know a Harley Quinn appearance would be the most logical thing in the world from that set-up but, in the wake of Mr. Ledger's tragic death, any callbacks to his Joker would have to be tremendously earned. Maybe it's me, but Hugo Strange just feels like he'd fit in beautifully in Nolan's world. The idea of Strange trying to twist the minds of Batman, Catwoman and/or the Huntress as they dance around Gotham's rooftops intrigues the hell out of me. Such a film would be a delight. I feel that these characters and themes would just lend themselves beautifully to Nolan's spot-on character studies and exploration of morality in a confusing world.

Plus, I just plain like Catwoman and Huntress, dang it. :D

Huh. Sorry, the idea of a more Hugo Strange-esque Harley Quinn (funny, sure, but more sadistic and effective) with Catwoman and/or Huntress just simultaneously gave me goosebumps and a twitchy memory of that unfortunate Birds of Prey TV show (so much wasted potential!).

But in any case, after all that rambling, I suppose I should give out my obligatory casting ideas. Hmmmm. The Angelina Jolie as Catwoman rumor doesn't entirely displease me, even if she feels a little on the nose at this point. Huntress? A lot harder to cast. Monica Bellucci would be perfect but for Helena's relative youth and inexperience. Hell, she might still pull it off, given how much fun she seemed to be having in Shoot 'Em Up. Black Mask needs to have an imposing physical presence and the ability to act through a mask - which could really describe a wealth of large, talented male actors these days. Gerard Butler, just as a for instance, might have a lot of fun portraying a psychopathic mobster. And Hugo Strange? I'd love to see what Steve Buscemi could do with a shaved head and thick glasses. And, should they surprise the hell out of me by going that route, Sarah Michelle Gellar might make for a fine Harley Quinn. Just my two cents, in any case.

What do y'all think? Am I crazy? Or do these ideas sound reasonable to anybody else?


KLCtheBookWorm said...

I like the idea, but fear overcrowding the film. I liked "Batman Returns" but felt it got cheated by having two villains. In "Dark Knight," the mob guys really don't count as a villain because we all know they're Joker bait. Seeing the Two-Face origin actually surprised me, I thought Dent wouldn't change until the next film.

Rumor mill I've heard is Johnny Depp for the Riddler, which I think he could pull off a Riddler more like the Animated Series version. Catwoman and Huntress harder to cast, and I agree Jolie as Catwoman just makes me go "meh."

But I think I'd prefer my Catwoman a complete thief, and she changes into more of a Robin Hood figure thanks to Bats influence.

K. D. Bryan said...

I don't think Dark Knight felt all that overcrowded, mostly because I felt like Harvey's change was handled as a natural surprise. Still, you're right - I wouldn't want too many villains. Just two, in limited degrees, would make me a happy camper. I think that the ones I've listed are character-driven enough not to overwhelm the film. Just Catwoman and Hugo Strange or Huntress and Black Mask would be ideal IMHO.

While I wouldn't be adverse to a Johnny Depp Riddler in the slightest (he's a genius), I just feel like any guy trying to create an iconoclastic Batvillain in Heath Ledger's shadow would have one helluva tough act to follow. Depp might be able to pull it off but I think the Riddler, as a character, has always felt a trifle secondary to the Joker. I'm just not sure he'd work in a third film.

Unknowns for Catwoman and Huntress might be interesting, especially if they used an actual actress from Italian cinema for Huntress.

I would love to see a Catwoman inspired by Batman on more than one level as well. I do wonder how Nolan would introduce her in the film. I'm a little leery of the Year One hooker origin but I do hope they'd use or allude to some of their interactions from the book. Say what you will about Frank Miller but his early stuff still makes me smile.

Catwoman: "You know what I hate the most about men? I never met one."

Sean said...

Hm. I do like Black Mask and Hugo Strange. I'd almost be more comfortable without a love interest. We've hit lost love with the Bat, and I'd love to keep that in place. It helps hammer home the ongoing failure if he doesn't get a shot at happy at all.

And, you know, bros before hos.

Although... Ramirez was left alive at the end of TDK. That could open up a much more low-tech Huntress working out of guilt, couldn't it?

K. D. Bryan said...

Yes and no. We've hit the idea that Bruce Wayne can never be happy, can never have a perfect love. Rachel was his "promise of a normal life", his dream that could never be. So, I feel you on that but the idea of someone loving Batman is still an entirely novel one in the Nolan-verse. He's been left lonelier and more miserable than ever, true, all of which would make him even more vulnerable to an attraction to Catwoman or Huntress. Just my two cents, in any case.

Hmmm. Intriguing notion, that. Personally, I'm still disappointed that Ramirez's name wasn't Montoya. Mind you, a low-rent Question would be interesting as well.

Brian Wanamaker said...

I like your thoughts, however:
"Despite a working BatSignal and admiration for Batman in the comics, no such movement has existed in the comic books themselves, to my knowledge"

The bat-thugs were straight out of The Dark Knight Returns, independently generated, but later co-opted into his bat-army.

Sean said...

KD - One of the things that struck me most about Nolan's movies is that Batman, as such, isn't really a character. We're not seeing the Batman/Bruce Wayne split as much as seeing Bruce use Batman the way he uses technology and money to fight crime and find some peace. There hasn't been the oh-so-neurotic Denny O'Neill "MUST GO TO TEH CAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAVE!" moment yet, and I don't see that happening. He broods, sure, and he broods in costume, but that seems more like "I'm so tired and worn that I'm not even going to get out of this Bat-suit" rather than "I find comfort in my Bat-Identity and use it to keep the world at a distance."

