Art deco Batman and Gotham City.
“When I was young there were beatniks. Hippies. Punks. Gangsters. Now you’re a hacktivist. Which I would probably be if I was 20. Shuttin’ down MasterCard. But there’s no look to that lifestyle! Besides just wearing a bad outfit with bad posture. Has WikiLeaks caused a look? No! I’m mad about that. If your kid comes out of the bedroom and says he just shut down the government, it seems to me he should at least have an outfit for that.”
- John Waters on the sorry style of today’s rebels (emphasis mine)
What do you do after Chris Nolan’s trilogy? ART DECO BATMAN, of course! This is somewhat of a film retooling of my previous Rebooting Batman post.
Warner Bros. is already working on Batman film series separate from Nolan’s trilogy, and from a creative perspective it’s in their best interest to avoid retreading what Nolan did successfully with his version of Batman. There’s never just one interpretation of an iconic character like this, and there are lots of other directions to take it. While I break down my ideas on this, keep in mind that I think Batman: Death by Design is almost a gold standard for making Batman Art Deco.
- Don’t focus on Bat-logistics - Nolan’s version of Batman has a large focus on the details of how he does everything as Batman. This was really fun, so don’t do it again. We’ve seen it, time to move on. It’s lazy to retread that.
- Don’t make it hypermodern - Nolan’s Gotham is a mishmash of modern cities and shot in a quasi-Michael Mann style. This was great, but you’re not going to outdo him on this, so avoid it.
- Don’t retell Batman’s origin - Everyone knows Batman’s origin, and spending another entire film on it is lazy. You can have flashbacks if you like (Burton did this to decent effect), but starting the film with a Batman in costume is a smarter way to go.
- Make it Stylish - With the stark realism of Nolan’s interpretation, a way to distinguish your Batman film is to a more visually stylish interpretation of the characters and setting. Don’t be afraid to dress the Joker up in a bright purple suit, etc.
- Make it Timeless - Nolan’s Batman is very much set in the early-to-mid 2000s. The next Batman would benefit from a retro/deco approach combined with modern elements, similar to Batman: the Animated Series. My personal take is grounded very much in the earliest depictions of Batman, in the pre-code Bob Cane era of the late 30s, early 40s.
- Make it Fun - Nolan’s films are extremely serious and its target audience skews toward 20-somethings. A tone shift toward an all-ages crowd (like Star Wars or Indiana Jones) would be a breath of fresh air while totally staying true to the caped crusader.
My take on these characters for the big screen are largely based on stylings from the
Batman - I want to hearken back to the earliest visuals of Batman, before he got goofy in the 1950s but before he became super-gritty in the 1980s. I went with a more slender, gymnast build than the Frank Miller “brick house” look, as this is a guy who spends his time mostly climbing buildings and using theatrical tricks to spook criminals.
Robin/Tim Drake - I’m picturing Robin as functioning more as a detective on the ground, someone to play good cop to Batman’s bad cop. He’s a brilliant kid, but also not as enamored with Batman’s theatrics as his partners. His design is inspired by Golden Age pulp detectives like the Shadow and Sandman.
Nightwing/Stephanie Brown - In my earlier reboot I had Stephanie as Batgirl, but I’ve changed it to Nightwing here because I don’t like the idea of a female lead being seen as just the “girl” variant on a male hero. Her design’s based mostly on Mignola’s Lobster Johnson, with a little bit of Rocketeer and the Equalists from Legend of Korra. She fights with electric batons!
So anyway that’s my take on it. I just think it’s better to try something new, as Chris Nolan did, than try to copy something that worked once.