Thus, I don't know that the concept of Batman finding love and security necessarily any more evocative than having Bruce's stock portfolio find love and security.

(An aside... this makes me wonder how much of a real difference losing the Bat would've made to this Bruce. Maybe he would've bankrolled the Bat-Army from his well-appointed cell and done the mastermind thing if he'd turned himself in.

(Second aside... this view of money and resources as means rather than ends tosses him into the purer realm of some of his crazier opponents, like the Joker. In the Azzarello Joker GN, the Joker says "I don't care about money. I use it." Same with Bruce Wayne/Batman. Interesting.)

K. D. Bryan said...

Senor Wanamaker - The teen thugs of TDKR were basically just teenage rabble who only responded to the strongest show of force around. If the Mutant had won, they'd still be mutants. The dudes in the hockey jerseys were a bit more interesting than that, as it was implied that they were "normal" men who nevertheless felt inspired to do stand up and perform a "do-it-yourself" version of Batman. Whether or not they were as moronic sheep as the teens or genuinely decent men is a question I can't answer, but it's still a question in my eyes. I can see where you're coming from, absolutely, but I think it's a hair worth splitting. If Batman inspiring amateur Batmen in Dark Knight is just an amusing aside/homage to Miller, I don't think we'll see a natural progression of more 'professional' copycats in the theoretical sequel, ala Huntress. And that would make me a sad panda.

Sean - There's no real schism between Bruce and Batman, I admit, but that just makes the entire movie more of a tragedy for me.

We're not seeing the Batman/Bruce Wayne split as much as seeing Bruce use Batman the way he uses technology and money to fight crime and find some peace.
True, but unlike the unstoppable focused avenger of the comics, this Batman wants desperately to find a way to get Gotham to the point it doesn't need him. This is a Bruce Wayne who uses "Batman" as perfunctorily as he uses the Batmobile (leaving it scrapped on a street without a second thought once it's done it's job). Bruce wants to give up the cowl. He looks to Rachel as a "hope for a normal life", pushes Harvey to replace him - hell, usurp him and render him unneeded. This is a Bruce Wayne who can never be happy so long as there is a need for his mask. More importantly, this is a Bruce who is now more than ever sure that nobody can give him happiness on a personal level or that he would ever be able (or deserve) to attain it. Batman isn't a person; it's a prison.

The idea of meeting a Catwoman or a Huntress might be less about romance and more about redefining his entire worldview. Bruce could see that there are ways to live and be happy that he had never considered. He could be shown a funhouse mirror of his own mission and questions of what Batman really means would be raised. I'm sure a story of him just taking on Black Mask or someone else using his methods would be evocative and well-written but I think that it'd lose the necessary heart that Dark Knight had in spades.

And yes, the fanboy in me would really just love to see a bad-ass brunette kicking ass Nolanverse-style. :P

(If Bruce Wayne had actually given himself up, that'd be a fascinating movie in and of itself. His "one man making a difference" movement - would the knowledge of his true identity inspired others? Or scuttled the entire "Batman" ethos? Hmmmm.)

(And tragically, due to a lack of funds, I have not yet read/bought the Joker GN. Stupid, lousy economy! /Homer voice)

Elizabeth said...

Wait...I'm confused...I thought Huntress was the daughter of Batman in an alternate universe...

I guess your'e referring to the later versions. Eh, I would not think of Huntress in a Nolan movie, to me I feels she's too much of a minor character in the Batman universe to be put in a big movie right now.

K. D. Bryan said...

Elizabeth, you're correct in that the original Huntress was the daughter of Batman and Catwoman (and that's also the origin they gave her in the short-lived Birds of Prey TV series). As far as that character goes, she was pretty minor.

The new Huntress - Helena Bertinelli - has played a much larger role in DC comics since then. She's been one of the stars of DC's Birds of Prey, had two mini-series (one of which was brilliantly written) and has had an indirect impact on the Batcrew for some time. Still, for all of that, I understand your misgivings. I chose to focus on her because I thought her major philosophical differences from the Batman - being willing to kill in pursuit of vigilante justice - would provide the most interesting conflict in the Nolan-verse. And while she's obscure, certainly, she's arguably less obscure than Black Mask or Ra's Al Ghul. Just my two cents in any opinion. :)

Elizabeth said...

Ooooooh, I see! Well, my earlier comment shows how much I know about Huntress...(not as much as you, but I'm studying!).

It all depends on the theme Nolan wishes to take in the next Batman movies. If he does Riddler we'd be dealing Batman vs. obsession perhaps. However, Huntress while being a crime fighter like he is would not compete with the vigilante Catwoman for the role...Catwoman would just be too nutso to resist for Nolan. Personally, I believe movie makers are leaving Huntress out of the pictures because of the character's involvement with Birds of Prey and her minor comic status. And even I wouldn't want to see her in a Nolan movie *and using a character that's little known to the mass media probably wouldn't do good for the movie's profits. Almost everyone knows The Joker, Riddler, Catwoman, Penguin, Poison Ivy, etc. while Huntress is down the list a little ways.*

RichardAK said...

I'm a big Huntress fan, so I love the idea of her appearing in the next Nolan Batman film. It is true, as Elizabeth points out, that Huntress is not as well-known as some other characters from the Gotham-verse, but then, Ra's al-Ghul and Scarecrow were not the best-known characters either, but Nolan used them for Batman Begins.

So I love K. D. Bryan's idea, although I have to confess that I think it's unlikely to happen. You can bet that if it did, though, I'd be in line to see the opening showing.